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Rocking the Rockies in Denver

When I think of Denver, I conjure up images of snow-capped mountains, wild horses galloping across the high plains, and cowboy hats on every head. While this image isn’t wrong for Colorado, it’s not an accurate representation of this cosmopolitan city! Denver is so much more than the glorious landscape that surrounds it. It’s a city with a big heart and an old soul; a place where all ages can bounce from beer hall to botanical garden without breaking a sweat.

denver, bison

Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam:” literally!

The capital of Colorado sits in the South Platte River Valley, surrounded by the front range of the Rocky Mountains to the west and the Great Plains to the east. Denver offers something for everyone! Quirky bars, fabulous museums, glorious parks, sporting events and an open-air amphitheater that was listed as one of the seven wonders of the geological world await you! Speaking of geologic wonders, make sure you visit Dinosaur Ridge in the town of Morrison, a museum dedicated to dinosaurs bones found locally!

There is so much to see and do in Denver. When you’re not exploring the historic Larimer Square and admiring the 19th-century landmarks, you might visit the Denver Art Museum, home to artifacts and relics belonging to the famed Titanic survivor “The unsinkable” Molly Brown. Or, you might catch a game of one of the several professional sporting teams in town while drinking a beer and enjoying an authentic hotdog!

Here’s a Pro Tip: Denver is much dryer than you’d think because it is in the rain-shadow of the front range. This means that the temperature rises and drops quickly. Wear layers to take on and off as the temperature changes.

Denver International Airport, to the southeast of the city, is a convenient hub within a series of large tents! Traveling from the airport to downtown is a doddle thanks to the airport rail service. The train departs from the DEN Transit Center on Level 1 (opposite the Westin Denver International Airport Hotel) and drops travellers at Denver Union Station in under 40-minutes. Not only is this transport affordable ($10.50 one way), it is easy to navigate and departs every 15 to 30-minutes.

top sights in denver colorado

With legalised marijuana, the “Mile High City” lives up to its reputation!

Alternatively, a taxi ride from Denver International Airport to the city’s downtown district takes just 25-minutes and costs $60. Once in the city, Denver is relatively compact and can be explored on foot but ride-shares are also widely available. That said, I enjoyed zipping around the city on a rental bike from B-cycle, the city’s shared bike program!

Here’s Another Pro Tip: If you haven’t rented a car, fear not as you can still reach the mountains! Ride the Flatiron Flyer (a rapid transit bus service) to Boulder for a day hiking Chautauqua Park or visit nearby Mount Sanitas. There are lots of buses to the ski fields across the front range. Be careful if you rent a car to visit the ski fields because Eisenhower Tunnel (on I-70 and the quickest way to reach the ski areas) is at 11,158 feet (3,400 meters). If you are not used to that altitude, you can lose concentration and drive unsafely.

There’s so much to enjoy in Denver that you’re going to need a little help prioritizing attractions. I recommend the following sites:

Denver - larimer square

Larimer Square has a frontier feel!

  • Larimer Square – A good starting point is Larimer Square, the oldest block in Denver. You’ll find old-school stores selling cowboy boots and hats, along with quaint boutiques and quirky restaurants. Visit in the evening when fairy lights illuminate the square.
  • Denver Botanic Gardens – Get your fix of flora and fauna in these beautifully manicured gardens. Explore the Japanese gardens and stop for a picnic by the pond. I enjoyed the Science Exhibitions that take place in the garden’s Science Pyramid.
  • Denver Art Museum – Bursting with colour and culture, this art museum is home to over 70,000 works from around the globe, including American Indian Art in its New World Collection.
  • Coors Field – No trip to Denver during the season is complete without catching a Rockies game at the Coors Field, Denver’s downtown baseball stadium.
  • Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum – Step inside the disused Air Force hanger and browse a vast collection of aircraft and space vehicles, including a Star Wars X-Wing fighter!
  • The Cherry Creek Trail – Explore downtown Denver by following this trail on foot or two-wheels! The route begins in Confluence Park (one of many city parks) and winds its way out to Arapahoe county. If you’ve brought your walking boots, continue to Cherry Creek North State Park for a full day of hiking.
  • Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater – Before visiting Denver, I always check which bands are in town at the Red Rock Park Amphitheater. The concert venue is carved out of red rock, and concert-goers enjoy live music under the stars late into the night!

