For a taste of the true West on your Denver trip, here are some ideas.

* A variety of Denver institutions help tourists understand the history and texture of life out West. The Colorado History Museum delves into the state's Wild West reputation. Miners, pioneers, and Native Americans struggled side-by-side here, and their artifacts are fascinating. The Black American West Museum celebrates African-American cowboys. Exhibits at the Denver Museum of Natural History emphasize the flora and fauna of the territory.

* The shopping is good, too: Cherry Creek Shopping Center is one of the city's biggest tourist attractions. Airy, clean, and elegant, it caters to a classy clientele. But Larimer Square downtown is far more atmospheric and charming. A variety of shops, art galleries, and restaurants crowd the fine old renovated buildings with Western goodies, from fabulous Native American jewelry to a wonderful gourmet food market.

* The Georgetown, Colo., Christmas Market runs the first two full weekends in December. The old mining town has been almost completely renovated, true to gingerbread and Victorian grace. Celebrations include caroling, hot chestnuts, hay rides, square dancing, and more.

* For a western culinary experiences, try buffalo steak at The Fort restaurant (built as a replica of historic Bent's Fort) or at the Denver Buffalo Company Restaurant and Trading Post.

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