Looking for the best things to do in Denver and Colorado? Here are 16 ideas.
1. Inner City National Wildlife Refuge, Hiking & Horseback Riding
As I wrote about in The Best City in the U.S., Denver has 205+ city parks. (I think the plus is from not being able to keep track anymore.)
Now if you want to go horseback riding or visit a National Wildlife Refuge you don’t have to pack enough clothing to survive a sudden 50 degree temperature swing plus two meals and snacks – you just need to walk, bike or drive (if you must) 3 miles west of Denver to Crown Hill Park. Located officially at 9307 West 26th Avenue, in Lakewood, Crown Hill Park is 242 acres and10.2 miles of trails that allow you to escape it all without ever having to leave it.
2. Best Thin Crust Pizza
My husband David is easy to please but harder to impress. The scale to impress him gets raised when we are trying something which his hometown, a small place outside of Barcelona does exceptionally well – pizza being a great example.
It is rare, of course, to come across a pizza he doesn’t like – but to meet a pizza he loves, one he goes as far as to say, “It is the best pizza in Denver.” well that takes Right Coast Pizza (7100 West 38th Avenue, Wheat Ridge).
According to my in-house discerning pizza critic, you can’t go wrong with the Black & Blue Pizza. Plus their stellar and ever changing beer selection will please the ficklest brew lover amongst us.
3. Bowling as Bowling Was Meant to Be
Someday I will write a post, “20 Places in Denver to Hide from the Hipsters” and on that list will be Wheat Ridge Lanes. It is the bowling alley as a bowling alley is meant to be – no menu with 97 different varieties of $16 martinis, no skull caps or skinny jeans – just bowling as bowling is supposed to be – balls, pins, booze and good times.
4. No Bullshit Billiards + Cheapest Jukebox in Denver Metro
Up the street from the no BS Bowling is the no BS Billiards – aka Hank’s Billiards. A ginormo-pool-plex which has all the billiard necessities – more pool tables than anyone would ever want, booze, fried cheese and jalapeno poppers, wait stuff who feel like your friends, and a jukebox with all the billiard tunes at the cost of 50 cents a hit. We went expecting to stay for short time – and left four hours later.
5. Best Selection of Colorado Beer in Colorado
Not to be a selfish, narrow-minded jerk – but with over 160 breweries in Colorado – is there really a reason to be drinking other states’ beer? Perhaps this is what Colorado Plus Brew Pub (6995 W. 38th Ave, Wheat Ridge) was thinking too.
With over 56 Colorado beers on tap (including some of their own) Colorado Plus Brew Pub should be on the top of any beer lover’s or Colorado lover’s must-visit destination list.
6. The Most Unique Place to Eat in the Entire State of Colorado?
Located on South Parker Road in Aurora is H-Mart, a mega-mart for all food stuffs Asian and International. Going there is an event in and of itself.
Standing the parking lot – you are in Denver – enter through the sliding doors and you are on another wonderful side of the world.
When you enter, to your far left beyond the cash registers is the H-Mart’s restaurant. It might be easy to overlook – but I would caution you not to. The food is fun, filling (they bring out piles of appetizers just because they are awesome like that) and their prices are inexpensive ranging towards levels of absurdity – four adults and two kids ate (with tip) for $60 – and we brought home half our food.
7. The Land of Endless Endearment
On any day in Denver if you get in your car and drive 100 miles in any direction, scenery and life undeniably changes – but none of it changes as much if you drive 100 miles north on I-25 up to Wyoming. After crossing the state line you immediately realize life has substantially changed – life has become instantly – more endearing.
My theory is the people of Wyoming are there because this is where they were born, their families were born and their families will be born, and they have absolutely no desire or need to ever leave. And well, if you are going to visit, they want to make sure you leave with some of the love for the place that they have.
In the very short time we were there we had Grandma’s making sure we had a list of all must-dos in the area, we had strangers offering to exchange our more fortuitous place in the beer line in for their purchasing our drinks and we had newly made friends making sure we tried all of their whiskey. (I also did not have one cowboy or girl making fun of the fact that I wore flip flops to go to a concert in the exact same place they hold rodeos.)
If you make it to Cheyenne, which I do recommend, definitely check out downtown, go see it in its heyday during Cheyenne Frontier Days and get breakfast at the Luxury Diner. Looking for a place to stay? We stayed with an awesome local who had a room available on Airbnb.
8. 100% European Husband Approved Homemade Kielbasa
Grocery shopping with my Catalan husband David looks a lot like this – he goes up to the meat / fish / sausage counter and longingly looks for food which remotely looks like what he has at home, and then reluctantly chooses the best of a series of bad options. Meanwhile, I run around the store and get everything else. In the end, my grocery shopping and his – take about the same amount of time. He never complains but he is never elated either which is why he was ecstatic when we found – Sawa Market Euro Market & Delicatessen. Here they have homemade kielbasa and bacon and a little slice of home (and heaven).
