My name is Morgan and I lived in Denver, Colorado, USA for 22 years.
Denver can best be described in these five words: Sunny, Healthy, Casual, Creative, and Beautiful.
Women should consider visiting Denver because it is truly unique – it has all the culture and amenities of a big city, but is small enough that you never feel crowded or overwhelmed. The people are friendly, the skies are almost always stunningly blue, and there are limitless opportunities for fun activities – both indoor and outdoor.
Aditionally, Denver receives, on average, 300 days of sun a year – so the chances of getting a bright, beautiful day are very high…
Denver City Guide
How do you get to Denver?
If you are coming from out of state, most people will fly into Denver International Airport (DIA), which is approximately a 35-45 minute drive from the city center. Keep in mind that time estimate is highly dependant on traffic, so if you are arriving during rush hour it could take upwards of an hour.
What’s the best way to get around Denver
If you are looking to explore the Denver metro area, I would suggest renting a car. As Denver is located in the plains, things can be pretty spread out. When compared to cities like LA or Seattle, traffic in Denver is a breeze, and it is generally easy to find parking.
However, if you plan on only staying in the city center, a bicycle or even walking is an excellent alternative. Denver has recently started implementing several bike sharing programs, and has put significant effort into the making the city bicycle friendly. So, for those who desire a more active, eco-friendly experience, biking is a very viable option.
What’s the best time to visit Denver?
My favorite months in Denver are either May-June or August-early October. Denver tends to be hot and dry in the summer, then cold and snowy in the winter. So, spring and fall tend to be my favorite times.
What are the different areas of Denver?
Santa Fe Art District: As the name suggests, this area is known for the multitude of small art galleries and boutique shops. It is also home to many unique and delicious restaurants, as well as several local microbreweries. My all-time-favorite restaurant/bar, Interstate, is located in this area – more about that later. The Santa Fe art district is perfect for a laid-back date night, or a classy night out with your lady friends.
Cherry Creek: This area is considered one of the most posh and upscale haunts in Denver. Cherry Creek Shopping Mall, which is home to stores such as Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, Anthropologie, True Religion, and many others, is the centerpiece of this district. The blocks surrounding the mall are packed with chic restaurants and trendy bars – all of which are delicious, but be careful of the price!
LoDo: As you might imagine, LoDo stands for Lower Downtown. This area is one of the more historic areas in Denver, and it is also one of the most hip. It is home to the locally famous Tattered Cover Bookstore, several large microbreweries, the most popular dance clubs and bars, and a vibrant outdoor strip mall. During the day, one can spot young business professionals enjoying a quick lunch on an the patio, and at night those same professionals (minus the blazers, plus an ice cold gin and tonic) relax at one of the many rooftop bars. There is also a large array of somewhat strange modern art scattered around this area: a blue two-story bear that is peeking into the convention center, a strangely amorphous sculpture of a couple dancing outside the Performing Arts Center, a 20 foot dustpan and broom (Art Museum), as well as various multi-colored cows.
Highlands: This district is fondly referred to as the “hipster” district. Some years ago it was one of the more run-down areas in Denver, until a younger generation of post-highschool, pre-college innovaters decided to move in and renovate the area. Characterized by Victorian style houses, patio dining establishments, and modern art galleries, this district is considered to be on the up and coming.
Golden: Located on the edges of Denver, this area still clings to the Wild West, gold-mining history that brought Denver to the face of the map. It is home to an old-fashioned downtown, the enormous Coors brewery, and the Colorado Railway Museum. Enjoy a slice of delicious brick-oven pizza, or peruse one of the many Western themed shops on the main road – just be wary of speeding, the police in Golden are notorious sticklers about the speed limit.
What advice can you give women about what to pack?
This one is a bit difficult because the weather in Colorado is notoriously finicky. People joke that it’s one of the few places you can experience all four seasons in one day.
- If you’re going in the winter bring a good winter coat, and some snow boots.
