Moments after my plane swooped into Denver I sat in my seat on the tarmac as the flight attendant chirped, “Please do not unlatch your seat buckles until the plane finishes taxing to the gate and has come to a complete stop.” This announcement always makes me laugh as I’m often clasping at the blunt ends of my armrests ready to bolt.
This would be my first visit to Colorado and I was beyond excited to spend the next three days in one of America’s most buzzed about urban eats destinations. I had ample time to uncover the cities top attractions, best restaurants and felt a thriving arts vibe unique to Colorado’s favourite city. Here are a few fun facts about Denver important to take note before planning your trip:
- Denver has 300 days of annual sunshine. Located east of the mountains, the city has a mild, dry and sunny climate with more annual hours of sun than San Diego or Miami Beach.
- Denver is near the mountains, not in them! The city is located on high rolling plains, 12 miles east of the “foothills,” a series of gentle mountains that climb 11,000 feet. The picturesque Rocky Mountain panorama from Denver is 140 miles long.
- Denver’s history is short, but colourful. In 1858, there was not a single person living in Denver metro area except for a few migrating camps of Arapaho and Cheyenne Native Americans. Just 30 years later, Colorado was a state with a population of almost 200,000! Tipping our hats to the Gold Rush!
- Denver loves its sports. Denver is one of the only two cities (Philadelphia is the other) to have seven professional sports teams. Hot dog and Coors Light lovers rejoice at many a rowdy stadium.
- Denver brews more beer than any other city. The first building in Denver was a saloon, so its natural that Denver would become a great beer town. Coors Brewery is the worlds largest and Denver’s Great American Beer Festival is the largest in the nation, with more than 1,900 different beers on display. On an average day Denver brews more than 200 different beers.
- Denver is the Mile High City. By an amazing stroke of good luck, the 13th step on the west side of the State Capitol Building is exactly 5,280 feet above sea level – one mile high. In Denver’s rarified air, golf balls go 10 percent farther, and so do cocktails! Alcoholic drinks here pack a punch and did I ever notice from one restaurant and bar to the next. Be sure to sip slowly as your acclimatize to the new elevation.
I hopped in a cab after arriving at the airport and immediately checked in to my new home for the next few days, the quirky boutique Hotel Monaco. I stayed in a lovely suite which offered views of downtown Denver and enjoyed a delicious Italian inspired brunch at the hotels signature restaurant Panzano.
Two quirky facts about the Hotel Monaco: Every day just before dinner the hotel hosts a wine-o’clock in the lobby. On the particular day I arrived they also had a massage therapist offering complimentary therapy sessions to guests. The hotel is also pet friendly and I found myself wildly amused when informed that they often have guests from the Denver Zoo stay over for the night. Such VIP critters have included snakes, sloths, penguins and ferrets!
Over the next three days I hustled from dusk till dawn: wolfing down this and that, skipping through art galleries and eagerly snapping photos while on tour at the cities top urban winery, distillery and brewery. The following are my highlights of Colorado’s Mile High City:
Contemporary Meets Wild Wild West. The Denver Art Museum wows with a permanent collection that showcases the classic “Cowboy and Indian” story. I was most captivated by the whimsical journey through artist Nick Cave’s imagination via his exhibit Sojourn. I felt as though I were walking through some sort of futuristic space film meets Bjork video as the artists famous Soundsuits were on display showcasing his unique ability to spin textiles and colours into our own lucid dreams. In the exhibition visitors pass through a passageway constructed of thousands of buttons and large scale sculptural objects made out of found objects. Described as textiles-meet-modern-dance, Cave’s colourful, larger-than-life sculptures force a jaw drop.
Top Notch Dining: My Denver itinerary was a full on foodie bonanza. If you’re looking to dine out at some of the cities top restaurants be sure to check out: Beatrice & Woodsley, Root Down, Beast + Bottle, The Squeaky Bean and Rioja.
Serious Sipping. Denver is passionate about the thirst quencher. The city is a mecca for beverage enthusiasts offering educational tours to late night kick-back revelry. The Infinite Monkey Theorem is an urban winery located in a back alley of the RiNo Art District where guests have an opportunity to sample some of the best bottles being produced in Colorado today. Buddies for beer flock to Breckenridge Brewery for a tour and tasting of one of the cities favourite craft producers. Just down the street Stranahans offers tours and tastings of Colorado’s first (and favourite) craft whisky. For those looking for apres dinner sips check out Green Russell located in the heart of the Historic Larimer district. GR is an intimate cocktail join with the feel of a 1920’s style speakeasy.
The Locals Favourite Sweet Finish: During my days in Denver I had the opportunity to chat with countless locals: from chefs, to waiters, hotel concierge to art gallery pr gals. I asked everyone the same question, “if someone only has one day in Denver where do they absolutely have to make sure they stop to eat?” I was regularly astounded to hear the same establishment slip off the tip of everyone’s tongue. Sweet Action Ice Cream wins my People’s Choice Award. Locals regularly lineup here for the cities best ice cream. Sweet Action uses fresh Colorado dairy with the finest seasonal ingredients to produce eye bulging concoctions for your sugar cone. During my visit I sampled raspberry chocolate, Colorado melon, chocolate hazelnut and strawberry rhubarb.
My visit to Denver was a press trip coordinated by Visit Denver. Hotel accommodation, restaurant visits and activities featured in this destination guide were complimentary.