I had a great time interviewing Michelle Jackson of the Square State Podcast about the Mile High City of Denver, Colorado. Michelle’s tips for the best things to do in Denver are awesome because they are so diverse and come from someone who really cares for her town. You just have to love someone whose mission is to support local businesses and embrace people coming into her community.
Denver has a little secret that Michelle was hesitant to share. Many of us think that the weather is bad and there’s tons of snow throughout winter. However, the reality is that winters are pretty mild and there are over 330 days of sunshine every year.
Denver is known as the Mile High City. The altitude is no joke. And, if you’re not prepared during your visit, it could make you sick is you’re too active right away. Michelle recommends that you chill for a day or two and drink plenty of water before being too active.
That being said, Michelle says that Denver (and all of Colorado, really) loves the outdoors. It is consistently at the top of healthiest places to live. And, yes, that does include the fact that marijuana consumption is now legal in the state.
We share a lot of resources and local suggestions in today’s podcast, but you should also check out Visit Denver, the local convention and visitor’s bureau. They are a wealth of information and can help you plan an itinerary based on your time, budget, and interests.
Best things to do in Denver
Here are some of the best things to do in Denver according to our local expert, Michelle Jackson. And I’ve added some additional options based on my research and places I’ve visited.
- Breckenridge Welcome Center (reviews) – during the 2018 Breckenridge International Festival of Arts (BIFA), Danish artist Thomas Dambo created a roughly 15-feet tall troll named Isak Heartstone. The troll is made out of scrap lumber and downed trees. The artist is known for making trolls installations around the world. When the roads are clear, it is a fun hike to find it on the Wellington Trail near French Creek.
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- Coors Field (reviews) – home to the Colorado Rockies. This baseball stadium offers great views of the Denver skyline. And with the thin air of the Mile High City, there are plenty of home runs hit.
- Denver Center for the Performing Arts (reviews) – the 2nd largest theater complex in the US. A large number of major productions launch their US tours out of Denver. Come to Denver if you can’t make it to Broadway. Discounts available for locals.
- Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (reviews) – the Colorado Rapids play soccer on this field.
- Eldora Mountain Resort (reviews) – the closest skiing and snowboarding to Denver.
- Levitt Pavilion Denver (reviews) – Michelle says that there are tons of free concerts held at this pavilion.
- Pepsi Center (reviews) – watch the Colorado Avalanche play hockey or the Denver Nuggets play basketball at this arena.
- Red Rocks Amphitheatre (reviews) – catch a live concert or watch a film (Film on the Rocks) at Michelle’s favorite venue in Denver.
- Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium (reviews) – come to Mile High Stadium to watch the Denver Broncos play football. Consider taking public transportation or shuttles to save money and the environment.
- River North Art District (reviews) – the RINO district features incredible murals that decorate that part of town. Walk around, grab a beer, and enjoy the art. Every September, the city holds a “crush walls” event where artists from around the world perform. Some of these murals are HUGE!
If you’re in Denver for a week or more, Michelle expects you to go on at least one hike. The mountains are an extension of Colorado life. Just make sure that you acclimate for a day or two before going on the hike to avoid getting altitude sickness.
Every summer hop on your bike for a Denver Cruiser Ride. These happen once a month from May through September. You and 2,000 of your newest friends ride bikes throughout the streets of Denver.
Here’s a short list of the current events happening in Denver that you can buy tickets for.
Looking for other things to do? Here are the top 10 sightseeing tickets and packages for Denver.
Or, you can buy one of the Lonely Planet books, which are another excellent resource. Their current promo offers 3 books for the price of two.
Best places to eat in Denver
When you’re in Denver, there are so many excellent places to eat. Denver may not have a signature food, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t excellent foodie options. Michelle focuses on the entirety of the dining experience when she picks restaurants. She wants the service, food, and the quality to be top-notch and loves it when the chef isn’t afraid to experiment. Here are Michelle’s tips for the best places to eat in Denver.
- Avanti Food and Beverage (reviews) – they are inspired by European markets and food truck roundups. There are seven different restaurant concepts that are housed in modified shipping containers. Michelle says that they have an amazing view of Downtown Denver. Make sure that you try to the arepas at Quiero Arepas.
- Basta (reviews) – it is hard-to-find but totally worth it. The offer a creative, market-driven menu of salumi, pizzas & more.
- Brewery Tour Denver (reviews) – grab some drinks and food along the way as you walk around Downtown Denver to sample some of the best craft brews around.
- Call (reviews) – was chosen as one of Bon Appetite’s top 10 new restaurants of 2018.
- Denver Milk Market (reviews) – this food hall has 15 concepts under one liquor license. Michelle likes the hot, naked Nashville Hot Chicken. They even have wood-fired pizza for guys like me.
- El Five (reviews) – located on the 5th floor it offers unobstructed views of Denver’s skyline. The food is served tapas style.
- Hop Alley (reviews) – Chinese food with a new-age twist.
- Machete Tequila + Tacos (reviews) – across the street from Union Station, Michelle says that they have amazing tacos and tequila. Make sure you try the beef tongue taco.
- Mercantile Dining and Provision (reviews) – Michelle says that anything you order from here will be amazing. The menu is seasonal, therefore it will change regularly. She loves that they make fresh almond milk daily. The chef was nominated for and won a James Beard award for the Southwest Region.
- Safta Restaurant (reviews) – with influences from the Middle East, Europe and North Africa you’ll find wood-fired pita bread that is baked just steps from the table. The warm pita will soak up the flavors and delight you.
- Señor Bear (reviews) – excellent Mexican food.
- Stowaway Kitchen (reviews) – Michelle recommends ordering a “flat white” coffee at this kitchen owned by Australians.
