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Its skyscrapers marking the final transition between the Great Plains and the American West, Denver stands at the threshold of the Rocky Mountains. Despite being known as the "Mile High City," and serving as the obvious point of arrival for travellers heading into the mountains, it is itself uniformly flat. The majestic peaks of the Front Range are clearly visible but begin to rise roughly fifteen miles west of downtown, allowing Denver plenty of room to spread out.

Mineral wealth has always been at the heart of the city's prosperity, with all the fluctuations of fortune it entails. Though local resources have been progressively exhausted, Denver has managed to hang on to its role as the most important commercial and transportation nexus in the state. Its original "foundation" in 1858 was by pure chance; this was the first spot where small quantities of gold were discovered in Colorado. There was no significant river, let alone a road, but prospectors came streaming in, regardless of prior claims to the land – least of all those of the Arapahoe, who had supposedly been confirmed in their ownership of the area by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851.

There was actually very little gold in Denver but the city survived, prospering further with the discovery of silver in the mountains. When the first railroads bypassed Denver – the death knell for so many other communities – the citizens simply banded together and built their own connecting spur.

These days, Denver is a welcoming and enjoyable city, with a fairly liberal outlook. Tourism is based on getting out into the great outdoors rather than on sightseeing in town, but somehow the city's isolation gives its 2.5-million population a refreshing friendliness; and in a city that is used to providing its own entertainment, there always seems to be something going on.