By CATHY SECKMAN
DENVER -- If you travel 1,300 miles west, 100 miles south and one mile straight up, you'll come to -- where else -- the mile-high city of Denver, a booming metropolis filled with friendly people, great scenery and world-class entertainment.
To Ohioans, Denver is an exotic place at the edge of the Rocky Mountains, home to larger-than-life characters such as Buffalo Bill, Molly Brown and St. Frances Cabrini.
Mountain hiking, Indian heritage, fly fishing and western culture are readily available.
Even for those of us who hate cities, Denver is easy to take.
The city is wide and flat, with a user-friendly downtown divided into sections that cater to different tastes.
LoDo, the historical lower downtown, was the red light district in the late 1800s but is now home to outdoor cafes, concert halls, blues clubs, sports bars and brew pubs.
Music lovers have their choice of disco fever at Polly Esther's, the tango and the swing at the Mercury Cafe, or laid-back jazz at Trios Enoteca. Punk and alternative music fans head to the 15th Street Tavern, and true-blue rock-and-rollers hang out at Cooperstown, owned by Alice Cooper. The House of Blues, a 1,000-seat concert hall, is to be completed next year in LoDo. Just west of town is Red Rocks Amphitheatre, an internationally known concert venue formed by natural sandstone erosion.
Shopping: Power shoppers congregate at Cherry Creek North, a 16-block collection of boutiques, galleries and shops. This is the place to come for unique handicrafts, art and furniture. The Tattered Cover Bookstore is a must-see, with more than half a million volumes on three stories.
Nearby is the Cherry Creek Shopping Center, containing more than 130 high-end stores including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & amp; Taylor and F.A.O. Schwartz.
A mix of shopping and entertainment are found in the center of town, along the 16th Street Mall.
The one-mile brick pedestrianized street has two narrow lanes for the free buses that zip back and forth, and the rest is made for walking.
Should you get tired of walking, a horse and carriage will be along to pick you up.
For the more adventurous, two-person rickshaw rides are available at $2 a block.
Besides shops and museums, dozens of restaurants line 16th Street, and many have outdoor tables. Sitting along the sidewalk with a taco salad or a bowl of chili, it's fun to watch the street performers collecting dollar bills for their unique blend of Indian and Mexican music.
Live bands perform on the mall on summer weekends, and the shops are open late.
Delicious delicacies: The menu at Palomino Euro Bistro at the corner of 16th and Arapahoe is typical of Denver's world-class cuisine. Mediterranean-style entr & eacute;es roasted in brick ovens include salmon, prime rib and lamb. Save room for the chocolate-lovers' desserts.
Just down the street, Maggiano's Little Italy is tucked in a corner of the Denver Pavilions, serving up southern Italian dishes such as chicken cammarrari, baked shrimp oreganata and veal. The spumoni ice cream at Maggiano's is homemade.
Western history in Denver has a home at the public library's Western History Museum, featuring old photographs, explorers' journals and historical documents.
Other popular stops are the Colorado Railroad Museum, the Molly Brown House Museum, the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum and the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center, located in the former home of Dr. Justina L. Ford, the first licensed African-American female doctor in Colorado.
If you're looking for culture, Denver has that, too, in its annual Renaissance Festival, the Colorado Dance Festival, and the Cherry Creek Arts Festival.
The Denver Performing Arts Complex hosts live theater, as does the Denver Puppet Theatre.
Tours: If you'd rather take a tour, check out the Coors Brewery, the world's largest single-site brewing facility.
Teetotalers might be happier with a tour of the Celestial Seasonings tea factory at Sleepytime Drive in nearby Boulder.
Docents at the state capitol, with its gold dome, tell tourists that on the 18th outside step they are exactly 5,280 feet above sea level.
The United States Mint offers tours of its 80,000-pound presses that stamp out billions of coins each year. Admission is free at the Mint, but there are no free samples.
One of the more unique sights in Denver is the Daniels and Fisher Clock Tower, modeled after the bell tower of St. Mark's in Venice. It was Denver's first skyscraper. The brick tower was partially razed and rebuilt at some point, but no attempt was made to match the brick color. The contrasting shades make an interesting architectural statement along the 16th Street Mall.
The tower holds an art gallery and offices, along with a sightseeing platform, but was closed for renovations this summer.
From Indian culture to Western history to modern tourist mecca, Denver has just about everything a visitor could desire.
Whatever your taste, Denver can satisfy it.