- The Med (reviews) – serving Mediterranean food, they are known for tapas and Boulder’s best outdoor dining. The diverse menu features everything from tapas & paellas to artisan pizzas from an Italian wood-burning oven and fresh seafood.
- Ultreia (reviews) – Michelle hasn’t had a chance to visit yet, but she’s heard good things about it. It is the latest concept from the group behind Rioja, Stoic & Genuine, Euclid Hall and Bistro Vendôme. James Beard Best Chef Southwest winner Jennifer Jasinski crafted a menu based on the shared plate pintxos and tapas of the Iberian peninsula.
- Union Station (reviews) – such a beautiful building that is the hub of transportation within the city. There are many restaurants inside to choose from, including Mercantile and Ultreia.
- Vital Root (reviews) – Michelle highly recommends this restaurant is for vegans and people who love fresh veggies.
Zeppelin Station – the food court here has choices that will make your mouth water.
Best places to stay in Denver
When you visit the Mile High City, here are the best places to stay in Denver.
- AC Hotel Denver Downtown (reviews) – this Marriott Rewards category 4 hotel is 20,000 to 30,000 points per night. The annual free night from the Marriott or SPG cards can be used here.
- Best Western Plus Boulder (reviews) – this Best Western category 5 hotel is 24,000 points per night.
- Grand Hyatt Denver (reviews) – this World of Hyatt category 3 property is 12,000 points per night. If you have the Hyatt credit card, you can use the annual free night certificate here.
- Hostel Fish (reviews) – hostels are always an economical alternative to traditional hotels or AirBnB’s.
- Hotel Indigo Denver Downtown (reviews) – this is IHG Rewards category 5 hotel is 30,000 points per night.
- JW Marriott Cherry Creek (reviews) – this Marriott Rewards category 5 hotel is 30,000 to 40,000 points per night. The annual free night from the Marriott or SPG cards can be used here on certain nights.
- Radisson Hotel Aurora (reviews) – this Radisson Rewards category 3 hotel is 28,000 points per night.
- the Curtis Hotel – a Doubletree Hotel (reviews) – this Hilton Honors category 5 hotel is 30,000 to 40,000 points per night.
- The Maven Hotel at Dairy Block (reviews) – another great local hotel that is near the Milk Market food hall that Michelle adores.
- The Ramble Hotel (reviews) – one of Michelle’s favorite hotels in Denver.
AirBnB is also a great option. Use our referral link to get $40 off your first AirBnB stay.
If you’d like to learn how to travel for free using airline miles and hotel points, check out my free 7-day email course.
Getting around Denver
The local airport is Denver International Airport, which is about 30 miles from downtown. You can take a fast and affordable train (about $10 each way) which takes a little over 30 minutes to get to downtown Denver.
When headed to the mountains, you definitely need a car. If you’re outgoing and willing to hike with strangers, consider using Meetup.com instead to meet new people and carpool with them. Just make sure you kick in some money for gas.
If you only need a car for a couple of hours, you can rent by the hour with Zipcar. Join now to get $25 loaded into your account.
The Final Countdown
1) If a traveler could only have one meal in Denver – definitely Union Station. The building is unique and beautiful and there are several food options inside, including Mercantile Dining and Provision and Ultreia. Make sure you try the fresh-made almond milk at Mercantile with your coffee.
2) Favorite memory of Denver – although Michelle is politically independent, her favorite memory was when Barack Obama was picked to run for President at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. The energy and vibe of the city were contagious. Denver has come a long way from its KKK days in the 1920s. And that is what makes this memory even more special for Michelle.
3) Happiest Happy Hour in Denver – for incredible views and amazing drinks, you want to go to Avanti Food and Beverage. They have a single alcohol license, so you can grab a drink from one spot, then delicious bites from others within the food hall. Grab a spot on the patio and enjoy the atmosphere. Don’t miss the arepas, which Michelle described as “made with white corn and filled with delicious goodness.”
4) Best place for pepperoni pizza in Denver – Michelle fought me on this one, but eventually relented. Head over to Denver Milk Market for amazing food like poke and Nashville Hot Chicken. Even though she recommends other dishes at the Denver Milk Market, one of the 15 food concepts offers wood-fired pizzas.
Places we talked about on the podcast
Here is a map of all of the places we talked about on the podcast episode with Michelle Jackson about Denver, Colorado. You can zoom into the map and click on each dot to explore the city.
- Red dots = best places to eat in Denver
- Green dots = best things to do in Denver
- Yellow dots = best places to stay in Denver
Who is Michelle Jackson?
Michelle Jackson is an entrepreneur that runs several online businesses. She is the host of the Square State Podcast where she talks about all things Denver and Colorado. Michelle’s goal is to help visitors support local Colorado businesses.
She also runs the website Michelle Is Money Hungry where she is a business strategy and networking coach.
Here are a couple of articles that she’s written:
- Visit Denver/Colorado-Get Your Free Guide Today
- Scared To Write Your First Ebook? 7 Reasons to Get Started Now
- The High Altitude-What To Consider
As you can tell, her writing is a valuable resource for people visiting Colorado and for entrepreneurs.
Big thanks to today’s podcast sponsor – ZipCar
I avoid renting cars as much as possible when I travel, but sometimes you just need a car for a few hours. That’s where ZipCar comes in. You can rent their cars by the hour, or by the day… and both gas and insurance are included in one flat rate.
Use our link to join at WeTravelThere.com/zipcar to start out with $25 worth of credits in your bank.
Stay tuned for our next episode
Join us in the next episode when Jennifer McDermott of Finder.com tells us why it’s illegal to hold a koala in Sydney, Australia. Please join us when We Travel There.
What’s your favorite part of Denver? Let us know in the comment section below or continue the discussion in our Facebook group!