When I first moved to Denver from New York City, I was excited about what most people are when they think of Colorado: hiking, camping, the mountains, the crisp air, and the mild weather. (And I was not disappointed.) But I was also pleasantly surprised to find that there’s just as much awesomeness in and around the actual city of Denver. Here are some of the best things to eat, see, and do next time you’re there.
1. Stuff your face and bask in the nostalgia of old cereal boxes at Jelly Cafe.
Denver loves breakfast, and Jelly manages to edge out some stiff competition with its perfectly fluffy pancakes, yummy and creative hashes, and homemade jelly that you better be ready for.
Pro tip: DO INDEED grab some doughnut bites.
2. Drink like a local in the heart of downtown at Wynkoop Brewing Co.
You pretty much can’t go wrong with any beer from this local craft brewery. And since it’s right in the middle of the bustling Union Station neighborhood, it’s the perfect place for fans of hops to spend a chill Saturday.
Pro tip: Try the Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout to savor two Denver delicacies at once.
4. Take in the views (and the appetizers) from the rooftop at Linger Restaurant.
After ice cream (hey, you’re an adult), grab some delicious dinner at Linger, a restaurant and rooftop lounge that used to be a mortuary. #yolo!
Pro tip: Skip the hastle of weekend brunch and opt for lunch on Thursday and Friday.
5. Find a tropical paradise at Adrift Tiki Bar.
The perfect Polynesian escape for chilly winter days, and even more amazing when you’re all tanned and summery and fit the decor.
Pro tip: The flaming Scorpion Bowl is probably the best bowl of alcohol you’ll ever have.
6. Eat like a sophisticated butcher at Old Major.
A meat and whiskey lover’s paradise, this restaurant feels like a super classy but still homey barn, and the entire waitstaff is super friendly and make awesome recommendations.
Pro tip: If you’ve always thought the phrase “melt in your mouth” was kind of an exaggeration, try the pork belly.
7. Get a taste of Miami in two adorable Victorian houses at Cuba Cuba.
These combined cottages are the perfect home to the best authentic Cuban food you’ll get this close to the mountains.
Pro tip: The paella changes with the seasons and always pairs well with the best mojito in town.
8. Don’t press snooze if you want to eat at Snooze.
Extremely popular and open until early afternoon, this place will make your wildest pancake dreams come true. Your only job: You better get up in time to actually make it before close!
Pro tip: Don’t get so distracted by the sweet treats that you ignore the awesome savory dishes like breakfast tamales and chorizo eggs benedict.
9. Pretend you’re in Prohibition times by making a stealthy entrance at Williams & Graham.
Ranked among the world’s 50 best bars by Drinks International, this speakeasy has tons of classic and creative cocktails to start or end your night.
Pro tip: To get in, enter the bookshop, and pull the book “Savoy” to open up the hidden entrance!
10. Get your steamed bun and ramen fix at Bones.
This fusion restaurant offers a French-inspired take on Asian favorites in a super noodle house. While you’re trying to decide between the carbonara ramen and green tea–poached salmon, be sure to order some roasted bone marrow for starters.
Pro tip: The whole ~ambiance~ makes it a great spot for date night.
11. Step up your hot dog game at Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs.
Owned by a former repo man who finally found his sausage calling, this once humble street cart operation in the 16th Street Mall has become a local treasure.
Pro tip: If you’ve never really tried game meat, go for the Alaskan Reindeer.
12. Rediscover the perfection of Pop-Tarts at Ice Cream Riot.
Come for the weird flavors, stay for the best damn ice cream sandwiches in all of Denver.
Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to try the cheddar Goldfish ice cream. Trust me.
13. Be a part of history while enjoying a pint at My Brother’s Bar.
The oldest bar in Denver and former haunt of beatniks like Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady has stuck around thanks to its amazing (and cheap) beer selection, gorgeous antique decor, and mouthwatering burgers.
Pro tip: During Girl Scout Cookie season, the place is packed with cookies!
14. Enjoy some Colorado farm-to-table cuisine at Root Down.
A Denver favorite for brunch and happy hour, this place is also vegan- and GF-friendly — so you can basically bring anyone you want.
Pro tip: Reservations are pretty crucial to land a spot at this popular place.
15. Bring your dog to the taproom at Denver Beer Company.
This brewing company is inspired by the old German ways, but could not be more Denver if it tried (which it does). Catch a Broncos game and a delicious pint at the taproom on Platte Street.
Pro tip: You can go on a free tour of the canworks operation every weekend.
16. Fuel up for the day and get some culture at Whittier Cafe.
Plenty of seating and perfectly poured coffee; what more could you ask for? Oh, and they demonstrate a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony every Sunday.
Pro tip: Up your crochet game with the weekly learning and practice sessions every Friday.
17. Take your pick of delicious food and drink in a spacious atmosphere at Union Station.
Not only is the station itself gorgeous, but it has an impressive selection of bars, ice cream, coffee, and burgers.
Pro tip: You can sit all over the station and even in the Terminal Bar and have food brought to you from the shops.
18. Take a stroll around Larimer Square for good shopping and even better food.
A cute little corner of downtown comprised of Victorian and historical buildings, with high-end shopping, tons of restaurants, and occasional art installations.
