We've been to Colorado before to explore Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, but this was our first time exploring Denver. Whenever visiting Colorado, I hear a lot of visitors talk about what they did outside of the city, but not many recommendations on what to do in the city of Denver. With the help of Visit Denver and some local friends, we were able to find some fun things to do while we were there for 36 hours.
We arrived in Denver around 9:30pm and headed straight to our Airbnb rental a few blocks from downtown Denver. It was really dark by the time we got there, so the Victorian style house looked a little spooky when we walked up to the gates. We got even more spooked when we saw a silhouette in one of the windows, but realized that it was a house split into four sections, so there were other tenants there. I think we were all just tired and freaking ourselves out.
The loft inside had so much character and there was plenty of room for the four of us staying there. Downstairs was a couch, kitchen, dining area, bathroom and laundry room. Upstairs had two beds, a small couch, coffee table, desk and a nice patio that overlooked downtown.
Once the sun started to rise in the morning, there was lots of natural light coming in the loft, making the space even more colorful and vibrant. We brewed ourselves some coffee and looked up some places nearby for breakfast. Snooze seemed to have the best reviews, so we headed to Union Station where the restaurant was located.
Our Airbnb was in a perfect location. Only a 20-minute walk to downtown and a short uber ride to anywhere else like the Highlands. We were there in September, so the weather was perfect for a nice stroll.
Union Station was absolutely stunning. The historic terminal did a huge renovation and reopened in 2014 with several restaurants and retailers, a 112-room Crawford Hotel, and a train hall. The waiting area is beautifully designed with long wooden benches, arched windows, leather chairs and couches, library-style desk, table shuffleboards and more. I didn't realize it was a functioning transportation hub until I stepped outside on the other end and saw the open-air train hall.
Snooze is a very popular restaurant in Denver, so we waited about 45 minutes for our table. Luckily, this restaurant location was inside the Union Station, so we were able to kill some time by exploring the area. There was a farmer's market going on right in front of the station, so we browsed around that for a little while until our table was ready.
Breakfast was great and the vibe very lively. The decor is reminiscent of a 60's diner and it was definitely a happenin' place. The customer service was wonderful and the food was excellent. They are very generous with their portions, so if you're not that hungry, you can definitely split a dish with your companion.
After we satisfied our bellies, we walked around the downtown shopping area and took the Free MallRide bus to the Colorado State Capitol. The Free MallRide bus was very convenient traveling up and down 16th street in downtown Denver. It stops at every block running from the Civic Center to the Union Station and runs from 5:30am - 1am (the hours vary slightly on weekdays and Sunday).
The capitol building was closed, as they are only open Monday - Friday, which was a bummer because I really enjoyed the tour at the California State Capitol, but the stairs at this capitol had something unique I wanted to take a picture with. The 15th step has an inscription, “One Mile Above Sea Level", and it's exactly 5,280 feet above sea level, one mile high, hence why Denver is called the Mile High City.
After we took in the view from the stairs, we walked to the Molly Brown House Museum. We didn't know who Molly Brown was at first, but learned that her real name was Margaret Brown and she was one of the survivors of the Titanic ship. She was also an American socialite, philanthropist, and activist.
We didn't know what to expect of this museum, but really enjoyed learning the history of the early 1900s and how socialites interacted with others. We especially loved our tour guide, who dressed up as a woman from the early 1900s and made the costume herself! She knew the history of Margaret Brown, her family and the neighborhood inside and out.
The tour lasted about an hour and as we walked around the house, we learned more about Margaret and her family along with some stories behind each room. The house was originally built in the 1880s and a lot of it's furnishings are the originals. We enjoyed this tour very much and happy we learned a unique piece of history in Denver.
Around lunchtime, we decided to visit one of Denver's popular breweries: Wynkoop Brewing Company. This was the first brew pub in historic downtown Denver since Prohibition. The brewery was located near the Union Station and it's a huge space with 3 floors. The downstairs is the brewery, second/main floor is the restaurant and the third floor is a pool hall, games and additional bar. They give tours Tuesday - Saturday at 3pm and 4pm, but we didn't have time to fit it into our schedule. Plus, we just wanted to relax, enjoy our drinks and have some good food.
In the evening, we met up with some friends and had dinner at Linger, which was located in the Highlands, a couple of miles from downtown. Highlands is a trendy town and a vibrant neighborhood with cute shops and good eats. I really loved the vibe in this area.
Linger has an interesting history to it's restaurant: it used to be a mortuary. So, instead of the former Olinger's Mortuaries, they took out the 'O' and named it Linger Eatuaries. Sounds really freaky, but you'll forget all about that when you walk into this gorgeous restaurant. The restaurant is huge with high, exposed ceilings and large garage doors letting the cool, Colorado breeze in (this was in September, so it was perfect weather). If you plan on eating here, make sure you make a reservation because it gets packed for dinner on the weekends. Luckily, we were able to get a table for early dinner. They serve tapas style dishes from all over the world including Europe, Asia and Africa. Everything we ordered was delicious and had it's own unique flavor.
Afterwards, we walked to the exclusive speakeasy bar, Williams and Graham. This place was so popular that there was a 2-HOUR WAIT! We put our names down and hopped around some other bars in the area, which was such a good time. I was in good company, the drinks were tasty, and the servers were all so friendly. We were having so much fun that those two hours flew by and before we knew it, we were called back to Williams and Graham. The coolest thing about this place was the entrance into the bar - through a bookcase! I felt like I was in some kind of spy movie. We had a couple of drinks here and made this our final stop of the night.
I was a bit hungover the next morning from all the fun I had the night before, but I managed to make a couple of final stops before we headed back to the airport.
I have heard from so many friends that I must stop by the Red Rocks Amphitheatre whenever I'm in Colorado, so I finally did it. Red Rocks is located 15 miles from Denver and it's an open-air venue surrounded by Colorado's red rocks. It's literally right in the middle of nature. I wasn't feeling the stairs going up to the top, but once I made it up there, it was a glorious view. The venue is open to the public for free when there are no concerts going on. Locals use the space to exercise and climb the stairs, so we were entertained by everyone getting into shape. I would love to come back here someday to attend a show.
On our way to the airport, we made one last stop back at Highlands to get some ice cream at the popular Little Man Ice Cream. When we passed by the stand on our way to Linger the night before, we noticed there was a huge line, so we wanted to see what all the hype was about. They serve hand-made regular ice cream, vegan ice cream and sorbet. They produce their product 'one small batch at a time to ensure prestige quality'. They had so many interesting flavors that it was hard for me to choose, but I finally settled on an ice cream sandwich and I was very happy with my decision.
TIP: Make sure you give yourself enough time to get to your gate at the Denver airport. This was the second time we were stuck in a long line at this airport and we even had TSA Pre-check! Denver airport actually has another security line called CLEAR that lets you get through security faster than TSA Pre-check, but of course, it comes at a cost.
Now that this post is coming to an end, I just realized how much we fit in within 36 hours! True to my style. Denver actually has a lot more going on than I originally thought and I'm so glad I took time to explore this wonderful city.
Thank you to Visit Denver for hosting part of our trip in Denver.
WHERE TO STAY IN DENVER
Grand Hyatt Denver Downtown (close to shopping, restaurants and Colorado State Capitol)
1750 Welton St, Denver, CO 80202-3940
The Crawford Hotel (located inside Union station)
1701 Wynkoop St, Denver, CO 80202-1047