How to Spend a Weekend in Denver, CO

After 2 fun-filled weekend trips to Denver, I finally feel confident that I can share some great tips to have the best trip!  Denver is a bustling city and it definitely can feel overwhelming trying to figure out how to fill your time.  From food to beer to beautiful hikes, it really has something for everyone.

Where to Eat & Drink:
Avanti Food & Beverage
This place was the first food court style market we went to.  They have quite a few different restaurants all in one building with a bar and rooftop area.  The rooftop views are stunning of the whole downtown area, though it was raining the day we went so we didn’t get to enjoy the rooftop area as much.  We opted to order from Bistro Georgette; a croque-madame & steak frites.  This was very yummy, but if you’re feeling something different there’s also Mexican, pizza, fish, and southern food options!  We also grabbed some drinks from the bar, and while I never figured out exactly what they were called, they have these adult slushy capri suns that just looked like what summer should be made of!  If you venture here consider yourself warned, this place is very popular and was packed when we went!  


Stanley Marketplace
You might start to see a common theme; these food court style warehouses are so popular here!  Stanley Marketplace was another one we tried, this one has way more shops and food options to explore.  There are also fitness studios and even a dentist office.  We ate at Rosenbergs Bagels and Delicatessen; an everything bagel egg sandwich and matzo ball soup.  If you need to keep cool and avoid the hot summer sun, walking around the two levels is a great way to kill time!

We found this restaurant because we were on the hunt for a place that did happy hour on Saturdays.  Fortunately, they offer it from 4-6 everyday!  I was able to find out about the everyday happy hour by using the app HHaP Denver which is a log of basically every happy hour in the city!  It isn’t full-proof but it definitely helps narrow it downs with filters like dog friendly, deals starting soon, and drink or food deals.  I highly recommend their Dragonfly Spritz, it was so tart and refreshing!  My boyfriend had the Kentucky Buck and said it was good if you want something a little stronger.  We also tried the avocado toast, chopped salad, and artichokes.  All the food we got was delicious and surprisingly filling.  The bar area has garage style walls that open to the patio and allow for a wonderful breeze.  

Central Market
Surprise, surprise!  Another food collective!  I told you these were popular.  This one we just went to for drinks, but we definitely wandered through the food option wishing we were hungrier.  It’s conveniently located in the RiNo District and the blended painkiller I had was like a tropical vacation in a glass.

Ice Cream Riot
This is a must if you have a sweet tooth!  They not only have cheddar goldfish flavored ice cream, they also have poptart ice cream sandwiches!!  I had never thought of this before, but wow is it a great combo.  We chose the chocolate ice cream with a chocolate chip flavor poptart.  One sandwich was more than enough for us to share and it did get a little messy as it melted.  If I went back I would want to try the cinnamon ice cream with the cinnamon brown sugar poptart! 

This is the IT place for brunch, but with that delicious reputation comes some long waits.  I’d recommend using the app to book your reservation ahead of time if you plan on going.  We only had to wait about 20-30 minutes and used this time to wonder around the neighborhood nearby.  Once we got our table I was so excited for my French toast, which did not disappoint.  They also have tons of more savory options and a large drink selection, I went with the cranberry mimosa!  

Since this was one of my favorite places in college, I just couldn’t resist checking out this location to compare!  I will say, while the atmosphere is definitely different as an adult, the food is still as good as ever.  Whether you want a rice bowl or a huge burrito, either one is guaranteed to fill you up.  There’s indoor and outdoor seating options at every location I’ve seen, and of course the best margs you can find being served from open to close!

This was another happy hour gem.  We went around 5pm on a Friday and it wasn’t busy until about 40 minutes after we got there.  Not only are there some great menu options, the restaurant is also conveniently located so you can walk around the Denver Pavilions and 16th Street Mall.  I highly, highly, highly recommend the chicken sandwich and pomegranate martini!  It may sound weird to recommend chicken at a steakhouse, but this sandwich is worth it.  It has Brie on it so you know it’s delicious.

American Culture
This was definitely one of favorite drink stops!  They have 12 different brands of kombucha on tap and offer flights, glasses, and even growler options!  If you love kombucha or have never even tried it, I would make some time to stop in.  The flights of 4 different kombucha is only $8 and the best opportunity to try it out for the first time or find a new favorite.  In case you’re still on the fence, kombucha has health benefits like improved gut health, weight loss, and decreased chance of heart disease.  My favorite flavor we tasted was the Alpine Lavender with Blue Razz following in a close second.

