A few weeks ago, I got to visit some friends who recently moved to Denver, Colorado. It's a place I've flown through countless times, but have never had the chance to actually put my feet on the ground and explore, so when my friends extended the invitation for me to come visit, I pretty much immediately a booked a flight. And let me tell you, doing so meant so much more than just going to Denver, because that flight departed from San Francisco and this was all before I had let many people know that I was moving. So getting those tickets almost served as self-accountability, because it meant that I had to go through with uprooting my life in Nashville and starting out on this new adventure.
Upon landing, I was greeted by the sweetest of friends, Chelsea, and her sweet pup, Leon (she's an amazing #girlboss and travel planner, so check her out at Travel Brinkley). Chelsea and I both work remotely, so this trip was part work/productivity and part adventuring around, which ended up being the perfect recipe for my week in Denver. I even got to see Colorado Springs, Breckenridge, and Boulder while I was there! So without further adieu, here are some of the things that you've got to do while you're in Denver!
What to Do in Denver
- Downtown Denver. With it's vibrant cityscape, mixing both old and historical with new and modern, downtown is the coolest place to explore, so be sure to do just that and you'll undoubtedly stumble upon some of the coolest little places along the way.
- Union Station. Part train station, part cafe, part co-working spot, Union Station was an absolute highlight of Downtown Denver, so make sure to add it to your list. While there, Chelsea and I grabbed coffee at Pigtrain Coffee Co. and split a sandwich at Acme Delicatessen while we sat at a community table and worked on our laptops. Oh, and there's a hotel inside of Union Station called The Crawford. Too pricey for me, but such a cool concept!
- Larimer Square. Self-described as Denver's most historic block, Larimer Square is a super cute street that, when I was there, was lined with twinkle lights that made it feel so freaking magical. I didn't spend much time in the shops, but Larimer Square was definitely a spot I could've spent more time exploring.
- Oxford Hotel. We initially only stopped in here to peek at the ridiculously elaborate Christmas decorations, but ended up making friends with one of the doormen who gave us a mini tour of the hotel, which was built in 1891. If you swing by, make sure to go downstairs to see original blueprints and artwork of the hotel, as well as the restrooms, which used to be the original barber shops back in the day. It's truly a spectacle, be sure to see it.
- Red Rocks Amphitheater. Before boarding my flight back to San Francisco, we swung by Red Rocks and guys, I wish I could've seen a show there! It's (obviously) one of the most beautiful venues you could imagine, and a lot of people use it as an outdoor work out space throughout the year (when there aren't shows happening).2
Where to Eat in Denver
- Thump Coffee. Located in the Capitol Hill area, this place is a great spot to stop for some caffeine and a bite to eat. My friend Riley and I popped in here on our way to Boulder where I got a yummy latte. And be sure to get the smashed toast on their homemade bread while you're there; I got the tomato, ricotta, balsamic toast and it was amazing!
- Weathervane Cafe. This cute as pie house-turned-coffee shop isn't far from the Denver Zoo, so if you're in that area be sure to stop by. It has a super hippy vibe that I loved, and Chelsea and I spent 4 hours there one day getting work done. If you go, do yourself a favor and get their lavender latte - so good!
- The Cruise Room. Guys, this spot was so swanky. Located inside of the Oxford Hotel, this tiny red-lit bar is reminiscent of the 1920's with a very Great Gatsby vibe that you know I was alllll about. Prepare to fight for a table, and then tune in for some of the best people watching around. We spent about an hour here, after which we headed home for whiskey ciders and Harry Potter - aka the dream.
- Snooze. Started in Denver, this restaurant now has multiple locations around the city and usually has quite the wait, but trust me, it's worth it. Chelsea and I swung by on a Monday for brunch and both ordered the Huevos Rancheros (my favorite), and it was so good! This place came highly recommended from multiple friends of mine, so be sure to put it on your list.
- Avanti F+B. This place had a super cool vibe, and reminded me a lot of of a smaller, hipper version of Chelsea Market in New York City. It has lots of little food vendors, plus a cool bar downstairs. I got poke nachos at Quickfish and my girl Riley got an arepa at Quiero Arepas, both of which were great. Avanti has a great view of downtown Denver, so be sure to sit upstairs to take in the city by day or by night!
What to Do Beyond Denver
- Garden of the Gods. Located in Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods is a public access park full of sandstone rock formations, hiking trails, mountain bike paths, and front range climbing. It was freezing while I was there, but still so beautiful to walk around and even climb up some of the rock formations. It's absolutely stunning!
- Pearl Street in Boulder. Downtown Boulder's cute shopping area, Pearl Street is a super fun place to walk around. There are plenty of shops - like Patagonia, Free People, and small independent bookstores - and places to grab a bite or cup of coffee. There are also some fun and bizarre street performers to watch, which is quite fun. Riley and I ate at Pizzeria Locale, which serves pizza "Italian style," meaning it's not cut into slices. Get their Margherita Pizza, it's delizioso!
- Flagstaff Mountain. Also in Boulder, Flagstaff Mountain is a drivable destination, but also boasts some seriously gorgeous hiking trails. Riley and I drove up for some photos around sunset, and it was a dream.
Head to the Colorado Mountains
- Breckenridge. Only 1.5 hours from Denver, the mountains were at the top on my list of things to do on my trip. I was absolutely desperate to see some snow, so Chelsea and her husband Jeff brought me to Breckenridge and we had the best time! We ate at a brewery in town, got the best cookies at Mountain Top Cookie Shop, and rode the *free* gondola up to the different ski lodges on the mountain. We got drinks to warm up and then trekked through the snow so that I could snap a few photos of Jeff and Chelsea as a gift for letting me stay with them for the week. It was beautiful and perfect and we had so much fun! If you want some other mountain town options, try Vail or Copper Mountain. Just be sure you make it to one if you can!
Christmas in Denver
Here's a little bonus! If you decide to go to Denver around Christmastime, be sure to check out some of the super fun things Denver has going on, like the Lights at the Civic Center, decorations at the Oxford Hotel, Ice Skating and the Christkindl Market downtown, Blossoms of Light at the Denver Botanical Gardens, and so much more.
There are literally hundreds of other things you can and should do when visiting Denver, so if you're able to take a quick trip somewhere domestic, make Denver a priority. With so many things to do, from shopping to hiking to barhopping downtown, there's literally something for every kind of person. I promise, you will not be disappointed with this beautiful, vibrant city, and if you go, be sure to let me know!