Time we visited: End of March-Beginning of April
Type of travel: Weekend getaway with the best friend
(scroll down for itinerary/tips)
SET THE SCENE
The clouds were thick and pregnant with rain. They covered the sky completely and not a peep of sunshine was to be seen. Despite the clouds, the city didn’t seemed to be blanketed in darkness but a certain light that seeps into the smiles and cheery laughter of the people. Jackets, hats, scarves, and boots blanket our bodies and puffs of air materialized in front of us. Each breakfast place welcomed us with heat and sends one vibe: homey. The light rain and gusts of wind dropped the degrees lower as we popped in and out of shops in Larimer Square. The string of lights from building to building twinkled in the rain, but the cold seems into our bones. We found ourselves huddled away from the cold in a bookstore with my favorite smell of books lingering in the air mixed with java. The wind and rain continued to persist, but it was nothing a good cup of coffee or a pint of beer won’t solve! Breweries dot the city and you get a true appreciation of beer after a walking tour. The smell of fermentation is in the air, and there was joyous laughter and a bachelor celebrating his last glory days in the midst of it all.
Then quietude. A little yellow bug driving itself through the snowy forests and mountains of Golden Gate Canyon National Park. The emerald trees are half covered in frosty white and deer mingled their way through peeking curiously at travelers. The air was still and quiet, only broken by the sound of crunching leaves, our small breaths of air as we descended up the trails, and the chirps of blue and orange birds. The peaks of the mountains were covered in fog and from the top we could see the lonely winding road we traveled on. It felt like you were the only person in the world.
Giant red rocks. Literally. Towering, impressive, encompassing. Drive out further and you stumble upon a garden of them. In all sorts of formation. It’s like a garden that giants would frolic through. And with the sun finally shining, the view was breathtaking and even more so when we climbed and seated ourselves on top of the rocks, laying out and letting the sun soaked into our skin. When you can only see miles and miles of more rock formations and greenery, it’s easy to forget the rest of the terrors making stride in the world.
SUGGESTED 3 DAY ITINERARY OF DENVER
- My friend and I arrived around 7AM so we had a lot of time to kill the first day. We spent the entire day basically roaming around the city of Denver and getting to know the city and the food! Of course Denver is filled with amazing eats but the following are the places we were able to hit in three days.
- Brunch: Sassafras American Eatery. It was actually a close walk from our AirBNB and recommended by our AirBNB host as well. This place did not disappoint! We ordered the Eggs Sardou, Chicken Fried Eggs & Buffalo Hash, and the Mimosa Flight. Seriously everything was so incredibly delicious! The mimosa flight was also great – they have some really interesting combinations as well as Bloody Mary combinations. Not to mention, the restaurant is in an old home and thus gave off such a homey vibe; great way to welcome us to Denver. The heat inside the restaurant definitely helped off-set the cold that was seeping into our bones when we were walking outside.
- Larimer Square: With our bellies full and warm, we caught an Uber to Larimer Square to wander around between the shops. The square is a beautiful area with twinkling lights and the Colorado flags are strung up in rows. At this point, the rain started coming down and the wind was blowing through, so we ended up trying to find coffee for some warmth.
- Coffee Break: Little Owl Coffee. Cute coffee shop, friendly workers, and great coffee!
- Bookstore: Tattered Cover Book Store. This bookstore native to Denver has a couple locations around the city. I recommend checking it out for any bookworms like myself! There’s also a coffee shop inside. Get yourself a cup and wander between the bookshelves! I love that there are bookstore recommendations and why they love the books written on little notes stuck to the shelves. This bookstore was a pretty close walk from Little Owl Coffee.
- Breweries: There are so many great breweries around Denver! We chose to go to the Great Divide Brewing Company and we arrived right on time to hop onto one of their free brewery tours which I recommend! It’s pretty cool to see how the beer you’re drinking is made. The Great Divide offers free tours on M-F at 3,4,5PM and weekends at 2,3,4,5,6PM. Each tour is around 20-30 minutes and also free to the first 20 guests! After the tour, I recommend getting a flight of their different beers! For those who want something different – there is the Strawberry Rhubard Sour – fruitier, different, and delicious!
- You can make a whole day out of brewery hopping! Here are other options: Breckenridge, Wynkoop Brewing Co, Ratio Beer Works, Prost Brewing, Denver Beer Company
- Hot Dogs: Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs. After feeling full and warm of beer, we started feeling hungry again and decided to go for a really quick, early dinner instead of a long sit-down. We ended up finding this place a couple blocks away in the Larimer Square area and decided to check it out. I recommend this place if you are craving a good hot dog – there are all sorts of meat combinations such as beef, vegan, reindeer, rattlesnake, veal, etc. with plenty of toppings and sides like fried mac-n-cheese. We ordered the Alaskan Reindeer and topped it with the El Diablo (tomatillo green chile, salsa, sriracha lime mayo, and smoked bacon bits with a side of fries). Soo perfect for post-beer food. And my best friend has never had reindeer, so we had to get that meat choice.
