I spent a pretty quick, chill weekend in Denver, Colorado, and it’s only now looking back on my three days there that I realize — dang, I did a lot. I was visiting a couple friends and didn’t do my homework on the Mile High City, but thankfully my friends played tour guide and I really got to do some of the best things the city has to offer. It was so fun and such a quick and easy trip, I’ll surely be back soon!
Know before you go
My Southwest flight was like $150 round trip — thanks to a sale! It’s pretty easy to find that deal on SWA and Frontier!
Once landed, a $9, 35-minute train can take you right to the heart of Denver to Union Station. Hop on the airport subway and it takes you right there. Getting back is just as easy (super fast security line!).
I found navigating Denver pretty easy! There’s a free bus system down 16th street that takes you from Union Station to the capitol. Uber and Lyft are reliable and most neighborhoods are super walkable. I got like 15K steps a day on average!
I had no issues with this in my short time in Denver, but be warned you are prone to some elevation sickness if you’re being active! Make sure to drink TONS of water and take breaks!
I found Denver’s weather super confusing! It was 27 when I landed on a Saturday morning and heated up to the 50s which felt even warmer in the sun! The trick is layers, then peel them off as the day heats up!
Never been into weed, but it’s definitely a novelty in Denver since it’s completely legal to smoke. I did go into one and it was like a jewelry store meets a CVS or something. So many options to choose from — from edibles to topical (yes, you can roll on weed-infused balm). If you’re at all interested, poke your head into a dispensary to see what it is all about!
What to do
Hike Mount Falcon Park
We wanted a quick and easy place to hike, especially since it had just snowed a couple days before. We weren’t exactly equipped to hike in snow with our tennis shoes. Mount Falcon Park’s Castle Trail was only 30 minutes outside of Denver, and, after a filling brunch at Denver Biscuit Co., we were off! Mountains were kinda far away, but it was gorgeous — and windy!! Definitely want to try something more challenging and more picturesque next time, but this was amazing for a quick trip.
Heard mixed things about Larimer Square — but I thought the little stretch of shops was adorable. We visited on a Monday morning, so not a lot of action, but it’s a cute place for a stroll and lunch! OR, head there at dusk so you can fully appreciate the lights strung up across the street.
Mile High Marker
Well, this was kind of overrated but we had to visit the steps of the capital to catch the Mile High Marker….. which is literally just a step engraved with “one mile above sea level.” I’m not gonna say it’s worth it…. But if you’re in the area, do it!
Denver Botanic Gardens
PSA: The Denver Botanic Gardens are less than impressive if you’re going before May. Winter’s not nice to the plants, so a lot of the stuff in the gardens is pretty dreary. The greenhouse thing though is lush and WARM. Literally, shed all our layers in there. Even though we went before bloom, it was worth the $13 to get in and wander around.
V popular place to hang in Denver is the arts district, River North (AKA RiNo) which is near Lower Downtown (AKA LoDo). Love these abbrevs, y’all. A couple of the drinking/eating recs we found in RiNo (scroll down for more), but I especially loved the back alley of street art, so you gotta do that.
Music at The Fillmore
On a whim and at my hosts’ request, we got tickets to see Alt-J and NoMBe (the opener who I’m now obsessed with). The Fillmore Auditorium was a pretty cute, historic (opened in 1907) venue with tons of bars, big standing room only space, chandeliers and arcade games lining the wall.
Note: If you’re going to Denver in the Summer, check out Red Rocks for concerts!
Full disclosure, we didn’t do this, but my friends lived a second away from the stadium and we saw all the people headed to and fro for games (we were there on opening weekend).
What to eat
Mercantile (Union Station/LoDo)
Fresh off the plane then train, I was starved and not about a 40-minute wait at the Union Station’s Snooze. Mercantile was a beautiful alternative. Cute space and yummy toasts and sandwiches.
The Denver Central Market (RiNo)
This is a cutie little spot with fresh seafood, pizza, burgers, deli and bakery. It was a nice little quick stop in our RiNo tour.
Avanti (LoHi – Lower Highlands)
Another food collective! Inside, there are two bars, pizza, Italian street food, poke, asian fusion, Mexican and probably a few others. I loved my poke nachos and it’s happy hour all-day Sunday!
Denver Biscuit Company (Multiple locations)
If you do anything on my list, do Denver Biscuit Co. It’s amazing. Start (or end) with the cinnamon roll. Incredible. I got the chicken with sausage gravy biscuit and ate such a small fraction of it. They are HUGE.
Urban Farmer (Downtown, near Union Station)
This is your insta-worthy brunch. There’s a fab neon sign and the food is pretty! We did brunch for two (no drinks) for like $30 so that’s also pretty amazing since the place is super stylish and seems like it’d cost you an arm and a leg.
Voodoo Doughnut (City Park West)
While not a Denver-based trend, Voodoo’s quirky doughnuts are worth it. It’s cash only, by the way! Get the voodoo man — it’s filled with a raspberry sauce!
Little Man Ice Cream (LoHi)
We did a lot of ice cream research and Little Man Ice Cream won! We got the purple cow which is berry with chunks of chocolate in it. Get the cone! SADDEST DAY EVER. It totally smashed to the ground before we were done eating it.
Where to drink
We walked to LoDo from RiNo in the middle of the day — quickly learned it was the place to be either at night or during brunch. The place is completely Hamlet themed and has an amazing set up for live music. The brunch looked great — $16 for bottomless mimosas! We were there when the band for that night was sound checking and omg it was annoying. Def don’t go at like 3 pm during a Saturday.
C-Squared Ciders (RiNo)
Houston needs a cidery! This one was super duper cute with a fun space full of games for optimal day drinking. Again, we were there at the wrong time (11 am and the fun space wasn’t open yet). I tried all of the ciders, lol, so my favorites were the Ginger (the ginger is subtle but you can def taste it), Lila (flowery!) and the Ella (tastes like a green apple!).
Important thing to do at this place: Play hammerschlagen. This is a game where you hit a nail into a tree stump. You each get a nail, and you attempt to hit your friends’ nails into the stump before yours. Way more fun than it probably sounds.
Warning: A visit to this place will mean you will be singing the Cranberries’ “Linger” all day long.
This restaurant/bar is in a building that used to be a crematorium. Yup. I had a “corpse reviver” which was totally on theme. It was pretty good and had activated charcoal in it which is supposed to help with hangovers! I didn’t have a hangover so maybe that’s why!
If you didn’t go to a brewery, did you even visit Denver??? This German-themed one is new, it seems! I tried a bunch and the beer was ehh, but I loved the location (Across from Avanti!) and the games (played a full game of scrabble, lol).
Rooftop Bar (Downtown, probably)
We were in Denver right before prime patio/rooftop season, but we found a good enough substitute. Do some research though if you’re there May-August!