Trying something new ya’ll! I often write in coffee shops, listening to music, so I thought I’d share a little of what goes on in my creative process (haha). This song is keeping me sane as I go through the 600 photos from Denver. Anyway, I hope today’s post is helpful to those planning to go to Denver sometime! It’s a beautiful city, close to the Rocky Mountains, and there are lots of great food and drink options. Enjoy!
Somewhere between going to New York in September and then going again in October, I found myself trading in the fast pace city life for breathing in crisp, mountain air in in Denver. To be quite honest, I would not have gone if it weren’t for one of my very close friends, whose love for nature and mountains knows no bounds. Thanks to this trip, I’m all for an escape to nature. I mean- how gorgeous are those Rocky Mountains?! And don’t get me started about the beautiful foliage- fall is my favorite season. Coming from Houston, where we have two seasons at most, it was lovely to see all autumn colors.
Tickets to Denver are fairly inexpensive- we purchased ours for $97 each way during a Southwest sale, leaving Friday afternoon and returning Sunday evening late September.
While the main focus of this trip for us was to see the Rockies, Denver is a growing city with lots of restaurants and attractions to explore. They are also a major culture and arts hub. Whether you need an escape from the city or want to make your way through Denver like a local, there is something for everyone.
While Denver is pretty easy to get around by public transport or bike, we decided to rent a car since we would be driving up to the Rocky Mountains the next day (there are bus tours that head up to the Rockies too). The only downside to this is that there is very little to no parking if you’re going to the bars and restaurants in the hip neighborhoods. If there is any parking at all, get ready to practice your parallel skills.
We were pretty famished after our flight so we headed to The Source, an artisan food market in Denver’s River North District. It is an enormous food hall with food artisans and retailers offering visitors everything from baked bread to craft tacos, to prime cuts of meat from the local butcher. I initially wanted to try Acorn, but they only offered a limited menu before dinner service. We decided to try Comida instead. We ordered chips and guac, as well as an assortment of tacos and quesadillas. My friend got a refreshing watermelon agua fresca.
We headed to downtown afterwards to visit the Denver Art Museum. The building is a work of art in itself, with asymmetrical lines and jagged edges- the overall exterior paying homage to the mountain ranges and with its metallic walls, glows in the daylight and lights up the surrounding buildings. Inside, twisting, jagged staircases lead visitors through different floors and galleries. It was like going through a maze- each room a different kind of wonder. My favorite was Andy Warhol’s Silver Clouds- an interactive Art installation in which metallic balloons in the shape of pillows float freely through a confined space. The balloons are filled with different amounts of helium- so some are floating close to the ground, while other balloons float a little higher. Museum visitors are encouraged to move around the space and move the balloons, creating a slow, dream-like experience.
Much like the Warhol installation, most of the museum was pretty interactive. There were intricate paper installations depicting wonderland scenes that you could pose and take pictures with. In another gallery, there were colored beads that represented different emotions. Patrons could grab a handful, and as they walk around looking at art, they can show how that work of art made them feel.
The museum was right by a park that was adjacent to the capitol building. We walked through the park and practiced our nighttime photography. There was a band performance and the park was lively with families and skaters even though the sun had already gone down.
We definitely put our rental car to use! This day was set aside especially for the mountains. We drove to Rocky Mountain National Park and continued to drive up the mountains- climbing up to an altitude of about 12,000 feet. Unfortunately, there was a snow storm in the parts of the park that day, so we only made it about halfway through before turning around and heading back. The views while driving through the mountains were gorgeous, and we even stopped by in some lakeside towns to take in the fall scenery. Had our plans worked out, this would have been an all-day event. Despite half the park being closed, this entire trip took most of the day, about 6 hours (we left our AirBnb at 9am). I definitely recommend packing a good amount of food and snacks. Layer up as well! It gets cold as you go up the mountains. I didn’t realize this, nor did I realize it would reach 30 degrees and also snow, but I survived (yay, no frostbite).
Since our time at the park ended a bit early, we had time to visit the Denver Botanic Gardens. I have never seen such a big garden- there were three weddings going on at once! The garden consists of a variety of themed gardens and ponds that are spread over twenty-three acres. There is also a sunken amphitheater which hosts various concerts in the summertime. If you go, try to section out at least two hours- there is a lot to see. We worked up an appetite after all that walking, so we headed to Chef Zorba’s nearby for dinner.
Denver has quite the diverse nightlife scene- whether you are downtown or not, there are plenty of “happenin” places to check out. If you’re hanging around the downtown area, you should check out Larimer Square, regardless of the time of day (at night it’s much prettier). This historic block of downtown Denver is home to a mix of boutiques, restaurants, bars and clubs.
Despite it being our last day in Denver, we somehow fit in quite a lot. As they say, breakfast is the most important part of the day, so what better way to make that happen than at Denver Biscuit Company. We chose the location on Colfax Ave. as it was close to the other places that we were going to visit. I ordered the Cordon Bleu – buttermilk fried chicken, tender belly ham, cheddar cheese and local Colorado honey butter. Why yes, I’ll take a food coma on a plate, thank you very much! The biscuit was flaky, chicken was tender and well-seasoned, and I wish I had some more honey butter. We could have stopped there, but we also ordered a strawberry shortcake biscuit. YOLO. Idk how much longer I’ll be able to live after eating that strawberry shortcake though. Whoops.
Colfax Ave. is another adorable street with boutique shops, restaurants, and bars. It actually reminded me of 19th St. in the Houston Heights area. Our next stop was a short walk down the street- at the Denver Cat Company. For $5, you can cuddle (try to) and entertain the felines in the café (all adoptable) for as long as you’d like. My favorite was Mabel- she was quite the troublemaker, but loved getting pets.
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science was next on our to-visit list. There were quite a lot of interesting exhibits, but my favorite part of the museum would have to be the rooftop viewing deck where you could get great views of City Park (much like Houston’s Hermann Park) and also the Denver skyline against the Rocky Mountains. You can also look at the sun through a special and very powerful telescope.
We skipped lunch because apparently, a large biscuit sandwich and dessert could be pretty filling. We found ourselves driving to Five Points area in Denver, which was very, very hipster. In this neighborhood there are a number of eclectic shops, coffeehouses and dispensaries with lots of graffiti and murals. I may have had the best mocha in my life at Crema Coffee House. They use beans from Austin, woohoo! The coffee did not have a burnt taste in the slightest and the milk-foam was creamy and smooth- perfect.
Feeling fully energized from the coffee, we made our final stop at the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver. This mile—long, pedestrian-friendly mall is full of shops, restaurants, art, and attractions. There are also flea market stalls set up on each side of the mall. We walked the entire mall and back before getting a light dinner at Crepes n’ Crepes.
I absolutely adored Denver and I can’t wait to go back! This trip was more of a reflective trip for me, so the crazy foodie in me got a bit of a break. There were a number of speakeasies and cocktail bars that I wanted to try, but I just didn’t feel up to it during this trip. Definitely next time.