By Patrick Bennett
So, nature is calling your name and you’re looking to get away for a few days. Maybe what you want is a mountainous fix of the great outdoors or at least the rarefied air of higher elevations but that don't necessarily require ice axes and carabiners. In that case, Denver beckons.
The Mile High City,as it’s known, has some seriously great things to offer whether you’re thinking about a day trip—traversing the Rockies, driving a stretch of the Mount Evans Scenic Byway—or just exploring what fun can be had indoors at the best restaurants, galleries, and museums Denver has to offer. Either way, you're sure to have a great time!
Denver Beer, Wine & Good Eats
Sorry, we just can’t go any further without showing you all around Denver by way of wineries, brewpubs, and good food. When you’re craving a meal, a brew, or a snack, have a stop at one of these great places!
Just remember, the air pressure is 17% lower in Denver than at sea level, and your body needs time to adjust. Try to keep the intoxicants to a minimum the first day (but drink plenty of fluids), and don't panic if you're a little short of breath at times.
1. Larimer Square
Larimer Square shouldn't be missed when in Denver. This is the oldest, most historic neighbourhood. It comes complete with beautiful historic buildings, which these days are home to chef-owned restaurants, independent shops, buzzing bars and wellness services.
2. Balistreri Vineyards
Located just minutes from downtown Denver, this most wonderfully unassuming family-owned winery is tucked away waiting for you to arrive. Meet the family and tour the wine-making facilities and wine cellar if you have the time to pass. You won’t want to miss out on their handcrafted, chemical and sulphite-free wines! If you’re hungry for lunch, Balistreri’s small plates and lunch menu offers up seasonally inspired dishes that’ll have you wanting to stop in a second time before your Denver trip ends.
3. Great Divide Brewing Co.
One of Denver’s first craft breweries to succeed big-time—and make a name for itself across the US—The Great Divide Brewing Company has thrived since 1994 when it was a one-man operation. The source of that success has been its beers' awesome flavours that showcase Denver’s unique lifestyle.
With the recent purchase of more land and space, this place is growing and going places, but don’t forget to stop into the original location!
4. Station 26 Brewing Co.
If you’re in the Park Hill neighbourhood and have time for a bite or a brew, you won’t want to miss out on Station 26, an old fire station turned brewery. This great little gem wants you to bring your bike, your friends, heck, even your take-out if that’s what you want to do! (It doesn't serve food itself, but there is a rotating series of food trucks.) There's live music, too, and a Bluegrass brunch the second Sunday each month. For some great beer of any kind and a great atmosphere, this place has you covered!
Denver Things to See & Do
Mountainous landscapes, hiking trails, and some seriously great cityscapes, check; Denver has them. It also has some amazing engineered amusements.
5. Lakeside Amusement Park
If you time your visit right (May through September), you’ll want to make at least a pit stop at the Lakeside Amusement Park. It offers quite a bit of charm and history packed into its large facility sprawled right out on a lake.
With typical rides such as merry-go-round and bumper cars, the facility also has an area dedicated to keeping your little ones entertained. You can’t go wrong with big groups or small, there’s plenty to do see and eat right here in one spot. Packing a picnic is welcome.
6. Elitch Gardens Theme Park
Thrill seekers unite, Elitch Gardens Theme Park is the place for you. I know, I know, another theme park. But seriously, is there anything better than theme park-hopping your way through the US? Let me answer that for you: no, there isn’t. Not especially when the theme park has as much fun as you could imagine and—just for good measure—a dedicated water park. This isn’t something you’ll want to pass up.
7. Cherry Creek Shopping Centre
If you love shopping and eating, then you’ll absolutely love the Cherry Creek Shopping Centre. With more than 150 luxury brand name shops and gourmet dining, plus special events, you’ve hit a home run in one spot with this place. Not much of a shopper, that’s OK. This place is still beautiful to walk through and you’ll love the company whether you bring your own or mingle with the crowd here.
8. The Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank
Whether you’re short on time or have plenty of it, this unique little museum is cooler than it sounds. You might pick up some tips on how to spot fake currency, learn about the recycling of old paper money, and get a good look at how money has changed over the years.
You’d be surprised about how many facts and details you didn’t know about money until now. An outing to Denver’s Branch of the Money Museum can easily be squeezed in between other attractions, or devote a whole block of time to it exclusively.
9. Let the Healing Flow
This is only a taste of what Denver has to offer, but there is much more. Maybe one of these other attractions is the primary, almost ulterior motive for your visit, not the Rocky Mountains, the natural landscape, or commercial consumer bastions.
Colorado has been known for many things, including the healthy properties of its “fresh air, high altitudes and abundant sunshine”, its hot springs, and substances that some believe can heal while others think only hurt.
Whatever your beliefs, Denver has much to offer. You're sure to find a treatment that caters to your need and lets the healing flow in the most serene of environments.
Patrick was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. These days he lives in Michigan.
He is a writer, with a special focus on addictions, mental health and living in recovery.