1. Dine at the Buckhorn Exchange for authentic Colorado Cuisine.
Unless you’re a taxidermy enthusiast or fried bull testicle connoisseur, you may want to skip this 120-year-old Denver landmark. You’ll be hard-pressed to find many locals eating here (unless they’re daring out-of-town guests to suck down some rocky mountain oysters). Instead, we’re probably dining at one of Denver’s new wave of legit restaurants like Mercantile, Euclid Hall, Linger or Work & Class.
2. The 16th Street Mall is the place to be in Denver.
Maybe it used to be cool, but unless you came here for chain store shopping and breastaurants like the Tilted Kilt with a heavy dose of sketchy-looking vagrants and the stench of urine, you’d be better served checking out the truly vibrant side of Denver. Want a proper mile high day? Start with a bike ride through Wash Park, do some shopping in Cherry Creek, go on a street art walking tour in RiNo then finish it up with a night out in the Highlands.
3. Anything you read about camping recommendations.
If a campground is listed in your guidebook, it’s already discovered and likely overrun with generator-toting RVs and tourists just like you. On the secrecy scale, a true Coloradan will file their favorite camping spot right between their ATM pin number and the fact that they are indeed in possession of the One Ring. Here’s what the guidebook should say about Colorado camping: go to the mountains and turn down pretty much any dirt road. Follow it uphill until you’re no longer sure it qualifies as a road and find your own slice of paradise. Then keep it secret…keep it safe.
4. Coors is brewed in the Rockies, so it’s everyone’s drink of choice.
The Coors brewery is in Golden, at the base of some scrubby brown foothills and miles from that icy snowmelt you see on the commercials. Aside from the desperate dude who’s elbow-deep in the bowels of a cooler at the end of a Broncos tailgate, you’ll likely see no one drinking it. From Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, the Front Range is the Napa Valley of craft beer. Fill your fridge with that instead.
5. Most everything you want to see is on conveniently located off the I-70 Corridor.
Unfortunately, many visitors only travel this heavily-trafficked mountain route from Denver to Summit County, maybe with a few days detour in Estes Park. To truly see the raddest of the ‘Rado, follow the winding, two-lane highways to our less-visited spots like Dinosaur National Monument in the Northwest, Lake City in the San Juans or the quiet Spanish Peaks towns of Cuchara and La Veta near the New Mexico border. If you really want to get off the grid, check out the otherworldly hoodoos at the Paint Mines on the eastern plains in tiny Calhan.
6. Take in some high level baseball at a Rockies game.
The Monfort’s ownership has enshrined the Rockies to perennial basement dweller status in the NL West. Instead of attracting talent, their efforts have gone into turning Coors field into an extension of LoDo’s nightlife scene. While that isn’t the recipe for a pennant, it sure does mean a good time. So by all means, go to the ballpark – just don’t watch the game. Do what everyone else does and head up to the roof deck for a margarita at the Rio or to Blue Moon’s Sandlot brewery for a draft using hops grown in a garden just over the center field fence.
7. The best hike in the state is Hanging Lake.
This could only be true on a weekday morning in the middle of winter when the parking lot is nearly deserted. Any other time, the crowds in the lot might have you think you’ve mistakenly arrived at a Red Rocks concert and the trail will be packed with out-of-towners who probably all read the same guidebook as you. But if you do decide to ignore this advice, for the love of all things sacred, stay off the goddamn log in the lake! I don’t care how many Instragram likes it will get you, it’s illegal and will destroy this magical place for everyone.
8. Tuaca is a Colorado Thing.
Apparently it was one part local bartender ambition mixed with two parts marketing spin that led to this rather nasty-tasting, sticky Italian liqueur being labeled as “a Colorado thing.” When you’re out, avoid the temptation for a Tuaca bomb or a hot apple pie. You’d be much better off sipping some award-winning spirits that are actually made here, like Stranahan’s whiskey, anything from Breckenridge Distillery, Montanya rum, or Lee Spirits, a new gin joint from Colorado Springs.
9. Every Southwest roadtrip should include a stop at the Four Corners Monument.
Unless of course you fancy driving miles out of your way through desolate desert terrain to look at a metal disc celebrating a completely arbitrary manmade geographic boundary. OK, we got the photo with our feet in four states at once…can we get back to the AC now? Instead, consider spending as much time as possible at actual cultural landmarks like Mesa Verde National Park or Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
10. Buy your lift tickets at Aspen or Vail.
Sure, they’re legendary mountains with awesome terrain, but you’d like to have some cash left to get home right? If you want to ski with locals, check out a smaller mountain like A-Basin, Crested Butte or Monarch. Or better yet, for the true locals experience, skip the resort altogether and get into the backcountry.
11. Everyone skis in the winter and you’ll be left out if you don’t.
While we’re on the skiing subject, it’s time to shred your assumptions that every Coloradan can land a cork 720 by age 3. Not all of us spend our winter weekends nursing frostbitten extremities suspended from a stalled lift followed by an excruciating crawl on the I-70 parking lot back to the Front Range. We’re probably at Costco, just like you.