What to Do in Denver; Where to Eat in DenverA Personal Guide to Denver and Environs by Brock Wood
Last Updated: August 1, 2004
<-- Return to Brockster.com
Denver's skyline. This view is from the east, with City Park Lake in the foreground. You can see the distinctive "cash register" building as well as the gold-plated dome of the capitol.
Why I Created this GuideGreetings, friends, relatives, co-workers, and anyone else who may have stumbled upon this mini guidebook! Enjoy!
I initially created this list of fun things to do and great restaurants to visit for a couple of friends who were new to the Denver area. Due to popular demand, I have converted the list into a web page, updated it a bit, and organized it better. I do not intend this guide to be comprehensive. Instead, I intend this guide to be my personal guidebook to Denver, including only the things *I* enjoy about our city and the surrounding area. This means that the activities and restaurants mentioned herein reflect my personal tastes, likes, dislikes, and biases, for better or for worse! ;-) In my opinion, most of the activities and restaurants mentioned herein are "hidden gems" you won't find in a typical tourbook. I hope you find it useful!
Useful Books, Maps, Weekly Newpapers, Etc.Provided below are some basic tools for finding places to eat and things to do in Colorado. If you are moving to Denver, I recommend you at least get a copy of the Denver Regional Area SteetFinder. If you are just in town for a few days you can probably do well by just getting a basic Denver map and a copy of Westword. Need more detailed maps or driving directions? Try these two web sites: http://www.expediamaps.com or http://www.mapquest.com to find maps to places you want to visit.
- Westword: To find out what is happening in town, especially the cultural and arts scene, pick up a copy of this weekly newspaper. You can get it at virtually any restaurant or tavern in town.
- Denver Regional Street Atlas: Before you do anything else, go out and buy a copy of this metro Denver area street atlas published by MAPSCO (formerly Pierson). Get the big thick one that has the metro area plus the regional area (includes Boulder). You can get this map at Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, and larger grocery stores and drug stores. For more information on this guide, visit http://www.mapsco.com. You can even buy the map book online at this page on the MAPSCO web site. This is an invaluable tool for finding your way around town. Most of the delivery drivers, cab drivers, and real estate agents use this book. Avoid the Rand McNally Denver street atlas. It is hard to read.
- The Colorado Guide: Also, not required but really helpful is The Colorado Guide by Bruce Caughey and Dean Winstanley. This is the best guidebook for Denver and all of Colorado. You can get it at the Tattered Cover bookstore (see list below) or from Amazon.com.
- Dexonline.com: Online yellow pages and white pages. Includes telephone numbers, addresses, links to maps, sometimes even reviews: http://www.dexonline.com
What I Left OutI have intentionally omitted from this guide places and activities that are fun but not really unique to Colorado or Denver. For example, the Denver Zoo, the Denver Botanic Gardens, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (formerly known as the Denver Museum of Natural History), the Denver Art Museum, and the Colorado Symphony are all great to visit, but there is nothing particularly "Denverish" or "Coloradoish" about them - any big city has these kinds of institutions.
What to Do
- In the fall, go to an Avalanche hockey game at the Pepsi Center. Call Ticketmaster for tickets or buy from the scalpers who hang out on the sidewalk on Auraria Parkway. Check the Denver Post or Rocky Mountain News newspapers for home game dates and times.
- Go to the Tattered Cover bookstore in the Cherry Creek shopping district (there are two, the one in LoDo is a poor relation - go to the one on E. 1st Avenue). The Tattered Cover is an amazing bookstore with three floors of books on every possible subject with comfy chairs for sitting and reading. Includes a coffee and cookie bar. Located at 2955 E. 1st Ave. Dial 303-322-7727.
- Go ice skating on Evergreen Lake in Evergreen. Call the Evergreen Parks and Recreation district to find out if the lake is skateable. In the summer, you can rent paddle boats or canoes. Call 303-674-6441.
- Catch some avant garde films at the Chez Artiste movie theatre. The Chez Artiste is located just off S. Colorado Boulevard at 4150 E. Amherst Avenue, Denver, CO 80222. Telephone 303-757-7164. While I am on the subject of movies, the Denver Movie Times on-line movie listings will show you all the movies playing all over town. The site includes links to similar databases for other cities.
- Got kids? Take them to the Four Mile Historic Park at 715 S. Forest Street, Denver, CO 80246. Dial 303-399-1859. Four Mile Historic Park, situated among the mid-rise office buildings of Denver and Glendale, is an oasis of calm and serenity in the middle of the city. The park contains Denver's oldest house (the homestead of the farm), barns, horses, chickens, goats, a teepee, and a friendly cat. Entrance to the park is free (there is a fee to tour the inside of the house). The kids can ride in an original 19th century carriage pulled by giant draft horses for the amazing sum of $1 each. After the ride, they can feed the horses carrots and apples provided by the staff.
