Even though I moved to Denver in June of 2017, I actually feel like I’ve only been here a few months. I’m still trying to get to know my new city and find some balance in my life of travel and work. As you’ve likely noticed if you follow my social media (and you should be!) – I still am traveling 50% of the time, and that makes it hard to get to know my new city of Denver and make it my home.
I moved to Denver because it was completely new to me and I wanted to explore a new region and city when I wasn’t traveling; I thought it would ease my transition from Nomad to Normal. Therefore, when I am home, I try to get out and try new places as much as I can, and I also try to get out of the city to get to the mountains whenever possible. This summer I went hiking in Crested Butte over the 4th of July, and I took a little road trip this fall to Rocky Mountain National Park and Fort Collins for some Autumn hiking. Both trips were great and they make me want to get out more to see the state that I now call home!
Settling into Denver as Home
However, Denver is my first priority – I’m still really discovering what the city is all about and trying to meet new people. This hasn’t been an easy process for me for various reasons. But I made a big step and got a used bike this summer so that it was a little easier to get around and to get a bit more active in the city.
The absolute best thing I’ve done so far to settle in and bring me immense happiness is become a kitty foster parent through Dumb Friends League. I started fostering kittens this summer whenever I was home for a week or two at a time. My ‘job’ is to socialize them, and get them fattened up to 2 lbs so that they can be adopted. Their ‘job’ is to make me laugh, smile, and cuddle with me…they are really great at their jobs. So far I’ve had 4 different kittens and each one brought me so much joy, AND so many tears when I had to take them back to the shelter. Giving them back is one of the hardest things to do, but I know that I’m playing an important role for these kittens. The good news is that each was adopted within days after taking them back!
Hosting Visitors In Denver
One of the great things about having a home for the first time in a decade is that I can actually invite people to come visit me! This summer I had a few visitors, which allowed me to spend more time exploring my new city discovering some new things to do in Denver. Being new to Denver, it was a great excuse for me to get out and see the city through a visitor’s eyes. I went to museums, gardens, restaurants, bars, and even visited the Rockies Baseball field a few times with my visitors! From that I’ve started to compile a great list of favorite things to do in Denver with visitors.
My Favorite New to Denver Discoveries
Discover Denver Through Street Art
I don’t have a car in Denver, so that makes it a bit hard to discover is the various neighborhoods of Denver except for mine. I walk around my neighborhood (Capital Hill) all the time and can do pretty much everything by foot. But there are a lot of great neighborhoods in Denver with snazzy New York City-esque names like LODO, LOHI, RINO, Uptown – I honestly can’t remember what they all stand for, but I am starting to somewhat know their general direction. So when I heard about a Denver Graffiti Tour through the RINO neighborhood I figured this would be my chance to learn about a new neighborhood.
I love street art, and I find the transformation of it being a plague on cities to something now that city’s welcome and commission is fascinating to me. It’s as if suddenly the Coyote became best friends with the Road Runner and started to pay him to hang around. Denver has one of those stories for sure, and you’ll learn a bit about it on this cool 2 hour walking tour.
Not only will you learn about the evolution of street art around the world and in Denver, but you’ll also learn about the evolution of the RINO neighborhood into an art district. RINO is the like the ‘Lower East Side’ of Denver; it’s where all the grit and crime was years ago and has now slowly transformed into a hip (still a bit gritty) area. Old warehouses are now home to breweries, cool bars, start-ups, galleries, and markets – and the whole neighborhood is covered in street art. On the tour you learn the story behind the street art and graffiti based on the guide’s research and interviews with the street artists personally. It’s a nice inside look into the street art culture.
Prior to the tour I had only been in the RINO area at night going to bars or new restaurants, this was the first time I had walked around it in the daylight and suddenly it all started making sense. It’s like seeing that one night stand the next morning clearly. What started years ago with alley walls as a canvas has moved out to all the main buildings and establishments of RINO – the street art was everywhere. Some of it still represented the roots of the graffiti culture, some of it was commissioned work, and most of it was from prior CRUSH WALLS festivals.
Prior to the tour, I had never heard of CRUSH WALLS, but I soon learned about this cool street art festival that brings in commissioned artists every year to repaint the walls around RINO (many of them large scale installations). They have it in Denver every September and this year I went to watch it. They paint many of the walls black again and bring in local and international artists to repaint them in the course of a week. I biked to RINO midweek during the festival to see the progress and then on the last day. It was such a fun way to experience the neighborhood.
I recommend anyone new to Denver check out the Denver Graffiti Tour and then hang out in the neighborhood for brunch or local beers!
Learn More About RINO and its Street Art
Get Lost in the Denver Botanical Garden
I had passed by the Botanical Gardens in Denver more times than I could count. I even went to it last winter for their Holiday lights, but I had never been to the Botanical Gardens in the summer (or in the daylight!) to actually see the flowers and plants…until late this summer. My mom came to visit me and I figured it was the perfect time to go visit since my mom is a flower nut.
