The city meets the wilderness in the Mile High City
Denver sits at the meeting point of the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains; a historic mining town founded during the gold rush, today it's is known as the Mile High City because its elevation is 5,280 feet above sea level. Denver attracts anybody and everybody—those who like to spend their days outside, entrepreneurs, ambitious artists and designers. With 300 days of sunshine a year and the inspiration drawn from the Wild West that surrounds the city, it's easy to see why. Denver is the gateway to the frontier, a pleasant and clean environment that has prided itself on being a travel hub since the 1800s. When driving around Denver it’s not hard to fall for the city—the mountains loom to the West while the Platte River charges through the heart of it all, creating parks and places for people to bask in the sun. You’ll be sure to notice that all the locals usually have some sort of tan-lines on their faces from sunglasses or goggles, boast big smiles, and have all kinds of equipment strapped to the hoods of their cars—bikes, skis, boards, kayaks—they're all prepared to seek out a new adventure.
Housed in a 20,000 square foot historic greenhouse, Growhaus is a non-profit urban farm that seeks to provide the community with healthy, sustainable food. Growhaus is not only a greenhouse, but a resource that offers education about nutrition, food production and distribution to the people who have a difficult time accessing healthy food. It’s an innovative concept, and one that connects volunteers with Growhaus staff and innovative food production techniques. Growhaus boasts a hydrofarm, a sustainable method that recirculates nutrients as a solution instead of soil, and an aquaponic system that reuses nutrient-rich water from fish farming tanks for plant production. Both systems use less water than traditional farming techniques while yielding a higher percentage of food production; they use solar energy for heating, gravity water systems and efficient heating and cooling distribution systems. Food boxes are distributed weekly to people in the surrounding neighborhoods, and classes are offered to the community on food production, sustainability, Aquaponics, composting, and nutrition. Want to get involved? Stop by every Wednesday at 9AM for the lettuce harvest.
Thanks to 300 days of sunshine a year, most people in Denver find ways to spend as much time outdoors as possible—and biking is a great way to get around the city. Denver was planned with wide streets, tree-lined paths and lots of bike-friendly pedestrian bridges. Pearl Velo will set you up in style with a bespoke cyclocross, road or single-speed bike and whatever clothing or packs you might desire. Notice the hand-painted signs above the entry, in addition to the hand-welded frames crafted with precision that the bike feels almost invisible when you’re on it. Everything in this store is done with care and love of the bike. Pursuing the art of cycling is the aim of this boutique shop, but don’t be fooled; these guys get out on the bike and do some damage in the mountains too. They are avid riders and adventurers, hungry to see the world and will quickly inspire you to do the same.
Just down the street from Pearl Velo is Berkeley Supply Company, a menswear store and one of the design-savvy forces defining the Highlands as one of Denver’s most creative neighborhoods. Berkeley Supply Co. has a refined selection of gear for the man who wants to look good while out in the wilds riding motorcycles, hiking mountains, drinking Kentucky-Straight bourbon and wielding axes. They also stock a wide selection of American-made products from brands like Railcar Fine Goods Jeans, Filson, Wolverine, Tanner Goods andStormy Kromer, as well as packs from Denver's own duo Topo Designs, boots from Red Wing and their own brand offshoot; The Tennyson Collective. The small shop is artfully filled with rugged yet handsome menswear and styled with antique chainsaws, snowshoes and work from local artists. Stumble next door to Avery County Cycles to drool over custom Colorado-made bikes with intricate detailing and excellent craftsmanship.
Head over to the Highlands for dinner at Chef Justin Cucci’s Root Down, a restaurant that serves seasonal vegetable-centric food in a converted auto garage overlooking downtown Denver. Not long after opening, Root Down quickly became known for its sweet potato Veggie Burger Sliders, sweet potatoes on brioche buns slathered in jalapeño jam and sprouts. Over 75% of the food served at Root Down is organic. They source from local vendors and neighboring farms for their bread, coffee, tea, honey, cheese, meat and seasonal produce. If you happen to visit on the first Tuesday of the month, make sure to try the four-course raw, gluten-free, vegan dinner with a cocktail pairing option. A recent menu included a lineup of Vichyssoise with zucchini, lemon and mint, quick pickled beets with cashew chèvre and watercress; a “Royale with Cheese” sunflower burger with pine nut tarragon cheddar and jicama fries and finishing off with a Pot de Creme of chocolate topped with lavender and ginger syrup. In the event that you’re heading out of town and you’re craving more Veggie Burger Sliders, there’s always RootDown DIA in Concourse C of the Denver International Airport.
