The Mile High City: Things To See, Places to Eat & Where to Hike
It feels like a lifetime ago that I was in Denver, having spent the following three weeks in Greece but it’s fair to say it’s not a place i’ll forget anytime soon.
Before I start, it’s fair to say Denver isn’t somewhere I’d ever thought of visiting or had on my bucket list before this trip. Indeed, Colorado wasn’t even on my list. I’m not really sure why but this part of America has just never really made it onto my ‘must see’ list despite anyone and everyone I know that’s visited raving hysterical about how wonderful it is.
It’s the sort of place you’d want to spend a couple of days whilst road tripping through central America, making it a stop off on a longer list of destinations, perhaps all the way up to Canada if you had the time. For me though, it was a rather unexpected business trip which caused me to visit, a follow up from my NYC visit the week prior. I love New York so much that I hadn’t really given my Denver trip much thought, my excitement was largely reserved for my return to Manhattan. And based on that, it’s fair to say Denver took me by surprise.
I hadn’t expected much, and based on my initial hotel search had low expectations of what the city would have to offer, but boy was I mistaken. This city is a craft beer, hiker, artist and foodie haven. Every street is a walking art gallery with every building surface adorned in murals, pretty much every other door is an entrance to a craft beer brewery or warehouse bar, and the food we ate really was something special. And that’s before you even consider red rocks, the rockies and all the mountains only a stones throw away (20 minutes to red rocks from downtown Denver). The mile high city, certainly has a bit more to offer than you might expect and it certainly could teach Shoreditch a thing or too.
EAT & DRINK: CRAFT CULTURE
It’s fair to say Denver is the craft capital. East London is a drop in the ocean compared to the volume and masses of craft breweries, warehouse bars, industrial architecture and street art. The centre of downtown Denver might lead you to doubt this on first glimpse, but take a little stroll towards the likes of the up and coming RiNo district and you’ll be overwhelmed by the craft culture.
We chose to stay in RiNo and I couldn’t have been any happier about this decision, the bars, restaurants and ‘vibe’ were second to none and to be honest we spent most our time outside of work in this part of the city. Our hotel, The Ramble (i’ll do a whole post on that soon as it’s too good to merge into this), had some fab restaurants within it under Death & Co’s franchise. We made the most of this for breakfast every morning but also tried out their infamous tapas downstairs at Super Mega Bien one evening too. A fab experience and delicious and hearty mexican tapas style sharing food.
We stumbled into Cart & Driver on our first night in Denver and fell in love with their Pizza as soon as we sniffed the wood burner. Quite honestly THE best pizza i’ve ever had, I had half Cart Driver and half mushroom and it was bloody tasty. This spot is perfect for a chilled and low key evening out.
If you’re looking for something a little more special and fine dining then The Populist was a real favourite, I absolutely loved the pappardelle here and the setting is very cosy and atmospheric. I also loved Il Posto, we sat at the chefs table so we got the fun of wathcing the chefs whip up their masterpieces whilst we enjoyed our dinner. Highly recommend for a date night or Friday night vibe.
For lunch, when we weren’t in the office we mostly headed to Denver Central Food Market which has such a great atmosphere. It’s packed with lots of small eateries, so you can have anything from pasta, gyros to oysters (over the course of the week I had all three), it’s also got a fab little coffee shop and outdoor street seating to soak up the sunshine. Stoic & Genuine was also a fab spot for a final glass of wine and oysters in the sunshine.
As we were on a work trip we didn’t really try out any bars, aside from our own hotel roof terrace which I fell in love with spending an hour or two on at sunset everyday. But if you like craft beer then you won’t have to look far, especially in the RiNo district. You can’t help but stumble upon so many cool bars, warehouses & breweries.
Super Mega Bien: 1260 25th St, Denver, CO 80205
Car & Driver: 2500 Larimer St, Denver CO 80205
The Populist: 3163 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80205
Il Posto: 2601 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80205
Denver Central Market: 2669 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80205
Stoic & Genuine: 1701 Wynkoop St, Denver, CO 80202
STROLL: ART & ARCHITECTURE
Denver compared to other cities I’ve visited isn’t all that big, and having arrived late Friday night we had most the weekend outside of some work prep to stroll around and explore the city. It’s fair to say we felt as though we saw most of the city in our first day, and so really a few days here is plenty if you’re on a road trip.
We strolled from RiNo (the River North district where we were staying), down towards the LODO area which is a beautiful area of red brick buildings, bustling cafes and of course infamous Union Square. You’ll also find the up and coming Dairy Block and the pretty streets of Larimer Square just a stones throw away. We strolled a little around Capitol Hill and explored some residential streets where all the houses look like shrunken mansions and we never quite made it to Cherry Creek which was recommended as a shopping area.
But despite the coolness of Dairy Block & the beautiful Larimer Square, RiNo really was my favourite area, with plenty of stores, bars and warehouses to potter around, some of my favourite restaurants and just a generally very chilled vibe. It’s also the part of town where you’ll discover the most art work and murals, nearly every building is covered in art work and they’ve even turned a few of the streets into an urban museum.
HIKE: RED ROCKS & BOULDER
But the truth of the matter is this, you’d be hugely missing a trick if you were to visit Denver and not get your hiking boots on. Denver is the perfect place to stay if you’re travelling to Colorado TO hike too, it’s roughly a 20 minute uber from downtown (and we were north too) to the red rocks trails and amphitheatre, only around $20. The Red Rocks made the perfect hiking ground for us amateur hikers, but nonetheless we still walked 6 miles before reaching the beautiful amphitheatre with incredible views back over downtown Denver. It was such a beautiful spot we ended up spending a few hours just sat there talking, sunbathing and watching the mega keen sportsman run up and down the ridiculously steep steps of the theatre. One thing we really wished we could have done was the Sunday morning Yoga at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, what a way to start the day.
There are tougher trails in Red Rocks for those enthusiasts among you, the Morrison Slide certainly offers a slightly steeper incline and the thrill of rattlesnakes. There are also plenty of trails for bikers and runners too, we bumped into plenty during our Sunday morning hike.
However the reality is, red rocks is just a small part of the potential stomping grounds in Colorado. With the rockies on your doorstep, if you have time then you should certainly extend your trails further afar and even stop at different hiking locations during your road trip or visit.
Whilst Denver wasn’t on my bucket list, it’s definitely somewhere i’d recommend people visit, especially as part of a bigger central American tour or a visit to other parts of Colorado. I’m going to do a whole separate feature on where we stayed, I spent a whole week solidly researching where to stay and originally thought the options looked super bleak, but I then found a couple of really cool arty and boutique hotels which looked incredible, and where we stayed just ticked all my decor boxes and i’d highly recommend for anyone visiting the city. But more to come on that soon …