Denver, Colorado – a hip city surrounded by a Rocky Mountain playground where the air is clean, and the sun is shining for more days of the year than in Florida (with 0% humidity to boot!). Denver’s downtown area offers many local breweries, farm to table restaurants, and world-class museums. Not to mention one of it’s biggest draws – the city is surrounded by endless outdoor activities to take part in year-round. Let’s take in some high-altitude adventure together on this #gaanguide to Denver, Colorado!
Many might describe Denver as the most progressive city in the country. It was the first in the US to embrace trademark bike-sharing programs, year-round farmers’ markets, and less than inconspicuous marijuana dispensaries. Once Denver does it, other cities follow in suit. The metro area covers a lot of ground, but it’s super easy to navigate if you plan your time based on experiencing neighborhood attractions, setting aside time for a few outdoor excursions beyond the city limits. You’ll be amazed at the quick shift from urban to quiet mountain trails. Be careful – if you have a big heart for adventure, a few days in Denver might be enough to convince you to stay forever.
It’s incredibly easy to access Denver without a car. Take the A Line local train system from the airport (takes about 45 minutes) and you’re in the heart of the action. If you plan to head to some of our recommended spots outside the city limits, car share programs are aplenty. We choose our feet and , or a bike as our primary means of transport while in Denver – with plenty of breaks for refueling.
Let’s kick things off at one of Denver’s renown coffee spots for a caffeine boost. As with many things in Denver (breweries, dining), they take their coffee very seriously. You’ll be impressed with Blue Sparrow Coffee. This neighborhood coffee shop curates their favorite blends from around the world and the menu changes often. Located in the River North Arts District, it has a beautiful & bright interior and plenty of outdoor seating to people watch. Blue Sparrow is all about quality and sustainably sourced beans, so savor that latte – it was made with love. Another equally reliable option is Black Eye Coffee LOHI. If you favor a chai tea person, this spot is your jam. Plus, it’s rich in history. During the Prohibition era, the space was used as a speakeasy hosting less-than-legal activities. It’s now an open-air staple for morning beverages and super rich in character. Little Owl Coffee is all about the slow brew and giving back. They source their coffee from small, underserved farmers across the world and ensure that some of the proceeds from your beverage make their way back to the farmers. So go ahead and add that extra shot.
We’ll assume you’re sufficiently caffeinated by now, so let’s grab a city bike, and head to LoDo, or Lower Downtown. This is district is host to famous spots like Larimer Square – the oldest and most charming block in Denver and the beautiful Union Station. LoDo is 28 blocks of local shops, restaurants, street performers and live music. Book-lovers must stop in at Tattered Cover’s World of Books, one of the few remaining independently run bookstores left in the country. For another piece of Denver history, we recommend grabbing a meal at Snooze: an AM Eatery. Snooze is an iconic Denver spot and has been serving up innovative breakfast dishes, served all day, for almost 20 years. The atmosphere is lively and friendly, and the food is a fun spin on your typical breakfast staples. Take the Morning Shakshuka – a North African-inspired tomato ragout made with Harissa, Polidori Sausage, goat cheese, fresh parsley, topped with two sunny-side up eggs and Za’atar oil brushed flatbread. Excuse us while we wipe up our drool. Did we mention they serve breakfast all day? Don’t miss it.
Back on the bike, pedal over to Denver’s art museum district. If you like appreciate modern art, the David Adjaye–designed Museum of Contemporary Art features extensive exhibits of photography, new media, and other tech-driven art. They also have an awesome rooftop café if you’re in the mood for a mid-afternoon glass of bubbly or a craft beer. Next up: the architectural gem, the Clyfford Still Museum, which the Smithsonian named as one of the best museum experiences, anywhere. If you’re going for grandeur, make a stop at the Denver Art Museum, one of the largest museums between Chicago and the West Coast.
If you have some late afternoon energy, hop back on your city bike and head to one of the bike trails that follow the river just off the museum campus. We love the Cherry Creek trail or the South Platte River trail from Confluence Park. Both have relatively flat terrain and are picturesque in the early fall.
