Growing up I always knew I would end up in California at some point. It was just destined to happen and I loved every second of it. But never did I think I would be living in Denver, Colorado AND absolutely loving it! I literally had never been to the city of Denver before I was about to move there. I had been fortunate enough to visit the rocky mountains for a memorable snowboarding trip with my family for my sweet 16, but that was my only experience in the high altitude.
Denver is an awesome city, although it's small compared to what I'm used to (Philadelphia, NYC, San Diego) it packs a lot of punch and is rapidly expanding its population. Almost everyone is a transplant so the people are really friendly because more than likely they were once new in town too.
Not only is the city buzzing with people, but buzzing with expansion and improvements. There has been a huge influx of cash that the cannabis industry generates (hello 13% tax on recreational cannabis sales) that the city can put money towards projects throughout the city. They even had so much money they sent a ballot to the residents of what they should spend the excess money on with options of different programs to give back to the community.
This city is popping up with an abundance of art, shops and great restaurants it's hard to keep up and makes it feel increasingly expansive. There is more sunshine than in SoCal, they say 300 days of sun, even in the winter it can be a blizzard one day and then the sun will shine and melt it all away the next. The weather has been crazy, but still a lot more mild compared to the East coast winters. Everyone here lives a really active lifestyle as the mountains offer so many activities all year long. In Winter you have skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, etc. Summer brings mountain biking, fishing, white water rafting/kayaking, camping, hiking, and more. The only thing missing is the ocean, other than that it's a fabulous place to live.
Below are recommendations from a "never thought I would be a Denver local local”
- Red Rocks-About a 20 min drive from the city-can walk around the park during the day and there are paths to hike, incredibly beautiful. If there's a concert there in the summer you're remotely interested in the music GO.
- Denver Botanic Gardens one of my favorite places in Denver and where I take every visitor. They have concerts here in the summer and is another great venue!
- Cherry Creek Trail-can rent bikes and bike along the river trail, there's a farmer's market in cherry creek on Saturdays in the summer.
- Sloan’s Lake- trail to bike/walk withviews of the city from one side and the mountains from the other
- Union Station-awesome train station that is STUNNING, has lots of fabulous restaurants and bars in it (would recommend mercantile or snooze for breakfast) they have little man ice cream there and classy train station vibes.
- 16th Street Mall/Larimer Street-more mainstream shopping and always a lot of activity, I would recommend Larimer street in the River North (Rino) area past broadway going north.
- Rocky Mountain National Park-In Estes Park and completely magical. $20 entrance fee for the day or $30 for the week. Lots of beautiful scenic drives and hikes. Feels like you are driving in the clouds.
- All Trails-Is a great app to search trails. You can search “waterfalls” “views” etc. and find out mileage, difficulty and have the trail map available on your phone even when you inevitably go offline in the wilderness.
- Boulder-35-45 min drive: we go to Boulder a lot, the flatirons are ridic! there are a lot of hikes at the Chataqua Park Trailhead, I would recommend Royal Arch or Flatirons
- Estes Park-1 hour drive: Close to Rocky Mountain National Park, also has the Stanley haunted hotel. Tiny mountain town. Has some great hikes I've done Bridal Veil Falls hike and I have been frequenting Gem Lake trail, you can't swim in the lake, but I still bring a picnic and climb the rocks to look out onto the mountain views
- Rocky Mountains-1.5-2 Hour Drive. There are a ton of hikes when you go west into the rockies.
- Shrine Pass-amazing hike, so gorgeous I felt like I was in the sound of music (not in the swiss alps, but the wild mountain flowers and views are second to none).
- Hanging Lake-the most beautiful hike I've been on, you can’t go in the lake-have to get there really early for parking, but worth it if you can get a parking spot. see photos here.
- Mount Evans-This is the top of the tripadvisor things to do, I've never been, this is a massive 14er that some people hike, You can also drive up it.
- Pike's Peak-cograil or hike, you can take the cograil up and hike down, or go for the full 14er experience and hike up and down.
- The Garden of the Gods -Massive park south of Denver near Colorado Springs.
- Evergreen very close to Denver and has lots of hiking trails.
- The Source-Large warehouse concept with shops and restaurants. Acorn restaurant is amazing for lunch/dinner-awesome space with food shops (bakery, florist, cheese shop, coffee, brewery) and they have a new hotel they built next door with even more good stuff to check out. One of my faves!
- Sushi Ronin-best sushi we love going there in the highland neighborhood
- Izakaya den-another great sushi spot outside of town
- Beast and Bottle-fabulous for dinner or brunch.
