For years, travellers passed through Denver on the way to ritzy ski towns. But that’s all changed thanks to a thriving economy that has made Denver a must-visit destination with restaurants, attractions and outdoor activities galore.
River North (RiNo)
A former industrial hub just north of downtown, the River North neighbourhood is a bustling arts community full of old factories turned into lofts, art galleries such as the ceramic-oriented Plinth Gallery, and colourful, graffiti-inspired street murals. Start a night out with a dinner of oak-fired meats and homemade pastas at Acorn, then head to Nocturne, a swanky jazz bar, for some tunes. Finish the night with a glass of wine at The Infinite Monkey Theorem, an urban winery.
Lower Highlands (LoHi)
Just across the South Platte River from downtown, Lower Highlands is a walkable neighbourhood filled with historic Victorian homes, restaurants, bars, and killer views of the Mile High Skyline. Indulge in Mediterranean-inspired tapas at El Five, treat yourself to a sundae at Little Man Ice Cream, or nab a reservation at Williams & Graham, a speakeasy famed for cocktails like The Blurb, a whisky drink made with blueberry lemon curd, lemon juice and Velvet Falernum.
Lower Downtown (LoDo)
Located in the heart of Denver, the city’s oldest neighbourhood boasts red-brick historic warehouses, wide sidewalks and independent shops. Peruse the ever-changing, experimental exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art, shop at boutique stores like the western-themed Cry Baby Ranch on the bustling block of Larimer Square, and challenge friends to billiards at Wynkoop Brewing Company. Sample elevated comfort food at Mercantile Dining & Provision and cocktails at the Terminal Bar, both located inside Union Station, the recently renovated 20th-century train station.
Bolstered by the long-time headquarters of Coors Brewery outside the city and the annual Great American Beer Festival, Denver is the Napa Valley of beer. Denver’s first craft brewery, Wynkoop Brewing Company, opened in 1988. Today, the metro area counts more than 100 brew pubs and taprooms. For an easy walking tour of some of the best, head to the Ballpark and River North neighbourhoods and try pints from Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery, Ratio Beerworks and Epic Brewing Company.
Signature experience: Denver Art Museum
Denver boasts a world-renowned art centre: the Denver Art Museum. Located in the Golden Triangle neighbourhood just south of downtown, the museum is housed in two buildings designed by two notable architects—Italian Gio Ponti and Polish-American Daniel Libeskind. The DAM has a vast and eclectic mix of works, including paintings by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and Georgia O’Keeffe. It also houses the best collection of Pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial art in the U.S., and an American Indian art collection featuring garments, glasswork and pottery from nearly every tribe in North America.
Itchin’ to see the mountains? Consider booking the Amtrak Winter Park Express, a ski train that runs from Union Station in downtown Denver to the base of Winter Park Resort. Available on weekends from January to March, the two-hour train ride lets you avoid traffic, see some scenery and arrive in style.
Discovering Art, Beer and Food in Denver
A trailblazing craft beer industry, a growing culinary scene, revitalized neighbourhoods and a variety of arts-based initiatives make Denver worth exploring. Drink at Denver's first brewery Wynkoop Brewing, visit during the First Friday Art Walk and eat at Acorn restaurant.