Welcome to Denver, where urban style and outdoor casual coexist and residents enjoy more sunny days year-round than cities in California or Florida. Between the exciting attractions in the city, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Commons Park, and the Red Rocks Ampitheatre, and the easy proximity to the mountains, Denver has great things to offer weekend visitors.
The best neighborhood in which to base your stay in Denver is LoDo (or Lower Downtown) at the Hotel Teatro, the Brown Palace Hotel, or The Oxford Hotel. From any of these, you can walk or take the free shuttle bus down the 16th Street Mall to start your morning with a hot cup of coffee and a pastry at The Market in historic Larimer Square. Outside seats are the best for local people-watching.
After peeking in the shop windows at Larimer Square, walk a few blocks east up 14th Street, where you will pass the Denver Performing Arts Complexand walk under the glass-topped atrium that connects ten performance spaces, making it one of the largest complexes of its kind in the world. You’ll spot Lawrence Argent’s Big Blue Bear sculpture a block or two before you actually get to it.
Take a stroll through Civic Center Park with its Greek-style amphitheater, fountains, and statues en route to the gold domed Colorado State Capitol Building for a 45-minute tour of the building’s architecture and artwork. After the tour, you are welcome to make the steep climb to the inside of the dome where there are spectacular views of the city and Rocky Mountains to the west.
You’ll spot Lawrence Argent’s Big Blue Bear sculpture a block or two before you actually get to it.From the Colorado State Capitol Building it’s just a short walk to the Denver Art Museum. Plan to spend a couple of hours viewing current or permanent exhibitions. Have lunch in the museum’s Palette’s restaurant, where the fishbowl windows provide a street-level view of the museum’s public art outside.
From the Denver Art Museum you can drive to Cherry Creek North in about five minutes. For the more adventurous, rent a bicycle from Denver B-cycle and ride along the Cherry Creek Bike Path to Cherry Creek’s up-and-coming shopping district. Be sure to stop in Max, Garbarini, Lawrence Covell, and the Artisan Center.
For dinner, drive or catch the light rail train to the 10th/Osage stop and experience The Buckhorn Exchange, where taxidermy meets fine dining. If you want to stay on foot, Rioja in Larimer Square or Zengo by Commons Park won’t disappoint.
Enjoy an after-dinner drink at The Cruise Room in The Oxford Hotel, live music at the Appaloosa Grill, or dance the night away at Beta nightclub.
Depending on the day of the week, there are some fabulous breakfast and brunch spots to try before seeing the sights. On the sophisticated end of the spectrum, you have Ellyngton’s at the Brown Palace Hotel, which offers a champagne Sunday brunch. For more casual types, there’s Snooze, An a.m. Eatery on the edge of LoDo, where diners can indulge in a seriously sweet stack of pancakes, such as the Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes or Red-Eye Velvet Pancakes.
After breakfast or brunch, walk or pick up the shuttle bus and take it to the end behind Union Station. The Millennium Bridge is just a block away, where you can walk up the stairs or take an elevator to the platform that affords city and mountain views before continuing on to the Platte River Valley district. Commons Park is right on the other side of the Millennium Bridge and, in fair weather, you can stand on one of the bridges over the South Platte River and watch kayakers practice in the rushing whitewater below. You may even want to walk over to Centennial Gardens, just south of Confluence Park, and see native plants in a formal garden. When it’s too cold for walking, head straight to the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver instead.
If you have a car, make the short drive up to Red Rocks Amphitheatre, where you can hike or hang out in the empty concert venue. In spring and summer, you might be able to catch a Colorado Rockies game at Coors Field.
If you’re in town on the first Friday of the month, plan to visit the Arts District on Santa Fe Avenue, where galleries are open late for the First Friday Art Walk.
For dinner, try Cuba Cuba in the Golden Triangle or Domo in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs.