How to spend 48 Hours in Denver The Mile High City – A Guide to Food, Art and Culture

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EatCookExplore was a guest of Visit Colorado.

Denver is called the Mile High City as its exactly one mile or 5,280 feet above sea level. Many think that Denver is merely the gateway to the Rocky Mountains but there is lots of discover here. Here’s what you can do in a weekend in Denver.

Denver might be a mile high but is also in an Alpine desert environment with very dry air. (Top Tip: drink lots of water to counteract the altitude and the dry air.) With an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, the city is one of the sunniest in the US. The weather, proximity to the Rockies, friendly locals, outdoor lifestyle has made it so popular that the population has ballooned in the last 10 years.

Denver has profited from this boom. There has been mass regeneration around the city. New areas are opening up with new bars and restaurants serving up some of the best food and drink. Explore the neighbourhoods like RiNo, LoDo, LoHi and more.

1. Brunch at Mercantile in Union Station LoDo

Mercantile Union Station Denver

Mercantile is one of the top eateries in the newly repurposed Union Station in Denver. Headed up by James Beard award winning chef, Alex Seidel.

The first order of business is always to get fed. As we are here on a Sunday, we get to do brunch, which is a much bigger deal here back in London. It’s only 9ish and queues have already formed for breakfast/brunch.

We feast on “all” of their specialities like almond butter overnight oats, pancakes with an added side of the local bacon (of course), a grain bowl with pork belly, braised kale and poached, egg and breakfast calzone.

They also do flights of coffee, where the baristas choose either 3 different origins or 3 different methods. It’s my new way of drinking coffee. Now why don’t more places do this?

2. Union Station Denver

Union Station Denver
Union Station Denver

The Union Station in LoDo (Lower Downtown) is the main train station in Denver. It was transformed in 2012 into this new

As train travel dwindled, this station was underused. The city has turned the station into the City’s living room, a new entertainment complex. The central room is now filled with comfy sofas, communal desks for working, coffee shops and restaurants. It’s a place for the community to use and enjoy. This is a great example of repurposing an unloved historic building.

3. Take the Ultimate Urban Denver City eTuk Tour

Denver eTuk Tours

Tour Denver in these Colorado designed electric tuk tuks. With amusing commentary from the guides and personal anecdotes, this is a really unique way to see a city. For two hours, we are whisked all over town from downtown to RiNo and more. It is a really time-efficient way to blitz through the main sights of Denver.

If you fancy exploring at your own pace, you can rent one of the many electric scooters via app. You can pick one up on almost any street.

4. Lunch at the Denver Central Market in RiNo

Denver Central Market Food Hall
Denver Central Market Food Hall

This is a food court in in the middle of the arty new district, RiNo. You will find tacos, burgers, juice bar, bean to bar chocolates, bakeries, bar, coffee and a bakery in here. They even have a butcher and a fishmonger.

5. RiNo Street Art Walk

Denver Street Art RiNo Art District
Denver Street Art RiNo Art District
Denver Street Art RiNo Art District
Denver Street Art RiNo Art District

Walk off lunch by exploring the neighbourhood’s street art.

RiNo (River North Art District) was the city’s industrial zone but now transformed into its creative district. They have been hosting the Colorado Crush Street Art Festival  for several years and the result is about 30 blocks of quite stunning art. Spend a couple of hours walking around the streets around here and marvel at the talent.

6. Explore the Golden Triangle Creative district

Colorado STate Capitol Denver
Colorado State Capitol Denver

Head to this area for a cultural tour of Denver. The Golden Triangle district near uptown Denver is full of museums, galleries including the Denver Art Museum, the gold domed Colorado State Capitol Building.

7. Dinner at El Five Tapas de Gibraltar

El Five Tapas Denver
El Five Tapas Denver

Perched on the top floor of this building in LoHi (Lower Highland), the open air terrace has the most spectacular views of the Denver skyline. It also overlooks another iconic dining venue housed in an old mortuary, Linger.

El Five serves a mix of Mediterranean dishes, some served tapas style. We loved the harissa eggplant fries, vegetal paella with lentils and quinoa and lamb ribs. The terrace has is a great place to have a cocktail at sunset.

8. Grab a night cap at the 16Mix bar at Sheraton

16Mix bar at Sheraton Denver
16Mix bar at Sheraton Denver

The 16Mix bar is at the corner of the Sheraton Hotel by 16th Street Mall. Get their talented mixologist to make you one of their creative signature cocktails.

9. Visit the History Colorado Centre

History Colorado Denver
History Colorado Denver

For a dose of culture and local history, stop by the Denver History museum. We caught the “Written on the Land” exhibition of the Ute people, the longest continuous occupants of Colorado for the longest time. It tells the stories of the Ute people, Chief Ouray, how they lost their ancestral lands and how they live today.

This is the home of Colorado history, where you will also find stories about the earliest inhabitants, the Ute people to all the inventions made in the Centenary state like Crocs.

10. Shopping on 16th Street Mall

16th Street Mall Denver
16th Street Mall Denver

This is the main shopping street, right in the middle of downtown Denver, where you find all your favourite American brands. It was right next door to our hotel so that was easy. There is a free bus that goes up and down 16th Street, super handy if you get knackered carrying all that shopping.

11. Grab an ice cream at Little Man Ice Cream

Little Man Ice Cream Denver
Little Man Ice Cream Denver

This ice cream shop is recommended by all locals and is also a landmark in town. You can’t miss the giant “milk can” and the never ending queue. Their local Denver made micro-batch ice cream uses local dairy and served in home made waffle cones.

12. Historic Larimer Square

Historic Larimer Square Denver
Historic Larimer Square Denver

Larimer square is a historic district and is also where Denver was founded. The area is lined with Victorian lamp posts and beautified by dangling flower baskets. Stroll around Larimer Square, do a bit of shopping and grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants and watch the world go by.

13. Enjoy the public art all around the city

Blue Bear Denver By Lawrence Argent
“I see what you mean” Blue Bear Denver By Lawrence Argent

This 40ft bear seen peering into the Convention Center is now an icon of Denver. It represents the Rockies, Flatirons and Coloardo.

The Colorado “Art in public places” programme requires new buildings to contribute 1% of capital construction funds to be used in the acquisiition of art. You can see the result of this programme all around Denver and Colorado for the enjoyment of its citizens.

Art in Public Places Colorado
Art in Public Places Colorado

Other places to visit nearby:

  • Red Rock Amphitheatre
  • Rocky Mountains
  • Estes Park
  • Loveland
  • Boulder

Visit the site to help you plan your itinerary.

Getting to Denver

New direct flights from London to Denver via Norwegian start from £179 economy. (Check before you book as they have been subcontracting some flights out since the 737s in their fleet have been grounded.)

Where to stay in Denver

Sheraton Hotel Denver
Sheraton Hotel Denver

The Sheraton Denver is the biggest convention hotel in the city. Enjoy a dip in the rooftop pool, breakfast in the lounger on the top floor with glorious views across the City towards the snow-capped mountains. It is within easy access to the Golden Triangle and 16th Street Mall.

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How to spend 48 Hours in Denver


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