Denver: stunning Rocky Mountain backdrop, plenty of unique neighborhoods, controversial public art, and 300 days of sunshine each year. Whether you want to venture into the mountains or not, with its natural blend of urban sophistication and Old West and its young, active residents pushing the vibrant cultural scene, the Mile-High City has never been more worthy of a visit.
What to See
Lower downtown (call it LoDo) is arguably the center of action in Denver, and the charming Larimer Square (one of the first revitalized historic neighborhoods in the US) has been drawing people in with its unique shops, boutiques, cafes, restaurants and elegant but relaxed atmosphere since 1969. Be sure to stop in the Market, one of the original occupants of the Square, the first espresso bar between New York and LA, and one of the city’s most loved delis, and nearby Tattered Cover, an impressive independent bookstore and Denver institution.
LoDo is also the home of one of Denver’s “Old West” staples, Rockmount Ranch Wear. This three-generation family-owned company invented the snap-up western shirt, made the first commercial bolo-ties, and literally wrote the book on Western Wear. Founder “Papa Jack” coined the phrase “The West is not a place, it’s a state of mind,” and the family hasn’t been afraid to change up their designs over time to suit the modern Cowboy (or Cowgirl…or urban hipster)—you’ve probably seen their clothes all over and didn’t even know it. Now’s your chance to hit up the source.
Photo by Josh
In 1961, the owner of Forney Industries, a metal working and welding product distributer, expanded his private antique automobile collection into a museum. Now this one-of-a-kind collection includes not only cars, but “Anything on Wheels” and has become one of the most revered transportation collections in the country. Visit the Forney Museum of Transportation to see everything from tricycles to Amelia Earhart’s Kissel Car to Big Boy locomotives and learn about the evolution of industrial design.
Photo by J. Gyenes
Colorado actually has a law that prohibits any structure that impedes the mountain panorama view from the State Capitol Building. Check out the perspective from the 13th step (the official mile-above-sea-level marker), and marvel at the priceless wainscoting (the world’s ENTIRE supply of Colorado onyx was used to make it).
- Local tips: If you’re looking for some outdoor time, you probably won’t have to travel very far — Denver has the largest city park system in the US. The easiest way to travel between them (and all the other sights and neighborhoods) is with Denver’s innovative bike share program B-cycle (pick up and drop off bikes all over town).
What to Do
Tree climbing. Could it be that you haven’t considered such a thing since you were a kid? Well folks, tree climbing just might be the new rock climbing, and who better to help you remember how than the president of the Global Organization of Tree Climbers? Harv “Ponderosa” Teitelbaum (which, by the way, is an old German word for a kind of tree) and his passionate team of instructors at Tree Climbing Colorado will take you up trees all over town with their safe, eco-friendly equipment and expert environmental knowledge. Get in touch with nature high up in the canopy. And don’t forget to wear long pants.
For a fun twist on ye olde historical walking tour, sign up for Denver Inside and Out. Just as much scavenger hunt as walking tour, the experience starts at an undisclosed location and leads you through town via tricky clues and encounters with characters from Colorado’s most famous historical crime — the 1922 robbery of the Denver Mint.
Denver has been called the Napa of Beer, and at over 80 different beers per day, it brews the most of any city in the US. The Denver Microbrew Tour will help you navigate all the choices with a guided walking tour through several Denver neighborhoods, including samples at microbreweries and tap rooms, a pint of your favorite beer, and everything you never knew you wanted to know about beer and Denver.
- Local tip: increased altitude equals decreased alcohol tolerance. Don’t let it ruin your fun, but definitely keep it in mind!
Denver’s status as one of the USA’s best beer cities doesn’t mean you can’t also find excellent local wine. The Infinite Monkey Theorem, an urban winery in the RiNo Art District, strips wine-making down to the essentials — the best grapes, in-depth knowledge of the process, passion, and a sense of community — and defies tradition (wine in a can!) to deliver ridiculously tasty local wine and redefine wine drinking. Visit the Wine Lab for a taste, schedule a tour, or just stop by and pick up a bottle (or a four-pack) to take with you.
Where to Eat
Denver loves breakfast, and they’ll stand in really long lines to eat it at Jelly (don’t worry, there are donuts and coffee and Bloody Marys while you wait). There are five different Benedicts, eight different filled donut bites (Thai peanut or maple bacon, anyone?), and naturally, continuously changing home-made Jelly of the Day. If you’re feeling adventurous and super hungry, try the signature Molly Hot Brown — house roasted turkey, smothered with green chili cheese sauce, bacon, and fried tomatoes served on savory French toast.
Inspired by a DH Lawrence poem and a love story, Beatrice & Woodsley transforms the utility of eating into a romanticized journey. The interior reflects the diverse beauty of Colorado by integrating the rustic qualities of an antiquated cabin with the modern conveniences of a cosmopolitan city, and the cuisine playfully combines today’s palettes with the traditions and flavors of the old world. Not to miss: Aubergine-Ricotta Gnocchi and Parsnip “Steak.” Bonus: to see more from the creative minds behind B+W, check out their LoDo bar for your after-dinner cocktails. Double Daughter’s Salotto is quirky and cozy, with down-tempo DJs and great art shows.
About a year ago, I had one of the best breakfasts of my life in, of all places, the Denver Airport. I found out later that I had been eating in a satellite location of Root Down, Denver’s first-rate, “field-to-fork,” veggie-focused, sustainable, converted gas-station eatery. The brilliant minds behind Root Down were generous enough to bring us a second restaurant, this time in a converted mortuary (the Olinger Mortuaries sign now says Linger Eatuaries thanks to the some tricky light-work), focusing on small plates of riffs on urban street food from around the world. Don’t miss the Lite-Brite bar or the Harold & Maude imagery. Insider tip: go on a Tuesday for the 3 for $30 special menu.
Also worth Room5g out:
- Waffle Brother’s original sugar-encrusted waffle; small-batch, home-made ice cream inside a giant vintage milk can at Little Man Ice Cream (get the “Little Dip” if you’re already full from dinner next door at Linger); and vegan/vegetarian paradise at City o’ City.
- Local tip for South Park fans: Casa Bonita is real place. There are cliff-divers, pirates, and a cotton candy pink façade. Go for the experience, not the food.
Where to Sleep