8 Things I Loved About Denver (And 8 Things I Missed Out On)

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8 Things I Loved About Denver (And 8 Things I Missed Out On) - Wading in Big Shoes // Denver, Colorado is filled with arts, entertainment, creative food, and tons of history! Find out what we loved about our weekend trip and what we'd do differently next time we're in town.
Above: Denver's Historic Union Station

Our recent visit to Denver, Colorado was abbreviated, but loads of fun. Staying in the heart of downtown, Brad and I were within walking distance of countless great restaurants, stores, and other places of interest during our weekend in the city. As is the case with any quick visit, however, we were faced with choosing just a few activities that could be completed in a day or two (almost half of our visit was spent on a day trip to Colorado Springs, which I’ll cover in another post).

Our schedule was largely influenced by a combination of factors: 1.) We were without our own car so we’d need to rent a vehicle or use public transportation, 2.) We were in town on a weekend, so some places we wanted to visit wouldn’t be open, and 3.) We had a general idea of what we wanted to do, but in reality--it was our first time exploring the city so we were liable to get turned around at least a few times.

So, where did we go right and where did we go wrong? To make sense of it all, I put together two lists: one that highlights a few of our favorite things about Denver, and one that’s made up of key attractions we would have loved, but just couldn't fit into our schedule this time around.


LIST #1: WHAT WE LOVED

1.) Shopping On 16th Street

8 Things I Loved About Denver (And 8 Things I Missed Out On) - Wading in Big Shoes // Denver, Colorado is filled with arts, entertainment, creative food, and tons of history! Find out what we loved about our weekend trip and what we'd do differently next time we're in town.
Above: Denver's 16th Street Mall

If you’re new to Denver, the 16th Street Mall is a great place to start. This shopping area is a short walk from several great hotels and is packed with tons of restaurants (we ate breakfast in this area every day during our trip). Need coffee? Souvenirs? Cheap sunglasses at Ross or TJ Maxx because you keep losing the ones you already have? It’s all here. And bonus: there's a free shuttle that’ll take you up and down this stretch for quicker, more efficient excursions.

2.) Riding the RTD

8 Things I Loved About Denver (And 8 Things I Missed Out On) - Wading in Big Shoes // Denver, Colorado is filled with arts, entertainment, creative food, and tons of history! Find out what we loved about our weekend trip and what we'd do differently next time we're in town.
Above: The RTD System Makes Short- And Long-Distance Commuting Easier

Transportation anxiety can be a very real issue when it comes to travel, especially when you’re exploring a new city for the first time. Fortunately, Denver is part of a Regional Transportation District (RTD) that serves 2.8 million people within 2,400 square miles. RTD provides public bus, rail, and other ride options for people who need to get from county to county, downtown to the airport, or simply from one street to another. During our trip, we took the A-Line from Union Station to Denver International Airport ($9 per person/one-way) and frequently utilized the Free 16th Street Mall Ride (mentioned above), which makes several stops up and down one of the city’s most popular (and tourist-friendly) streets for shopping and dining.

3.) Larimer Square: Shopping & Eating

8 Things I Loved About Denver (And 8 Things I Missed Out On) - Wading in Big Shoes // Denver, Colorado is filled with arts, entertainment, creative food, and tons of history! Find out what we loved about our weekend trip and what we'd do differently next time we're in town.
Above: Denver's Larimer Square Is Filled With Lights, Live Entertainment, Restaurants, & More 

Larimer Square is one of those places you’ll hear mentioned over and over again once you start learning more about downtown Denver. What it is: a square block of historic buildings where Denver got its start in the mid-1800s. Today, the city’s oldest block is filled with thriving restaurants, boutiques, nightlife, and special events that keep the district bustling with activity. We explored the area both during the day and at night, and found that evening seems to be livelier (although, you may want to stop by during daylight hours if you want to catch the boutiques while they're open).