- Little Man Ice Cream-famous ice cream stand in LoHi-(honestly IMHO their ice cream is not worth the lines) They also have a super cute shop Sweet Cooie's that is super retro and fun.
- High Point Creamery-At the Denver Central Market this is the best ice cream in Denver in my opinion and you can get FLIGHTS OF ICE CREAM! Plus they have incredible vegan flavors!
- American Cultures Kombucha Tap Room-Kombucha tap room! how fun.
- Dos santos-favorite tacos! freshest tacos, similar to SoCal.
- Wooden spoon-tiny, yet fabulous bakery for breakfast and lunch
- Bar dough-best pizza and pasta-our FAVE and super close to my house, it's dangerous for my waist line.
- Señor Bear-BOMB Modern Mexican and tequila bar in the Lohi neighborhood. By the same people as Bar Dough, a new favorite!
- Uncle-RAMEN! great ramen and no msg used. Get there early it is ALWAYS packed.
- Avanti-VIEWS, incredible views of the city. Hip bar and rooftop with many pop up restaurants to snack from.
- Root Down-Farm to table bae. Good happy hour and amazing food.
- Denver Biscuit Co-breakfast spot with ridiculous breakfast sandwich biscuits a lot of tourists love this spot for breakfast.
- Pinche tacos-Tacos, tequila, whiskey
- Stowaway coffee and kitchen-aussie coffee/breakkie spot ❤️
- Wonder Press Juicery - great to get juice or a smoothie before/after a hike
- Alpine Modern Cafe- coffee, snacks and a little fireside outside where you can enjoy mountain views
- Piece Love Chocolate -Chocolate shop!
- Pearl Street Mall-This is where all the shops/ restaurants are you can walk around and find places to eat
- Basta-more upscale dinner, bomb pizza
- BlackBelly Market-fresh sandwiches for lunch and great dinners
Nudoru-Ramen shop, the best ramen i’ve had. If you go west you have to go here!
RiNo-River North area along Larimer street is up and coming, lots of cool bars/good night life. I like meadowlark-funky, urban vibes for dancing
LoDo-this is another area with a lot of bars and nightlife
- Beta- this is one of the 3 nightclubs in Denver
- Club Vinyl-rooftop bar has some great DJs come thru
- Bar Standard-rooftop bar, pops off Sunday nights
- There’s a lot of live music venues you should see if there are any shows you’re interested in seeing when you plan a trip to Denver. There’s bluebird theater, ogden theater, etc.
- Occidental Bar- punk rock bar with outdoor patio
- Avanti-rooftop with amazing views
- Linger-rooftop bar, good views, drinks are ok...
- Williams and Graham-cool speakeasy bar with creative, high end cocktails, can be a long wait on the weekends.
- Forest room 5-CAMP vibes, campfires outside. Fun for a group if you snag one of the fireside areas.
This is a great list from 303 magazine with the best boutiques in Denver. A few of my favorite areas include:
Larimer in Rino
Tennyson Street (Between 38th and 444th)
South Broadway-fun for antique-ing and vintage shops. Sewn on S broadway is awesome!
FAVE boutique is definitely Midnight Rambler in Sunnyside (44th and Zuni)
Frinje on 16th street mall is another gem, their buyer knows what she is doing. (there's also one in Vail and Aspen if you are in the mountains)
THE BRASS ARMADILLO BARN-this place is THE BEST. It is a huge antique mall with many vendors and really cool unique finds from vintage clothes to furniture it has it all and everything in my house is pretty much from there! Really fun!
You gotta get the herb while you're over here! ust have to be 21+ with valid ID and have some Cash!
- Altitude the Dispensary East Colfax- in Aurora-If you want to feel like a kid in a candy store definitely stop by this spot. Could be a great stop on your way into Denver from the airport.
- Livwell-They have many locations throughout the city and the best selection of products. I like their Evans location-huge shop and they have the best pricing.
- FOR that green green I would recommend Green Man Cannabis-the 'dankest' bud, but it comes at a price.
- Simply Pure-first African American owned dispensary and first African American Woman owned dispensary in the heart of the Highlands.
- Rare Dankness House of Dankness is another great spot.
- ALSO MY FAVORITE is Dank Dispensary. They have amazing selection and great bud too (a theme here? lol)
Enjoy a sunset over the rockies at one of the Rooftop bars downtown. There is plenty to see and do in the Mile High City. I am still discovering more each day that I live here. Please comment below if you ever plan a trip and have any questions!