Rugged has defined Denver since its founding as a rowdy, gold-rush era mining camp in the 1850s. Today, the city still boasts a go-getting spirit while offering the best of urban living—more than 240 restaurants opened in 2017 alone. The city’s downtown is dotted with museums, historic sites and colourful shopping districts, while up-and-coming neighbourhoods are attracting visitors with their unique vibes.
Explore Denver’s historic city centre, known as LoDo (Lower Downtown), starting with the 16th Street Mall, a mile-long pedestrian promenade ending at the golden-domed Colorado State Capitol. Explore local faves such as the Tattered Cover, Denver’s veteran indie bookstore, and peek into the Brown Palace Hotel, located on 17th, to glimpse its 1892 stained-glass atrium.
Lunch at Milk Market, a food hall in LoDo from famed Denver restaurateur Frank Bonanno. The market’s 16 outlets serve everything from traditional Hawaiian seafood to Chinese steamed buns. Walk south to the Denver Art Museum, with its Frederic Remington and Georgia O’Keeffe masterpieces, and the Molly Brown House Museum, the home of the famed suffragette and RMS Titanic survivor.
It’s a 25-minute walk west—across the 11th Street Bridge—to the Arts District on Santa Fe. This area has some of the city’s best Mexican restaurants; you can’t go wrong with the enchiladas with mole sauce at El Noa Noa.
Head to City Park, a massive urban oasis that includes the Denver Zoo, home to rare Amur leopards and one of the largest bull elephant habitats in the world, and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, with its dinosaur bones and IMAX theatre.
The once-gritty warehouses and factories of the RiNo (River North) Art District now house art galleries, boutiques, restaurants and the largest concentration of craft breweries and cideries in Denver. For lunch, look no further than The Source, an artisanal market hall located in a refurbished 1880s foundry.
Return to LoDo to feast at Union Station; this historic, functioning train station also serves as a buzzing food marketplace and community hub. Top picks among its five stellar restaurants include Stoic & Genuine for oysters and Mercantile for elevated comfort food. After, take in a show at the nearby, circa-1930 Paramount Theatre, or experience the local stand-up and improv scene at Comedy Works.
Stroll across the pedestrian-only Highland Bridge to tour Denver’s interesting northern neighbourhoods. Fuel up at one of Highlands Square’s many cafés; locals love Novo Coffee for its house-made syrups and slow pours, and Highlands Cork & Coffee for its cozy ambiance and dog-friendly garden patio.
Explore the crafty boutiques of the Berkeley neighbourhood’s Tennyson Street Cultural District. Don’t miss Jolly Goods for whimsical gifts and Alice’s Secret Garden for fantastical birdhouses. Heading toward LoHi (Lower Highland), keep an eye out for the giant milk can housing Little Man Ice Cream and drop in to sample one of the unique flavours, such as salted Oreo.
LoHi is home to a number of great restaurants. For some southern cooking, check out LOW Country Kitchen and order the rich pork ribs, buttermilk-fried chicken or shrimp and grits, with a side of fried green tomatoes. End your night with one of the restaurant’s signature cocktails, like the LOW Old Fashioned—made with Old Forester bourbon, Demerara syrup and house-made coffee-pecan bitters.
Top Hotels in Denver
Located near Union Station, Hotel Indigo features 180 airy rooms with stylish design touches such as sliding barn doors, spa bathrooms and nature-themed murals. Keep an eye out for Barkly, the hotel’s golden retriever, who has his own Instagram account.
The recent opening of this 50-room boutique hotel means there’s no need to leave the River North area. The beach maple hardwood floors and crystal chandeliers provide the perfect setting to sip a creation by Death & Co, an outpost of the trendy New York City cocktail bar.
[This story appears in the August 2018 issue of WestJet Magazine]
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.