[Travel Advice] Denver

Random Observation/Comment #627: Every city has its own hidden charm. I see what you did there, Denver.

Things Colorado Does Well

  • Hiking and Scenery – Colorado is easily one of the most beautiful places. Walking out of the airport you can clearly see the Rocky Mountains in the horizon. Amazing hiking is a short drive away. There’s enough trails and events to satisfy any avid adventurer.
  • Weather – 300 days of sunlight is pretty great. We haven’t endured the winter, but we hear the sun often melts snow before it accumulates too much in the streets. The precipitation events are also very sparse. Like in Iceland, you’ll feel 4 or 5 weather patterns within 3 hours.
  • Clouds – Since you’re a mile up, the clouds are just so close to you and beautiful. I can probably sit around and admire the clouds.
  • Community – Friendly hikers and active lifestyle. It seems like everyone has a fun outdoor activity hobby and strong love and pride for their city.
  • Health – Everyone in Colorado seems super fit (but not obsessed with crossfit) and into the outdoors.
  • Driving – There’s this myth that traffic is terrible in Denver because so many people are moving there. Driving at 40mph in a 55mph zone because of car volume is not traffic for NYers. Try bumper-to-bumper traffic taking an hour to move 2 miles. That’s traffic.
  • Restaurant scene – While it’s not as diverse as NYC, I found the food to be pretty good. The best eats were ones based off of mid-Western comfort with a laid back vibe. The restaurants that were a bit underwhelming were more on the high-end side, either coming off as trying too hard to be something else or messed up with execution.
  • City flag – Love the “C” and how it’s so prominent throughout the cultural pride (it also reminded Clemens of Corda).
  • Efficiency with a Laid Back Vibe – There’s less of an urgency than NYC, but I feel like it’s still friendly and efficient.

Things Colorado Can Improve

I was mostly just nitpicking here and giving fair warning for travelers. I can’t think of anything major because this place is pretty great.

  • Drought – We were lucky to be there when we did. After a long winter with record snowfall everything was green, but normally there’s a drought problem as you go farther away from the glaciers.
  • Elevation sickness – One consequence of the elevation is that alcohol has a much higher impact until your body settles. One of us experienced a nasty headache after drinking a beer on her first day. This was easily addressed by consuming extra water.
  • Direct Sunlight – Along with the elevation comes a much stronger sun. Definitely apply sunscreen often and wear a hat. Make sure to also bring moisturizer as this tends to dry out your skin. Bring your sunglasses. Drink lots of water.
  • Diversity – Like most cities, there isn’t much diversity compared to NYC. This does seem to be changing as the city grows more popular.

Our Itinerary (First Visit)

Thursday

Breakfast at Four Friends – In the core of Stapleton, this food is spot on. Follow their recommendations. Nothing better than having a great lunch before exploring the neighborhood

Exploring Stapleton – Drove around the area and walked around parks. Headed to Stanley Market. That’s a shared dinner from Denver Biscuit Company (which I should emphasize is much better shared than rolling yourself out of there.

Exploring Other Neighborhoods – Loved having a car and being able to drive around Denver.

Friday

Garden of the Gods – An hour or so drive, but worth it. We were able to walk around Siamese Twins and take advantage of the beautiful weather. Apparently it’s never this green

Ridiculously delicious lunch at Hungry Bear diner – What’s not to like about comfort food? My burrito was supes yums. Slather it in gravy.

Driving along 24 – I actually wasn’t expecting to do this long of a drive, but it was still really beautiful. I would only recommend it if your passenger also likes long car rides. There’s enough to do around Garden of the Gods for the day, so we probably should have driven back and explored more.

Dinosaur Ridge Trail – We were planning to do the hike up to the ridge trail, but we parked in the wrong lot and wound up walking to the middle of nowhere. It was still a nice hike and we had a pretty view. Shortly after, it started raining like crazy, so we had to end early. Luckily, there was alcohol.

Stranahan’s Distillery tour – Went for the whiskey, stayed for the knowledgeable tour and generous tasting pours.

Saturday

Brunch with friends at Linger – Highlands was like the Williamsburg of Denver and Linger was the hip/cool industrial restaurant with tons of space and great food. Great suggestions for our day trip.

House Reviews – We had made this trip initially to see if we liked the neighborhood for a future home. Our local friends said that there were some really great design-your-own-home deals to buy a base type and then customize it to your liking on a new lot. We spent a good 3 hours walking around cool houses of different styles and sizes, and I must say that it was kinda fun.