- If you’re going in the Spring or Fall, bring clothes that you can layer. If it’s cold in the morning it could be steaming by the afternoon.
- In the summer, just bring comfortable clothing that lets your skin breath – think sundresses, shorts, and loose tops.
Always, always have a light jacket with you. Seriously. Just do it.
What is the most common misconception about Denver?
The most common misconception about Denverites is that everyone only wears Teva’s or Birkenstocks, is a vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free, smokes marijuana, and does some sort of extreme sport. Essentially, that every single Denverite is an outdoor addict/health nut/modern day hippie.
These trends do exist, in that many Denverites tend to be eco-conscious, health-conscious, and lovers of the outdoors. Can you blame them? Denver sits at the base of one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world, and the opportunities for outdoor activities are pretty much endless. However, there are plenty of people in Denver who hate Birkenstocks, love eating meat, would never smoke marijuana, and would rather die than take a hike.
Are there any culture shocks women should expect in Denver?
I have heard some complain that Denver is too casual a city – people tend to dress very comfortably and put less emphasis on fashion that residents of other larger cities.
Additionally, it seems important to note that marijuana consumption has recently been legalized in Colorado, and as such it is relatively commonplace to find “dispensaries” in and around the city. They can usually be spotted by a green awning, a green cross, or a business name the reads something along the lines of “Compassionate Care”.
Though this might come as a shock to some, I do not think it should belay potential travelers. It is not a shady, black market situation – These shops are fully licensed, strictly regulated by the state government and are very much above board.
What are three things every woman must do in Denver?
- Take a stroll down the 16th Street Mall – There is great shopping, many delicious restaurants, a free shuttle bus in case your feet get weary, and often there is even live music. This mall is lively, well designed, and full of interesting things to see and do.
- Go to a microbrewery – Denver is home to many fantastic microbreweries. Though many people claim that they don’t like beer period (I myself used to be one of them), I would now argue that these people simply haven’t tried the right one. Craft beer is a world away from something like Budweiser, or Coors. Most of the large microbreweries also serve food and they are perfect place to while away an afternoon. If you’re new to the world of microbrews just ask for samples. Any microbrewery worth it’s hops will be happy to provide you with, not only samples but a recommendation based on your tastes. My personal favorites in Denver are the Breckenridge Brewery and Great Divide Brewing Company.
- Visit Red Rocks Ampitheater – Though site is is technically located in Morrison, about a 25 minute drive from the city center, I cannot recommend it enough. One of the most renowned outdoor ampitheaters in the country, Red Rocks is truly a gem. See a concert, attend an outdoor yoga class, hike in one of the surrounding trails, or simply sit and marvel at the natural beauty of the red stone and the open sky above you.
- Watch a Sunset – I just had to add an extra… Denver sunsets are unlike anything I have seen anywhere else in my travels. Something about the altitude and the mountains creates such a vibrant, colorful, and truly breathtaking effect – it makes me grateful to live in Denver every time I see one.
What’s the most over-rated thing to do in Denver?
Going to the amusement park, Six Flags Elitch Gardens. Now, I am not saying that this is not a fun place to go, because it can be; however, if you are only in Denver for a short stay, I would definitely spend my time doing something else. Going to Six Flags is expensive (parking, admission, and park food), and if you don’t strategize wisely you will spend your day being very hot and waiting in long lines. Only suggested if you’re coming with smaller children and are planning on spending the entire day, so as to get your money’s worth.
What’s should every woman taste in Denver?
I would highly suggest that every woman try something with green chili on it. Green chili is very popular in Colorado, and it is difficult to find in the rest of the country. Enjoy a bowl of chicken green chili topped with cheese, head to the Denver Diner for a green chili smothered burrito, or for the more discerning palatte duck into an upscale Mexican restaurant and order fish or chicken with a green chili salsa.
Very delicious, very Denver.
What’s your favorite restaurant AND bar in Denver?