4.) City-Meets-Western Style

Most of the fashion we saw in Denver leaned toward the casual side, which makes sense considering that Colorado is a very outdoors-geared state (Climbing a mountain? Dealing with sudden temperature changes? Better have practical shoes and a bevy of light layers on hand!). Downtown Denver, however, also pays homage to Colorado’s western history and culture with lots of high-end western apparel and accessory stores. Boots, hats, furs, jackets, blankets, you name it--this city’s got western style in spades (or should I say spurs?).

5.) Creative Restaurants

8 Things I Loved About Denver (And 8 Things I Missed Out On) - Wading in Big Shoes // Denver, Colorado is filled with arts, entertainment, creative food, and tons of history! Find out what we loved about our weekend trip and what we'd do differently next time we're in town.
Above: The Ellsworth Sandwich at Denver Biscuit Company

Health food it is not, but delicious it is. Denver knows what it’s doing when it comes to creative cuisine and fun dining environments. A couple of our favorites: Steuben’s Food Service (named after a mid-century Boston restaurant and furnished like a scene out of Mad Men), and Denver Biscuit Company (a hipster-ish type operation that churns out dishes you’ll swear were made fresh in the southern United States).

6.) Losing Track Of Time At Union Station

8 Things I Loved About Denver (And 8 Things I Missed Out On) - Wading in Big Shoes // Denver, Colorado is filled with arts, entertainment, creative food, and tons of history! Find out what we loved about our weekend trip and what we'd do differently next time we're in town.
Above: Bloom Boutique Inside Union Station's Main Entrance

Union Station is, first and foremost, BEAUTIFUL. Okay, it’s actually first and foremost a 100 year-old train station, but you’d have to be made of stone to not notice the grandiosity of this magnificent travel hub. Yes, you can take an Amtrak or RTD rail (our preferred city-to-airport method of transportation!) out of Union Station, but you can also visit for a couple hours to have lunch, shop, or just take photos. In fact, you can schedule an entire morning, afternoon, or evening of fun without leaving the depot! Suddenly, unscheduled delays might not be as bad as you thought, huh?

7.) Standing A Mile High On The Steps Of The Capitol Building

8 Things I Loved About Denver (And 8 Things I Missed Out On) - Wading in Big Shoes // Denver, Colorado is filled with arts, entertainment, creative food, and tons of history! Find out what we loved about our weekend trip and what we'd do differently next time we're in town.
Above: Climb Colorado's Capitol Building Steps To Stand One Mile Above Sea Level!

If you want to see Denver from a mile up, hop on over to the Colorado State Capitol building! Pose for a photo on the step that’s exactly 5,280 feet above sea level (there’s a marker there to help you find it), then stop inside for a free tour of this beautiful, historic building.

8.) Exploring Nearby Nature Spots

8 Things I Loved About Denver (And 8 Things I Missed Out On) - Wading in Big Shoes // Denver, Colorado is filled with arts, entertainment, creative food, and tons of history! Find out what we loved about our weekend trip and what we'd do differently next time we're in town.
Above: Just a 60 to 90 minute drive from downtown Denver, Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs offers spectacular views.

City life is fun, but if you want to switch things up for a day, Denver is a relatively short drive from several must-see nature spots. Venture 90 minutes west to Summit County for beautiful ski country (gorgeous views year-round), or head to Colorado Springs (about 1.25 hours south of Denver) for the phenomenal Pike's Peak and Garden of the Gods.

LIST #2: WHAT WE MISSED OUT ON

1. ) Molly Brown House Museum

Like every other American girl who was alive in 1997 when Titanic hit theaters, I became a bit obsessed with the ill-fated ship and its history for a hot minute (actually, a couple of decades). Twenty years later (twenty years?!), I’ve discovered that the “Unsinkable Molly Brown” herself (the real one, not Kathy Bates) once lived in Denver and today, you can take a tour of her house! Our schedule unfortunately didn’t line up with the museum’s hours during our last visit, but you can bet that the next time I’m in town, this place will be the first activity on my itinerary.

