No longer just a place for business travelers or folks passing through en route to the nearby Rocky Mountains, Denver offers tourists a one-of-a-kind experience with all things local.
The idea of supporting local businesses is becoming hot all across the country, and Denverites have turned it into a way of life. Whether you are looking for locally designed, locally grown, locally made, or locally raised products, or even just that only-in-Denver thing or experience, it can be found here.
Let’s start with shopping. Worn by Hollywood icons, rock stars, and cowboys, Rockmount Ranch Wear in LoDo is where to get the original snap-front Western shirt. For an array of goods made in Denver, designed in Denver, or that simply say “Denver,” go ahead and love local at the I Heart Denver Store downtown in the Denver Pavilions on the 16th Street Mall. Not only is the store packed with t-shirts (“Coloradical,” anyone?), hats, soaps, cards, and original artwork, but the makers of all this merchandise earn 70 percent of the sales. Another bonus: there’s the cutest shop dog in the west, Denver Picard Schimek.
After shopping, you’ll need something to eat and drink. Denver is known for its many microbreweries and craft breweries—it’s really a hub of hops. The Wynkoop Brewing Company was co-founded by John Hickenlooper, the former mayor of Denver (who is currently the state’s governor). If the Wynkoop’s Rail Yard Ale doesn’t completely quench your beer thirst, head over to the Denver Beer Co. on Platte Street. In the latest edition of Moon Denver, you will find details on local brewery tours, where to find food made with beer, and which brewpubs have quizzes and games.
You can get a decent pub meal at the Wynkoop and some quick eats at Denver Beer Co. or you can explore the many restaurants that specialize in using locally grown ingredients. Personal favorites include Potager in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, Z Cuisine in the Highlands neighborhood, The Kitchen in downtown Denver, Fruition near the Cherry Creek neighborhood, and Root Down (with vegan, vegetarian, and raw food options) in the Highlands. For dessert, Sweet Action Ice Cream in the hip SoBo (South Broadway) neighborhood mixes local ingredients like Stranahan’s Whiskey with the creamy, sweet goodness of homemade ice cream. All of these places have outdoor seating with charm. Additionally, Civic Center Eats is the ultimate in local food; food trucks gather twice a week in the center of the city during lunch hour between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
When it comes to entertainment in and around Denver, there is plenty of local talent to discover. Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre showcases international acts and local bands—I got to see The Lumineers here in 2012, for example—and it’s also a great place for a hike. Also, check their calendar for “Yoga on the Rocks” and “Film on the Rocks” events during the summer. Sunday evenings in the summer are the perfect time for City Park Jazz, free concerts with acts like Hazel Miller, Salsa Con Jazz, and the Ron Miles Quartet with the Denver Municipal Band. For something more eclectic, check out the Denver County Fair in August, where the old-fashioned county fair gets an urban tweak.
The big cultural event of the summer is the Biennial of the Americas, which begins on July 16 and brings together local and international cultural influencers. Denver’s museums offer climate-controlled—yes, I mean air-conditioned!—spaces to explore on the hottest days of summer, as well as a few outdoor places to check out.
- The Clyfford Still Museum has two patios off the exhibit spaces where they grow little carpets of native grasses.
- The Denver Art Museum’s current SPUN exhibit includes an outdoor “dye” garden for children and in conjunction with the new Nick Cave exhibit is an interactive room with a felt wall and punching bags.
- Head for the rooftop of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, where a small café serves local beer and eats.
- Go on a First Friday art walk in different neighborhoods around the city to see local art in galleries.
Of course, the best way to experience Denver is while getting a little exercise at 5,280 feet above sea level. Check out one of the rental bikes at Denver Bcycle, http://denver.bcycle.com, and roll along the Cherry Creek or South Platte River bike trails—or go from dinner to a museum and out for drinks.
This summer, discover what makes being a local in Denver so inviting!