Beginner's Guide to Denver

The first time I visit a new city, I like to get some of the more "touristy" items checked off the list (read my post about why it's perfectly ok to be a "tourist"). My theory, is that oftentimes the more well-known spots are well-known for a reason : i.e. because they're great!

Now, I know this isn't always the case. I can't tell you how many times I have been underwhelmed by a city's biggest attraction or how often TripAdvisor or a well-intentioned blogger has steered me wrong. That's why I think it's great to get a good mix of tourist/local advice and see what you like best! For example, I've lived in Austin for 8 years and still utilize some of the city's biggest tourist attractions like Town Lake Trail, Mount Bonnell, and Zilker Park. I would tell anyone coming to Austin to visit these parks and trails because they're beautiful and locals love them. 

With all that being said, our long weekend trip to Denver was a healthy mix of being ok with being a tourist while also trying to find local hot spots. These are my top tips for a quick weekend:

Do:

1. Come prepared!

Bring good walking shoes, a hat (the sun can be brutal at that altitude despite the temperature), sunscreen, and lots and lots of water! You can get severely dehydrated being that high up in the mountain - especially if you are hiking/biking/walking a lot. 

2. Travel by bike!

Denver is beautiful, but it's beauty can easily be missed if you're traveling by car! Rent a bike at any one of the many bike rental stations positioned conveniently throughout the city. For $9, you can have unlimited 30 minute bike rides for a day. Bike along Cherry Creek, the Platte River Trail, or check out REI's flagship store

3. Hike around Red Rocks Amphitheater and/or attend a concert there!

We went to a Rebelution concert that had multiple reggae bands preceding them. It was amazing! The venue is incredibly beautiful when it is lit up at night and the vibe is relaxed. We hiked the trails around the Amphitheater the next day and thoroughly enjoyed the views. Pro tip: bring water and snacks. Even if it isn't hot outside, you would be surprised at how easily you can get heat stroke that high up. We witnessed multiple people being carted downhill on stretchers. 

4. Try out some local cuisine!

Snooze - great breakfast! They have multiple locations around the city, we partook in the Union Station location to kill two birds with one stone. They JUST opened a Snooze in Austin this past week : we will have to compare!

Guard and Grace - fantastic menu and amazing food. We dined on raw oysters, raw crab, filet mignon, cornbread, truffle mac n' cheese, etc. Amaze. Only downside is it is a bit pretentious. We were treated as "less than" because we showed up a bit under-dressed. Living in Austin has spoiled me - I never have to dress up anywhere and no one bats an eye. Overall, still worth the splurge!

Linger - A former mortuary, this restaurant is located in the Highland area and has an expansive patio on the roof. Grab some mimosas and a chorizo bento box, you won't be disappointed.

Habit Donuts - It was National Donut Day while we were in Denver so we just HAD to partake in the festivities. They have a gluten free option and some delicious looking cinnamon rolls and blueberry donuts. And no, they don't have weed in them (but yes, they do get asked that once every five minutes).

Steubens - Featured on Diners, Drive ins, and Dives - Steuben's is known for recreating American Regional Classics. Try their hot wings, deviled eggs, and brussel sprouts. Yums.

Huckleberry Roasters - There are multiple locations throughout the city, and luckily one was two blocks from our Airbnb. Do yourself a favor and grab an iced coffee to go!

5. Check out Larimer Street for some great breweries!

Larimer Square has some incredible restaurants and North Larimer street has some of the best breweries in town (as confirmed to us by a few locals). I suggest checking out Epic (great gluten free beer that tastes like sweet potato), Ratio, and Our Mutual Friend's Brewery.

6. Attend a Colorado Rockies baseball game at the Coors Field!

Locals and tourists alike will be sporting the Colorado Rockies purple! Grab a hot dog (they even have gluten free buns) and some terrible stadium beer/wine and grab a seat for some good ole' fashioned baseball!

7. Visit a dispensary!

You may not be into smoking, no big deal! The dispensaries are still pretty cool to check out and you can say you've been in one. 

Don't : 

1. Go to 16th Street Mall

It's simply nothing special. It is mostly chain restaurants and shops (i.e. Ross, Subway, the Cheesecake Factory, etc) that are in every major city. There was also a ton of riff raff in the area that I wasn't expecting. A lot of panhandlers and people that were high out of their mind. Unless you need to grab some quick necessities at H&M (I grabbed a hat to block the sun and some sneaks), I would skip this area altogether.

2. Smoke weed in public

Yes, it's legal in Denver. No, you still can't publicly smoke it. Don't be "that guy" that gets in trouble in Denver because you don't know the laws. 

3. Rent a car

Unless you're planning to visit other mountain towns (in which case, DO rent a car) feel free to skip the car rental and simply walk or bike! There are bike rental stations all over Denver that make it super convenient to travel to all the main attractions and neighborhoods. Denver also still has Uber and Lyft (grrrrr Austin) so those are options as well.

 

I hope this short, beginner's guide to Denver is useful! I am sure there are a million more places we could have checked out, but it was a great first visit. Let me knows your "Do's and Dont's" in the comments!

Kat - Wander Life

Kat Reagan Waldrip