This Denver travel guide will help you plan your dream trip to a scenic town with endless dining options, plenty of outdoor activities, friendly locals, and the best mountain views.
Ohhhhh how we adore Denver!
If we ever move away from Columbus, which isn't terribly unrealistic...we're pretty confident we'd go to Denver.
It's friendly, clean, progressive, insanely scenic, and not crazy expensive. Denver is just cool. The food scene is top notch (nearly everything is organic and responsibly sourced like three feet from the restaurant) and there's so many fun things to do inside the city. We planned this trip in celebration of our two year anniversary and we already can't wait to go back. Why can't I wake up to the mountains every day?!
We got an amazing deal on a direct flight from Frontier. We arrived in Denver Friday afternoon at 2:45pm and got back to Columbus Monday at 12:30pm. I was worried it wouldn't be enough time, but it was perfect.
Where We Stayed:
We weren't really sure where in the city to stay but as soon as I saw this super affordable and charming Airbnb, I knew it was the one for our weekend getaway. How could I say no to a mini sauna? If you've never tried Airbnb, use my code to get $40 off your first stay.
The house was near Cherry Creek, which is a really nice suburban area north of downtown Denver. We weren't sure about the location once we realized where it was, but it ended up being awesome---quiet, safe, and convenient. We spent a good deal of time around Cherry Creek and loved it!
Keep in mind that you'll need to rent a car. Nothing is more than a 15 minute drive, but all those Uber's would've gotten expensive.
Where We Ate:
City O' City
Our first meal in Denver was at this eclectic vegan joint. They have an impressive menu featuring unique eats like cauliflower chicken and waffles with carrot bacon. We ordered shoshito peppers and miso cauliflower as an app, which was quite delish. For our mains, I ordered the massive udon noodle bowl and Jeff got the El Jefe veggie burger. I wish we could've gone back for brunch!
Make Believe Bakery
We stumbled on this cute little 100% vegan bakery as we were leaving City O' City. We couldn't say no to a carrot cake cupcake for the road! I've also heard rave review about Beet Box.
This trendy pizza joint is teeny tiny but so worth the wait for a table. It's near Larimer Square in a hip part of town where there are plenty of interesting bars to chill at afterwards. The menu is really small so making choices is nice and easy. We started with the olives and roasted nuts while we sipped hibiscus kombucha cocktails and let me tell you...BEST OLIVES EVER. We ordered the pepper pizza and chopped salad and both were totally phenom.
It was so tough deciding where to brunch because you all gave me so many rad recommendations! We opted for the new Cherry Creek location of Olive & Finch for our first Denver breakfast experience. They have a big menu of brunch favorites, juice, coffee, pastries, and also lunch/dinner options.
We shared a cinnamon roll while we sipped coffee and waited for our food. I ordered the Sonoma Hash with roasted potatoes, roasted vegetables, arugula goat cheese, and eggs. My dish came with fruit and a bit of bread to round out the meal. It was lovely.
Guys. We loved Thump so much that a) we went there twice even though there are eighty million cool coffee joints in Denver and b) we're ordering their coffee online for something ridiculous like $16 a pound because it's THAT GOOD. I screamed upon first sip that it was the best coffee I'd ever had and I wasn't lying. Denver officially made us coffee snobs...
Agave Taco Bar
We were not expecting anything major from Agave in Washington Park. We were craving something fuss-free like tacos on our way back from the Red Rocks and I stumbled upon it from a quick Yelp search. I'm not exaggerating when I say that the Agave Ensalada was literally one of the best salads I've ever laid mouth on. Ever. It had kale, quinoa, butternut squash, chicken (which I subbed for Portobello mushrooms---do it), brussels sprouts, cheesy poblano peppers (the best part by far), onions, and agave cumin vinaigrette. Be still my heart.
And the salsa!! Order all the salsa. Exceptional service, laid-back vibe, shockingly tasty food...what a win.
The group that owns Root Down has a bunch of spots in Denver and they're all super awesome. The menu has superfood nuances like black gnocchi with kale pesto and coconut charcoal and a chopped salad with goji berries and cacao nibs. I started off with the most ridiculously tasty cocktail made with gin and lime and coconut milk and some other fancy things I can't recall. We settled on the vegetable "charcuterie" and cheese board for an appetizer which was really different and exciting. For my entrée, I had the Diver Scallops because I simply cannot turn down a good scallop.
We ordered the Banana Creme Pie Brûlée with chocolate peanut butter crust, whipped sour cream, and beer nuts. It was even better than it sounds.
Woahhhhh. Totally unexpected greatness here while we waited an hour and a half to chow down at Snooze Union Station. We were walking around the station and decided to have a little appetizer, which ended up being a very excellent decision.
