Conduct and Customs
New Yorkers often express surprise at how friendly people are in Denver, with total strangers smiling and saying hello as they pass on the street. It’s also common when out walking or hiking in the mountains, where it’s considered normal behavior for people to greet each other with a simple, “Hi, how’s it going?” as you pass one another on a trail. It’s a great ice-breaker for the next question, “How much farther to the top?”
On busy urban pedestrian and bike paths, it is customary for the faster bicyclist to shout, “On your left!” or such as they approach slower cyclists or pedestrians from behind. Some paths are designated for only cyclists or pedestrians, and others are shared use.
Denver is in the early stages of a 10-year plan to end homelessness. Throughout many popular sights in downtown Denver, such as Civic Center Park, and along the 16th Street Mall, there are often homeless people panhandling. In an effort to decrease this presence and help break the cycle of homelessness, the city has established other places to give money to be used by programs for those in need. Dozens of parking meters have been installed around downtown where spare change can be deposited for such programs. The meters are distinguished by their red posts (as opposed to the silver posts of traditional meters) and bring in thousands of dollars annually that help provide services for the homeless. People are encouraged to donate their money there rather than give directly to panhandlers.
For the most part, Denver shops open at 10 a.m. on weekdays and Saturday and not until noon on Sunday, with closing time anywhere from 5 to 7 p.m. There are some exceptions, such as Rockmount Ranch Wear, which opens at the bright-and-early hour of 7:30 a.m. on weekdays.
Local art galleries tend to be closed on Sunday and Monday, and the Denver Art Museum is closed on Monday. Always call ahead to see if hours have changed recently; you may be pleasantly surprised to find the art gallery of your choice open all day Monday.
Many Denver restaurants also take Monday off, but again, always call ahead to see if hours have changed. Typical kitchen closing time in Denver restaurants is about 10 p.m., and bars close up by 2 a.m. or earlier. Often if a restaurant has a bar there is a late-night menu to order from. Some bars prefer not to specify their closing times so that they can close up early on a slow night or maybe extend hours on a busier night.
Just like cities in other parts of the country, Denver has banned smoking indoors in public places. The Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act was passed in 2006 and took effect the same year. The Denver City Council has passed more specific ordinances, such as banning smoking outside of hospitals. It is not uncommon to see signs outside of some buildings asking smokers to stand a certain distance from a building entrance or exit. More common is the sight of restaurant and bar patios—or simply sidewalks in front of these establishments—filled with smokers in any kind of weather. The lone exception is cigar bars, such as the Churchill Bar in the Brown Palace Hotel, where cigar smoking is permitted. There are also designated smoking areas inside Denver International Airport.
Leave No Trace
The city of Denver has a Keep Denver Beautiful plan, which essentially promotes the message to not litter, period—anything from cigarette butts to food wrappers and drink containers. Littering is illegal and fines can add up to $1,000. For further information on this plan or to report littering, call the city’s 311 hotline, email them at 311 [at] ci [dot] denver [dot] co [dot] us, or visit www.denvergov.org.
While Denver’s laws apply to city streets as well as parks and bike paths, there are additional rules and customs to follow once you set off to explore the mountains.
For starters, always stay on designated trails or pathways to minimize impact on natural areas that make the place so appealing in the first place. You may even see signs that read, “Closed for Restoration” in areas that have been trampled by heavy use. It’s also a good idea to stay on these designated trails—whether they are mere dirt footpaths or paved with concrete or asphalt—to prevent getting lost. As people try to explore true wilderness more and more, either by going out of bounds on a ski mountain or breaking their own trail on a summer hike, officials are becoming less patient and understanding because of the high cost of search and rescue. For this same reason, it’s a good idea to always let someone know where you are headed when you go out for a run, bike ride, or hike.
Even if you are just going on a short day hike in the foothills, remember to “pack out what you pack in” and don’t leave any waste. In some places, even city parks in the foothills of Boulder, you will find special garbage cans that are designed to keep animals (particularly bears) out, but otherwise you need to be prepared to carry out all garbage.
Because of the dry conditions, especially along the Front Range, be extremely cautious about making campfires. During intense drought seasons fires of any kind are banned, so it’s best to check with park rangers on the latest conditions and warnings in the specific park you are visiting. If fires are not banned, still use caution and only build a fire in an established campfire ring and be sure to put out the fire completely before leaving.
Wildlife and people interact more and more in the foothill communities where mountain lions, bears, deer, and elk will just show up in backyards and even on busy town streets. Just a reminder that you should never feed wildlife—in the confines of a national park or in someone’s backyard. State and national park visitors centers always have helpful information about how to react when you encounter wildlife, which is species-specific and depends on mating seasons. Use special care if you are with small children or dogs when hiking as they are easier prey for hungry wildlife.
Wildlife and pets, especially dogs, are not a good mix. Be sure to verify if dogs are even allowed at the park you are visiting and what the leash laws are.
For more information, visit the Leave No Trace Center at www.lnt.org or call 303/442-8222.
© Mindy Sink from Moon Denver, 1st Edition