Here in Denver none of my footfalls ended in me shattering my tailbone. I think residing in Sweden for six months, much of it in the brunt of winter, prepared me for snowy sidewalks and hidden clumps of ice and the stray zephyr to find some flaw in my bundled attire. I expected Denver’s 10-30 degree days to bite, but I expected deeper toothmarks. My extremities were likely the worst off. My socks ripped on day one, and I used them later not to protect my toes but to scrub scarlet hair dye off a pillowcase. I went to Denver with something of a misconception at my mind’s forefront: that a blizzard would happen faster than warp speed, that it’d snow the whole time, that the sun would forget to smile. But that isn’t Denver all the time. Denver was lush with brightness, ricocheting off the peaks of the Rockies when you viewed them at the correct hour. One day I’ll trade the beach for the mountains. For now, I’ll be content with that temporary vantage point I received on my January journey.
Denver, Colorado. 1,900 miles crossed. A state ranked at 3rd in craft breweries per capita (x). I loved it more than I expected. As much as the Rockies tip the scale in Colorado conversation, I was quite surprised that most parts of the city, leastwise the ones I frequented, didn’t offer a clear view of the undulating chain. We had to steer onto the highways headed towards Tennyson & LoHi & Denver International before the waves of cliff and stone hailed us.
Pacing back, the downtown itself is quite walkable if you don’t mind an expedition of 2-3 miles – generally; some places require a bit more footwork and to those I’d recommend driving. On our first day we probably logged 6+ miles strolling from our Air B&B down 17th Avenue, which curves into Court once the skyline officially peaks into highrise bank sculptures and a bevvy of curvaceous pedestrian crosswalks. Most of our excursions started at food and continued to more food or coffee and extended to yet another place for libations or nibbles. We also drove, in a Chevrolet Spark rented at the airport Alamo, which in itself was a fine and uninteresting experience aside from the worker awkwardly attempting to upsell us to a crossover by lying about an expected snowfall of 4-5 inches. Be sure to check the weather before you arrive to avoid being tugged into spending more than you need to.
For a full inventory of spots to visit, check out the categories below, with addresses and snippets of recommendations. A full week in Denver, at the bare minimum least, would do the Mile High City more justice than our three-and-change-days visit did, but with smart planning and at least a loose itinerary in mind (and a hearty appetite) you can stuff your days to the brim with adventures and cover plenty of ground. We tended to keep with a pattern of coffee-breakfast-coffee-beer-bakery/coffee-beer-dinner-beer/dessert, and such was quite reliable in ensuring we hit as many of our must-do locations as possible.
Black Eye Coffee – LoHi
Ink! on Larimer
1. Weathervane Cafe, 1725 E. 17th Ave. Denver, CO 80218
The menu is highly imaginative, from their Curry Chocolate Pudding and grilled Peach Melt with sage & brie, to the anise and orange + clove flavorings you can add to any beverage. I tried both, and urge you to be honest about your liking of licorice before trying the anise syrup. The orange-clove, however, was delightful in a rich whole milk cappuccino.
2. Denver Bicycle Cafe, 1308 E. 17th Ave. Denver, CO 80218
A bike shop, beer hall & coffee counter muddled into one building, serving up lovely espressos. I tried a bean from local roaster Sweet Bloom in a soy cappuccino and found florals & lime in the profile.
3. Thump, 1201 E. 13th Ave. Denver, CO 80218
Oregon-born and Denver-cultivated. Buy some beans from them and receive a free cup of drip or shot of espresso – a quaint incentive to hang around and enjoy the beautiful lines of evening light as they stream into the bar at dusk.
4. Ink! 2851 Larimer St. Denver, CO
Ink owns 15 locations, so you’re bound to come across them somewhere. If you’re burnt out on coffee and need a different liquid fix, try their honey & lavender-scented chai latte. Especially delightful in a bed of steamed soy milk. They also hail some sizeable and particularly photogenic croissants.
5. Black Eye Coffee LoHi, 3408 Navajo St. Denver, Co 80211
Frothed cashew milk is an excellent idea. LoHi is their original location, but they’re also nestled on Capitol Hill.
Blue Moon Brewing Co.
1. Blue Moon Brewing Company, 3750 Chestnut Pl. Denver, CO 80216
A prize amongst breweries in Colorado. Don’t be deterred by how ubiquitous the Belgian White is in grocery stores: the RiNo tasting room is airy, contains 24 varieties of beer on tap, lovely artwork, cozy cylindrical booths for privacy, beautifully branded merch and service worthy of an extra tip. Flights are the best way to experience their flavors.
2. Station 26 Brewing, 7045 E. 38th Ave. Denver, CO 80207
A humble little brewery staking its claim to an old refurbished fire station. Their imperial cream ale sipped smoothly.
Ale House at Amato’s
Habit Doughnut Dispensary & Carbon Cafe
The Delectable Egg
High Point Creamery
1. Habit Doughnut Dispensary & Carbon Cafe, 1553 Platte St. #130 Denver, CO 80202
Donuts, coffee & bites all in one, plus both sparkling and still water running from complimentary taps. I indulged in a Peanut Darkside confection & a cortado in a coupe cocktail glass (first time I’ve ever seen a presentation like that!), while my sister attempted a sweet, lime-infused shot of espresso called the Cafe Carbon. Delicious, unique. The brick interior and soft couches add a homey touch to a plus dining and sipping experience.
2. Ale House at Amato’s, 2501 16th St. Denver, CO 80211
Amato’s offers a rooftop bar overseeing the city and some countryside, as well as local beers on tap and a killer platter of roasted pepper hummus. Though I didn’t get to try it, the pb&j burger on the entree menu caught my eye and highlights a unique set of bite offerings.
3. Hops & Pie, 3920 Tennyson St. Denver, CO 80212
These guys were featured on Diners, Drive Thru’s and Dives for their beer brisket pizza. We tried their creamy mashed potatoes on a small pie with cherry tomatoes and fresh green bell peppers, alongside two brews from Aurora’s Dry Dock Brewing. Build a pizza there and you’ll see why Guy Fieri sought the joint for his show.
4. TAG Burger Bar, 1222 Madison St. Denver, CO 80206
Pick a bun, a burger, and a set of toppings to perfectly customize your plate. Eat it with a pile of crisp sweet potato fries and wash the whole meal down with a pint or two. Cheers.
5. The Delectable Egg, 1625 Court Pl. Denver, Co 80202
TDE dishes up what I understand to be the “original Denver omelet” which is presented rather adorably with a Denver flag and their precious laughing egg logo. This is a local chain, so you’re liable to find breakfast here in some neighborhood near you.
6. High Point Creamery, 215 S. Holly St. Denver, CO 80246
Three words: Ice. Cream. Flight. High Point offers a sampler of five generous scoops of their inventive ice cream flavors, and one bowl of either fudge or caramel sauce. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I filled my wood tray with blueberry-lemon, Earl Grey + shortbread, whiskey + pistachio brittle (favorite), Salty Dog Chocolate, and brown sugar cinnamon. All worthwhile tastes in this treasure of a creamery.
Downtown walks / Union Station
Coors Field | Home of the Colorado Rockies
POINTS OF INTEREST
1. 16th Street Mall
2. Coors Field – Tours are offered on a first-come basis for $10 during certain hours and days of the offseason. Much more frequent tour schedules during the season.
3. Tennyson Street
4. Union Station Travel & Train – Highlights include Pigtrain Coffee, The Tattered Cover BookStore & Mercantile.
5. 17th Avenue / “Restaurant Row”