Microbreweries, avenue artwork and the legacy of the beats are laborious to overlook in Colorado’s capital
When to go
With the Rocky Mountains in the distance, the laid-back Mile High City (so named because its official altitude is exactly one mile above sea level) is great for nature lovers. It has more than 300 days of sunshine a year so people come year round, although the dry summer heat can be uncomfortable.
A week-long street art festival is held in early September, transforming the streets north of the river into a giant canvas. Fall is striking when the aspen-covered hills turn yellow, while in winter the mountains are snow-covered and hiking gives way to skiing.
Denver is a city for everyone: craft breweries, street art and pot pharmacies are next to botanical gardens, kid-friendly science museums and food markets. Passers-by stop to say hello and the pace of life will make you stop for a while.
Where to sleep
The ART Hotel in downtown Denver is part art gallery, part hotel. It’s around the corner from the Denver Art Museum, so culture vultures can tour the collection (guided tours on Saturdays at 11am and 5pm). The hotel’s Fire Restaurant offers excellent “New American” cuisine. Rooms from $ 231 (£ 181) (thearthotel.com).
The Ramble Hotel is located in the heart of the RiNo (River North) district, where street art, breweries and artist studios mark the industrial revival. This hotel is a retreat with soothing dark tones, a leafy terrace and an excellent cocktail bar. Rooms from $ 230 (£ 180) (theramblehotel.com).
If you are on a budget, Mile High House near Cheesman Park has clean coziness, pancakes for breakfast, friendly staff, board games and musical instruments for $ 33.30 for a bed in a dorm and $ 56. 28 USD (44.30 GBP) for a double bed (milehighguesthouse.com).
Directions and surroundings
British Airways offers daily direct flights from London Heathrow to Denver that take just under nine hours, while Norwegian Air also flies direct. British Airways flies from London to Denver from £ 315 round-trip including tax.
From the airport, it’s 40 minutes on the A train to Union Station in downtown Denver ($ 10.50 / £ 8.30 one way, every 15 minutes). Lyft rides from the airport start at $ 35 (£ 27.50) depending on the time of day, or an airport taxi costs around $ 65 (£ 51).
It’s easy to connect to the rest of the city from Union Station (see the Downtown Denver Arrival Guide https://bit.ly/2ERv7tx for details). Denver’s public transit includes buses, trains, the free 16th Street Mall Shuttle, and most importantly, a push bike and electric scooter rental system (both via the Lyft app).
Start the day
In the centuries-old Beaux Arts style Union Station in LoDo (Lower City Center) is Snooze (1), a diner that takes breakfast to the next level (inset above). It’s open from 6:30 a.m. and serves every type of breakfast you can imagine: sweet, savory, American with a twist, healthy, moist, or a combination of all of these. Arrive early to avoid the queues.
Go to the stores
Stroll through LoDo boutiques towards Larimer Square (2). You can find the best Denver fashion here, alongside hatters, jewelers, and even canine spa specialists.
Walk 20 minutes south to visit Queen City General Store (3) on 13th Avenue for its curated collection of vintage clothing and crystals, housewares and hair accessories, blankets and books.
Do not miss
Near Civic Center Park on W14th is the Denver Art Museum (4), which is home to 70,000 works of art. The family area is ideal for children to let their creativity run free, while a Christian Dior exhibition will show more than 200 couture dresses from March 2019. Don’t let the renovations put you off. (Free entry on the first Saturday of the month, otherwise € 13.00 / £ 10.20).
Ratio Brewery (Photo: Evan Semón / Denver Media)
Time for a drink
My Brother’s Bar (5) on 15th Street is a favorite of beat writers Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. This literary landmark is surprisingly family-friendly, serving burgers and fries until 1 a.m. (closed on Sundays).
Reservation for dinner
The homemade fresh food at Fruition (6) on 6th Avenue has earned it a reputation – and a price tag – across Denver and beyond. The five-course ($ 75 / £ 59) and seven-course ($ 95 / £ 75) tasting menus are seasonal and every bite, from gazpacho to deconstructed nicoise salad, is sublime. Book in advance and save for a special occasion.
Visit the Rino street art district and explore the area with its ever-changing artwork. If you’ve planned your visit for the Street Art Festival in September, with a little luck you might see the artists at work. But all year round there are hundreds of murals lining Larimer Street and the surrounding back streets. Stop by Modern Nomad (7) along the way, where vendors sell homeware from around the world. Start north on Larimer Street, walk south and head down Broadway onto Arapahoe Street to the RedLine Gallery (8) and its artist studios.
The Denver Central Market (9) on Larimer Street is a welcoming food hall and market. With a pizza oven, bakery, butcher shop and salad bar, it’s good for grazing or shopping, but best if you take a seat at one of the communal tables. There is good coffee, a cocktail bar and great ice cream from High Point Creamery.
A bird’s eye view of the Flat Iron building. (Photo: Henry Desro / Unsplash)
let it be well with you
You will come across many breweries in RiNo. Ratio Beerworks (10) on Larimer Street is one of the best, not just for its beers but also for the laid-back outdoor setting (inset above). A cool mist is pumped into the dry air, refreshing in the summer heat, and a game of cornhole – where players throw beanbags into a deck with a hole in it – is pleasantly American.
time to relax
Visit the city’s Botanical Garden (11), where more than 20 hectares are designed with themes ranging from romantic to peaceful to medicinal. Some areas are dedicated to plants that thrive in Colorado’s arid climate; others are inspired by Japan, China and the tropics.
If you don’t have time to explore the area, skip the gardens and take the FF2 Flatiron Flyer bus from Union Station for a 40-minute ride to the foothills of the Rockies to feel the mountain air. Hop off at the Chautauqua Trailhead, the starting point of many easy – and some difficult – loops around the sandstone flatirons. These sheer cliffs create a dramatic and memorable setting for a stroll.
Ask a local
Beth Hoyes, art psychotherapist and artist
“Visit Byers-Evans House, a hidden gem in downtown Denver, for funky tours of the quirks of Victorian Denver life and collections of folk art and curios. The tours cost 6 US dollars and the gift shop promotes local manufacturers. “