Jules’ guide to Denver!
Denver is a beautiful city framed by the Rocky Mountains, with incredible front-range hiking just 20-30 minutes away. There are a metric ton of restaurants, breweries, distilleries, and coffee shops. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll see a Colorado flag, a Subaru, someone on a bike, or a dog (literally everyone has a dog) within two seconds of arriving downtown.
- $ = under $10 per person
- $$ = about $10-25 per person
- $$$ = about $25-40 per person
- $$$$ = over $40 per person
Arriving / Getting Around
The airport is in the middle of nowhere, about a 45 minute drive outside of the city. During rush hour traffic is usually a disaster but otherwise the drive is pretty smooth. I would highly recommend taking the light rail, which will take you straight from the airport to Union Station in the heart of Denver (and back). The fare is a little steep at $10.50 one-way, but the rail runs every 15 minutes and it’s much more convenient than sitting in traffic. I’ve never had an issue with it being too full, even during Christmas with multiple suitcases.
Denver is fairly small and the very heart of downtown is walkable, but outside of that area things are pretty spread out. Uber or Lyft are your fastest and cheapest bet for getting around. Driving is also easy, though finding parking can sometimes be a hassle. The light rail provides some transportation around the metro area, but not a ton; it’s mostly used to shuttle people into the city from the suburbs. Denver does have a pretty extensive bus system, but I have never used it.
I’m going to list by type, because as I mentioned, there are a metric ton. This doesn’t even come close to all of the great options, but these are a few of my favorites/more unique places.
- Denver Biscuit Company ($-$$): A wide variety of biscuit sandwiches. It is exactly as delicious as you think.
- Lucile’s Creole Cafe ($-$$): Really good beignets!
- Snooze ($-$$): A breakfast staple in Denver. I love their benedicts. There’s always a long wait.
- Illegal Pete’s ($): Fast-casual, Chipotle-like setup. Their regular burritos are underwhelming to me, but their breakfast burritos are 👌
- City O’ City ($$): Super hipster, but a really fantastic vegan breakfast spot.
- Tocabe ($): Fast-casual, build-your-own Native American fry bread.
- Denver Central Market ($-$$): A food collective in RiNo – big warehouse with a ton of different food options and communal seating.
- Avante Food & Beverage ($-$$): Another food collective but this time with a “food truck”-themed setup on the first floor. There is a bar on the second floor with cool outdoor seating that lets you watch the sunset over Denver, it’s especially nice in summer.
- Snarf’s Sandwiches ($): Casual chain that is all over the city. Great subs.
- Boney’s BBQ ($-$$): My favorite BBQ in Denver. MASSIVE portions.
- Biker Jim’s Hot Dogs ($): If you’re into adventurous meats like rattlesnake or reindeer, this is your jam.
- La Chiva Colombian Cuisine ($-$$): SUPER good Colombian food, but a little bit outside the city.
- Root Down ($$-$$$): Beautiful space with innovative, New American dishes.
- Sushi Den ($$-$$$): This place is known for flying in fresh fish from Japan every 24 hours. Can confirm the sushi is out of this world. For more casual/cheaper sushi spots, I like Hapa Sushi Grill and Red Ginger.
- Cherry Cricket ($-$$): Unique burgers, or build your own!
- Domo Japanese Restaurant ($-$$): The most authentic Japanese food in Denver, and the homestyle restaurant atmosphere is insane (Google it, seriously).
- Rhein Haus Denver ($$): German beer hall with Bocce courts.
- Stueben’s & Ace Eat Serve ($$): Stueben’s does American food, Ace does Asian. Putting them together because they are directly next to each other. Both are great for social occasions, have full bars, and lots of seating. Ace has ping pong tables.
- Linger ($$-$$$): A tapas restaurant built inside of an old mortuary. Yes, there are mortuary themes & re-purposed mortuary furniture and items throughout the restaurant, and it is awesome. The top level has a cool rooftop bar. Little Man Ice Cream is also right next door, which some people in the city are nuts for – I personally love their Salted Oreo but haven’t been impressed with most of the other flavors.
