1. Go to a Microbrewery - Colorado consistently ranks as one of the tops states in the U.S. for microbreweries, and many of these delectable breweries have branches right in the heart of downtown Denver. As if fantastic craft beer wasn't enough, most breweries also serve a great selection of food. Even for those people who think they don't like beer, I would still suggest this activity. There are just so many different types of beer, you're bound to find one you enjoy. Also, if you're unsure about ordering a big one, ask for a taster first. It's totally acceptable, and your server should be happy to do that, as well as provide you with suggestions according to your tastes.
2. Shop on the 16th Street Mall - This mall is a multi-block outdoor strip, lined with trees, well-kept greenery, and a free Mall Ride bus that will carry you around. Have I mentioned that Colorado gets 300 days of sun per year? So, with any luck, even if the weather is chilly you're sure to be blessed with a beautiful sunny day as you stroll around shopping. With several great coffee houses, fantastic food options, and a nice array of popular stores (H&M, Forever 21, Guess, Victorias Secret, etc), it is more than easy to while away a day in this beautiful mall.
3. Search for Weird Modern Art - One thing I really love about Denver, but also find constantly confusing is the weird modern art fixtures that are dotted all over the city. From the downright ridiculous giant alien string cheese statues outside the Performing Arts Center, to the unexpected one story broom and dust pan outside the Museum of Modern Art (which on account of it's extremely unique structure also kind of counts as a piece of modern art itself), to the endearing Big Blue Bear peering in the Convention Center - Denver has more than it's fair share of interesting art installations. Bonus: See if you can find the 12 foot bronze cow statue! (Also located near the Museum of Modern Art.) Speaking of...
4. Visit the Museum of Modern Art - Since you're already lurking on all the modern art outside, you might as well head inside and take a look around. Though I know museum going isn't for everyone, I still think Denver's art museum is the perfect place to spend an afternoon. Also, if you buy entrance into the Museum of Modern Art you also get entrance into the regular Art Museum, and it's hard to argue with two for one. If there is a good exhibit in town, this activity can be especially fun. Insider tip? MOMA has free admission for people of ALL ages on Saturdays. So you can get cultured for FREE. No excuses!
5. Wander Around on Santa Fe Drive - The Santa Fe Art District is one of Denver's more interesting neighborhoods. It is home to many unique and tasty restaurants and bars, a multitude of fun antique and boutique shops, as well as to many of the best small art galleries. Plus, on the first Friday of every month there is a street wide party of sorts that often features local deals and even live music. As the name might imply, there is a multitude of great Mexican restaurants too. My favorite? El Noa Noa.
6. See a Show at the Performing Arts Center - The DPAC is a massive complex that has been host to some of the very best that art and theater have to offer. From world renowned symphonic orchestras, to theater productions, to Broadway shows, there is always something interesting showing at this center. Insider tip: If you book a matinee showing of pretty much anything you're looking at a much more affordable and much less crowded experience. Added bonus: You can't go to the DPAC without seeing the giant alien string cheese statues.
7. Hit up Happy Hour in LoDo - I won't lie... I LOVE happy hours! Good food and drinks for a fraction of the original price? Why the hell not?! Denver's gourmet food scene is pretty legitimate. Though Denverites do love their organic, healthy foods, that in no way means they will tolerate skimping on flavor. My personal Happy Hour favorites include Lucky Pie Denver, City O' City, Interstate, and Beatrice & Woodsley.
8. Visit Federal Boulevard for a Life Changing Bowl of Pho - What is pho, you say? Only the most amazing thing ever!! Pho is a rich, savory beef bone broth, with tender rice noodles, and your choice of meat. I've lived in Asia for close to two years now, and I maintain that Denver has the best pho in the world (but we'll see how this claim holds up after my upcoming visit to Vietnam). My favorite place is Pho 96 on Federal & Mississippi, and I usually order a small chicken pho with vegetarian broth and extra vegetables. I know, I know - vegetarian broth isn't as authentic, but they season it was roasted garlic, black pepper, and shallots, and it's just so good!! I was not paid to say these things - I'm just that passionate about it. No joke, I ate there almost every other day on my two weeks at home.
9. Visit a Dispensary - Ok, ok. I'm not suggesting you do anything you aren't comfortable with, nor am I saying that dispensaries are the only thing CO has to offer. However, I am saying that Denver is one of the few places in the world where you can experience marijuana in way that is regulated and totally above board. These stores are not dingy little corner lots with shady characters lurking about! Most all are highly professional, serious businesses. You have to show your ID to gain entrance, the staff is friendly and knowledgeable about their product, and as I said, it's all completely legal. Even if you don't partake, I think a dispensary is worth the trip for the novelty alone.
10. Stroll Around Capital Hill - Visit the Denver Mint, gaze upon the golden dome of the capital building, or laze about in the sun - If you're looking for a relaxing and affordable afternoon activity, this a jaunt to Cap Hill is just what you need. Also, you'll be close to a number of other attractions and activities, so if you get bored you can always jump ship and head off on a different adventure.
If you've never been to Denver, you should probably head there immediately! And for those of you who do live in Denver, what are your favorite places to go and things to do? Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below, so others (including me) can learn from your wisdom! Even though I don't live there anymore, I've got an ongoing list of things I want to do when I visit, so if sounds fun I'll be sure to check it out. Might even blog about it ;) I'm on Facebook and Twitter if you want to chat, and as always if you enjoyed this, or want to share the love please pass this along to your friends!
Enjoy the beautiful view!