Travel Thursday: Denver, Colorado - It's Called the Mile High City and the Queen City But It May Also Be Our Newest Favorite Destination.
When I landed in Denver International Airport (DEN) early on Saturday morning, I promptly found my must buy souvenir magnet and easily purchased my $9 train ticket into town. With no worries about traffic, the 38-minute train ride was stress free. Pulling into Union Station right in downtown Denver, the train deposited me at my hotel for the next two nights. I knew I was going to enjoy my stay as the staff at The Crawford, a hotel located in the two wings of Union Station. The staff was fun, exciting, and very helpful, with my check-in, turn down service, keeping my bag safe after check-out, and arranging for me to be shuttled around in their Tesla Model X hotel vehicle. The shuttle car was one of the perks of staying at The Crawford as most of the companies located on Union Station's first floor provided an added bonus for staying in the building. By showing your discount card, guests of the hotel were able to receive daily a free scoop of ice cream from Milkbox Ice Creamery, a pint of beer at Terminal Bar, a free coffee from Pigtrain Coffee Co., as well as expedited seating at Snooze (I’ll mention that restaurant later). All of those perks were enjoyed both days I was there and loved it! I did not partake in the discount at The Oxford Club Spa, but next time!
One of the more elegant private rooms I’ve had, The Crawford assigned me to a 3rd floor corner room with a bathroom you wanted to take home, a sitting room that made you feel like you were home, and a bedroom that wanted you to have company to show it off. The turn down service with The Crawford touch was highlighted with a perfect decadent treat as well as an invitation to be lazy and enjoy the stay. I did end up buying one of their robes maybe to try to take the experience home. Foolish? Extravagant? Yep, and I wanted it!
Off the train, checked in, drooled over my room, all of that, check! Before traveling, I recommend contacting a city's tourism board. They'll tell you where to look, what to download, and may even have some specials to pass on to you. I had called ahead and had a quick stop planned down on California Street at the Visit Denver office. They were very welcoming, I mentioned why I was there and I was gay and bam! I made a new friend. They were so helpful at Visit Denver so definitely check them out before you go.
When picking the route to walk to Visit Denver, 16th Street was the most direct route. The street was very pedestrian and mass transit friendly. I stumbled upon some souvenir shops (found my must buy pint glass) as well as an open air market where I bought a unique ring and a strawberry lemonade (it was hotter there in Denver than in Florida that weekend). Check out 16th Street if you just want to walk around. 17th Street is more “Wall Street-esque" and not as exciting.
Needing lunch, Denver Milk Market, new to downtown Denver as of June 1st this year, is where one goes to get lunch, think about dinner, plan tomorrow’s snacks and drinks, and people watch. An all-local, all-wonderful mix of take-away and dine-in restaurants and bars, it was hard to choose which of the 16 venues I was going to order from, so I did three … over lunch and dinner that day. The Colorado chef Frank Bonanno took over the historic Dairy Block with a plan to attract travelers, visitors, and neighbors by offering them drinking, dining, shopping, and desserting opportunities, just steps from downtown and Coors Field. I was tempted to go back a third time, but I knew there was more to see in Denver.
Between lunch and dinner at Denver Milk Market, I made time for a tequila tasting at Celtic on Market, where I made some new friends and ticked some more life off my liver.
Saturday night out found me visiting Tracks Denver. The commute there and back was only one stop on the train away from my hotel and was free since my train ticket from my morning ride from the airport was good until 2:59 AM the next morning. Tracks Denver has some great energy, multiple places to hang out and chat, as well as two fun and active dancing areas. Light show, music selection, and sound were what I expect to experience in South Beach, Miami, but maybe it was a little better. Go-go boys and girls were mighty fine, too. The mix of clientele was noticeable, male/female/straight/LGBTQ+, where I am more used to predominantly men’s clubs here in Wilton Manors, so it was different, but nothing I could not get a handle on.
The next day was hot and wonderful in the city. I departed downtown Denver to head a little east into a more residential area to enjoy a very fresh brunch at 12 @ Madison, located at, um, 12th and Madison. As I settled into my seat at the bar overlooking the kitchen, manager Michael introduced me to head chef Jeff Osaka, whom I chatted with and watched for the next hour as he produced mouth-watering yumminess. Creature of habit, I ordered the hash (with piperade), but seeing the bacon, a side of that had to be ordered, too. The building is unique inside and out to the neighborhood with modern touches out and Asian inspired highlights inside, a possible nod to his Osaka Ramen and Sushi-Rama restaurants.
Departing 12 @ Madison with brunch and a mimosa filled belly, I walked a little over a mile to the Denver Botanical Gardens for some relaxing views and shady escapes. The gardens differed in flora from what I have here in Florida and what I grew up with in Maine so it was enjoyable, as well as a chance to try out my new camera.
