As you plan for your trip to Denver and start packing, please consider the following tips and suggestions. The sky in Denver is bluer, the air is thinner and dryer, and alcohol is gong to hit you much harder! But don’t let the high altitude scare you. As long as you come prepared, you’ll be able to fully enjoy your week in Denver!

Denver is nicknamed the Mile High City because its official elevation is exactly one mile (5,280 feet) above sea level, making it one of the highest major cities in the United States! In fact, the 11th step on the state capitol building is labeled “One Mile Above Sea Level.” It was discovered in 2002 that Denver is actually 3 feet higher than previously thought so there’s some debate over whether the correct step. is marked But whether it’s the 11th step or another, either way there’s one step that sits at exactly 5,280 feet!

Altitude Effects

Interested in improving your golf score? You’re in luck! In Denver, golf balls go 10 percent farther due to the low air density. The effects are similar in baseball—fly balls typically transfer 5 percent farther at Coors Field than at Fenway. In this rarified air, cocktails go much further too. Alcoholic beverages hit you much harder at high altitudes than at sea level. It’s highly recommended that you take it easy on alcohol. If you don’t, you’ll certainly feel it the next day. Trust me on this one.

What to Bring

On average, Denver has 300 sunny days per year. Pack sunscreen and sunglasses and wear them, especially if you plan on taking advantage of the many hikes and biking trails that surround Denver. The sun feels warmer because you’re closer to it and if you aren’t careful you can end up with a bad sunburn. Your coffee may be a bit cooler here since the high altitude means that water boils at 202 degrees. Remember lip balm as well. Denver is extremely dry. The reason is sky is bluer here than in most places is that there’s less water vapor in the air.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Drink plenty of water! This can’t be reiterated enough. Drink plenty of water before your trip and plenty more while you’re here. Staying hydrated is hands down the best way to help your body adjust to the high altitude. Since low humidity keeps the air dry, you need twice as much water here as you would at home. Don’t get frustrated if you feel sluggish working out in Denver. The effects of exercise are more intense as well. For example, if you run 10 miles at home you may want to try running 6 miles in Denver.


Check a few days before you trip to find the latest weather and temperature updates. Due to the strong effects of the sun, it can feel much warmer in direct sunlight than what the temperate is. However, it does tend to get chillier at night. Pack layers! And remember, the weather here can change in a heartbeat— from sun and warmth to rain and even a chance of snow! If the weather forecast for the week is sunny, I suggest you pack at least one warm outfit and a rain jacket just in case.

Airport Transfer

The University of Colorado A Line now transports visitors from Denver International Airport (DIA) to downtown Denver for just $9! The 23 miles of rail make transportation for travelers easier than ever. This new line opened April 22, 2016 so it’s great timing for NAFSA conference attendees!

Your hotel should be within walking distance or a short Uber ride away from Union Station, the drop off point. You could also take advantage of the RTD 16th Street Mall Ride. This free ride stops at every block between Civic Center and the Union Station. We always tell our students to break out of their comfort zones and utilize public transportation like the locals do when they’re abroad, so I encourage you to do the same in Denver.

Looking forward to seeing you soon!

Michele Friedmann is the Local Arrangements Team (LAT) communications chair for the NAFSA 2016 Annual Conference & Expo. Michele was born and raised in Reading, Pennsylvania. She attended Gettysburg College where her love for study abroad began. Michele spent a semester in Australia, circumnavigated the globe on Semester at Sea, and student taught in London. Michele earned a master’s degree from the School for International Training in the area of international education. She interned for Barcelona SAE as a program and student adviser. She has worked for the Institute of International Education and the Fulbright Foreign Student Program. Michele is currently the student and program manager for Global Players, a study abroad program geared toward student athletes.