A testament to youth — I lived in Denver when I was in my late 20s and had more fun than was humanly possible. Not only did I land the job of a lifetime working for KBPI-“Rocks the Rockies,” but I also made an investment leap and bought my first home in Cherry Creek.
Denver is one of the most progressive cities in the United States, with reliable public transportation, beautiful parks and an astounding number of things to do. If you like art, the The Denver Art Museum’s recent renovation is a show stopper, or if exercise is your thing, the number of parks and bike trails is staggering.
And summer is the perfect time to make a trip out west. Here’s how to spend 48 hours in Denver, CO.
When you arrive in Denver via air, jump on the RTD light rail and head to Union Station, Denver’s historic railway station. It is affordable at $9 and will arrive at The Crawford Hotel located in Union Station. Originally opened in 1881, Denver Union Station is one of the city’s most iconic structures. In the past, the Union Station has been a gathering place for presidents, queens and sport figures. Recently opened, The Crawford Hotel is three stories, each depicting a different time in history. Unbelievably, there are no two rooms that are alike. Once inside, you’ll see Art Deco, Victorian and Loft themes.
Stash your bags and head out to explore LoDo (Lower Downtown). When I lived there, Lo-Do was in its infancy, but today, it has exploded with restaurants, bars and renovated lofts. Anchoring LoDo is Coors Field, the home of the Colorado Rockies, Denver’s Major League Baseball franchise. Some fun facts — while most of the seats in Coors Field are dark green, the seats in the 20th row of the upper deck are purple to mark the elevation of one mile above sea level. Also, behind the right field stands with an entrance from Coors Field, is The Blue Moon Brewery at the Sandlot. It is known for its craft beers on a small scale and brings the expertise of the Coors Brewing Company. If you like Blue Moon, the popular Belgian-style wheat beer, it was invented there.
Head back to Union Station and grab a cocktail at The Terminal Bar or The Cooper Lounge before heading out for dinner. For dinner, El Five gets rave reviews as it has one of the most spectacular views in Denver. For an amazing cocktail, try the Femme Fatale made with gin manzanilla, lavender-infused St-Germain, grapefruit oil and topped off with an edible orchid. At El Five, they understand tapas and paellas with selections like chicken kofta, goat cheese croquettes and octopus a la plancha.
Coffee is an easy grab, so head to The Mercantile located in Union Station for a quick boost before heading out for the day. The Mercantile, fashioned after a European market, has a huge selection of pastries, fresh juices, cheeses and breakfast dishes.
Next, head to Denver B Cycle. Like many cities, Denver offers affordable bike rentals either for short trips or for all day. Located near Union Station is one of Denver’s most scenic bike rides along the Platte River. A favorite trail is The Greenway Trail, a paved bike path that follows the South Platte River for almost 30 miles. Riding the The Greenway Trail is like going back in history as the Colorado Historical Society has erected more than 20 markers describing the Native Americans who once lived there, including facts about local wildlife and birds.
By now you’ll be starving and there is no better solution than a meal at Lucile’s Creole Cafe located on South Logan Street. Lucile’s has been serving breakfast since 1980 and is considered the best in town. You can select from their breakfast menu or lunch. Some of my favorites are the Eggs Jennifer served on an English muffin with spinach, tomato, avocado, poached eggs and hollandaise. Or for lunch, try the Salade de Poisson Chinois, a spinach salad with mustard glazed roast salmon, rice noodles, sesame carrots, ginger soy vinaigrette and cilantro.
If you want a cultural experience head to the Denver Art Museum. One of the largest art museums between the West Coast and Chicago, it’s known for its collection of American Indian art and has over 70,000 works of art from the centuries and the world. A quick visit to the site will afford you information about their traveling exhibits.
For an incredible shopping experience, the Cherry Creek shopping area is comprised of the Cherry Creek Shopping Center and Cherry Creek North, with its collection of locally owned boutiques and national brands like Calypso St. Barth, J.McLaughlin and Crate & Barrel.
Head to Halcyon for a cocktail. Considered one of Denver’s best boutique hotels, Halcyon touts being one of the only hotels in Denver with a rooftop pool and bar. Once there, you’ll see spectacular views of the Denver skyline and the Colorado Rockies. Hustle up to the bar at Departure Elevated for one of their specialty cocktails. You can’t go wrong with this description: “an inspired rooftop escape, curiously imagined for those seeking a new perspective.” The cocktails are also worthy!
For dinner, head back downtown to Rioja in Larimar Square. Rioja is one of Denver’s finest restaurants with a menu inspired by Mediterranean ingredients and local, seasonal delicacies. You will find hand-made pastas like artichoke tortelloni, lamb two ways and tasting menus that won’t disappoint.
Denver has so many brunch options from Sassafrass to Devil’s Food, but word has it that Linger is worth the trip. It was built into an old mortuary and features bottomless mimosa brunches. The menu offers so many creative options that it can be hard to order. On the menu, you’ll find a Dutch pancake with edam cheese, ham, scrambled eggs, maple syrup, arugula, chives and lemon vinaigrette or a bibimbap burrito with Colorado tri-tip steak, fried egg, sesame sushi rice, kimchee salad and gochujang aioli. The sweet potato fries aren’t bad either.
Before you leave, stroll up and down the 16th Street Mall. You may be exhausted, and if so, jump on the free bus that runs in a continual loop. On the mall, you’ll find great people watching, street musicians and pianos randomly situated in the center strip of the street. It’s amazing what seems like an abandoned piano will do for a city.
With over 300 days of sunshine and breathtaking views, a visit to the Mile High City won’t disappoint. When you’re ready to start planning your Denver vacation, visit denver.org.
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