Welcome back to Ask a Local, a series of posts in which I interview locals all over the world about what to see, where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in in their city or town.
Today, in celebration of my recently launched Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs guide, I’m sharing an excerpt from my own Denver interview.
Hey there, friends. It’s Gigi—the author of this Colorado guidebook. Nice to meet you. Before I started traveling full-time, I spent five years living in Denver—and I’ve been back quite a bit since.
For work, I write these 100 Locals guidebooks, as well as magazine articles, blog posts, and the occasional website. I also do a little coding work from time to time.
For fun, I spend as much time as I can outside. I love hiking, picnics, sleeping under the stars, and long-distance cycle trips. When I’m not outdoors, you’ll usually find me reading, writing, cooking, chatting, traveling, or snuggling my world-traveling pooch, Luna.
What to do in Denver (the Basics)
Start with a stroll through downtown. There are some beautiful streets (Larimer Square, in particular) and some interesting old industrial buildings now turned into ad agency offices and restaurants and breweries. Do some exploring and stop into the places that intrigue you most.
Next, for a taste of the cliché American west, make your way to The Stampede for some line dancing, cheap beers, and a ride on the mechanical bull.
Hidden Gems for Seasoned Travelers
For exceptionally good local music, check out the Underground Music Showcase (theums.com)—a summer festival held at a bunch of great little venues. Buy a wristband (ahead of time online), grab a schedule, and wander from venue to venue discovering new bands. It’s where I found some of my own long-time favorites.
If you’re not visiting during the UMS, there’s probably still great music to be had (Denver has an excellent music scene). Try Swallow Hill for folk, bluegrass, and singer-songwriter stuff, Dazzle for jazz, and Soiled Dove Underground for a gorgeous variety of artists and genres.
Another gem is the Colorado Shakespeare Festival up in Boulder. Tickets are free and they do several plays each summer, mostly outdoors. They’re always very well done and a pleasure to attend.
Finally, if you’re a cyclist, the Cherry Creek Bike Path is really lovely.
Where to Stay
I love Washington Park for longer stays. It’s a pretty neighborhood and a wonderful place to walk and there’s a small lake with paddle boats and ducks.
For shorter stays, downtown is probably the best option if you can afford it. You’ll have easy access to the best food and entertainment there.
My favorite ski town is Breckenridge. In the summer, it’s a gorgeous mountain town full of hiking trails and cute boutique shops and a great little basement pizza place called Downstairs at Eric’s (111 S. Main Street). In winter, you’ll find snow and (of course) snow sports.
If you’re into breweries, another great option is Golden, with its tiny microbreweries and pretty scenery.
And just outside town in Morrison, you’ll find the Red Rocks Amphitheatre—a music venue carved into the rock. If you don’t want to head out for a concert, just go up during the day and climb the steps for cool views.
Where to Walk
Cherry Creek State Park, with its reservoir (dotted with sailboats in the summer) is my favorite spot for a walk. But it is a bit far from the center of town, so if you’re looking for something closer, try Washington Park—a pretty park and small lake (full of paddle boats in summer) surrounded by a nice neighborhood full of pretty architecture.
What & Where to Eat & Drink
I have two all-time favorites in Denver. The first is Vesta Dipping Grill (1822 Blake Street; phone: 303.296.1970)—a restaurant where you order a simple entrée (steak, chicken, fish, or vegetarian) and choose three amazing homemade sauces to dip your meal in. This is my go-to spot for a nice night out.
Tied for first place in my food-snob ranking is Bistro Vendome (1420 Larimer Street; phone: 303.825.3232), whose cracked pepper steak had me writing odes. I also love their fancy hamburgers and melt-in-your-mouth breakfast croissants with homemade jams.
I also absolutely adore Cru (1442 Larimer Street) for their wine flights and light fare. Theirs is the best tomato basil soup I’ve ever had—hands down. When you go, ask if you can eat on the back patio. Almost no one knows about it, so it’s usually empty unless they’re busy, and it’s a quiet and cute place for a lunch or drink.
Breckenridge in the fall
Best Places to Take a Photo
Washington Park is quite pretty, as is the Cherry Creek Reservoir and, of course, the mountains. For downtown shots, I’d check out Larimer Square (especially at Christmastime when it’s all lit up) or the old warehouse buildings near Union Station.
Like what you read? Get the full interview and nine others in my latest guidebook:
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I love Denver, it is a beautiful place. You mentioned some places that I haven’t gone yet, and I love tomato basil soup so I may have to check that restaurant out too. Thanks for sharing!
Yes, Cru’s soup is a wow! Enjoy.
I’m so excited about visiting Denver this year. Thank you very much for this helpful tips :)