I have been through Denver International Airport (DIA) once before, switching planes on a flight between Minneapolis and Phoenix. I recall joining my traveling companion in the search for a spot to walk her dog between flights and then sitting on the runway for way too long waiting to be de-iced and then de-iced again.
Since then I’ve avoided DIA, so my only knowledge of this airport is based on that faint recollection and a series of articles in the mid-1990s when the airport’s location, design, and fully automated baggage eating handling system were touted either as brilliant innovations or disastrous failures. It wasn’t a place I saw any reason to seek out.
More recently, an in-law informed me that DIA is the base for a secret underground new world order or the Nazis or some other nefarious thing. So now I have a few vague conspiracy theories mixed in with my equally vague impression of this airport as a poorly planned, over-budget, baggage eating, weather-related delay disaster.
So now I am here again.
In the terminal at the Denver International Airport
Of course, the most famous aspect of this airport is its multi-peaked roof, intended to evoke the Rocky Mountains. (It’s your call as to whether or not it does that successfully.)
The vastness of that roof is clear from inside the terminal.
Art at the airport
It seems a pleasant enough place, with quirky – but not sinister – art. (There are all sorts of weird stories about the art at DIA.) There are giant “paper” airplanes, a wall of propellers, and a temporary display with a VW bug decorated in traditional-style Huichol beading.
It’s pretty cool.
We never do find the sinister art that is at the center of various conspiracy theories. (Well, actually, we did, but didn’t realize it since there just isn’t anything particularly sinister about it.)
Leaving the airport or does Denver want visitors to stay out of Denver?
Denver International Airport (DIA) is located 23 long miles from downtown Denver.
While well-served by highways, there is an appalling lack of transit available. Oh, sure, there are private shuttles (pretty expensive) and limousine/private car services (really expensive). And there is city bus service. There isn’t anything easy, inexpensive and fast. [2016 update: There is now train service between the city and airport!]
The “Skyride” service is the express bus serving DIA. It costs $11 and an hour of your time (a trip that should take half that time) on a schedule that is quite limited in off-peak periods. The bus seems to mostly serve airport workers, who leave their cars in park and ride lots and spend 10 or 15 minutes on the bus getting to and from the airport itself. The system works, but it’s not very convenient or tourist friendly.
The status of transit users at DIA seems clear from the location of the bus stop in the uncovered traffic lane farthest from the main terminal. Admittedly, stops for some of the other public shuttles and buses are located here too and this is a temporary location while the airport is under construction, but there seem to be plenty of covered areas allotted to other forms of transportation. Not only is it not very inviting, it doesn’t seem very safe. It does say a lot.
I can see why the Mountain Carriers do well – they allow a visitor to avoid Denver entirely with service that whisks you straight to the doorstep of your lodging at the mountain resort of your choice. Some of them even have more inviting airport pick-up locations that, for example, allow you to board/disembark without stepping directly into a lane of traffic with a canopy to provide some protection from the elements.
DIA provides a good example of the problems that can be created when an airport is located far from its home city. While DIA’s location may or may not be an advantage to the airport, it clearly creates additional challenges and expenses for the city of Denver.
Right now rail service to the airport is in city plans, but that project is still quite a number of years out. I might wait until it is up and running before making a return visit into the city.