People are so loyal to their neighborhoods and the local hang outs.
I moved out to Green Mountain in 2014, but I still hold Wash Park West close to my heart like it’s somehow in my blood. Everyone has a bar that they claim as their own. For me, it will always be the Candlelight Tavern, but it easily could have been Pub on Pearl or the Kentucky Inn. With enough time, you may even find yourself dressing to play the part, whether that’s a volleyball outfit with the bar’s logo on it or just a t-shirt with a Colorado flag. Don’t lie- you’ve thought about buying one of those cartoonish maps with each neighborhood labeled, and hanging it on your living room wall with a star over your building.
You have to look hard to find any remains of Denver as a ‘cow town’.
Tucked behind the high rise apartments, art districts, and micro-distilleries sit the empty warehouses and dilapidated factories that bolstered the skyline back when our city was commonly referred to as a ‘cow town.’ Since the early 1990s, the Denver metro area has undergone a nearly immeasurable boom- suburbs expanding into the plains, skyscrapers and modern architecture overrunning old landmarks like the Gates rubber factory and Stapleton airport in the city proper.
The growth has brought with it a modern image and another reason for locals to be proud of their city. As we have suffered through constant construction, we have enjoyed the benefits of better infrastructure and entertainment that are on par with larger cities- take the different theater and performance options at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the redeveloped Stapleton commercial areas, and the RiNo Art District for example.
That food you bought from your favorite food truck was raised just up I-70.
Peaches from Palisade. Corn from Olathe. Meat from the eastern plains. Local purveyors are all about keeping their dollars in Colorado and the farms are more than happy to give a tour and a sample.
The growing season here is relatively short due to winter, but the amount of food being produced by local farmers is nothing short of amazing. It seems to be something of a bragging right for chefs- ‘My food only traveled fifty miles!’
Denver takes partying in the street to a new level.
It’s hard to go more than a week without being at some kind of outdoor festival- The Big Wonderful, Old South Pearl St., and music festivals like The UMS and Westword Music Showcase hold it down throughout the summer.
The only thing that sucks about all this debauchery is driving around- it feels like the streets of downtown are constantly barricaded and full of sunburnt revelers drinking local beer and swaying awkwardly to the sounds of bluegrass and hipster indie rock. After a while, you just start planning for it and memorizing alternate routes, or take the light rail.
The emphasis on craft culture is almost overwhelming.
Denver has more breweries than any city in the country and liquor hounds are riding on the brewer’s coattails. Multi-unit artist warehouses, where visitors can buy everything from handmade clothes to lawn ornaments, are becoming as common as the restaurant reviewers from big name newspapers flocking to document the burgeoning dining scene.
Nearly every neighborhood, including the new Union Station in the heart of downtown and what used to be classified as a ‘food desert’, has a farmer’s market on Saturdays. Brands such as Icelantic Skis and REI call Denver home. No matter what you’re into, someone in Denver is making it from scratch.
Denver is the birthplace of fast-casual dining.
You can make powder turns in the morning and still put in a full day’s work.
In fact, those in the know arrange their schedules as such to avoid the clogged highway heading to the slopes on weekends. With ten ski areas within 100 miles of downtown, it is more than possible to carve it up for a few hours and sneak back to the office by the end of lunch break. If you’re not feeling that motivated, you can always rely on the eight-inch rule- calling in sick is totally acceptable if it snows more than eight inches.
The city and the mountains westward are a kingdom for two wheelers.
I spent several years living in Durango, and I’m more than willing to throw Denver into the mix of great biking towns even when Fort Collins, a biking legend in itself, is located just up I-25. Denver is becoming more bike friendly each year- bike lanes were just added to all major thoroughfares downtown. The Cherry Creek trail and intricate network of bike paths snaking through the metro area can get you almost anywhere you need to be.
Mountain biking isn’t far away either- Lair O’ The Bear park, Hayden-Green Mountain, Dakota Ridge, and the Flatirons have done me well many times. It’s true that in most parts of the city you can’t just ride out your front door onto a inclined trail, but the options are aplenty and minimal effort is required to get there. As I write this, I’m forced to think about how amateur I am at biking compared to nearly everyone else I know- and I ride multiple days a week.
Coors Field is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fun activities in LoDo.
Turning an afternoon into evening drinking craft beer from Epic Brewing, Our Mutual Friend Brewing, or any of the others and strolling through the art galleries and block parties of LoDo is becoming a regular pastime. Even if a Rockies game is on the agenda, I seem to find myself warming up down the street. Part of it is because the beer is better and cheaper than inside the stadium, and part of it is because it just makes me feel cool- like having drank at every brewery within walking distance makes me as much a part of the scene as the guys making the stuff.
It’s almost hard to remember when this neighborhood was full of empty warehouses because these days there is not a hotter part of town.
Denver is swimming in green chili.
Find a spot like Jack N’ Grill and they come right out and say it. The best spots, like Santiago’s and Jose Oshea’s out on the west end, have several kinds to choose from with varying levels of spice. King Soopers has a section dedicated to the stuff- one that my wife and I are slowly making our way through.
Our music scene is off the chain.
Denver has been throwing artists into the national spotlight high enough that the industry executives are no longer flying over the Rocky Mountains. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats are the latest offering, but in the last several years our standouts include Flobots, The Lumineers, Tennis, and many more.
Add to that the incredible local community which has more live venues than Austin and a support network which makes it doable to build a local following and maybe even share a stage with your heroes. Catching a show at Red Rocks is amazing, but after the lights go dim over the rocks the scene at the local clubs will keep you dancing till last call. Matador recently showcased the top spots here.
This city is addictive.
It may not hit you until you leave. But after spending time in the Mile High, you won’t want to be anywhere else. People are friendly and surprisingly laid back for a big city, a testament to the mountain culture that seeps down from the hills. The person sitting next to you at the bar is more than happy to offer advice on a good hiking trail or local beer, as to do otherwise would just be bad karma.