Denver Travel Guide: Where to Stay, Eat, and Hike

By Alex Reichek

As the youngest child in my family (I had two brothers that were nine and eleven years older than me, respectively), I had the privilege of learning how to ski at five years old. We spent every spring break in Colorado and a few summers hiking in the mountains.

However, I never spent any time in the Mile High City of Denver (other than a quick layover in the airport). I also never expected to say that Denver is my new favorite American city, one I’ll make a point to visit every year. This city is rich in the activities, restaurants, and breweries it has to offer. Here’s my ultimate list of where to stay, eat, and hike while visiting Denver!

Where to Stay

We stayed at the Ramble Hotel in the River North Art District (RiNo) because, literally, every person I spoke to insisted this was the place to stay—I actually questioned if any other hotels existed in the city. The Ramble is independently owned with just fifty rooms and is nestled between plenty of creative businesses, murals, and fifteen craft breweries and cideries in a one-mile radius. As soon as we walked in, I felt like a hip princess strolling into the foyer of a mansion. It even houses Death & Company, a famous cocktail bar from New York City.

Locals and visitors alike post up here and admire the gorgeous crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceilings, a sleek navy bar with gold oval mirrors lining the walls, and a creamy, green check-in stand that blends right in with the plants in the room. I couldn’t stop gaping as I surveyed the other people bustling about the lobby amongst the shiny décor.

The rooms are compact but use the space well. A cute vanity spot in the bathroom, along with some great bath products, makes it easy and fun to get dressed. There are even cocktail books from Death & Company in the room for your convenience. I’m not normally one for eating at the hotel because I’m already sleeping there, but we dove into the menu with enthusiasm on our first night. I loved the pickles with cured vegetables, lavash, and raisin mostarda—which I wanted to bottle and take home for all my future cheese plate dinner parties. We also sampled the D&C Burger, which came with my favorite burger topping of all time—caramelized onions. The burger was also dressed with mustard, cheddar, pickles, hot sauce aioli, and everything seasoning. And be sure not to miss out on their steak fries.

Where to Eat and Drink

I always make a point to book meals in different neighborhoods when traveling to get a sense of the scene and vibe of the whole city; however, we were truly in the best neighborhood for shopping and eating, so we stayed close to our RiNo home. We walked a few blocks from the hotel to Stowaway Kitchen for breakfast. The inside reminded me of a cute Australian café with lots of plants, simple décor, plenty of morning coffee and beverage options, and painted white brick walls. Order the Salted Verlasso Salmon with cabbage, jammy egg, avocado, and steamed rice for a Japanese-style breakfast, and don’t miss the Hen O’ the Wood medley with hazelnut and guajillo romesco sauce, greens, poached egg, and the chickpea Panisse. Honestly, I’ll order anything with a creative chickpea set-up these days.

Skip the chocolate chip cookie and head to the Denver Central Market to get some chocolate bars at Temper Chocolates and Confections. They have your typical ritual bars, and I had so much fun sifting through flavors and brands from all over the world like Nirvana Belgian Chocolate and Moksha chocolate, imported from the Rio Mayo Valley in Peru. If you need to pick up something quickly at Denver Central Market, they have a seafood counter called Tammen’s, ice cream at High Point Creamery, morning pastries at Izzio Bakery, and so much more. There is plenty of seating throughout the market and a television for sports fans.

My favorite dining experience was at Mister Oso. This cute, jungle-laden restaurant is fun for frozen cocktails, legit food, and an all-around good time! It’s a vibrant atmosphere, and I still think about the food, especially because there were so many great choices. I loved the brussels sprouts salad with avocado, dried cantaloupe—the best secret weapon ingredient right there—cotija, onion, almonds, quinoa, and creamy tomatillo dressing spread perfectly even. Next, the empanadas with BBQ chicken, cheese, avocado, poblano crema, and lime pierced my mouth with the ideal doughy texture—not too crispy but just the right amount of flake.

You might be wondering why we went somewhere with tacos and dishes we could easily get in Texas. Well, we were living and getting over ourselves, and thank goodness we did. The Birria Taco is the best one I’ve ever had, including those I’ve tried in Austin! It’s stuffed with short rib, melted cheese, onion, cilantro, caldo, and salsa roja. The Mojo Taco had coconut-braised pork shoulder with mojo salsa, fried plantains (this was the best part), pickled red onion, and came with a side of tortillas so you could build that baby up yourself. Or, in our case, eat it with a fork. Go for the Hibiscus Blackberry Agua Fresca with vodka or enjoy their Mezcal Margarita with a spicy rim!

The best dinner we had was at Safta, which is Chef Alon Shaya’s Denver outpost. If you aren’t familiar with him, he had a namesake restaurant in NOLA called Shaya, won several James Beard awards, and was put on the map for his Israeli and Middle Eastern food. It has the best pita and falafel, and the service is impeccable. Get the Cauliflower Hummus accompanied by the fluffiest, pillowy pitas that looked like little balloons set to lift off our plates. Peruse the Persian Rice with Cherries, Crispy Moroccan Striped Bass, Half Harissa Chicken, and the Pomegranate Braised Lamb Shank if you really want to go over the edge. The space is open-air and feels a bit like a warehouse.

Where to Shop

My absolute favorite women’s boutique was Recital. It was filled with plants (of course), tinctures, little books, gorgeous jewelry by Pamela Love, shiny stud earrings and bracelets, sturdy yet hipster denim overalls, and other nice clothing. We checked out the home design store with clothes and random goods called Modern Nomad and basics at Judith and Joe.

Make sure you’re in town on a Friday to visit the Denver Bazaar with the most eclectic Denver vendors. We had a CBD-infused peanut mix flavored “Salty & Sweet” in a brown manila bag for $10 a pop. This market opens every Friday evening and is adjacent to the best hotel—you guessed it—Ramble.

Where to Shop

Hiking is my all-time favorite activity. I love moving up a mountain while having insightful conversations with my crew and reflecting without being distracted from work or my phone. We drove about forty minutes to the exceptionally clean town of Boulder to hike Mount Sanitas, which took a little over an hour to hike uphill and less time to climb down. It was the perfect amount of time in that hot summer sun.

This is a dog-friendly hike, and as I sat at the top overlooking the city, a little pup kept circling me, wanting to hang out. The real winner of the day, however, was the most insane frozen treat after our hike. I got a Salty Cookies ‘n Cream and Gooey Buttercake Caramel scoop (yes, it’s better than Jeni’s) from Gelato Boy, and I am confident that this is the best gelato I’ve ever had. I love their flavors and am going to ship myself more of their other flavors to try. Then, as if the ice cream wasn’t enough, we went and got a beer down the street and some burnt ends—because we are Texans after all.

Denver is clearly more than just a ski mountain. The fresh air, amazing restaurants, hiking access, breweries, and the walkable city make it a place I’ll, no doubt, continue visiting each year. Where are you going on your next adventure?