Run, Eat, Drink, Play: 36 Hours in Denver
To say I hadn’t prepared for my trip to Denver would be an understatement. I was there for a weekend, and the plan was simple: Run in one of the most famous running cities in the world, and participate in my host’s local-food-only lifestyle, which thankfully included locally brewed beer. (I know, it’s so Denver.)
And while my suitcase was stuffed with gear appropriate for all-weather running, I failed to make the connection when the pilot welcomed us to The Mile High City. It wasn’t until an hour later, huffing up the stairs to my friend’s apartment, that I realized—the two long runs I had planned in the Rocky Mountain foothills were going to be tough.
Lucky for me, the rest of my stay was easy living, as I took in all that Denver has to eat, drink, and enjoy. Thinking of making the trip yourself? Check out my guide to weekending one mile above it all.
If you’re fresh off the plane and hungry (what? Those mini pretzels didn’t do the trick?), drop your bags and head to Steuben’s, Denver’s answer to comfort food. Yes, the decor is retro chic. And, no, you won’t be able resist spinning in those leather stools as you wait for your Dark and Stormy. But, like every good diner, if you’re craving it, Steuben’s has it on the menu. Try the lobster roll—one of the guys behind Steuben’s hails from Boston. Naturally, your fries come with malt vinegar. Ketchup is for kids.
Down for some music? Try DazzleJazz, which features live performances every night of the week. Wander between the two rooms depending on your mood: Relax and listen in the Showroom or hit the bar in the Dizzy Room. Oh, and get ready for some wildly fun cocktails! From sparklers (champagne-based) to shakers (try the vodka and grapefruit infused Salty Dog) to Dazzlebrites (the bar’s unique signatures), there’s something tasty for everyone.
OK, so about that running. Don’t let the name scare you: The Mile High City is home to some of the best running in the country. Hitch a ride out to the foothills and choose from dozens of picturesque, Runner’s World-worthy trails. I recommend Bear Creek for a scenic 8+ mile loop around the reservoir. The trail can be tricky, so take a local or a trusty map and keep an eye out for mountain bikers, prairie dogs, and maybe even some Olympic athletes in town from the training center in nearby Colorado Springs.
How do you like your eggs? If you answered scrambled on a bed of cornbread and melted Brie or served with a side of Challah French Toast, you’re in luck. Devil’s Food Bakery and Cookery bakes its bread in-house and uses local ingredients whenever possible, making it the perfect place to grab a bite. Sit in the garden out back when the weather’s fine, or cozy up at a table for two in the winter.
There are two things that come to mind when I think of the Denver Art Museum: a dustpan and a broom. No, seriously—giant statues of them tower outside of the museum. While you might go to see this oversized oddity of public art, you should definitely stay for the rest of the museum. It is best known for its collection of American Indian art, but the real treat is the building’s jagged and imposing architecture. The contemporary art wing and the main entrance were designed to resemble the Rocky Mountain peaks.
Looking at art makes you hungry, so head up the block to City O’ City for a pick-me-up and some of the best coffee around. If you’re into tea, the Bhakti Chai is micro-brewed just outside of Boulder. This vegetarian restaurant has plenty of vegan and gluten-free options as well—try the W.O.W. (waffle of the week), the vegetarian buffalo wings, or some homemade pickles. Have time for libations? Order a vintage-inspired cocktail every day from 2-6 PM during happy hour. (Or just go for the milk stout and a cookie.)
This is your last night in Denver and you’re going out in style. Your destination? Linger, a restaurant perched above it all in the Highlands, Denver’s “it” neighborhood. This historic mortuary-turned-restaurant is everything you want it to be: trendy and sleek, while maintaining its Denver flair (everything can be made vegan and locavore friendly, just ask your waiter). The wait will be long, so take your buzzer to the roof deck where spectacular views and creative cocktails await. The menu of small plates pays homage to street food from around the world—order away, and definitely don’t miss the Mongolian BBQ duck bun or the Masala Dosa.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for the giant milk jug shaped ice cream parlor next to Linger. Little Man Ice Cream is open year-round and is home to handcrafted flavors like salted Oreo. (And Lactaid is sold for 50 cents, so no excuses for not getting a cone.)
Digestif, nightcap, after-party—call it what you wish, but a trip to Williams and Graham is a must. The entrance is disguised to look a library, but it’s a speakeasy—they can’t just let you in. The drink menu is extensive (as in, each spirit has its own page) and Prohibition-inspired. If you want to end your night on the right note, try the El Diablo, a classic tequila cocktail made with fresh lime juice and ginger beer.
You ran, you ate, you saw, and now you’re ready to run again. Washington Park is ideal for a brisk, flat run, and is smack in the center of the city. On a clear day, you’ll be treated to a spectacular view of snow-capped Rockies—the perfect end to your weekend. One loop on the path is just under three miles.
Buttery goodness awaits at Buffalo Doughboy Bakery, located but a stone’s throw from Washington Park. (You can’t miss it, the place is bright purple.) Settle into an oversized chair and enjoy freshly baked pastries and huge mugs of coffee. And don’t forget to buy a few extra treats for the plane ride home.
Photo of Denver skyline courtesy of Shutterstock. Photo of band at DazzleJazz courtesy of Greg Younger. Photo of Denver Art Museum courtesy of Ray Tsang. Photo of Little Man Ice Cream courtesy of vxla. Photo of Washington Park courtesy of Jeffry Beall.
Leah is a world-traveling, chocolate-eating runner who loves to write! Monday-Friday you'll find her solving tough administrative problems at Harlem United Community Aids Center, and on the weekends she spends her time running, cycling, and scoping out the best Mexican restaurants in the city.More from this Author