200 Colfax Ave., Denver
HOURS: Sept.–May Mon.–Fri. 9:15 a.m.–2:30 p.m.,
June–Aug. Mon.–Fri. 9:15 a.m.–3:30 p.m. (tours)
A visit to the Colorado State Capitol is a history lesson in the making, especially when the legislature is in session (from January through May) and the governor and lawmakers are hard at work. Quiet visitors can watch the legislators in action just outside their respective chambers during sessions.
The story of the capitol building began in 1868 when Henry C. Brown, who also had the Brown Palace  built a few blocks away, donated the land. Brown later tried to take it back—even going so far as to return grazing animals to the site because he was not pleased with construction delays. After a court battle, the state was able to keep the land. Twenty-two years and two architects later, the capitol building was completed.
Tours through the building highlight the use of native materials—marble, granite, sandstone, onyx, and gold. The original gold leaf used on the dome was a gift from Colorado miners.
When standing on the 1st floor of the capitol, look 150 feet up to the rotunda ceiling. High up inside the rotunda is the stained-glass “Hall of Fame” that features portraits of 16 people who made a remarkable contribution to the state. There are other stained-glass portraits seen on the tour as well.
Before ascending the 77 marble steps of the Grand Staircase, you’ll learn about the Water Murals. Added in 1940, these murals are an artistic interpretation of the story of one of the state’s most precious resources.
The true highlight of touring the capitol is the view from the dome’s observation gallery. Like the hike up the 99 steps to the dome’s interior, the views of the city and the mountains to the west from the dome are breathtaking. About halfway to the dome there is a small museum, Mr. Brown’s Attic, in honor of his donation of the land. The museum includes a Pop Art replica of the capitol made from old soup cans by local engineering students.
On the west side steps of the capitol you’ll find the mile-high markers that indicate the point at which the city reaches 5,280 feet above sea level. This is a popular spot for tourist photos.