- Listen to great rocking bands at the legendary Little Bear nightclub in Evergreen. This place has been in business for years and hosts some fairly big name acts as well as really good local talent. On concert nights there are always plenty of Harley-Davidson motorcycles out front (don’t worry, the bikers are friendly). Check out the bras in the rafters. In the old days, biker females would drink heavily and eventually throw their bras into the rafters as an act of symbolic defiance to authority. I don’t think this happens anymore, but the bras are still there! Located at 28075 Highway 74 in the heart of Evergreen. Call the Little Bear at 303-674-9991 for more information on upcoming shows.
- Take the Ski Train to Winter Park resort and go skiing. Winter Park is owned (for the time being) by the City of Denver and has a more “family” and “locals” crowd than the resorts on I-70. The Ski Train departs from Denver’s “Union Station” in LoDo and takes you through the old “Moffat” train tunnel - fun! Call 303-296-4754. You can drink all you want “apres ski” because you don’t have to drive home.
- Go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing on the great trails at the YMCA of the Rockies. Drive up to Winter Park and keep going, through Fraser, until you see the sign on your left. Call 303-443-4743.
- For the electronics fans in the family, go to Gateway Electronics at 2525 Federal Blvd. This place is the hobbyist’s dream come true with bin after bin of surplus and new parts, kits, HAM radio stuff, and general electronics goodies. Run by the friendly ex-hippie staff leftover from the early 1970’s. Dial 303-458-5444.
- Visit the Molly Brown House and Museum. This home was once owned by the famous “Titanic” heroine and contains a museum about her life. She was portrayed in the movie “Titanic” by Kathy Bates and by Debbie Reynolds in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”. Located at 1340 Pennsylvania. Dial 303-832-4092.
- Like folk music? Call Swallow Hill Music Association and find out about the concerts they are sponsoring around town. They also teach music classes, such as guitar, etc. Dial 303-777-1003.
- Great jazz abounds at El Chapultepec located at 1962 Market St. This area of downtown really grew up after the baseball stadium was built but jazz fans were going to El Chapultepec long before the Rockies arrived in Denver. Dial 303-295-9126. This place is tiny so get there early.
- Take a half day, one day, or even two day class at Colorado Free University. This adult education, seminar-style “college” has been in Denver for years. Back in the 60's and early 70's, CFU was "Denver Free University," a political rallying place for people who were against the war in Vietnam. Over the years, it has transformed into a the adult education institution we know to day. Classes range from the fun, such as the “ghost house” tour of Denver, a guided tour of the famous ghosts around town and their dwellings, to serious classes such as photography and pottery. I recommend the, literally, “hands-on” “Couples Massage” class. Jennifer and I had a great time and learned some serious relaxation skills! Located at 1510 York St. (Colfax Ave. at York St. - the entrance is on York). Call 303-399-0093. The list of classes is published every 6 weeks in a magazine format. You can pick it up at virtually any restaurant around town.
- Shopping at the famous Cherry Creek shopping mall. I am not a big shopper, but those who are will love this primo quality mall at 3000 E. 1st St. Call 303-388-3900.
- Boulder’s Pearl Street Walking Mall. Boulder developed a walking mall out of a portion of Pearl Street back in the 1970’s. The Pearl Street mall is a Boulder institution. There are lots of fun “people watching” opportunities here as well as good shops and restaurants.
- Denver’s 16th Street Walking Mall. As part of the downtown redevelopment effort, Denver closed off much of 16th St. downtown to traffic and made into a walking mall. If you prefer not to walk, you can ride the free 16th Street mall shuttle bus. Lots of fun shops to browse and restaurants to try. Rides in old-time carriages are available.
- Thirsty? Get yourself to Argonaut Liquors at 700 E. Colfax. Dial 303-831-7788. Great selection of all kinds of spirits with a very knowledgeable staff. This is kind of a seedy part of town. Don’t start any walking tours of Denver from Argonaut.
- If the weather is nice, play frisbee with your dog in Cheesman Park. Located at 13th Ave. and Franklin St.
- How about flipping through the used CD’s and LP’s at Wax Trax? This is Denver’s best used record store. There are two locations, right across the street from one another. One location sells new CD’s and tapes and the other sells the used stuff. The used place is more fun. Get that turntable out of the closet - you can buy used 45’s for, I believe, a nickel each! Located at 619 E. 13th Ave. Dial 303-860-0127.
