Before I let Melissa introduce herself, I just had to say a few words about one of the most intelligent and hard working women I have ever known. Melissa and I met almost seven years ago, after we both agreed to move half way across the world and live with complete strangers for 11 months. The time we spent in Germany forged a friendship that has stood the test of time and distance, and I’m confident always will. Melissa, thank you for being one of the most supportive and understanding friends I have ever had. Ich hab dich Lieb.
Now that we have all the mushy stuff out of the way, I’ll pass you over to the girl herself. Please note that she has already done the work for you and linked the website for all of her recommendations. Always going above and beyond. Typical.
“A transplant from Georgia, I am one of the hundreds of thousands of non-Colorado natives thrilled to call Denver my home. I moved here for grad school and decided to stay after falling head over heels for the city, the mountains, and the Colorado lifestyle. Also, my pup is obsessed with hiking and snow, so it makes it hard to leave.
So your plane has touched down in Denver.. now what? First of all, you’re quite welcome for the amazing views of the mountains as you drive away from the airport. Or, you know, anywhere you turn. Thankfully the mountains are a great marker – they always let you know which way is west.
It’s hard to pack Denver into one post – maybe Meredith will let me make this a series? Just kidding, kind of. I’ll hit the highlights, but there is oh so much to this city and these mountains you’ll want to explore!
OK I don’t think I have to repeat this a thousand times – Colorado is known for its wide variety of outdoor activities. Whether you’re into hiking, climbing, mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding or camping – we’ve got you covered.
If you’re just here for a few days, take a trip to Red Rocks and hike the Trading Post Trail around the stadium. It provides hikers some beautiful views of Denver and the rocks, and it’s a great way to check two things off your bucket list (the iconic stadium and an outdoor adventure). You could also hike at Mount Falcon, a park just 45 minutes from Denver. The trails are easy, dog-friendly, and great for short trips to the mountains.
If you want to go a bit further, take a trip to Golden Gate Canyon Park where you’ll find a selection of great hikes and good views (though you’ll have to pay to park). Some other notable places to check out, time permitting, are St. Mary’s Glacier up I-70 and the Flat Irons in Boulder. While you’re in Boulder, take a stroll down Pearl Street!
If you’re sticking around for a few days, venture further into the mountains towards Nederland where you’ll find Lost Lake and Diamond Lake – perfect for the summer visitors who want to enjoy the wildflowers! These are a bit more challenging, so pack a snack (or lunch) and plan to stay for a few hours.
And for those feeling exceptionally adventurous, hike a fourteener. A “fourteener” is one of the 50 or so mountains in Colorado that exceeds 14,000 feet. OK so they’re not as easy as everyone raves about – at least not Mt. Elbert. I can’t speak for the others – but I can say the views are amazing. You won’t regret it.
If you’re more of a snow bunny (shoutout Meredith), Colorado offers a plethora of options for hitting the slopes, Breckenridge, Vail, or Steamboat Springs, just to name a few. For the beginners hoping just to do a quick day trip, I recommend Loveland, Winter Park, or Copper Mountain. These slopes are easily accessible and great for those hoping for a quick ride.
Take a bike tour
If you’re wanting to hang out in the city and hit the highlights, take a self-guided bike tour with one the the B-Cycle bikes. You can hit spots like Union Station, Larimer Square for some good food,16th Street for a bit of shopping, and some of our well-known (and not so well-known) craft breweries. If you’re with the kiddos, the Nature and Science Museum and the Botanic Gardens are a great place to enjoy an afternoon.
You can also bike down the Cherry Creek and Platte River trails that take you along a beautiful scenic rout around the city. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to make a stop by the Capitol Building. If you walk up the front stairs, you can find a marked spot where you are standing exactly a mile above sea level. Hence the nickname “Mile High City,” among other reasons, of course!