We picked a perfect blue sky day to go to the gardens and I had a Denver CityPASS we used for entry. I learned that the new Denver CityPASS lets you in to a variety of museums and sites around Denver for discounted prices for a week timeframe – perfect for when I have Denver visitors! The Botanical Gardens exceeded my expectations in every way. I thought it might be sort of boring, but the grounds were lovely, and vast. They have several outdoor areas/gardens with different types of plants as well as indoor gardens. The whole area was so relaxing and beautiful that I found myself looking into membership for myself!
Get a Denver CityPASS to Explore More of the City
Denver CityPASS Information:
Tickets include one-time admission to any 3 of the following attractions:
1. Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus
2. Downtown Aquarium
3. Denver Art Museum
4. Denver Botanic Gardens
5. Denver Museum of Nature & Science
6. Denver Zoo
7. History Colorado Center
8. Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum
Buy A Pass here!
Get High In Denver At the 5430 Rooftop Bar
Sorry – not that kind of high…I’m talking about height. I went to the opening of 5430 this summer and I must admit it sort of made me miss NYC for a hot second. I normally wear pretty casual clothes around Denver – you’ll often find me in flip flops. However this is one time when I felt like I should get properly dressed up. Situated on the top floor of the Le Méridien Hotel is the swanky rooftop bar 5430. You can sip fancy drinks in tiny glasses, sit on modern couches, and watch the sun go down over the mountains on one side while being wowed by downtown big city lights on the other side – all while listening to a hip DJ. It’s a great place to go for the views, and some fun cocktails. Obviously this is more of a summer place, but the rooftop is open even in the cooler months for the truly hearty.
More info on 5430 Rooftop Bar
Molly Brown House
This little piece of history was right in my neighborhood and I had no idea! That’s that fun thing about discovering a city – you have all kinds of little surprises. My mother and I went to do a tour of the historic Molly Brown house in Capital Hill and I was pleasantly surprised to learn of this progressive woman and her history with Denver and politics. Not only that, she was a survivor on the Titanic (played by Kathy Bates in the movie). She was a tough woman, and her home is only a few blocks from my little apartment. The tour was interesting, the home was beautiful; however, old home tours are not as much my thing as my mothers. But I also learned all about other historic tours in the neighborhood that I’ll be trying out this winter!
Tamayo Restaurant – Larimer Square
One of those places I want to take a historic walking tour is Larimer Square. It’s a one block area of downtown that is lined with historic buildings that have now been converted into restaurants, bars and a few hip stores. Lights are hung across the block giving it a lovely, warm, welcoming feel. It’s there where you’ll find one of my favorite restaurants – Tamayo Modern Mexican Kitchen and Tequileria. This corner restaurant also has rooftop and outdoor seating in this prestigious block.
My mother and I went to dinner there to try out their Mexican cuisine and I was won over at their unique marrying of flavors like bacon and guacamole, and carnitas with an orange and habanero reduction. All of the dishes had a spicy flare tamed by a sweet fruit of some kind – the flavors were refreshing. In addition, they had a wonderful selection of tequilas and utilized them in some surprising drinks, like my tequila old fashioned.
Tupelo Honey Brunch
They had me at bottomless Bloody Marys. When my friends from NYC were here visiting, we went to brunch at Tupelo Honey near Union Station. I had been to their martini lunch there before, but had also heard they had great brunch. And everyone else must have heard the same things as there was a 40 minute wait that Sunday morning for us! No problem though as it’s a great area to walk around, so I showed my friends Union Station (one of my favorite places in Denver!), and Confluence park by the river not too far away. The time will fly by while in LODO (Lower Downtown) there’s always so much to see.
Tupelo is known for their southern food menu. We enjoyed the bottomless bloody marys, fried green tomatoes, sweet potato pancakes, grits, and omelets.
Sometimes a girl just needs chocolate. And sometimes a girl just needs a good cocktail. At Chocolate lab – the have both! This small chocolate-centric restaurant is known for their craft cocktails and chocolate shop (this could be the best idea ever!). That’s right, you can go have an incredibly unique craft cocktail, dinner, decadent chocolate desert, AND take home hand made truffles.
They call it a lab because it does feel like a big science experiment. The décor is even sort of sterile like a lab, and they use beakers and various tubes that I barely remember from my high school chemistry class to mix drinks. How about a S’moretini (marshmallow vodka, chocolate, coffee, cream, and toasted marshmallow), or a Flaming Queen (Scotch, Rye, maple, blackberry, vermouth, and citrus). Their food is also quite experimental in nature. Tortellini with dark chocolate shavings that bring out the flavor, or bourbon chocolate BBQ sauce pulled pork. I never liked chemistry in school, but had I been able to experiment with chocolate in chemistry – I’m pretty sure I would have went into science as a career!
It’s a small space, so make a reservation and come hungry!
Chocolate Lab website
I have so much more to discover in my ‘New To Denver’ life, but it’s a slow process sometimes due to my work schedule. However, I’m making progress – at least now when visitors do come to Denver I have some great ideas on where to take them! Consider that an invitation – come visit me and we’ll explore together!