After soaking in the sun, smells, and shade of the Botanical Gardens, I walked 2 miles to the Denver Zoo. A hot day and thunder approaching, the zoo animals were not as present or active, but I was still able to learn about the birds and the bees from the giraffes and the monkeys as they seemed to think it was mating season.
Speaking of monkeys ... since it has a great name and a different offering, I took a car service from the zoo to Infinite Monkey Theorem (IMT).
Canned wine: your portable, single-serve, smarter alternative.
Available in White, Red, Moscato, Rose, Dry Hopped Pear Cider, and Dry Hopped Sauv Blanc
I had to try canned wine out. Located in the RiNo Art District (RiNo meaning River North), IMT calls itself an urban winery. I could not put a finger on the clientele there since it seemed to be a mix of everything and everyone and I loved that. Just three blocks from Tracks Denver, I would highly recommend starting here, maybe even checking out Colorado Sake Co. before you going out to Tracks Denver. So how was the canned wine? I enjoyed it. It does help in drinking responsibly. Where the can is about a serving and almost a half, I usually pour a half a bottle into one glass and then may have seconds. The portability of the wine was great too as I transported a variety of cans on the shuttle to Keystone, Colorado. As we took the tour of the IMT building, we learned that IMT also uses Colorado grapes to make their own bottled wine, which I did sample as well and was right on point.
A quick jaunt back to the hotel to check out the turndown service goodies and shower, I was then off to Urban Farmer, less than a minute walk from the hotel. I chose Urban Farmer Steakhouse as I desired to experience fine dining that highlighted aged steaks. Thanks Jennifer for taking amazing care of me and your recommendations were on point. I had ordered the Surf & Turf Crudo, but also enjoyed the Foie Gras with honey cake. For dinner I chose to not get the aged buffalo, but instead enjoyed one of the specialty aged steaks with twice baked fingerling potato tart and tableside local mushrooms. Finishing the meal with a lemon tart for dessert and a tour of the kitchen from the very sexy sous chef, whom was in full charge of the restaurant that night, I was very very satisfied. Definitely look at the drink and dinner menu and take note that anything with honey in it will use honey from the restaurant’s rooftop beehives. The Urban Farmer will be hard to surpass.
Two more stops were planned on my relaxing culinary tour of downtown Denver. Since I was staying at the hotel and was able to have preferential seating at Snooze, a restaurant everyone from across the country recommended, I had to see what all the fuss was about. Manager Michael, beautiful Michael with back muscles for days, sat me down for a brunch I am still tasting. Snooze offers a Benny Duo where you can make your own combination of benedicts. While eating my Chili Verde Benedict plus another, Michael checked on me and realized I did not order anything savory. He rapidly left, but quickly brought me a pancake flight, three of their most popular pancakes. Needless to say, I needed to walk another 8 miles on that day like I did on Saturday. Whatever you get at Snooze, it’ll be amazing, you’ll love it, and it will be served with a side of excellent service. Please say hello to Michael.
Another eatery to check out is PS 303. Giving a nod to Public Schools (what the PS stands for) the menus may look like composition books, but the food is far from what the lunch lady served you.
Denver is definitely not short on fresh quality ingredients for the crispy buffalo cauliflower, grilled artichokes, roasted chicken & quinoa salad, and arugula & prosciutto pizza made for a great lunch with a new friend.
This is an ideal lunch stop in downtown just around the corner from Union Station/The Crawford with ample bar area seating and quick service.
I had checked out of the hotel and had about 4 hours to kill so I strolled down to Confluence Park, crossed the South Platte River, walked down Platte St past the Habit Doughnut Dispensary ( will check that out next time) to the Denver Beer Co. Drinking a flight of beer there and enjoying hearing the rain was a great end to my trip or I thought it was the end. Heading back to the hotel between rain spurts, I arrived early enough to check out a hidden area of Union Station, The Cooper Lounge. Hidden above the Terminal Bar, this upscale drinking spot was yet another great find to help me pass the time in Denver. Knowing I was steps away from my train to the airport and luggage safe in the hands of The Crawford, The Cooper Lounge was the best way to end my time in Denver.
There are few places in the United States where I feel I would want to possibly move and call home. The capital of Colorado is one of them. Right up there with Seattle, Philadelphia, Key West, and Providence, Denver has a great presence, a welcome home feel when you arrive. During that first walk in the city up 16th Street, I felt and experienced the diversity of the city. Within the first 10 minutes of walking, I heard 5 different languages, men talking about their boyfriends, and people commenting about loving the city. I did not worry about walking around alone, I bought Gatorade from a church group, I talked with strangers, and saw many “family members” being out and open and very comfortable with themselves.
Thank you Denver for being a city I cannot wait to return to in the near future.
Here are a handful of media from my trip to Denver.
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