- Nocturne ($$-$$$): A combination restaurant/jazz bar. Food is great and the music is even better.
- Fruition ($$$-$$$$): Hands down my favorite restaurant in the city – farm to table rotating menu in a tiny, intimate space. We go for anniversaries so we can justify the cost 😛
- Sweet Cow Ice Cream ($): My favorite ice cream in Denver. Preferred location is the one in Platte Park (tons of shops and restaurants and a fun to walk around while eating) but there are also a couple downtown. Rotating menu of crazy ice cream flavors.
- Voodoo Donuts ($): I mentioned above that Habit Donut Dispensary has the best donuts in Denver, but Voodoo is open 24 hours so it’s a pretty decent after-dinner option.
Cafes & Coffee Shops
I’ve hauled my laptop to all of these and can confirm they are all great work locations!
- The Corner Beet ($$): Vegan breakfast/lunch spot known for their toasts. The bahn mi toast is awesome! Also a variety of fresh juices and acai bowls – really cute space full of plants.
- Weathervane Cafe ($-$$): In a quirky historic house. A decent variety of breakfast/lunch options. One of my favorite places to work.
- Stella’s Gourmet Coffee ($): Inside a big house with a lot of seating, including a front porch. Really good latte flavors (my favorite is lavender).
- Carbon Coffee (Platte St.) & Habit Donut Dispensary ($): These are connected to each other. Habit has the BEST DONUTS in Denver. Trust me. I’ve tried them all. Carbon is a funky space with unique coffee options, including CBD and bullet coffee. This is the only place I’ve been where the WiFi can be hit or miss.
- Prodigy Coffee ($): Cool spot with huge garage doors that open to the outside when it’s warm!
- ⭐️Method Collective ($): Best coffee in Denver in my opinion.
- Corvus Coffee (Broadway) ($): Second best coffee in Denver, but a bit outside the city.
- Black Eye Coffee LoHi ($): Bright and modern. Building used to be a speakeasy. Decent food menu.
- Crema Coffee House ($): Great coffee in a small, modern space.
- Thump Coffee ($): A lot of exposed brick.
- Sonder Coffee & Tea ($): I haven’t tried the coffee, but they have a gigantic variety of loose leaf teas that you can mix and match.
- American Cultures Kombucha Taproom ($): Not a coffee shop, but there is kombucha on tap and it’s a great place to work!
Just a few of my favorites. There are so many.
- Denver Beer Co.: Unique flavors. Had a peanut butter one recently that was crazy good.
- Great Divide: Love the Yeti Imperial Stout!
- Renegade Brewing: Known for their IPAs.
- New Belgium Brewing: They are famous for their Fort Collins location, but there is a new one in Denver. One of the most popular Denver breweries that is widely known outside of the state.
- Wynkoop Brewery: Also a restaurant. The upstairs has pool tables. In the heart of downtown, right by Union Station.
- Stem Ciders: Amazing ciders – LOVE the salted cucumber.
- Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey: Arguably the most popular whiskey in Denver. They do a special bottle each year that people camp outside for. The tours are great as well.
- Bear Creek Distillery: A bit outside of Denver, but the spiced rum is incredible.
- Mile High Spirits: Really good social spot with games and open seating. Tons of crazy alcohol infusions.
- Deviation Distilling: They have amazing gin, and I don’t even like gin.
- The Block Distilling Co.: I quite like their unique cocktail options.
I don’t go to bars frequently enough to have favorites, except for one: 1UP Arcade Bar. Both locations (Colfax & LoDo) are awesome.
Things to do / Places to Stay
Denver has a ton of distinct and amazing neighborhoods – I recommend checking out this Neighborhood Guide to learn more about where to stay depending on your interests. My favorite area is RiNo (River North Art District), because among other art-related things, the alleyways are full of rotating murals/street art.