9. Insanely Good Happy Hour
I loved living near Cherry Creek but I never much found myself going there to eat or drink. (Machete and True Foods being the exception) Then, a girlfriend introduced me to NoRTH’s (190 Clayton) Bottle and Board Happy Hour which for 20 bucks gets you a bottle of wine and a board of two meats, two cheeses and other very good – goodies.
10. You Just Need to See This
If you have yet to see Mark Mothersbaugh’s (the co-founder of the band Devo) Myopia Exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art – you absolutely must. I was a bit confused by his artwork on the first floor of the museum but what I discovered on the second floor was probably one of the single most clever pieces of art I have seen. It is so damn clever – I made David go see it three different times before we left. It is a crowd pleaser for all ages. Hint: If you are on the 2nd floor and aren’t hearing anything – wait until you do – then follow that noise. More intel here: Museum of Contemporary Art.
11. Randomly Good View of Denver
On Federal – heading south – at the intersection of 84th.
12. 2nd Best Vietnamese in Denver
New Saigon has always been my go-to Vietnamese place in Denver (although their shark fin soup I find deeply and entirely depressing), but what to do when you don’t feel like driving miles down Federal at 5 pm on Tuesday? – Go to Thai Bao Vietnamese Restaurant – you will not be disappointed – you might even like it more!
13. Hairstylist Who Actually 1) Does a Great Job and 2) Listens to You (True Story)
I make no attempts to hide my PTSD incurred via my childhood backyard haircuts. Exacerbating the problem, as an adult there were more times than one where I gave explicit instructions on how I wanted my hair to be / not be cut only to have it whacked the hell off by someone who felt they knew what was better for me than I did.
THEN I discovered glorious, lovely, Godsend to my life – Lindsey at Lulu’s Looking Glass. (She owns the place because she is just super super like that.) This is Lindsey’s deal – she will certainly give you suggestions on what to do or not do – but in the end she does exactly (and I mean precisely) what you want. Her prices are crazy reasonable and her talent leaves you wanting to go out in the world and celebrate – not hide from it for the next two months.
14. The Downtown Area You Have Always Avoided that Got Crazy Cool While You Avoided It
So before I tell you where it is – I am going to tell you what it is – a three or so block main street in a charming downtown area with breweries, restaurants, bars, bakeries, chocolate shops, breakfast joints and other niceties.
Now, you might be as surprised as we were to learn this is what Old Towne Arvada is now all about. We went there one Sunday in search of coffee and were both blown away by how just damn cute it was.
As recently as a few years ago we got lured there by some lofty recommendations only to arrive and feel a bit, “Huh. Ummmm. Ok..”
But my friends, the place has changed. It has gone from “meh” to delightful. I think it arguably has one of the cutest and as well as one of the biggest little downtown areas in the Denver Metro area. Don’t miss the Rhinelander Bakery for sweet treats or Fuzzy’s for huevos rancheros.
15. Coffee + Goodies Worth Going Out of Your Way For
Always on the prowl for good coffee experiences I have discovered three I just must share:
Downpours Coffee (39th and Tennyson)– excellent atmosphere, delicious coffee, some of the friendliest baristas in Denver and a breakfast burrito (get it with bacon), David is incapable of resisting. It is the textbook neighborhood coffee shop so many wish would show up in their hood and where Tennyson is so, so lucky they did.
Sugar Bake Shop (3rd and Broadway) – There are certain places you enter and cannot help but notice the love sunk into it. This is the Sugar House Coffee House. All of your senses are made immediately aware that every baked good and every coffee is done by someone who has gave their heart to the place.
Windy Saddle (Downtown Golden) – There are few coffee places more charming and cozy than the Windy Saddle in Downtown Golden. When you visit on a Saturday morning you get the sense the place draws people in and likely has a hard time getting people to leave. Get their smothered breakfast burrito with green chile!
16. The Best Book About Denver?
Ever looked at the background of the writers of travel books? You know the guy from Chicago telling you the local hotspots in Hanoi. The gal from Fresno writing about the best restaurants in Seattle. The best books about places are written by the people who live and love those places and when it comes to living in and loving Denver – David, my husband, and I fit very solidly and proudly in that category. We might be biased, but we think Denver is The Best City in the U.S. – which is why we wrote and illustrated a little book to celebrate this fact.
Want to Be Notified of New and Fabulous Finds in Denver?
Where do we need to check out next in Denver, in Colorado or anywhere around?
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