Larimer Square is a historic downtown Denver district that features leading retailers, fine and casual dining restaurants, theaters, salons, and spas. Larimer Square is home to more than one hundred independently owned businesses and attracts approximately 6 million visitors annually who come to shop, eat, attend concerts or sporting events or just enjoy the public space.
Larimer Square is a popular tourist destination for visitors of all ages. Uniquely branded as “Denver’s Living Room”, Larimer Square presents itself as an innovative business district with a focus on retail, hospitality, tourism, and entertainment that enriches the urban experience for residents and visitors alike in downtown Denver. In 2015, Larimer Square welcomed 5.5 million visitors to the district along with more than 1,000 residents living in its apartments on the property.
Larimer Street was a dusty unpaved road when it opened for business in 1858, ten years after Denver City’s founding. It would become downtown Denver’s first street and most important thoroughfare for businesses and residences alike until the onset of the 1980s. The historic buildings are now home to an eclectic mix of unique boutiques and restaurants that have created one of downtown Denver’s most exciting districts for shopping, dining, work, and play.
A 1929 Downtown Development Plan by renowned urban planner Harland Bartholomew envisioned Larimer as a “magnificent main street” reflecting Denver’s status as the “Queen City of the Plains and Mountains”. The plan proposed widening Larimer into a tree-lined pedestrian mall, and in 1971 a portion was closed to automobiles.
Larimer Square has been home to many famous people including Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley. In fact, it was also a home for many immigrants from Italy who were instrumental in building the downtown area. As Denver grew, the history and culture of Larimer Square continued to evolve to serve its residents and visitors alike. The iconic horse-drawn carriage stopped operating in 1920, but trolleys soon began service on 14th Street. Automobiles replaced horses as they became more popular with shoppers by 1929, creating an exciting new shopping district that included several department stores and specialty shops. Cafes and fine dining establishments opened their doors along this bustling avenue; many of which still exist today.
Today the square features bars, restaurants, and shops that offer an urban experience in the heart of Denver. In addition to the variety of shops, restaurants, and bars, Larimer Square hosts a number of events throughout each year such as the tree lighting, the art festival over Memorial Day weekend, or Oktoberfest around Labor Day.
At the corner of 15th Street and Larimer stands one of Denver’s most famous buildings—the Tabor Grand Opera House designed by famed architect Jesse Withers Boal (1861-1928). The opera house opened in 1881 at its present location on 15th and Larimer Streets. John F. Campion & Co., owned by Arapahoe County Sheriff John F. Campion built this opulent structure; it made for a welcome venue after many years performing outdoors during its early years. Shoppers from all over town attended the grand opening which featured a stage play by Campion’s wife Nellie and her daughters, along with music on two organs, a grand piano, banjo, and violin performances. Today it is home to the Tabor Center for the Arts that hosts many touring Broadway productions, concerts, comedy shows, and plays.
At 15th Street and Larimer stands a statue dedicated to Buffalo Bill Cody (1846-1917). Cody was an American frontiersman who founded Wyoming’s famous Yellowstone National Park in 1872 before making Denver his headquarters for his Wild West Show from 1883 until his death in 1917. The statue was originally constructed of wood but quickly deteriorated due to weather conditions. It was eventually replaced in 1940 with the bronze statue that still stands today.