I would not recommend staying near East Colfax Avenue and Capitol Hill. During the day they are fine, but due to a variety of uncomfortable experiences I no longer visit either of them alone at night.
- LoDo (Lower Downtown) includes Union Station, Coors Field, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Tattered Cover Bookstore, to name a few things. Because of the close proximity to the baseball field, there are a ton of bars and food options. Tattered Cover has a few locations – it is Denver’s most popular bookstore.
- The Denver Museum of Nature and Science ($20) and the Denver Zoo ($20) are directly next to each other in City Park. Both the museum and zoo are great and worth the trip. City Park is also nice to walk around and usually has an event of some kind going on.
- The Denver Botanic Gardens ($15) are near City Park. Really beautiful in the summer.
- The Denver Art Museum ($10) is in Civic Center Park right next to all of the government buildings. I’m biased towards art museums, but I love it. If you walk over to the Colorado State Capitol and walk up the stairs, you can stand on a special, marked stair that is exactly 5,280ft above sea level (mile high!).
- Near Civic Center Park is the Molly Brown House Museum ($14). If you’re into Denver history, the Titanic, historic houses, or learning about how badass Molly Brown was, this tour is awesome. The house is also super haunted so you’ll hear a lot of ghost stories.
- The Downtown Aquarium ($30) is cute, but way too expensive for how small it is in my opinion. Unless you really, really like aquariums.
- Right next to the aquarium is the REI Flagship store, which is located in Confluence Park. The REI is an absolutely massive behemoth of a multi-level store that you can easily get lost in. It also has a climbing wall. If you are into hiking or outdoor activities it’s a fun place to kill some time. Confluence Park spans the Platte River and has some nice walking/biking trails. I’ve never done it but you can also grab the Denver Trolley ($5) for a scenic tour along the greenway. It seems to be mostly popular with families and kids. The Museum of Contemporary Art ($10) is also in this area.
- 16th Street Mall is a mile-long, outdoor pedestrian mall in the middle of Denver. There is a free bus that will shuttle you around it. Rocket Fizz is a huge candy shop that is pricey, but fun to visit.
- Hammond’s Candy Factory (free) is a little out of the way, but they do free tours and their chocolate bar flavors are incredible.
Popular things to do just outside of Denver:
- HIKING! There is an insane amount of hiking just outside of Denver, primarily in the front range mountains or throughout the multiple nearby state parks. I recommend checking out Day Hikes Near Denver for a super comprehensive list that you can filter by drive time, difficulty, distance and more. And of course, AllTrails.
- Red Rocks Amphitheatre is about 30 minutes outside of Denver in Morrison. It is a hugely famous outdoor venue – if there is no show going on, people are normally there visiting the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, or perusing one of the many hiking trails that take you through the gorgeous red rock formations.
- The Coors Factory Tour ($10) is in Golden, which is an adorable little town about 20 minutes Denver that is worth visiting on its own. The factory tour is definitely a tourist trap but is really well done and worth the time. Plus free beer samples!
- Lookout Mountain (free) is about 30 minutes outside of Denver, in Littleton. You can drive up to the top of the small mountain (about 7300’) to visit a nature center, and the Buffalo Bill Museum (which is fascinating and worth the $5 entry fee). Buffalo Bill’s grave is also next to the museum. There are multiple hiking trails with great views.
- Boulder is around 30 minutes from Denver. It’s a college town so there are tons of great dives for food, but it also has a fantastic, upscale pedestrian mall (Pearl St.). Like Denver, there are a metric ton of breweries (Boulder Beer Co., Avery, and Upslope are my favorites) and distilleries (I love Vapor Distillery). Some of the best hikes near Denver are also accessible from Boulder.
- Celestial Seasonings (free) is also in Boulder, and worth mentioning for their great free tours and tea samples.
- Estes Park is 1.5 hours away – it’s a gorgeous little mountain town framed by the Rockies, and is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. It also houses the super haunted, super beautiful Stanley Hotel, which was the inspiration for The Shining.