My favorite restaurant in the city is called Pho 96. I maintain that Pho in Denver is some of the best in world (and I’ve tried the pho in Southeast Asia). I might be biased, but I when I was in Denver, I ate at Pho 96 at least once a week. The servers know my order because it’s the same almost every time: a small chicken pho with vegetables, vegetarian broth and a Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk.
For a restaurant/bar, I would highly suggest Interstate, which is located in the Santa Fe Art District. I usually order the Cubano Sandwich, with a Saphire and Seven. The food is truly phenomenal, the cocktails are always mixed right, and they even have paper covering the tables – so you can indulge your creative side while you wait.
Where’s the best photo opportunity in Denver?
Of the city itself, the best photo opportunity is when you are driving into the city on either 6th Avenue or i25. Have someone else take the picture! Do not attempt to get a good picture while operating a motor vehicle! Of Denver as a whole, I would head to Lookout Mountain – you can get great shots of the mountains on the way there, and once you’re at the top you can get a stunning panamoric picture of the city and the plains below.
Where’s the best place to go shopping?
My favorite place to shop in Denver is the 16th Street Mall, which is located in the heart of downtown.
As to a good souvenir or gift, I’m a big fan of the Colorado flag. If that’s not your style I would suggest a tumbler from one of the many microbreweries – they all come embossed with the brewery logo, and most say Denver, Colorado as well.
What’s the best outdoor activity in Denver?
All of them? The most accessible is definitely hiking, but if you’re willing to put in a bit of a drive there is everything from rock climbing, to white water rafting, to hang gliding. If you’re a skiing and snowboarding enthusiast, Colorado is home to some of the best in the country.
What’s the best indoor activity in Denver?
My favorite indoor activity in Denver is the aquarium. It is relatively new, the exhibits are beautiful, and the in-house restaurant is absolutely delicious. Try the lobster bisque!
If sea creatures aren’t your thing, my second recommendation is the Museum of Nature and Science – Though the name doesn’t make it sound overly exciting, it was always my favorite field trip when I was younger. The museum has a huge array of interesting artifacts (including several large dinosaur skeletons), a fantastic planetarium, and an interactive body and health exhibit.
What do you do to get off the tourist trail?
Denver is not a huge tourist destination because usually if people are coming from out of town they are coming to ski or snowboard, and thus spend their time in the mountain towns. I have never personally noticed a huge tourist population roaming the city, so there are not many tourist traps to avoid.
What other advice or tips can you give women considering visiting Denver?
I said it earlier, but I’ll say it again…
Always travel with a light jacket – the weather is mercurial and even if it’s hot all day, it tends to cool down at night on account of the dry climate.
Your best bet for an authentic day in Denver is to simply head downtown and wander around. The city is clean, friendly, and generally easy to navigate. Capital Hill, the Denver Mint, the Museum of Modern Art, the Denver Performing Arts Center, and the 16th Street Mall (essentially all the major sites) are within a fifteen to twenty minute walk of one and other.
Any other thoughts or advice for our women readers?
If you’re looking for a city with the hustle and bustle of Chicago, or the glitz and glam of New York, Denver might not be the place for you. This being said, it’s smaller size and laid back nature are, in my opinion one of it’s best qualities. You can enjoy the upsides of a city – unique restaurants, interesting bars, several museums, and even the theater – without feeling constantly crowded and overwhelmed.
What I miss most since I have been gone are the stunning mountain views, clear blue skies, and constant sunlight – Hopefully, you will find Denver as moving and enjoyable as I do.
What did you think about this city guide?
Join the discussion and leave your comments, tips, and personal experiences in the comments below.
Author bio: My name is Morgan Sullivan. Born and raised in Denver, I lived there for 22 years before moving to South Korea to teach English. I have suburban sensibilities, penthouse dreams, and am currently pursuing my life long dream of international travel. I am constantly in search of interesting people, delicious food, and unique experiences – my goal is to make it to all seven continents by the time I’m 25. Find me on my website A Beautiful View or Facebook.