After a recharge back at your hotel or Airbnb, it’s time to dine again and we’re recommending one of Denver’s finest and freshest culinary adventures for your evening meal. Specializing in creative small plates, Root Down is a great place to try a lot of different things, especially with groups. All the food is locally sourced and organic. They’ve coined a special term for their sourcing & serving process: “Field to Fork.” For a sampling of the variety, but equally tasty options – try the Carrot Gnocchi, Colorado Lamb Sliders, and the Dungeness Crab & Avocado Tacos to name a few. And don’t be fooled – while the plates may be small, the flavors are larger than life.
After dinner, make your final stop of the day at Little Man Ice Cream. The line might be a tad long, but this ice cream is delicious and well worth the wait. Plus, you can snap plenty of pics in front of the iconic shop – which is housed in a 28-foot tall cream can! Flavors rotate all the time but the Mexican Chocolate is a menu staple and a crowd-pleaser.
With a very full stomach, put yourself to bed early – we’ve got a big day tomorrow!
For today’s morning fuel-up, we’re going old school. Rosenberg’s Bagels in the Five Points neighborhood is what locals refer to as “the only real bagel shop in Denver”. If the line out the door on most mornings is any indicator, the authentic New York–style deli knows how to make a solid bagel, and its house-smoked and cured fish will make your mouth water.
Polish off that bagel, and pack your gear for a day of exploration. We’re headed to 10 miles west of the city to Red Rocks Amphitheatre. All year round, musicians and singers perform in the open air, surrounded by several larger than life boulders that together make up an acoustic venue designed by mother Earth herself. This place has hosted every major performing act including The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, and Depeche Mode. This September is no exception as Red Rocks will host Bon Iver, Gary Clark Jr., GreenSky Blue Grass, Big Wild, Above & Beyond and the Colorado Symphony to name a few. If you schedule your trip around a concert, you won’t be disappointed as the place is worth taking in even if you’re not. The area is full of hiking, walking and biking trails. The Lariat Loop Scenic Byway is one of the close-by trails rich in history.
Fortunately, a very nearby attraction is the Coor’s Brewery. While mainstream, they love passing out samples and hearing feedback from patrons as the largest single-site brewery in the world. If you’re of age and thirsty, clean up with one of our body cleansing & personal use wipes and go get yourself a taste of the Rockies.
Another great outdoor attraction is the Denver Botanic Gardens. The 23-acre park contains a conservatory, a variety of theme gardens and a sunken amphitheater, which hosts various concerts through the month of September. We love the sunrise Vinyasa Yoga Flow hosted in the gardens every morning through September 30th and there are numerous special events and activities happening every day. It’s a great place to get lost, and the terrain is hilly and makes for a great workout spot for runners and bikers. Wash Park is another centrally located spot in Denver that makes for a great outdoor escape with 155 acres of ground, multiple flower gardens and lakes. It takes about 90 minutes to walk the full perimeter and you’re surrounded by Rocky Mountain views the whole time.
We already mentioned beer – and we’re coming back to it. Colorado ranks third nationwide in craft breweries per capita. In fact, downtown Denver alone has more than 50 craft breweries – so we’re going to help you narrow it down. Don’t miss the Barrel Bar in Great Divide’s mammoth new facility outside RiNo, with 16 taps to try. The brand-new Goed Zuur in Five Points is Denver’s first sour-only beer taproom and they also have some super yummy small plates – making it a perfect spot for a late lunch. We can never say no to a plate of cheese, charcuterie, and fresh-baked bread and six types of homemade butters to choose from! Wynkoop Brewing Co. is another great option for delicious beer flights and mouth-watering grub that takes you from late afternoon into a lively, fun evening.
As you head into the evening, make your way to El Chapultepec. Denver’s oldest jazz and blues club opened its doors in 1933 and hosts live music Monday through Sunday into the wee hours of the morning. They pour a strong drink and you’re sure to have some fun conversation with the regulars, no matter the night of the week. If you feel a late-night hunger craving coming on, grab yourself a chicken burrito with house-made green chile sauce and keep the party going until they close the doors at 1 am.
Denver is a city that truly has it all, and we’re confident that no matter what your adventures include, you won’t come home disappointed. Make sure you bring along the gaan + co as the temps are still mild in September and with such an action-packed trip, we fully anticipate you’ll break many-a-sweat!
- Written by Rachel Levy