Enjoy a park
If you don’t have time to head to the mountains, you can still enjoy the outdoors at one of Denver’s many parks. There are a few favorites amongst residents, but you’ll see folks hanging out all over the city enjoying the Colorado sunshine. Pretend to be a native in City Park, which has cool views of the city and the mountains (and is home to the Nature and Science Museum and Denver’s Zoo). If you’re wanting to be a bit more low-key, walk around Cheeseman Park which separates the two historic neighborhoods of Capitol Hill and Congress Park. Maybe it’s haunted? Who really knows. If you head south of the city, you’ll hit Washington Park (Wash Park, as it’s known amongst locals). If you walk around the entire park, it is about two miles. You’ll hit two lakes, a few playgrounds, fields with volleyball nets, and a plethora of Canadian geese (ugh!) along the way.
If you have your pup in tow and want to drive a bit further, drive south to Cherry Creek State Park or Chatfield Reservoir. Both parks are beautiful, but most importantly, have huge dog parks where dogs can romp in the water, fields, and bring tons of mud back to the car with them.
For foodies like me, Denver is a great place to try some amazing things. I definitely won’t be able to hit all of the good spots, mostly because I’m still finding new great spots every month but here are some classic favorites:
For your pizza cravings, Tap and Dough near Washington Park or there’s a new one up in Arvada north of the city. Opheila’s and Linger are owned by the same people and are both equally amazing. Their plates are often small and shareable so it’s great for a group who wants to try a variety of things off the menu. Likewise, Acorn has a similar style of small plated items, albeit it’s a bit fancier than the other two.
For brunch, I am partial to Comida which is located in the Source in the River North district or at the Stanley Marketplace in Stapleton. If you’re at the Stanley, grab some donuts from Glazed and Confused while you’re there! You won’t regret it (they’re better than VooDoo or any other donut place you may love). Some other classic brunch/breakfast places are Snooze, Jelly, and Denver Biscuit Company, each of which has multiple locations around town.
If you’re in the mood for Italian, try Shells and Sauce in the Congress Park neighborhood. Taco Tuesday? You’ll want to try Pinche (Tacos, Tequila, Whiskey). And for desserty, Sweet Action in Baker has your back. If you’re looking for somewhere strictly for vegetarians or vegans, try City O’ City or Watercourse, though the great thing about Denver is pretty much any and every restaurant has a wide variety of menu selections to fit all dietary needs!
Hot areas of town
If you’re in the mood to hit the town or enjoy a drink at an eclectic bar, try some of these neighborhoods.
LoDo: Lower Downtown is the party area of town. With rooftop bars that stay open way past my bedtime, loud bumpin’ music, and college kiddos – this seems like the place to be!
Highlands: This neighborhood was recently gentrified and has opened a number of new restaurants and bars. Just across the bridge from downtown, you can visit Denver Beer Company, Avanti Food Collective, REI, and Root Down.
RiNo: Hands down one of my favorite parts of town. You can drink wine at Infinite Monkey, visit the Crooked Stave for some sour beer, or cheer on the Georgia Bulldogs at Park Burgeron Saturdays with an adult milkshake.
- Denver has a lot to offer, and you’ll surely be on the go. Don’t forget a couple of really important things when you’re visiting!
- Drink a lot of water, and I mean a lot. Because of the altitude and lack of humidity, you’ll become dehydrated quickly. Drink water to avoid headaches, altitude sickness, and feeling terrible during your trip.
- Don’t forget to wear sunscreen. Colorado is sunny, which is wonderful, until you have burnt skin! Bring suncreen on hikes, bike rides, and when you’re hanging out in the city.
- Bring real food on hikes, especially if you’ve chosen a day-long hike, granola bars and apples won’t cut it. Pack some soup in a thermos or bring a real sandwich (not PB&J people!). Trust me, this will save you from getting hangry while you’re off enjoying the mountains!
Thank’s for reading my rambles about this wonderful place I call home. If you’re ever here for a visit, hit me up and I’ll show you some of these places in person! Happy travels!”