I realized then that I'd never had a yogurt parfait till I had this yogurt parfait. Fruition Farm's sheep's milk yogurt, poached pears and currants, chia seeds, and the most insane toasted almond granola. My description can't even begin to do this work of God justice.
Snooze at Union Station
If you don't go to Snooze does your Denver trip even count?! There are several Snoozies around Denver but this location is probably the coolest. The menu is yuuuuuuge but I settled on half bennys, specifically the Benny Goodman with smoked salmon and the I Like You E'Lote with corn quinoa cakes and green chili hollandaise.
I also ate like half of my friend's sweet potato pancake with gingered pecans because obbbbbviously it was the yummiest pancake it the world.
Oh oh oh and a fab Bloody Mary!
Box Car Coffee
Jeff and I drink coffee legit all day when we travel so we were due for a caffeination once we got to Boulder. This spot didn't disappoint! (And ya know, there's no Thump in Boulder.)
All hail Sushi Den! You know how I said Denver made us coffee snobs? It also made us sushi snobs. I don't know where to start with how fantastic this place was. We thought we were going out for casual sushi but little did we know, Sushi Den was recently rated a top 100 global restaurant. Major!
We asked our waiter to bring us whatever they're known for after he told us that ordering off the regular dinner menu was "pointless." LOL. Turns out they fly in fresh fish from this huge market in Japan every day so he advised us to order fish off the "catch of the day" menu. We got a bunch of sashimi we probably never would've eaten without his suggestions but it made for a really fun and different dining experience.
We ordered the Japanese eggplant with a honey sesame mis glaze as an appetizer which is not to be missed. So delish. Then we ordered two incredible sushi rolls whose names I don't recall because I was too busy crying tears of joy to write down the details. They were both specialty rolls (maybe the dragon roll?) but the one I remember most was a specialty vegetarian roll with the most foodgasmical truffled eggplant on top that tasted so much like fish it was uncanny. I will never look at sushi the same.
We got tiramisu to go, which we thoroughly enjoyed after a spontaneous trip to the dispensary.
What We Did:
Walked and ate and walked and ate more. Seriously---that's what Jeff and I do best on vacation. We didn't have a crazy agenda for Denver and I'm glad we didn't. The best way to experience this city is to roam around the different neighborhoods, enjoy a bite to eat here and a coffee there, shop around, meet new people, enjoy the outdoors, hike, and really immerse yourself in the city.
Indian Hot Springs
Jeff booked a couple's massage for us here as a little Saturday surprise. The reeeally nice hot springs take a few hours to drive to so this was the next best thing. We really enjoyed our afternoon at Indian Hot Springs! It's definitely old-school, but equally charming. The town feels very western, like it's stuck in time. The "spring" is a man-made pool versus a real hot spring but it's the closest thing you can get without a far drive. And there's nice tropical plants all around!
Funny story...since Jeff was surprising me, naturally he packed me an older bikini that wasn't my fave so we had to go to Cherry Creek Mall in order for me to buy a fun new one. I've never spend more than $40 on a bathing suit so this was a splurge (there aren't many store options in the dead of winter) but my new flowery one piece is officially my new favorite swimsuit. It's so adorable and flattering, too!
This world-famous venue and historic national park is just stunning. We stopped there on our way home from the Hot Springs just to stare at the beauty. I'll never forget those views. My dream is that Counting Crows will play there next year and we'll score front row tickets.
This 100-year-old Denver landmark is a must-see. I recommend grabbing brunch at Snooze or Mercantile and roaming around. So much exploring to do!
Unique shops, chef-driven restaurants, vibrant nightlife, and the most picturesque canopy lights...strolling along this historic block is kind of like being in a movie. You have to see it to believe it!
Boulder + Hike Chatauqua Park
Or don't and say you did because if you're anything like me, you're constantly running out of breath from the altitude. I had no idea that Boulder was a quick thirty minute drive from the city! We stopped at the park, soaked in the views, stared enviously at all the fit hikers, then headed to Pearl Street to explore all the shops and restaurants.
Aaaaand in case you need to be overwhelmed with more indecisiveness regarding where to eat in Denver, I've listed some more spots below that we heard were great but didn't have time to see.
Beet Box, William and Graham, Community, Jelly, Avanti, Linger, Stowaway, Morning Collective, Voodoo Doughnut Mile High, D Bar Denver, Watercourse, Denver Biscuit Co, Beatrice & Woodsley, Bar Fausto, Retrograde, Huckleberry Roasters, Amethyst, Vital Root, Work & Class, Our Mutual Friend, Little Man ice cream, and Sweet Cow ice cream.
Now go stalk Frontier and get your tush to Denver!!