Denver's Golden Triangle neighborhood is home to major cultural institutions such as the Denver Art Museum and the Clyfford Still Museum, but just north on Broadway is Plus Gallery, founded by Ivar and Karen Zeile in 2001. Plus Gallery has become an epicenter for contemporary art, and is known for consistently showcasing progressive works by Colorado artists. Housed in part of the Benjamin Moore Paint Factory and surrounded by large historic warehouses, the gallery is now being converted into exciting cultural spaces. Not only a gallery space, Plus also fosters artists and helps those such as Jenny Morgan, William Betts and Alison O’Daniel reach national acclaim. Stop by Plus to peruse its publications, walk through the current exhibition or catch a poetry reading. After, catch a show at the Larimer Lounge, a weathered music venue that hosts local and national talent and is a great place to sit out on the patio and enjoy a warm Denver night.
Stop into Denver’s Rockmount Ranch Wear for one of their signature snap-button western shirts that have been worn by presidents, movie stars and musicians from Elvis to Bonnie Raitt. Rockmount is a three generation family-owned business, started by Jack Weil in 1946, who revolutionized the western shirt by giving them a fitted shape, snap buttons and iconic yoked shoulders. The store is a cornucopia of western wear—elaborate embroidered shirts with roses and guitars, classic plaid and denim work shirts, cowboy boots made from exotic skins, wool and straw cowboy hats and of course, studded belts and fancy buckles. There is even a kids' section with tiny boots and western shirts for the smallest of cowboys and cowgirls.
The Cherry Cricket is a classic neighborhood joint in Denver's Cherry Creek North area and has been an institution since opening way back in 1945. Sit outside on a sunny afternoon and enjoy one of the Cricket’s Green Chile Burgers topped with strips of slow-roasted Hatch Green Chiles. Or opt for a bowl of green chile—a signature southwestern stew made with Hatch chiles from New Mexico, pork or chicken, onions and tomatillos, best enjoyed with a few fresh flour tortillas and a dollop of sour cream. The Cricket is a great place to watch a game with rowdy Broncos fans, or catch up with friends—just don’t be too startled when you realize the air hockey table is on the ceiling.
For music lovers in Denver, Twist & Shout is the only source for new and used music. Wandering around the store is exactly how many kids in Denver spend their youth—learning about music (and themselves) in the miles of LPs. Let the staff picks flawlessly guide you to your next favorite album, peruse the used vinyl section to find old classics, pre-listen to albums before you buy, and enjoy in-store concerts and autographing sessions. The team at Twist and Shout are bonafide music aficionados, knowledgeable about every aspect of their diverse inventory. You might be intimidated, but don't be afraid to ask for help, they will offer wonderful suggestions. Next door is the legendary Tattered Cover—a labyrinthine bookstore filled with stacks of books, big upholstered chairs, the shop's signature cozy green carpet, and quiet corners to read. You can find almost any title imaginable at the Tattered Cover, and you’ll be easily distracted by many offerings. First opened in 1971, the Tattered Cover has been a hub of the community with author readings and signings, events and contests for young readers.
Head over to Pandora on the Hill in Capitol Hill to find irresistible gifts spanning quirky jewelry, Mexican-made handicrafts, paper lanterns, letterpress stationery, books and products from local designers. After perusing its many types of baubles, take a walk through this historic neighborhood that was once where the affluent built their estates. You can take a tour of the Molly Brown mansion on 13th and Pennsylvania, and stop into Jelly Cafe for a late breakfast of merciful bacon pancakes, homemade jelly-filled doughnut holes or frittata sliders with bacon and aged cheddar. Stroll down to Michael Graves’ Denver Public Library and peruse the collection of historic maps and engravings from the days of the mining boom.
Just 45 minutes northwest of Denver on US-36 is the city of Boulder, another bustling metropolis in Colorado. Boulder is commonly known for stereotypes such as flavorless health-food, dreadlocked hippies, hardcore athletes and copious Birkenstock-wearing students, but the city has much more to offer indoors and out. Boasting world-renowned restaurants, vast national parks, farmers markets and fantastic shopping on the Pearl Street Mall, Boulder is a great trip on any visit to the Mile High City. On your way, stop at the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster and once in town, go for a jog or a bike ride along the paths that follow Boulder Creek and then undo it all at Lucile’s with a few New Orleans-style beignets. Make sure you visit The Kitchen, the nationally acclaimed farm-to-table neighborhood bistro where “Community Hour” is from 3 to 5PM. Hiking in Colorado is always a pleasure with picturesque trails and epic vistas. Head west to Chautauqua Park and take a hike up the Mesa Trail for a closer look at the Flatirons. Boulder is home to great food, wilderness, adventure, craft beer and those epic Colorado sunsets. But be warned; it’s contagious.