Long Weekend:Denver

Union Station Denver

Yes, I know. I’m supposed to be giving you your “Daily Ration” of fun things to read and I’m doing a terrible job, but it’s tough! I live in a place where we only get a very few nice days per year and I need to take em’ when I can get em’, which sometimes means getting up and out of this dirty, sweaty city for a long weekend.

Within the next couple weeks my plans include trips all over the great US of A so stay tuned for some more travel guides to come.

First up, the easiest one for me, Denver. Having lived in Denver for a decade I would generally call myself an expert on the happenings about town, but I’ll tell you what, this trip blew me away. So much has changed in the Mile High city since I left three years ago, and I’m not just talking about the edibles.

First stop on my whirlwind tour, the Highland’s where I visited with my lovely cousin and got to try a delightful new Mexican restaurant, El Chingon. Located on Tennyson Street, amongst lots of other hip new shops and right next to the The Oriental theatre (which has recently gained back some of its former glory), this family owned restaurant serves up traditional faire straight from the owner’s birthplace, Mexico City. I recommend El Chingon above so many other great options in Denver for two reasons. First, the decor is lovely and the outdoor seating is area is calm and relaxing. Second, and more important, this restaurant is infused from head to toe with a true feeling of family and warmth. The moment we sat down Gloria Nunez, the Executive Chef and “Abuela,” came to greet us warmly with hugs and kisses. She thanked us for patronizing her restaurant and treated us to stories of how and where she learned to cook. Our waiter was incredibly knowledgable about tequila and helped me pick one I loved, and our meals were clearly made with local, fresh ingredients and love.

On Saturday afternoon, after nursing a strong tequila hangover we took a long walk through the Highlands, over the river and into downtown. This was a great way to show Dream a lot of what I love about Denver and to really get to see the growing city first hand. I’d recommend starting off at Little Man Ice Cream (best ice cream this side of town). Grab a cone to sustain you during your walk and head down towards Platte Street. If you love to cook like I do, you must go into The Savory Spice and taste their epic blends of curry. There are so many options that there is practically a room dedicated to them. (My favorite is Cambodian Lemongrass Curry.) If you happen to be with a fella, Armitage & McMillan will be a good change of pace from his typical shopping (or lack there of). From there, walk down to REI, the flagship store will let you test out any of water vessel you want right there on the Platte River. From REI, walk through Commons Park and over the Millennium Bridge (it looks like a boat)  to head onto the 16th Street Mall. Now you’re only a hop, skip and a jump from one of my favorite places on earth, the famous Tattered Cover book store. (I love this place so much I even bought one of their corny sweatshirts when I moved away just to remember it.) After browsing the stacks, head over to the newly revitalized Union Station. Just a few years ago, this was nothing but a dank, dirty train station. Now, it’s hardly recognizable and absolutely stunning in its refurbished glory. I would liken it to the Colorado version of Grand Central Station. End your walking tour with a drink at the Terminal Bar and revel in the feeling of being a cross-country train traveler from the roaring 20’s.

View from the bridge over the Platte River
View from the bridge over the Platte River

Some other things to check out on your weekend in Denver:
Sushi Den– Some of the best sushi you’ll ever have (I know it’s shocking, but true). The owners fly all the fish in from Japan daily. No reservations so go early.
Work & Class– Try everything on the menu. Portions are small enough to share and the drinks are yummy too. It’s also almost entirely Gluten Free, but you wouldn’t know it! No reservations at this new hot spot, but the neighborhood is great to walk around and check out while you wait.

A little taste of everything at Work & Class
A little taste of everything at Work & Class

The Meadowlark Small music venue and bar perfect for a drink after dinner at Work & Class
Lair O’ the Bear– Beautiful hike with a nice steep incline, and a descent into a wildflower field. (Don’t pick them, they’ll yell at you) Very close to Red Rocks so worth checking out both.
Jelly or Snooze– Two similar breakfast spots. Skip both if you only have a weekend day. I’d attack these on a Monday or Tuesday and even then you still may have to wait a bit, but they’re worth it.
Sputnik/Hi-Dive– Drinks, Live Music, Great DJ’s, Corn Dogs
Table6– Canned beers, perfectly done farm to table, lovely patio
Bonnie Brae Ice Cream– A Denver institution.

Bonus: If you’re heading to Boulder, check out the last place you will ever want to drink tea. Nothing compares to the beauty and interesting story behind the Dushanbe Tea HouseHint: the waitstaff will love you if you don’t suggest that Dushanbe must be in India.

Some places to skip:
Root Down- used to be good but it’s gone down hill. Get it in the airport instead. It’s a huge step up from any other airport option.
Linger- The food was so-so and the service was sooooo soooo terrible. Plus, the advertised “Brunch on the Roof” didn’t exist.
Garden Of the Gods- I had actually never been in all my years in Colorado and neither had my cousin so we checked it out. While beautiful it was basically a huge tourist trap, and looked a lot like Red Rocks. Skip it and opt for a more scenic less crowded hike elsewhere.