The Mile High City is indeed at an elevation of about five thousand two hundred eighty feet from mean sea level, but isn't otherwise appreciably different from city centers anywhere in the United States. There's a grid, daringly on a bias from the more typical north-south orientation, so that streets in the business district run northeast-southwest, northwest-southeast. The almost random designations of the one-way streets makes driving nightmarish for people from out of town, even if they can pay the soaring congestion fees to enter the downtown business district. There are a lot of uninspired, space-filling glass, steel, and concrete Brutalist office blocks. Some architects have made an effort to humanize their work, but these attempts fall pretty short. There's a lot of retail space at street level, mainly occupied by chain stores, banks, courier services, Starbucks outlets (there's one at nearly every intersection), and a truly startlingly changeable array of restaurants.

Though there are garbage cans (and, more frequently, recycling bins) on most corners, there's still trash in the gutters and overflowing from dumpsters and cans in the alleys. The walls on the man streets are clean, but get off them into the alleys and there's a palimpsest of graffiti and tags as high as a tall person could reach. Higher, in some places. Of course there are rats. There are always rats.

During the day, the concrete forest teems with pedestrians in sober, dark business suits and polished shoes, though nothing too ostentatious. At night, more brightly-dressed people come out, congregating around the clubs and bars. And of course there are the people who live there, but given the way pedestrian traffic flows around them, they might as well be invisible.

South of Colfax Avenue, the Colorado State Capitol Building anchors the east end of Civic Center Park, one of the few green spaces to be found in the center city. It's mostly flat grass fields with scattered trees, a few small formal gardens, and lots of concrete and brick roads and walks liberally marked with No Skateboards No In-Line Skates No Scooters signs. Clustered around the west end of the park are the city government buildings, the Denver Art Museum and the main branch of the public library, and the famous Denver Mint. Commons Park, along the South Platte River northwest of downtown, is much wilder and that much more dangerous.

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