Word on the street is that my guide to Denver is overwhelming. I prefer the term extensive, but there’s no denying that, for someone who’s coming to the Mile High City for a few short days, figuring out where to start can be an incredibly challenging task. So I whittled down the guide to my very favorite spots in town. Because the last thing I want is for someone to be stoked on visiting but have no idea where to start.
Chances are you’re staying in the city, so – just like the original guide – I focused on places that can be walked or biked to with ease (or result in a cab fare that’s less than $20, roundtrip). If you’re hell bent on renting a car, have at it. But let it be known that a car isn’t necessary if you’re staying in the city. Not to mention, having one will probably result in a lot of frustration when you try to park it. Just sayin’.
So where should you stay? You’ll find the most charming Airbnbs in a handful of Denver’s historic neighborhoods, but I recommend staying in Capitol Hill, Cheesman Park (where we live), or Five Points, but RiNo and LoDo have some decently priced spots, as well. I highly suggest trying to stay within this area, as it’s incredibly walkable and there are B-cycle stations scattered throughout. If I didn’t live in the city, I’d stay in this charming house or this boutique apartment. Or you could rent the spare room of this cozy flat (see what I did there?).
Since the last guide, a number of you have emailed asking about the best gyms in town (apparently I talk far too much about working out), but I regret to inform you that I usually lift at home and run through the city – so I’m probably not the best person to dish out advice about gyms. I do, however, make it a priority to get to Pearl Street Fitness 1-2 times per week so, if you’re into group fitness, I highly recommend signing up for a class or three. Their drop in rate is a bit pricier than just going to a regular gym, but the ass kicking is more than worth it. Bonus: They can tailor the workout to your athletic ability (or lack thereof). Coffee on me if you’re not sore the next day.
But enough about working out, let’s get to the guide.
A welcome dinner at Cuba Cuba seems fitting considering it’s my favorite restaurant EVER. If you get into town before 6:30, I highly recommend trying to make it to their happy hour because they mix up cheap mojitos and that is pretty damn awesome considering they serve the best mojitos in town. After dinner you should head to Ophelia’s for drinks (and maybe a live show), or to Larimer Square for a fat slice of cake at the Market and/or drinks at the Cruise Room. My first vote is for Ophelia’s, but if you prefer something a bit more laid back, the Cruise Room will be your jam.
You stayed out late last night and now you need coffee. From Novo. The location at 6th and Gilpin is my go-to but more than likely their downtown shop will be closer to where you’re staying. You may be hungry and tempted to order something to put in your face, but I recommend heading to Jelly or Snooze for an early morning feast. If you get to either before 9AM, there won’t be much of a wait.
FOR THE MUSEUMGOER
After breakfast, head to the Golden Triangle to wander through the Clyfford Still Museum and Denver Art Museum. When you’re finished, make your way to Union Station for lunch at Mercantile Dining and Provision, followed by a boozy milkshake from Mailbox Ice Creamery. Walk a few blocks to the Museum of Contemporary Art to check out their funky installations, then head to the rooftop to enjoy a drink or caffeinated beverage.
For dinner you should head to the Highlands or RiNo. If heading to the Highlands, I recommend dining at Root Down followed by a couple of beers at Prost or cocktails at Williams and Graham. If RiNo, I suggest feasting at the Populist (vegans, call ahead) and ending the night at Infinite Monkey Theorem, or devouring burgers at Park Burger and beers at Our Mutual Friend.
FOR THE WANDERER
Head to River North/Five Points and grab a second (maybe third) coffee (or almond milk chai) at Crema (or some coffee + grub at Stowaway), then take an urban hike through the streets and alleyways in search of some of the city’s most visually appealing public art. If you’re lucky enough to be in town during the Denver Flea, you should pop in for some souvenirs. A late lunch should be had at Biju’s Little Curry Shop and followed by a beer tour at Great Divide Brewery. If you’re not into beer, grab a gin & tonic at Work & Class.
Dinner should be eaten across town at Tacos Tequila Whiskey (formerly Pinche Taqueria) (a bit on the spendy side for tacos but you’re on vacation AND it’s totally worth it). When you’re finished, head over to the Epic Escape Room (make sure you reserve a spot in advance) for one of the most exhilarating hours of your life. Wrap up the night with drinks at the Thin Man. If you find red lighting offensive (like Thom), take your happy ass down to Vine Street Pub for a beer. Or, if you wanna get super divey, head to the P S Lounge.
Depending on where you’re staying, I recommend grabbing early morning caffeine + sustenance from either Cafe Max or Vert Kitchen. I love them both, but it really depends on what you’re looking to get out of breakfast that morning – so make sure you check out their menus. Both establishments are 1-2 miles from the heart of downtown, but more than worth the trek. After breakfast, rent yourself a bike and spend the day riding around town (Denver is bike friendly, yo!). I recommend browsing local shops (Tattered Cover Bookstore, Hazel and Dewey, Good Chemistry, etc.), getting ice cream from Sweet Action, going to a Rockies game, or watching a movie at the Mayan. Or, if you were a wanderer on Saturday, be a museumgoer on Sunday. Or vice versa.
There’s a sound totem at the corner of 17th and Washington that only works about half the time, but the concept is so cool that we head over to check it out anytime we’re in the area. If you find yourself downtown, there’s a sculpture at the corner of 14th and Curtis called All Together Now – the big yellow bench is a fun spot for photos. While you’re in the bustling city center, you should try to find a 6+ story parking garage, as getting to the top will provide both respite and some pretty killer views. Speaking of which, if you’re looking for the best view of the Mile High City, you’ll find that at the Museum of Nature and Science. If you happen to rent a car and like (run down) amusement parks, you should absolutely not miss Lakeside. Oh, and ganja. That’s why you came in the first place, right? ;)