Hike up to St Mary’s Glaciers – 1 hour drive from Denver. This was one of my favorite hikes (1.5-2 hours total) and really unbelievably peaceful. A lot of people hike up with a few beers and just relax by the glacier lake. We walked a little further up to get a nice picture of the view.

Sunday – Back to the airport to fly home.

Our Itinerary (Second Visit)

Friday

4-hour tour from Captain Kirk – A surprisingly incredible and in-depth overview of Denver starting from history of river settlements all the way to street-by-street details by my colleague Kirk. He’s pretty awesome and I wish I could give a brief summary, but there was too much there to even start. We now have a much better understanding of this wonderful city and the people who live here.

Todd/Armando Dinner – I can’t believe we forgot to take a selfie together. I’m such a bad Asian. We totally have house envy and also learned so much about the community. It was so wonderful catching up and having some belly laughs.

Saturday

Breakfast at Burrito Rapido – Randomly found a place near the Airbnb. Probably should have gotten the Posole Verde (only served on Saturday/Sunday) like all the locals did, but you can’t go wrong with a breakfast burrito.

TT at Denver Table Tennis Alliance – I really needed to check out the TT scene. I was happy to find a few 1800/1900 players and got a chance to play a few games. It actually was more like 2 hours while Vinessa went to Rino to buy a book and read under a tree.

Wandering RiNo – It was our luck that this was the weekend all of the graffiti artists come out and redraw everything (Crush). Even without the live artwork, it was a pretty happening place. A lot of great pop-up shops and perfect for the next 5 hours of walking around. Highly recommend going into the Denver Central Market for some ice cream or snacks.

Death and Company – These drinks were so darn fancy. Perfect swizzle orange peel in my delicious drink.

Walk to Union Station through LoDo – It was a beautiful day and we’re still New Yorkers, so we just walked and let our curiosity lead us around different alleys and restaurants. So much fun exploring the city this way.

Uber back to RiNo for more street art – Our feet got pretty tired, but we wanted to see more finished pieces so we took an Uber close enough and then walked back to the car.

Dinner at Stanley Marketplace – Solid choice coming back from RiNo. Biscuits and gravy with cheesy grits.

Fireworks – Clearly these were just for us. 30 minutes going all out and making a very interesting *boom*. I’m sure we could have driven a few blocks and seen an unobstructed view, but we honestly thought they were gunshots for the first 5 minutes.

Sunday

Intersections Breakfast – Love the Dr Seuss theme. Breakfast of champions.

Look at some Houses – Great seeing some resales in the neighborhood to better gauge our house requirements.

Torchy’s Tacos – I get the feeling this is a goto for a lot of locals. Don’t forget to add hot sauce. At this point, I’ve had a burrito every day in Denver.

Redrock Amphitheater – We bought tickets to see Dark Star Orchestra, but before we could get in, it really started pouring. We also didn’t realize that umbrellas aren’t really a thing in Denver. It was a good decision to skip the concert and head home early.

Seamless some Pizza – For some reason, we were in the mood for pizza and wanted to test out Seamless. Distance is a much bigger deal when you’re not in a city setting. It did take an hour for us to get food and we paid way too much for delivery and tipping.

Monday

Drive to Mt Evans – It only took an hour (even with a little bit of traffic). We purposefully left around peak traffic time to see what a commute would look like. Bearable. I think we need to be very deliberate with which lanes get the most traffic or have forced turns.

Late breakfast at Buffalo Moon Coffee Shop – Probably the best egg sandwich with toasted rye bread we had on the trip. Super random stop while driving West on I-70.

Breathtaking drive up to Summit Lake – This drive is not for the faint of heart. There are no guard rails and pretty cracked up edges of roads. Be careful and also have fun.

Cool hike down to the lakes – We hiked about 1 hour down and an hour back up, which was more than enough for us. The hike back up was tougher with the thin air. Loved the Chicago hike because the path is pretty much circling down the side of a mountain. Felt a lot like a Lord of the Rings epic journey.

Quick stop in Golden for a snack – Stopped for a beer at Golden City Brewery (GCB). Their sour IPA was very adventurous.

Drive back home to watch the sunset and eat Cuba Cuba Sandwicheria – There’s always room for second dinner. We definitely spent a lot of our budget on food.

Tuesday – Take our time in the morning and fly back home.

~See Lemons Love Denver and Vnessa with an Eye for the Rockies

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