Despite being a relatively compact city, Denver has an impressive array of eateries and bars catering to all food types. Check out my must-try restaurants below:

  • Rioja: This upscale Mediterranean eatery serves innovative dishes made using seasonal local produce. Rioja is conveniently in Larimer Square
  • Steuben’s: This classic American diner is a neighbourhood favourite serving hearty comfort food with a twist. Book a table outside and enjoy al fresco dining.
Denver - rocky mountain oysters

Try the Rocky Mountain Oysters, you’ll have a ball!

  • Ruth’s Chris Steak House: Denver is cattle country and the beef tastes better there than anywhere in the world! RCS is amongst the very best.

Denver is well-known for its craft beers, rooftop bars, and bustling cocktail bars, so you’ll be spoiled for choice! RiNo is one of the city’s liveliest districts, but here are my favourite places to party:

Old Fashioned Cocktail

I’m an Old Fashioned kind of girl!

  • Seven Grand an atmospheric bar with backlit bottles of whiskey lining the walls. This rustic establishment is perfect for an evening tipple and a quick game of pool. I like to order classic Old Fashioneds and spend the evening people-watching!
  • Bruz Beers – This quirky brewery is found a little off the beaten path (like most of the best establishments are) and serves a vast array of Belgian beers.
  • El ChapultepecIf you’re after a budget-friendly evening with the locals, then head to this funky dive bar. Packed to the rafters with hipsters, ‘The Pec’ is the perfect place to enjoy live music late into the night.

When it comes to accommodation, Denver offers fantastic boutique hotels! Aside from funky 5-star hotels, the city is also home to a string of chain hotels and affordable 3-4 star residencies. Check out my accommodation recommendations below:

  • The Ramble – This boutique hotel sits in the River North Art District and is one of Denver’s trendiest accommodation options. The hotel boasts an onsite bar, a small theatre, and a restaurant.
  • The ART HotelThe entire hotel acts as an art gallery as artwork adorns the walls of the lobby, bedrooms, and rooftop restaurant! Get ready to enjoy 5-star luxury with a view. 
  • Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver –  Voted as the ‘Best Hotel in Denver’ by U.S. News & World Report in 2020, this particular hotel is as enchanting as they come. The hotel is just a short walk from downtown Denver’s best attractions.

Denver is an exciting destination offering fun for everyone! Enjoy a rockin’ time in Denver!

 

Love,

Isabella

 

Isabella’s Checklist

What to See: Larimer Square, Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Art Museum. (https://www.larimersquare.com, Denver Botanic Gardens, https://denverartmuseum.org)

Where to Eat: Rioja, Steuben’s, Panzano. (http://www.riojadenver.com, https://www.steubens.com)

Where to Party: Seven Grand, Bruz Beers, El Chapultepec. (http://sevengrandbars.com/denver/, https://www.bruzbeers.com, http://www.thepeclodo.com)

Where to Stay: The Ramble, The ART Hotel, the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver. (https://www.theramblehotel.com, https://www.thearthotel.com, https://www.monaco-denver.com)

What Not to Buy: Don’t purchase the cans of oxygen that are for sale in gift shops and grocery stores. They’re targeted at tourists and are useless!

Delight in Downtown Denver!
Isabella’s Checklist

What to See: Larimer Square, Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Art Museum. (https://www.larimersquare.com, Denver Botanic Gardens, https://denverartmuseum.org)

Where to Eat: Rioja, Steuben’s, Panzano. (http://www.riojadenver.com, https://www.steubens.com)

Where to Party: Seven Grand, Bruz Beers, El Chapultepec. (http://sevengrandbars.com/denver/, https://www.bruzbeers.com, http://www.thepeclodo.com)

Where to Stay: The Ramble, The ART Hotel, the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver. (https://www.theramblehotel.com, https://www.thearthotel.com, https://www.monaco-denver.com)

What Not to Buy: Don’t purchase the cans of oxygen that are for sale in gift shops and grocery stores. They’re targeted at tourists and are useless!

Delight in Downtown Denver!

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