Denver: 7 Cool Things To Do On Your Next Visit

 

This was my first trip back to Denver in ten years. It felt like the city was in the midst of a major transition. The big mystery being, to what?

 

That said, I had a great time. I especially loved my hotel, and I loved meeting Jason Siegel, a Denver-based photographer who not only has his finger on the pulse of all that is new and happening in Denver, he’s also deeply involved in a host of artistic endeavors! He and his partners have a phenomenal pop-up called Foreign Form on Larimer in the RiNo district. He seems to be cut from the same cloth as many of the greatest artist/creative entrepreneurs of our time, people like Brian Donnelly (KAWS), Shepard Fairey (Obey) and Aaron Rose (founder of Alleged Gallery). Keep an eye on this guy – he’s going places.

 

Scroll down for my top recommendations.

 

1.Death & Co. Lobby at the Ramble Hotel.

Love this place – much in the same way I adored the Hewing in Minneapolis. Mostly, it reminds me of various Soho Houses.

I could have hung out in this lobby for the entire four days and written a glowing 5-star review for the city. It’s that impressive!

 

 

Oddly, the hotel itself doesn’t live up to the promise of the lobby.

First, the Ramble has not translated any of the lobby design into the rooms. It’s not that the rooms are bad, but they don’t convey any of that lobby fabulousness.

 

Second, the hotel doesn’t have a restaurant. Fortunately, the bar food served in the lobby is on a par with, if not better, than anything we encountered in restaurants. Also, ordering one of Death & Co.’s stellar cocktails while in the lobby working or hanging out, makes the experience even more sublime.

 

One final note on the Ramble. It is located in the RiNo district in downtown Denver. I’m a big fan of the area – it’s young, cool and the epicenter of Denver’s street art scene.

 

2. Mural Hunting

The street art scene around the RiNo area is impressive. From what I can tell, credit has to go to Crush Walls. They organize an annual celebration of art that transforms the streets and alleys of RiNo into permanent, open-air galleries. They’re now in their 10th year. The newest iteration will kick off in early September 2019.

Their website (link here, provides a map and info on all the artists).

 

But beyond Crush Walls, the city is covered with some first-rate street art, e.g., we stumbled across the Curious Theater Company (in a former church) just as it was getting a mural makeover. It’s on Acoma Street in the Golden Triangle area.

 

 

 

3. International Church of Cannabis with Laser Light Show

I’m not any kind of a pothead, but I LOVED Okuda San Miguel’s artwork upstairs at the church. Kenny Scharf, meanwhile, painted the exterior church windows.

 

I’ve written about Okuda San Miguel previously when he collaborated with Red Bull to turn a church in Spain into an indoor skatepark (link here).

The Laser Light Show at the International Church of Cannabis starts daily at 20 minutes past the hour (of course!) but check their website to confirm times and dates. The show features 60’s and 70’s music, e.g., the Doors which I was cool with but my friend who is quite a sophisticate when it comes to cannabis was appalled by the hippie-dippy nature of the music and the lasers.

Also just a heads up, there is no getting high on the premises. My friend’s recommendation is to arrive stoned to enjoy the laser experience fully. However, I loved it, and I was stone-cold sober.

 

4. Clyfford Still Museum

We went to four museums in Denver, but this one knocked my socks off. It was designed by Allied Works Architecture, led by Brad Cloepfil and it is a MAGNIFICENT showcase for Clyfford Still’s work.

 

What I especially admire about it, is that while it is stunning architecture in its own right, it NEVER gets in the way of the art. Far too often, contemporary museums are over-designed and interfere with our ability to see and appreciate the art.

 

5. Food Halls and Markets

Denver is chock-a-block with food halls, and perhaps that’s why it was so difficult to find any fantastic restaurants – everyone would instead work at, or eat at, a food market. New ones are seemingly opening weekly.

Two that we checked out:

Denver Central Market on Larimer in RiNo. We got a great charcuterie platter here from Culture Meat & Cheese. And it was served with an outstanding bread.

 

Broadway Market is a newish spot (opened in February) in the Golden Triangle area. It was good, but they’re still finding their footing.

 

But I do have two restaurants to recommend if you’re interested in checking out something more iconic and older:

Buckhorn Exchange.

This is the oldest restaurant in Denver and holds liquor license #1. The place is covered with taxidermy (which I love as many of you know).

 

That said, I would not recommend Buckhorn if you’re looking for a genuinely great foodie experience, but it is more than serviceable, reasonably priced and the waitstaff is not only nice but also extremely efficient. A very popular spot for lunch for both business folk and tourists.

 

Coperta (Italian)

 

 

This is a hugely popular spot among Denver locals. It’s in a residential neighborhood (condo buildings, not houses).

The building the restaurant is in was built in 1900. It has a great vibe. They also offer outdoor seating. The staff is extremely friendly, which makes up for some inefficiencies.

The food was good. The fried polenta starter was excellent (I had never had it before). The cacio e pepe was also good.

Just a heads up about the menus at Coperta. They are CRAZY. For some incomprehensible reason, they hand you seven different menus as you are seated! There was a Wednesday wine dinner menu, a happy hour menu, a regular menu, a wine menu, a summer spritz menu, a special menu related to this month’s special region of Italy and the “special of the day” menu. Our table was covered in reading material, most of which made very little sense.

To sum up the food situation, the only consistently good meals I had were at Death & Co. in the lobby of our hotel. I’m still thinking about their summer burrata with fresh pea, compressed rhubarb, mint, chili flake, and lavash – it was terrific!

 

6. Foreign-Form (Jason Siegel’s pop-up)

Their window displays and the chill crowd hanging out in the store’s backyard lured us in. Jason was there, and we started chatting, and as I said before, this guy is going places. Unfortunately, I was so busy talking; I took lousy photos.

He and his crew need to open a place in NYC.

 

7. Rockmount Ranch Wear

 

An authentic western store that attracted a broad, diverse range of local shoppers and tourists. The staff was helpful, kind, knowledgeable. A great experience shopping here.

I bought a new belt but could have spent hours trying on western shirts. And I’ve gotten all kinds of compliments on that belt already!!  Five stars!!!

 

Those were the hits, now for the misses:

E-scooters.

EVERYWHERE! On the sidewalks, on the streets, going super fast. Lots of riders doubling up on them to barhop. Denver just recorded their first e-scooter fatality, so we’ll see if it makes the city reconsider how lax they want to be with their various micro-mobility options. And, of course, as in Tulsa, they are dumped all over town.

Homelessness.

Not LA-level but getting there. I didn’t see any encampments but certainly everywhere you look, in ever park, every street corner. They’re not particularly aggressive; I was never bothered or approached. Most seem to be druggies.

The Cannabis Culture.

Retail activity in Denver appears to be mostly reliant on cannabis. There’s at least one dispensary per block. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but it is noticeable and is clearly a significant chunk of the economy at this time.

 

Bottom Line.

Denver is much trendier, glitzier, and younger than it was ten years ago (and it is a top destination for millennials looking for work).

Big thanks to the Ramble for making my stay great! Now on to Boise – which, by the way, got off to an amazing start last night with our phenomenal dinner at Petite 4. Wow! Knocked our socks off.

 

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