Contrary to popular belief, Denver is not simply the gateway to Rocky Mountain ski resorts and the capital of recreational marijuana. I’m here to provide a brief yet essential guyde for a long weekend or short vacation. Denver is becoming more and more popular so I figured it was time to give you a little more information about the capital of Colorado. Here are the top 6 things to do in in the Mile High City and the surrounding area.
6. Movement Climbing + Fitness in RiNo
So, you went a little too hard in RiNo (see #5). Head back over to the same area and sweat off the night before with some “bouldering” and traverse climbing. Movement Climbing + Fitness has locations around Denver and Boulder, but their newest creation is located inside of an original brick Denver warehouse. It’s been redone – except for the original wooden arched roof – to accommodate shorter rock climbing walls that you climb without ropes. Don’t worry, the floor is padded because you’ll probably fall. And as if you haven’t had enough beer, Improper City is a brewery with outdoor games, and it’s located on the other side of the shared entrance and is just as shiny and new. Use the rest of your day to hit up a Rockies game or chill nearby at Union Station.
5. Dinner at Avanti and drinks out in RiNo
Head to Avanti in the LoHi neighborhood, just north of Coors Field and downtown Denver, for an eclectic selection of themed food truck fare from small stands all housed under one roof. The downtown skyline provides an awesome backdrop to the liveliness and modern rustic vibe of one of Denver’s best bars. Just be warned – I’m not the only one who takes my visitors to Avanti for a Denver introduction, so get there for dinner and a libation, and head right out to RiNo district (River North) to get the night going. As Denver’s art district and social center, RiNo offers an endless selection of bars, breweries, and clubs surrounded by colorful street art. To be completely honest, I don’t know where to start with RiNo so here’s a list of spots to hit.
- Great Divide Brewing
- Ratio Beer Works
- Finn’s Manor
- Infinite Monkey Theorem wine bar
- Stem Ciders
- Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
- Denver Central Market and High Point Creamery (best ice cream in the city)
4. Flatirons hikes from Chautauqua Park in Boulder, CO
Want an outdoor experience to give you that Colorado feels but only have a short time block to work with? Head over to Boulder and Chautauqua Park, just beyond the University of Colorado campus. Chautauqua acts as the trailhead for several iconic short/medium length hikes into dramatic rocks formations in the foothills, including Royal Arch and the Flatirons. And sticking with the climbing theme, if you partake, the Flatirons offers some renowned routes that are guaranteed to satisfy your urge for vertical.
3. Climb a 14er
What the hell is a 14er? A 14er is a 14,000’+ mountain amongst the surrounding Rockies. 14ers are seen as rights of passage for those new to Denver. There are 58 of them in Colorado, so there are plenty to choose from, but you’ll want to stay away from ones that pop up with mortality statistics when you search them on Google (i.e. Capital Peak, Longs Peak). Some more tourist-friendly, less technical 14ers that you can conquer in a day are Gray’s and Torrey’s (two 14k foot peaks a short distance apart), Massive, Elbert, Bierstadt, Quandary, Evans, Democrat. Important words of advice:
- Eat plenty of food and bring plenty of snacks in a pack with a camelback of water.
- Wear hiking boots or at the very least, dependable footwear with plenty of support.
- Wear plenty of sunscreen
- Get after it after a couple days in Denver getting acclimated to the altitude.
- Most importantly, start really early because lightning often rolls over the peaks afternoon, so it’s very dangerous and a major no-no to be up there past then. By early I mean starting on the trail between 5AM and 6AM
2. Concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre
You’ve seen the pictures. You’ve seen the Mumford and Sons music video for “I Will Wait”. You have. But, I haven’t. I swear. Anyways, head to Red Rocks in the Spring, Summer, and Fall months for the most unique concert experience you’ll ever have. Red Rocks is conveniently located in the foothills of Morrison and is only a short 25 minutes drive from downtown Denver. Red Rocks is an outdoor natural rock formation discovered to have ideal acoustic properties for legendary concerts. I do about two concerts a year here, and every one is special. The surrounding formations make for great daytime hikes and scenic views, too.
1. Camp and hike in Rocky Mountain National Park
RMNP is truly an outdoor paradise and is home to the aforementioned Longs Peak 14er. Drive by the Stanley Hotel (the mansion in The Shining) in Estes Park on your way into the park. Continue the drive along Trail Ridge Road looking out across the alpine lakes and towering peaks along the park’s most scenic route. For hiking, Sky Pond is king of all the hikes, passing several alpine lakes, waterfalls and formations along the way. Emerald Lake, Dream Lake, and Mills Lake are shorter versions that are great in their own right, and probably more conducive to snowshoeing. Also, check out the elk bugle in the Fall when the elk will do anything for love, including walking a little bit outside of RMNP to Estes Park’s town center to do their thing amongst hundreds of onlookers. It’s a bit overwhelming trying to think of everything the park offers, so just buy a guide book.
As an added bonus because I like you, here are some more Denver restaurant recommendations.
Mercantile (in Union Station)
Tacos Tequila Whiskey
Blue Pan Pizza
Work and Class
TAG Burger Bar
High Point Creamery
Little Man Ice Cream
Bacon Social House
Hops and Pie
ModMarket (fast casual)