Pro tip: Check out the calendar for Comedy Works ahead of time to catch your fave comedian.
19. Embrace all art forms at The Denver Art Museum.
When you’re done gazing in awe at the geometric architecture of the museum itself, check out its awesome international and traveling exhibits, as well as impressive local and permanent installations.
Pro tip: The museum waives admission fees on the first Saturday of every month.
20. Catch an indie movie at The Mayan Theatre.
Built in 1930 and only renovated once in 1986, this shrine to cinema is an art deco lover’s dream. And they specialize in foreign and indie cinema, so film nerds can rejoice!
Pro tip: If you’re always the first one to the theater, the full bar in the lounge is way better than waiting awkwardly under the marquee.
21. Get lost in yarn and bolts of adorable fabric at Fancy Tiger Crafts.
Knitters, crocheters, embroiderers, or anyone who can’t get enough textiles, welcome to your happy place! Tons of supplies and plenty of workshops to help you on your path to crafty greatness.
Pro tip: Be sure to check out Fancy Tiger Clothing right next door!
22. Bike, run, or walk the Cherry Creek Trail.
An easy but fun bike path along the Cherry Creek that runs along some of the best parts of Denver, this trail is spacious enough for commuters and exercisers of all kinds to share — and has great views in pretty much every season.
Pro tip: If you’re an ~avid cyclist~, you can take on the 42-mile Northeast Denver Loop Trail and ride Cherry Creek along the way.
23. Learn something at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
Easily comparable to natural history museums in NYC and D.C., Denver’s feels a little more modern and has tons of hands-on stuff for kids.
Pro tip: It’s open literally every day except for Christmas, so you can keep your itinerary flexible.
24. Cheer on the Rockies (team) and admire the Rockies (mountains) at Coors Field.
You get a beautiful view of the mountains over the outfield, so go for a sunset game. And if you’re feeling rowdy, get some affordable tickets in the rooftop section called The Rockpile.
Pro tip: Save your concessions cash for the bars and eateries in the surrounding neighborhood.
25. Listen to the sounds of the sea along the kinda-secret Soundwalk.
If you weren’t aware there was a public art installation between 15th and 16th on Curtis Street, you might think you’ve gone crazy and the farm animals and ocean waves you’re hearing are all in your head. But it’s actually a series of ordinary-looking grates along the sidewalk that are hiding speakers that play ~whimsical~ noises all day, every day.
Pro tip: More a prank idea than a tip, but it’s always fun to bring a friend and act like they are crazy when they ask if you hear those seagulls too.
26. ~Shoop, shoop, shoop~ the winter day away at Winter Park.
OK, it’s about an hour and a half from Denver, but this is one of Colorado’s most-loved ski resorts and mountains, and it’s definitely got the powder and views to back that up.
Pro tip: For those who prefer to stay at sea level, there’s tons of tubing, ice skating, and eating to be done.
27. Catch an awesome concert or just take a hike at Red Rocks Park and Amphiteater.
You’ve probably heard of this venue design by Mother Nature herself, but you’ve gotta see it (and hear it) for yourself. The surrounding park and trails ain’t too shabby either.
Pro tip: You really can sit anywhere in this theater and have an amazing time.
28. Enjoy the architecture, gardens, and festivals in Civic Center Park.
You can tour the chambers of the Capitol and see the three Mile High Markers, stroll among the beautiful flowers, or catch one of tons of street festivals (and food trucks!) in the fall through spring.
Pro tip: The City and County building is the canvas to gorgeous light shows for most major holidays, but the Grand Illumination at Christmas (above, right) can’t be beat.
29. Bike around or kayak across the South Platte River at Confluence Park.
Chill on the sandy banks and enjoy views of downtown Denver and the actually beautiful REI HQ.
Pro tip: In the summer, check out the free concert series at dusk every Thursday.
30. Take advantage of First Friday Art Walks in a bunch of different neighborhoods.
There’s one every Friday in each of Denver’s ~art districts~, including the street art haven of RiNo and the speciality galleries along South Pearl St.
Pro tip: Keep your eyes peeled for free food samples and impressive artistic demonstrations.
31. Smell the roses — and tons of fabulous flora — at the Denver Botanic Gardens.
The beauty of the botanic gardens is that it’s awesome all year, blooms or not. The holiday lights keep winter bright, while the greenhouse houses a gorgeous tropical rainforest. Keep your eyes peeled for the fiery orange and red Chihuly!
Pro tip: Check out the corn maze in November at the botanic gardens in Chatfield; it’s super close by.
33. Check out a live show at Carioca Cafe & Bar Bar.
One of the best (and few) dive bars in Denver, this place has consistently fun live music and functions as a solid coffee shop in the daylight hours.
Pro tip: There are three happy hours to choose from; one in the morning (for coffee, while it’s Carioca Cafe), another in the typical late afternoon, and one more for the night owls.
34. Embrace your inner child at Lakeside Amusement Park.
This adorable old-timey amusement park is full of history and terrifying wooden rides. But they’re sturdy enough, promise! And you can always volunteer to watch everyone’s stuff and pig out on cotton candy.
Pro tip: If you’re planning a wedding, perhaps consider Lakeside as a venue, like these happy couples.
35. Visit a dispensary along The Green Mile (or anywhere, really).
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