- Visit Buffalo Bill’s grave and museum. That’s right, the old scout and “Wild West Show” leader is buried at the top of Lookout Mountain. Take I-70 west and watch for the sign once you get past the exit for C-470. Buffalo Bill actually was not a Coloradan. He preferred Wyoming and Nebraska. When he died, however, his widow was penniless and in debt from the decline of the Wild West Show. She agreed to take $10,000 from the editor of the Denver Post in exchange for burying Bill in Colorado. The museum is quite interesting and includes lots of old west artifacts, including lots of curios from the stars of the Wild West Show, such as Annie Oakley. Dial 303-526-0747 for directions and times of operation.
- Caboose Hobbies. What can I say - a toy train lover’s paradise. Toy trains from all over the world are on display here. For the child in us all. Located at 500 S. Broadway (not all that far from Pasquini’s Pizzeria - see the "Where to Eat" section). Call 303-777-6766.
Where to Eat
- For really good "comfort food" barbecue, try Jabo's Bar Be Q, on Arapahoe Road on the south side of the Denver Tech Center. The address is 9862 E. Arapahoe Road, Greenwood Village, CO 80112. Telephone them at 303-799-4432. The ambiance is rudimentary, but the food is yummy, smoky, and wonderful. Try the sweet potato fries! Dieters beware - this is not a place to visit if you are just starting Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig!
- Go to the Wynkoop Brewing Company in "LoDo" (lower downtown) for a night of drinking fancy micro-brewed beers and playing pool. Watch the pretty people as they enter and exit the Wynkoop. This restaurant/tavern is located at 1536 Wynkoop. Dial 303-595-3500.
- For a totally retro, old-time Denver experience, go to the Edgewater Inn in the tiny town of Edgewater in Denver’s western suburbs. Drink Coors beer from tiny 6 oz. Beer glasses and sit in ancient, warn, wooden booths. They serve pizza. Located at 5302 W. 25th Ave. in Edgewater. Dial 303-237-3524.
- Go to the Cherry Cricket in the Cherry Creek shopping district for really good, big hamburgers. Kind of loud and filled with a young and hip crowd, but the food is really good. Lots of drinking to be had as well. Located at 2641 E. 2nd Ave. Dial 303-322-7666.
- Try the great Vietnamese restaurants up and down Federal Boulevard between 6th Ave. and Hampden. My favorite place is “Thai Hiep” restaurant at 333 S. Federal Blvd., Denver, 80219. Dial 303-922-5774. This is in the “Far East” center, a shopping center with a big red “pagoda” looking entrance. It is on the west side of Federal. It is called “Thai Hiep” but it is really Vietnamese food. Try the mussels to start and then try one of the wonderful noodle bowls.
- For really good Thai food, including great hot and spicy Thai soup with coconut milk, go to Pad Thai on S. Wadsworth Blvd. (across parking lot from Red Robin). Great prices, too! Located at 3333 S. Wadsworth Blvd. in Lakewood. Call 303-985-3344.
- For great pizza and a really fun, hip, atmosphere, go to Pasquini’s Pizzeria. If it is really busy (and it usually is, Friday through Saturday) they give you pizza dough to use as “modeling clay” while you wait. There are two locations - go to the original on S. Broadway. Located at 1310 S. Broadway. Dial 303-744-0917.
- For really good sushi, visit the stylish Sushi Tazu located at 300 Fillmore in the Cherry Creek shopping district. The food is really fresh, the décor is pleasant, and happy hour prices are quite reasonable. Call 303-320-1672. We like Sushi Tazu because it is less expensive than the “see and be seen” Sushi Den in Platte Park and has better quality food than the cheaper “Sushi Heights” on Colfax.
- An excellent sushi place in "LoDo" is Mori located near Coors Field (the baseball stadium). Mori has been there for years (long before LoDo was the happening place to be). It is actually inside the Japanese-American VFW post! Call 303-298-1864.
- After your visit to Four Mile Historic Park (see the "What to Do" section), visit New York Pizzeria over on Leetsdale Drive (4990 Leetsdale Drive, Glendale, CO 80246). Telephone 303-316-7353. Don't be in a hurry - the service can sometimes be slow. The pizza, however, is yummy, authentic, New York/New Jersey style east coast pizza pie. The ambiance is non-existent. OK, the place is a dive and it is in a really seedy little strip center. Don't take a date here on a first date. Wait until the third of fourth date.
- Feel like Mexican? Try El Coyotito on Leetsdale Drive. Find them at 4978 Leetsdale Drive, Glendale, CO 80246. Telephone 303-333-1970. El Coyotito is right next to New York Pizzeria (see above). Very tasty, very authentic, and they won't take every peso in your wallet! Grab some mexican candies on your way out.
<-- Return to Brockster.com
Copyright © 1999 - 2004 by Brock Wood. All rights reserved.