2.) The Making Of Money

8 Things I Loved About Denver (And 8 Things I Missed Out On) - Wading in Big Shoes // Denver, Colorado is filled with arts, entertainment, creative food, and tons of history! Find out what we loved about our weekend trip and what we'd do differently next time we're in town.
Above: After-Hours At The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City (Denver Branch)

Whether it was the Denver Mint or the Money Museum, we ran out of luck when it came to catching a free tour at either of these currency-themed organizations. Tours typically run during the five-day work week before 3:30 or 4:00 p.m., so if you’d like to be a better tourist than me, make sure you’re not trying to visit on a weekend.

3.) Denver Art Museum

We rode past the Denver Art Museum a few times during our Lyft excursions and were told by a few different people that we needed to visit this place. This art museum is supposed to be one of the best there is, so I definitely would love to check it out when I have more time.

4.) Denver Public Library

Located a stone’s throw from the art museum, Denver’s Central Public Library is also in the heart of downtown and would be a great place to nab some quiet or get some work done in the midst of the city. Plus, I just love discovering new libraries--who’s with me?

5.) Historic Larimer Walking Tour

8 Things I Loved About Denver (And 8 Things I Missed Out On) - Wading in Big Shoes // Denver, Colorado is filled with arts, entertainment, creative food, and tons of history! Find out what we loved about our weekend trip and what we'd do differently next time we're in town.
Above: Larimer Square's Kettle Arcade features a ceiling mural depicting historic Denver events.

In addition to enjoying all the shops and restaurants in present-day Larimer Square, you can also learn more about its history with a self-guided or scheduled group walking tour! What better way to find out how the mile-high city got its start?

6.) Cherry Creek Shopping Center

When it comes to shopping, rumor has it that many locals prefer Cherry Creek over the more “touristy” 16th Street Mall. With a blend of mid-range to high-end stores, a movie theater, great restaurants, and on-site parking (various rates apply), I can imagine this is a place where many visitors wear out their credit cards every Friday night.

7.) Baseball Fever

Denver is home to both Coors Field (where the Colorado Rockies play) and the National Ballpark Museum--and they’re right across the street from each other! Imagine lunch, a trip to the museum, and a ballgame all in one day--sounds like a great time to me!

8.) Live Entertainment: Denver Center For The Performing Arts

8 Things I Loved About Denver (And 8 Things I Missed Out On) - Wading in Big Shoes // Denver, Colorado is filled with arts, entertainment, creative food, and tons of history! Find out what we loved about our weekend trip and what we'd do differently next time we're in town.
Above: Buell Theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts

While we were in Denver, Disney’s new broadway version of Frozen was playing at the Denver Center For The Performing Arts (live on stage before opening in New York). Ads for the show were everywhere, and I have to admit I was thisclose to swapping our entire schedule around for a few hours of musical bliss. An hour before showtime when you’ve just gotten to your hotel and haven’t had dinner, however, isn’t (in my opinion) the best time to spontaneously order tickets. I’ll do it right the next time around.

SO . . . IS DENVER WORTH VISITING?

8 Things I Loved About Denver (And 8 Things I Missed Out On) - Wading in Big Shoes // Denver, Colorado is filled with arts, entertainment, creative food, and tons of history! Find out what we loved about our weekend trip and what we'd do differently next time we're in town.
Armed with what I know now, I think it’s safe to say that there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Denver! Yes, if our free time in the city had fallen during different hours or days of the week, Brad and I probably would have invested a greater portion of our schedule in the arts, museums, and local history. For a quick stop in between several other destinations, however (Summit County, Pikes Peak, and Garden of the Gods), I think we did pretty well in exploring the area and activities happening around us! Shopping and traveling on foot might not be for everyone, but a city this diverse will have no trouble winning over visitors with all types of interests.

Which side of Denver would most likely capture your heart?
Have you visited the mile-high city?




8 Things I Loved About Denver (And 8 Things I Missed Out On) - Wading in Big Shoes // Denver, Colorado is filled with arts, entertainment, creative food, and tons of history! Find out what we loved about our weekend trip and what we'd do differently next time we're in town.

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