A Basic Guide to Drinking and Eating in Denver
As our plane sputtered and dove forward, fighting to ascend shortly after takeoff I laid back and closed my eyes. After all, I’d made it this far 31 pretty interesting years here on earth having just celebrated my birthday in Denver. Of course despite the turbulence and my wife Nicole nearly squeezing my arm off, we eventually climbed and gained altitude on our way home to Arizona.
I went in not expecting much. More than anything I just wanted to see a cool new place that was just a short cheap flight away from Phoenix. Having been to so many exotic locations around the world, my expectations were fairly tempered when traveling to this landlocked city in the mountains of Colorado.
The first thing you need to know is that you can get by quite well without a car here. Hop off your flight, grab your bag and head down to the light rail station that will take you right into downtown and to Union Station.
From there you are just blocks from LoDo and the 16th street areas. There is a free bus that loops the 16th street corridor all day and into the evening. If you are so inclined you can hop on that and cruise all the way down to nearly the capitol building and Colfax avenue, another main thoroughfare that you can grab an uber and head off to the more local laden dive bars that line both sides of the street.
We came into town early, grabbing breakfast at Snooze which is a chain restaurant, though one that we really like as we have one here in Scottsdale. The Snooze in Denver’s Union Station is small and cramped, but a good place to grab breakfast and a few mimosas after a flight.
We messed around in town for a bit, grabbing a drink and then going to get a massage. We then went out and did a bit of day drinking waiting to check into out AirBNB. We chose the 16th Street mall area to hang out in, as it is the touristy spot with such bars as Coyote Ugly and the Hard Rock Café. While maybe not the most authentic of experiences, it presented us with a chance to kill time and relax with out luggage.
Now I understand that I’m a different guy. But having been so many places, museum tours, downtown malls and nightlife seem to all run together at times. However one stop in Denver was absolutely unique, unlike anything I’d ever seen in the world. Yes my friends, that place is Casa Bonita, the delightfully tacky, yet pretty fucking awesome venue where locals and tourists alike gather to eat terrible food and more importantly explore the massive winding structure equipped with a waterfall, caves, it’s own makeshift prison cell and tropical themed dining room where you can watch high divers jump down the waterfall into the pool below.
While the food is fairly inedible, this place warrants a visit based on just how fucking weird and unique the setting itself is. Also the Sopapillas were not bad, I’ll give them that. If you are a fan of the show Southpark, the episode based on this place basically nails it to a T.
The next day was Thursday and upon waking up we decided we would head out on a short Uber ride to Golden, Colorado, the home of Coors Brewing’s headquarters. The Coors tour is worth a trip out here as it is a free tour where you can see the history of the storied brewery and get 3 free beers to boot.
Quick travel tip, you cannot bring any bags, not even purses with you on the tour so stop into town first. There are a few small hotels that will likely let you store your bags there. We enjoyed the tour and it was actually a pretty awesome in depth tour.
We went back to the city after the tour and got ready to explore the nightlife. We chose LoDo as the area we would get crazy in, as it is the downtown area to drink at, surrounding Coors field. Our AirBNB was across the street from Coors Field so this made the decision of where to go a no brainer.
Probably the oddest thing about going out in LoDo on a Thursday was how ridiculously cheap it was to go out drinking. The first bar we went to was called Brothaz, the name I thought was a bit ironic since it was full of white people. I guess the owners must be brothers who didn’t get their first choice in names when applying for their LLC. Here there were free drinks for the ladies all night and $1 cocktails that cam in large plastic mugs for the fellas. We of course took full advantage and after about $12 of damage (I’ll let you do the math).
We went out to the next bar. Lodos is another very cool open air rooftop bar in Downtown Denver and though we chose a night that was a bit too chilly to stay for too long, it was obvious that in the late spring to early fall, this was the place too be with great views of downtown and a pretty damn cool rooftop bar. Surrounding this bar in Lodo were a few other similar rooftop bars so you are in luck if you want to go rooftop barhopping in LoDo.
All in al we ate at a few decent restaurants, the Paramount Café in particular is a great location with decent food. 1UP was a fun video game bar we went to with $4 wells in a Friday. It seems everywhere we went we did not spend much money while drinking. In the 3 days we were there we spent about the same amount on alcohol that we would in about 3 hours in Scottsdale or Seattle.
We didn’t have the time to see the Red Rocks or take the tour of the Mint downtown, both of which I hear area pretty awesome. We also did not head up to the mountains as that isn’t really our thing, but this is something that it seems most tourists come to town for.
I enjoyed our short trip in Denver, it’s a fun smaller city with a distinct personality and a food scene that I have a feeling is only getting better and better.
It was not my favorite city, nor was it my least favorite, but without question a place worth taking a weekend trip. Not sure I’d stay a full week unless you are looking to do some outdoor adventure activities, you can see the city pretty quickly.