Like Nashville and Austin before it, Denver is the latest millennial hotspot. It perfectly balances downtown edge with uptown chic, blending that outdoorsy, laid back vibe with the trendiest up-and-coming places in the food and art scenes. If you’re not ready for a full-on move, consider the city for your next vacation: Packed with culture and brimming with local charm, it’s the place to go when you need a mini escape. And we’re here to outline exactly how to spend your weekend away. Pack your bags and don’t forget a chill attitude—in Denver, casual is the codeword.
Where to Stay
For the bougie among us, The Crawford Hotel is a must-stay. Boasting both skyline and mountain views, this boutique hotel located on top of Denver Union Station is in the hub of Lower Downtown, Denver’s trendiest neighborhood. It’s intimate, old-school luxe vibe will transport you instantly.
You also can’t go wrong at Hotel Teatro, the rustic-chic option of your dreams in—you guessed it—the theater district (if you’re planning to visit the Opera or Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Hotel Teatro is right around the corner).
Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver is a beautiful, slightly less expensive hotel that’s still centrally located. Bonus points for free snack in the lobby, and you can rent bikes from the hotel to cruise the city with ease.
Where to Eat (and Drink)
Even if you choose not to stay at the Crawford Hotel, it’s worth swinging by Denver Union Station’s Cooper Lounge for a craft cocktail, located on the top floor of the station. (Pro tip: If there’s a wait, pass the time at the station’s ground level bar.) The space has a glam, old-school train car vibe straight off the Orient Express. Cooper's cocktails are amazing (try the exotic-tasting rose pisco sour), but what you should really be drinking in Denver is beer: The city is overflowing with cool, industrial-vibe breweries, so going on a self-led brewery tour is a must. Anywhere you go is pouring out locally-made pints, but I suggest starting at the Great Divide Brewery Company in the Five Points district of the city (it boasts a seriously long tap list) or Black Shirt Brewing, which has a great outdoor space.
Denver is a foodie’s dream: Packed with high-end restaurants and local dives, there’s truly a taste for every palette. For casual and satisfying fare downtown, head to Biju's Little Curry Shop in the city’s RiNo district, which dishes out a hefty portion of mouthwatering Indian cuisine, counter-serve style. For a slightly nicer evening out (that still feels neighborhood-y) try Linger, which serves up creative twists on global street food. Because it’s tapas style, you can try something from all the regions on the menu, including a few of my personal favorites: Mongolian BBQ duck bao buns, India dahi puri “perfect bites” (they are, trust), and Caribbean-inspired yellowfin tuna tostadas. Conveniently (or, not so conveniently, if you’re trying to be healthy) located outside of Linger is Little Man Ice Cream. Go for a scoop of Salted Oreo. If you still have room the next morning, head to the aptly named Denver Biscuit Company for heart attack–inducing, but of so worth it, crispy chicken and biscuit sandwiches.
What to Do
It almost feels wrong to put an itinerary together for Denver, because it really is a city meant for exploring. Start by renting a bike from the local bike share (they are all over the city) and taking a ride through Washington Park, the city's prettiest green space, or wandering through the 24 acres of the Botanical Garden.
Denver is an art-driven city, so make sure you carve out some time to be artsy. Spend an afternoon in the small but mighty Denver Art Museum, and, if you’re still feeling #cultured, swing by the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) for more modern, edgy work. If you’re not into the museum scene but still want a taste of Denver’s arty offerings, take a walking tour through the RiNo District (River North Art District) to see tons of street art and mural work.
Once you’ve soaked up the art scene, stop by Modern Nomad Denver, a multi-tent warehouse shop that hosts weekly pop ups (and has serious vintage fashion finds and cool home decor). For more (and higher-end) fashion, head to Larimer Square, Denver's ritziest (and, prettiest) block.
Some of the best adventures actually exist right outside Denver’s city limits: Head to Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater, the legendary open-air amphitheater that’s hosted icons like the Beatles and Carole King. If you’re lucky, you can catch a concert in the theater, but even if there’s no one in town, it’s still worth the trip during the day to climb the theater steps (which are open to the public during day hours) or hike the surrounding area (there are paths that leave right from the parking lot).
If you really want to get your nature on, drive two hours north to Estes Park to enjoy some of the countries best hiking routes in Rocky Mountain National Park. Trust me, the views at the top are worth the drive (and, hike up). On the way to Estes, make a quick pitstop in Boulder: The charming college town is so picturesque, it looks like someone put the Lo-Fi filter on the whole skyline.
What About Weed?
Denver is famously 420-friendly, and they have dispensaries on literally every corner to prove that. Don’t expect to just knock and get some weed: Most places have strict shopping rules (they check your ID, then set you up with a shopping consultant who will personally help you pick your products). For a relaxed, first-timer experience, try LivWell or GroundSwell. And remember, just because it’s legal in Denver does not mean you can smoke anywhere you want: It’s still illegal to smoke weed in public places. I repeat: It’s illegal to smoke in public places, so If you’re looking for a high time in Mile High City, make sure you’re picking a hotel or Airbnb that allows smoking. There are only two social venues where you can smoke outside of the privacy of your own space: Vape & Play and The Coffee Joint.
Between the cool restaurants, relaxed bar scene and culturally stunning ambience, Denver is a city made for slowing things down and enjoying the fun things in life. Who doesn't want some of that?
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