02/27/2012 07:21 am ET Updated Apr 28, 2012

Discovering Denver

When I made my travel arrangements to attend a 2010 academic conference in Denver, I planned to stay in the city for more than eight hours. As a twenty-something Atlantan with only one friend from Denver, I had little interest in exploring a city that I naively perceived as only notable for winter sports. While revisiting the city a few weeks ago, I realized I had made a mistake.

This time around, after a long stroll through sunny downtown Denver, I quickly ranked the Mile-High City as one of the most strikingly beautiful US metropolitan areas that I have visited. The obvious magnificence of the mountainous backdrop and the modern architecture throughout the city, make it nearly impossible to turn a downtown Denver corner without being greeted by a breathtaking view. Denver residents can rest assured that their 0.10-cent sales tax for the arts, which raises more than $40 million a year, has made yours truly very happy.

Although I was able to engage in a few leisure activities this time around, I have decided to return for four days in April to:

Two yeas ago, I never would have considered the Mile-High city when looking to plan an affordable stateside vacation. Today, I can't stop singing its praises. The fact that Southwest Airlines now flies directly to Denver from Atlanta doesn't hurt either. I cannot wait to share the details of my next visit.