Imagine the Great Plains sweeping over vast swathes of land, flat and prairie-like. Broad mesas stretching out all the way to the horizon, and then before you, rising up as if from nowhere, the Rocky Mountains simply occur, jagged and stapled yet tall and stately.
Come to Denver abutting these two dissimilar formations and find a city teeming with night-life, art, breweries and a friendly outgoing population, at once in touch with the wild west history of this land but also excited at its position as one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S.
Where should you stay? There are a number of accommodation options for Denver but if you are rollin’ deep and don’t feel like shelling out for a hotel we would strongly recommend Hostel Fish Located in LoDo (Lower downtown).
This is an old converted brothel building with a bar at its base and one of the finest hostels of our acquaintance inside. The service and staff here really make your stay feel like you’re staying…well, at home. Their rooms are clean, private and interesting (each one has its own theme) and when that drinking need comes a’callin’ you can head directly downstairs to Ophelia’s – a busy multilevel bar-cum-dancehall located in their basement. There are also several bars and breweries located in the (very) immediate area (see below). While the price is a little upmarket (a mixed dorm will set you back about $51 with tax, or $160 for a private) you definitely get what you pay for here. You can find more information in the Fox News link here which details the history of the recently opened business and a cameo from @boardingpasss staff.
The other two hostels here in Denver are the 11th Street Hostel (located conveniently on 11th Street) and Cherry Creek Hostel. 11th Street has friendly staff and great downtown location but is often described as having “creepy vibes”. A room here is $28 a night for a mixed room. Cherry Creek is located conveniently in Cherry Creek and is slightly more expensive than 11th Street but is generally clean.
If you’re looking upmarket, there is the Warwick Hotel with a rooftop swimming pool (in the interest of journalistic integrity I am obligated to inform you that the pool was out of commission during our entire stay). Easily the most posh place to stay is the Crawford Hotel, almost a set piece within the timeless grandeur of Union Station a room here will likely cost you just under a solid $300 a night.
Where should you drink? Denver is certainly not short on its fair share of breweries. A detailed listing of all of Colorado’s breweries can be found here: However, we’ve taken the liberty of outlining several of our own visitations briefly below:
Great Divide Brewing Company: Regardless of if you visit the brewery itself you will likely see this beer advertised heavily throughout your stay in Denver (or Colorado). Just up the street from Hostel Fish, they offer samples for $1 (!) each and you can have up to three samples at a time. Try their four IPA’s or Scotch first. Enjoy!
Blue Moon Brewing Company: Most beer drinkers will be somewhat familiar with Blue Moon trademark. I’ve been drinking the stuff for years but I still went with the original, along with their seasonal just to try something new. The tasting venue is located at the southwest corner of Coors Field and is open daily regardless of gameplay.
Breckenridge Brew Pub: Across the street from Blue Moon you’ll find Breckenridge, friendly service and decent flights/ samplers. You’ll also find a good food menu here, worth investigating.
Denver Chophouse and Brewery: This should be your first stop if you’re looking to make a brewery tour. The samplers here are the best bulk buy in town. Pictured below, you’ll see the 11 (5 ounce) samplers they offer for $16. Give yourself plenty of time and also remember to pace yourself. This will not be over quickly.
What’s around town? It’s likely that at some point during your visit you’ll come into contact with Union Station. A grand historic building, the structure actually sits on the 105th meridian west of Greenwich. This means that the mountain time zone delineation actually passes directly through the station (wow, what a fun fact! you think). So if you’re staying at the Crawford, good luck setting your alarm clock, you flip-flopper. Although opened in 1881, the station was destroyed by fire in 1894 and consequently rebuilt that same year.
The State Capitol building is good for a photo shoot. Built to resemble the National capitol building it was constructed from marble during the 1890’s and officially opened in 1894. Fun fact (another one?!): the gold dome is made from real gold leaf, constructed in 1908 to commemorate the state’s gold rush.
If you have a chance while in Denver (or Colorado for that matter) take a spin out to Morrison and check out Red Rocks Amphitheater. Likely used by the Ute tribe centuries before, the venue was first introduced to the general public between 1906 and 1910 by John Brisbane Walker who wanted to utilize what he deemed to be the “ideal acoustics” of the surroundings. The stage itself is composed of a large disc-shaped rock behind the main performing area as well as several large (red) rock outcroppings angled outwards from there. There are also several hiking trails nearby in the idyllic hills.
Twelve miles west of town, you’ll find Rocky Mountain National Park where you can drive down Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the U.S. As the director of the National Park Service, Horace Mann, predicted during the road’s construction “It is hard to describe what a sensation this new road is going to make…you will have the whole sweep of the Rockies before you in all directions.” Spanning from Estes Park to Grand Lake (East to West…and West to East) the road is an expanse of 48 miles offering all manner of wildlife sightings and grand sprawling vistas all from the comfort of your car. So call Priceline to get a car, get Spotify premium and go for a killer (albeit mini) road trip.
Boulder: So much more than just a college town, Boulder is nestled beside the mountains and maintains a small town feel despite the increasing tourist presence here. Boulder became one of the first cities to tax itself in order to preserve open space (a dream shared, in some ways, by Hunter S. Thompson when he ran for Sheriff of nearby Aspen). Check out pedestrian only Pearl Street in the heart of town for shopping, art and eats. While here, pop into West Flanders Brewing Company for an incredibly comfortable setting and have a beer or two. Try to snag a seat on the second floor where you can watch the commerce occurring on the street below with detached complacency.
Colorado and Manitou Springs: Just over an hours’ drive from Denver, check out Colorado Springs. Accessible by bus from the downstairs at Union Station, the cities main attractions involve Pike’s Peak, a terrifying uphill challenge known simply as “the incline”, and Garden of the Gods. Access each of these from the roadside Silver Saddle Motel, where you’ll have a great view of all. Although located just out of town in the newer, hipper Manitou Springs, this is where you’ll find the main tourist action for this area.
Begin your day by heading first to Garden of the Gods.
A 290 million-year-old congregation of jutting sandstone, the golden glow of the rocks here paired with the high luminous mountain backdrop provides some of the most stunning scenery of this area. Free of entry, take the time to simply explore this area, whether by bouldering or simply wandering the various trails that arc through the park.
Pike’s Peak is the most famous of Colorado’s 54 14er’s (peaks that rise over 14,000 feet in elevation). There are numerous ways to reach the summit, from simply driving to the top, hiking up or riding the old Cog Railway up. We, being romantics, chose the latter.
The views from the ride are stunning and the Railway is the highest in the world. As you ascend you are treated to views of the surrounding and gradually diminishing countryside below. All the while, an incredibly energetic tour guide informs you of various sights and the history of the peak.
The Incline should strike fear into your heart like a stake driven hard into the ground in preparation for the Cog Railway. Viewed by some as a pleasant and recreational activity, the incline gets as steep as 68% at some points and gains over 2,000 feet in less than one mile. The trail was made by the washout of an old railway in 1990. Today it is people who wash out, driven to their knees as the severe rise in altitude sends shivers of of displeasure through them. Have fun!