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Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado (flickr: Ishmael Orendain)
A Weekend in Denver (+1 or 2 days itinerary)
Day 1 — Mediterranean fares and martinis to follow
After you arrive and settle into your accommodation, head over to Rioja in the historic Larimer Square for a drink and dinner. The Zagat says the chef/co-owner Jasinksi is “nothing short of amazing” and Rioja rewards its “loyal following” with “mouthwatering” Med cuisine that “makes use of seasonal and local ingredients” and is paired with “some fine Spanish wines”. Yelpers seem to love the fresh bacon appetizer, artichoke tortelloni, and the goat cheese and fig beignets. It also recommends that if you are in time for the happy hour, hop on over to the bar for $2 drink specials and yummy small plates that won’t break the bank. (Perhaps skip the dessert and wait for the surprise that’s at your next stop…)
Take a leisurely after dinner stroll up to the Cruise Room in the Oxford Hotel at the corner of 17th and Wazee Street. The Cruise Room is Denver’s oldest bar and has a speakeasy feel to it with a old-fashioned cruise liner decor. So plop yourself down in a cozy booth and order some martinis. Itineraries on denver.org says the creme brulee here is an obligatory dessert order.
Day 2 — Head out to the hills and come home for a locavore meal
Wake up early and head to Snooze for a hearty breakfast before heading out to the slopes. Despite the name, the restaurant is open at 6:30AM on weekdays and 7AM on weekends. Plus what New Yorker or insert your city name + er/ian here doesn’t love a good brunch. Fine, maybe 8AM doesn’t qualify as a brunch, but that’s a technicality we’re willing to overlook. This place has yelpers raving about the pineapple upside down pancake, cinnfull pancakes, egg benedict, and the smoked cheddar hollandaise. Some gripe about the 30 minute wait, but we’re used to that by now! Right? Plus, if you arrive early enough the line won’t even be an issue.
Now head out to a nearby ski resort and spend your day on the slopes. Some close ones to consider are Echo Mountain Park, Arapahoe Basin, and Loveland. See “Heading to Colorado” for more on the skiing scene in Colorado.
Most ski resorts will also offer overnight accommodations if you’re just having too much fun. Or since you’re a short drive away, you can always come back to Denver and check out Root Down for dinner. NYTimes says ”This hyper-casual spot in the rapidly gentrifying Highlands area is the sort of neighborhood restaurant every neighborhood needs. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it functions as an all-day clubhouse for locals, and it recently celebrated its first anniversary with a catered block party outside its front door (it’s that sort of place). Adding to the chummy vibe, the Bean, as it’s known to regulars, is a hodgepodge: a cafe, sandwich joint, cocktail bar and ambitious locavore restaurant, all packed into a space that housed a soda fountain in the 1930s.” And Yelpers can’t get enough of the artichoke and sweet potato fries and the items on the small plates menu.
Day 3 — Swapping the magnificent great outdoors for some beauty indoors
Taking a break from the slopes? Want to escape the cold of the outdoors? Head over to the Golden Triangle neighborhood. You can start your day inside the Denver Art Museum, which “boasts one of the world’s greatest collection of Western American art, in addition to cutting-edge contemporary works and blockbuster traveling exhibits.” The building itself, designed by Daniel Libeskind, has rapidly become an art world icon since the museum’s opening in 2006.
When you are tired, hungry, and in need of a break, you can power up at Rooster & Moon Coffee Pub, only three blocks away on Banncock St between W 10th and W 9th Ave. Grab some breakfasts that’s served all day or opt for salad, sandwiches, or flatbread.
Then continue to explore the neighborhood since it “brims with more than 30 innovative art galleries and artists’ studios showcasing the innovative wares of nationally renowned talent and regional up-and-comers. The Golden Triangle art galleries are bordered by Speer Boulevard, Colfax Avenue and Lincoln Street.”
Day 4 — From Buffalo Bill to Buffalo Sausages
Head 20 some miles to the West to Golden, Colorado and visit the grave of Buffalo Bill, “one of the most famous cowboys to ever ride the range. Upon his request he was buried atop Lookout Mountain, a site boasting one of the best views in all of Colorado. The museum, which opened in 1921, offers a look into life in the Old West.”
Continue your exploration of the great outdoor at the Red Rocks Park or Dinosaur Ridge. The former is “a picture perfect setting with flawless all-natural acoustics 70 million years in the making, Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a true Colorado original. In addition to its blockbuster summer concert series (everyone from the Beatles to U2 have played here), Red Rocks is open year-round, featuring the Red Rocks Performers Hall of Fame and the Trading Post Loop Hiking Trail, a 1.4-mile adventure through spectacular rock formations, valleys and a natural meadow.” And the latter is “a famous natural landmark that features famous Jurassic dinosaur bones, such as Stegosaurus and Apatosaurus, discovered in 1877, and Cretaceous dinosaur footprints.”
If you are interested, on your way back to the city you can stop at the Coors Brewery, the world’s largest brewing site, for a free tour. This brewery still uses the same Rocky Mountain spring water that the founder discovered in 1873.
Once you’re back in the city, stop by Biker Jim’s Gourmet Hot Dog stand on the corner of 16th Street and Arapahoe and try some Alaska Reindeer Sausage. Or perhaps some Elk Jalapeno Cheddar Brat is what you’re interested in? Bourdain, found Biker Jim’s in his recent visit to Denver. The man thought “The elk was excellent, the wild boar was really extraordinary and the reindeer was perfect, really awesome and probably my favorite.” And the word on Yelp is definitely say yes to the “cream cheese and Coca Cola grilled onions.”
Walk around the nearby Tattered Cover Bookstore where you can grab a latte from the in-house java joint and “plop down in one of the overstuffed chairs or sofa to wrap your hands around the latest best seller” before dinner time.
Make the last dinner of your trip a memorable one and head to Fruition. The Zagat review starts with “Absolutely incredible”. Enough said. While you are there Yelpers say the Pan Roasted New Zealand Sea Bass is “cooked to perfection”; the potato wrapped oysters rockefeller were “moanfully delicious”. Other things on the menu that are drool inducing are the Salmon Creek Farm Pork Shoulder Confit and Maple Leaf Farm Duck Breast.