- Concert: The Grizzly Rose. My friend is a fan of country which is basically how we ended up at a Chase Bryant concert that night at The Grizzly Rose. If you are looking for some fun concerts, I definitely recommend this place! I’m okay with country music but I still had such a good time at the concert! He was a great performer and I recognized like half of the songs anyways!
- Suggestion: If you visit Denver in the summer time, I highly suggest booking a concert at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The venue is amazing and the acoustics is apparently amazing. And going to a concert in the middle of Mother Nature’s geological creations? Once in a lifetime.
- Bars: Williams & Graham (speakeasy), Forest Room 5 – these were the bars recommended to us. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to check them out but I’m leaving them here as recommendations!
- We spent our day dedicated to exploring hiking areas right outside Denver!
- Brunch: Jelly Café. This was a cute brunch place that specializes in their donut bites. If it’s your first time there, then it’s definitely fun to get the large variety size with 8 donut bites (8 different flavors). If you’re looking for just one of the donut bites to try, then I recommend the Thai Peanut flavor – it was my favorite. There was a wait for brunch so my friend and I passed the time by ordering coffee and the donut bites from the bar to munch on and get our caffeine kick in. For actual brunch, they have a large menu and we ended up ordering the Haco Chili Benedict which we recommend! I always tend to lend on the side of ordering a unique benedict.
- Golden Gate Canyon State Park: This was recommended to me by a friend and I am certainly passing on that recommendation! The drive is around 50 mins – 1 hr from Denver so not that bad for a day trip. My friend and I got a rental car, water, and bundled ourselves up since it was cold outside and headed over. The drive up to the state park was absolutely beautiful. There was snowfall the night before and all the dark green trees were decorated beautiful with untouched, white snow. When we would reach clearings, there would be a group of deer peering at our car curiously.
- Now this park is very large so definitely keep driving until you hit the visitor center where you pay a small park fee and then grab a map. Ask the very friendly people who work there what trails you suggest for hiking in the allotted time frame you have. My friend and I only wanted to hike for a couple hours so they suggested a combination of two trails.
- Because we went during off-season, the park was not overcrowded and the hike was quiet and very peaceful. The only sounds that could be heard were the leaves crunching underneath our feet and the chirps of the birds. The view from the top was also beautiful – miles and miles of forested mountains and glimpses of the road. Unfortunately the day we went, the peaks of the mountains were covered in fog but I imagine the views would be even more spectacular if it was sunny!
- You can also hunt and go biking in this park!
- Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre: As I mentioned before, if you visit Denver in the summer time, I definitely recommend getting a ticket to a concert out here. We were there in off-season but still wanted to see the Red Rocks. It was only a 35 minute drive from Golden Gate so we decided to drive up there, and I recommend it. The red rocks were impressive to view. Driving in there are other gorgeous red rock formations you can take photos of.
- Dinner: Queen Sheba Ethiopian – Ethiopian food is one of my favorite cuisines to eat and I highly recommend it to anyone who has not tried it yet like my best friend. I was super excited to bring my friend here especially since my other friends highly recommended this restaurant to me. We ordered the vegetarian and meat combo for two and topped it off with a glass of honey wine! Starving from our hikes, the meal absolutely hit the spot and the portions was enough for us to take home leftovers!
- Coffee Run (+ice cream!): Garden of the Gods has been on my America bucket list since forever and I was super excited to see it. Since we had leftovers from the Ethiopian place the day before, we decided to take lunch on the road and just grab coffee before we leave. We went to 2914 Coffee and was able to also kill two birds with one stone by trying Little Man Icecream which happened to be selling in the coffeeshop. My friend decided to get the Salted Oreo flavor which ended up being some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had in my life honestly. Little Man definitely lives up to its reputation. I only wish I got the time to visit its location so I can taste the other different flavors.
- Garden of the Gods: The drive from Denver took about one hour and twenty minutes. We got lucky weather wise compared to our hike the day before at Golden Gate Canyon. That day there was a slight chill in the air but the sun was high in the sky brightening the colors of the Garden of the Gods. We spent most of the day stopping at the different, gorgeous view points and climbing up the variety of rock formations. With the fresh air and beautiful weather, it was a sight to behold.
- The Source: We had about two hours to kill before our flight when we drove back to Denver so we decided to check out this place for a pre-airport snack. The Source, which is an urban, culinary market, is a really cool place to check out. Immediately before entering, you’re greeted with a bright blue door that is quite picturesque and then followed with a hallway and then a giant area with a bar in the center and different places to drink beer and wine on the sides. My friend and I decided to go for a glass of white wine and a small cheese board. The charcuterie board amount/quality was a great deal for the price of $10 but the wine prices here are steep.
Other Things to Do:
Here is a list that you can add to modify your itinerary that I didn’t get around to doing:
- Biking the Cherry Creek Bike Trail
- Horseback riding
- The bars mentioned above under Day 1
- First Friday Art Walk
Happy traveling! Anymore Denver suggestions? Leave them in the comments below!