Great Escapes

2 Perfect Days in Denver

Follow our time-stamped itinerary for the hottest happenings in the Mile High City—filled with plenty of classics in between.

By Katie Shapiro July 26, 2017 Published in the Midsummer/Fall 2017 issue of Aspen Sojourner

If it’s been a while since you’ve spent an entire weekend in Denver (running errands en route to or from the airport doesn’t count!), this season is the perfect time for a dedicated visit. With ever-exploding arts and culinary scenes and hip hotels opening all over downtown, the Mile High City is ripe for exploration. To experience a mix of the new along with classic spots, follow our time-stamped itinerary.

Day 1

9 a.m. Union Station
Whether you drive over Independence Pass or travel by train from Glenwood Springs (a bucket list route), start at this 100-plus-year-old terminal, which, after a meticulous renovation in 2014, has transformed historic Denver into the city’s epicenter. Eat breakfast at Mercantile, run by noted chef Alex Seidel; cheese is a must-order as it comes from Seidel’s own Fruition Farms—Colorado’s first artisanal sheep dairy and creamery. Or snack on fresh fare at the Saturday Farmers Market (through October 28).;

10:30 a.m. Borrow a B-Cycle
In 2010, Denver B-cycle became the country’s first large-scale municipal bike-sharing system and now has more than 80 stations and 700 red bikes (basket included!).

11 a.m. Rockmount Ranchwear
Although Denver’s “Cowtown” moniker is long gone, this family-owned shop is a true Western icon. Its historic LoDo digs date to 1946, and it has stocked authentic cowboy hats, belt buckles, boots, and signature snap-button plaids ever since.

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Relax on the benches outside the Denver Art Museum before or after touring the galleries. 

12 p.m. Museum Tour
Keep on pedaling over to Denver’s downtown art museums. Start at the David Adjaye–designed Museum of Contemporary Art, which features an eclectic rotating collection of photography, new media, and other modern works. After strolling through the stark space, grab a light bite and a glass of wine at the rooftop café. And definitely exit through the gift shop.

Next up: the breathtaking Clyfford Still Museum, which houses almost all of the influential abstract expressionist painter’s collection.

The last stop is the Denver Art Museum, one of the largest of its kind between Chicago and the West Coast.

6 p.m. Cruise Room
Duck into Denver’s first post-Prohibition bar—its original 1933 art deco décor still intact—for a dirty martini.

7 p.m. Take a Stroll
Make your way back toward Union Station and cross Millennium Bridge into Riverfront Park. Here, you’ll find Commons Park and Confluence Park, where the Cherry Creek River and Platte River converge, along with numerous walking and biking trails. Two more pedestrian bridges lead to the LoHi neighborhood—now home to more than 90 restaurants, breweries, coffee shops, music clubs, and bars.

8 p.m. El Five
The latest Mediterranean-inspired concept from owner and chef Justin Cucci (of Root Down and Linger fame) is five floors up, so you get unobstructed city views with each bite of tapas in the funky dining room or open-air patio.   

10 p.m. El Chapultepec
Denver’s oldest jazz and blues club has welcomed the sultriest of sounds to the stage since 1933. If you’re feeling a second wave of hunger before calling it a night, order up a burrito smothered in green chile—a Denver diet staple.

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Take a street art stroll through RiNo. 

Day 2

9 a.m. Rosenberg’s Bagels
Until Josh Pollack set up shop three years ago in the transitioning Five Points neighborhood, Denver didn’t have a real bagel—seriously. If the line out the door on most mornings is any indicator, the authentic New York–style deli knows its dough—and its house-smoked and cured fish.

10 a.m. RiNo
Inevitably the industrial part of any growing city morphs from vacant warehouses and railyards into great gallery spaces, hip hangouts, and modern lofts. Jack Kerouac’s old neighborhood has evolved as such over the past decade and is now home to a crazy concentration of cool. Check out street art murals between stops at a few of our favorite shops and galleries: Topo Designs, Plus Gallery, RedLine, Shea, Megafauna, and Meraki Moon.

12 p.m. Denver Central Market
Get lunch from one of this bustling culinary emporium’s 11 local vendors, all inside RiNo’s historic 1920s-era H.H. Tammen Building.

1:10 p.m. Colorado Rockies or Denver Broncos Game
The Denver Broncos regular season kicked off on September 9 and requires an Uber or Lyft to get there.

In the spring, you can make your way over to Coors Field for an all-American afternoon cheering on the home team.

4 p.m. Brewery Tour
Downtown Denver alone has more than 50 craft breweries. Don’t miss the Barrel Bar in Great Divide’s mammoth new facility outside RiNo, with 16 taps to try. The brand-new Goed Zuur in Five Points is Denver’s first sour-only beer bar; it also serves up sophisticated small plates.

7 p.m. Hop Alley 
Given Aspen’s relative lack of authentic ethnic food, make modern Chinese by chef Tommy Lee your last meal of the weekend. Get primed for a seriously happening scene, with a packed dining room tapping its feet to hip-hop tunes and sharing family-style dishes.

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The Maven Hotel's Bunk Room. 

Hip Hotels

The Maven Hotel
Located in the heart of LoDo, this 172-room concept hotel anchors the new Dairy Block mixed-use project. Rooms range from bunk style to expansive suites with a rich color palette, loft-style décor, and vaulted ceilings. Filled with works from local artists and stocked with handcrafted products, the hotel also houses the Poka Lola Social Club, which celebrates vintage soda fountain culture. From $249/night,

Hotel Indigo
Near Union Station, this new, rustic-chic addition to the boutique chain celebrates Denver’s indie sprit. All 180 rooms include hardwood floors, polished concrete ceilings, and sliding barn doors. Plus it’s pet-friendly; resident golden retriever Barkly hosts regular canine cocktail hours. From $359/night,

Hotel Born
Kimpton Hotels opened this modern alpine lodge near Union Station. Exposed concrete, knotty pine, floor-to-ceiling windows, and 600 original works by local artists impart an elevated, urban vibe throughout the 200 rooms. One of the two on-site restaurants is Tavernetta By Frasca, an offshoot of Boulder’s famed Frasca Food & Wine. From $229/night,

Le Méridien Hotel & AC Hotel
This Marriott-owned, dual-branded property collectively houses 495 rooms in Denver’s central business district, catering to both the luxury and slightly lower-tier markets. The Unlock Art guest program offers complimentary or discounted access to partners like tasting rooms and guide services. The city’s highest open-air rooftop bar is on the 20th floor. From $325/night (Le Méridien Hotel), $250/night (AC Hotel),

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The Ritz-Carlton, Denver’s new lobby (and plaza level) features artwork from local artists. 

The Classic


The Ritz-Carlton, Denver
Fresh off a stunning lobby and plaza level renovation, The Ritz-Carlton, Denver looks better than ever. Since its grand opening in 2008, the 202-room (also recently updated and the most spacious in the city) property continues to offer an elevated level of luxury. For the ultimate urban experience, check into a room on the Club Level, where you'll be wined and dined by its private concierge staff. A steak at Elway's Downtown—the hotel's signature restaurant owned by the Denver Bronco's legend himself—is also a must. From $369/night,

updated October 24, 2018

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