Where to Explore:
 For a mere $10 you can taste the Rockies, in the Rockies!  What I mean is you’ll get 4 full size beers and a commemorative beer glass.  Plus, there’s a tour of the whole brewing process and history included too.  This is the 2nd time of done this tour, but the 1st time doing it as an over 21 individual who actually got to enjoy the samples.  It’s so fun to see the copper vats that hold the hops and the conveyor belts that box the cans.  Plus, this is the freshest Coors you can ever taste!  It is about 30 minutes outside of Denver, in Golden, but the drive is pretty and Golden itself is a very quaint little town surrounded by beautiful forests and a river.  We had to wait about 45 minutes-an hour to get on the bus to the tour start even though it was a week day so definitely plan for a little bit of wait time or try to get there when it first opens.  You have to take the bus to the tour area or else you can’t take the tour, you can only get into the gift shop, so don’t try to skip the line!

This was the first hike we did in Denver, well about an hour outside of Denver to be exact, and it definitely showed why Colorado is so well know for it’s hiking.  It’s rated a moderate hike and I would agree, it wasn’t terribly hard but it also wasn’t a walk in the park.  It took us about 2 hours in total and is a 4.2 mile loop.  Along the way you’ll see a creek and some small water falls leading up to the actual falls.  We opted to get to the falls then climb up them and do the top portion of the loop trail back.  There were amazing views and it was nicely shaded for a good portion of the time.  We got there at 8am and already the parking area was full and we had to park on the street, however, the trail itself never felt full until we were about halfway back to the trailhead.

Located right near the Lower Maxwell Falls trailhead is Evergreen Lake.  It was a good size and looked very popular so we decided to stop in.  There were options to rent kayaks, paddle boards, and paddle boats, along with a golf course across the parking lot.  We jumped at the opportunity to paddle board, even though the water was a little chilly, and it cost $20 per person for 1 hour.  It’s not a swimming lake so I just hoped I wouldn’t end up wet at all.  Since it was July the summer storms start at about 2pm each day and coincidentally we started paddle boarding at about 1:45pm.  We stuck out the drizzling rain because it really wasn’t that bad, but eventually were called in because of lightning.  I would recommend going early in the day to get the most out of your time, but even with the storm it was still an incredibly fun experience to say I’ve paddle boarded in Colorado!  If you’re there in winter instead, they offer ice skating too!

City Park
This wasn’t one of the parks we walked around, we stuck to the one near the neighborhood we stayed in, but I felt it needed to be included after hearing that it often has really fun events.  Not only does it have tons of grass and walking trails, plus a lake you can paddle boat in, it also hosts things like Jazz in the Park with food trucks and live music.  If you get a chance, grab a blanket and some drinks and head out to see what’s happening that night!  It\’s also the location of the Denver Zoo & Museum of Nature and Science.

This was the second hike we chose to do and I’m so glad we did!  This area was near Idaho Springs, about 1 hour and 20 minutes outside of Denver.  You have to pay $5 cash per vehicle to park, but even when we got there around 1pm there was still plenty of parking available.  The hike itself is ranked moderate and is 1.9 miles out and back.  In the beginning I was slightly intimidated because it is a steep, rocky trail with very little shade.  While this does last for about 3/4 of the hike up, it isn’t long at all, and then flattens out.  Then you arrive at a beautiful lake with snow on the mountains right past it.  We hiked around the lake over to the snow first because of course we needed to really see this snow that existed in the middle of July!  There were lots of kids sledding down it, and even a few brave skiers you hauled their skis up the hill and skied back down.  We then followed the bottom part of the snow over to some cliffs we had seen people jumping off.  This trail wasn’t very well marked so we had to wing it a little to find our way and it definitely wasn’t an area I recommend attempting with kids or dogs.  It featured quite a few bushes we had to dodges, rock areas we had to climb, and a tiny little path on the edge of the water towards the end.  It was cool to finally reach the cliffs so my boyfriend could jump in (the water was way too chilly for me to attempt it!) since not a lot of people seemed to make their way over there.  We were fortunate enough to be there when the water level was high, otherwise the cliff diving could have been very dangerous and we would not have attempted to go over there.  Always be cautious when choosing to do things like this and make sure the area is clear of debris or stray sticks and rocks.  In total we spent about 2 hours on the hike, though many people seemed to spend a good portion of the day there!  If you wanted to pack a lunch it would make for a great picnic area.

Filled with bars, restaurants, and fantastic street art the RiNo District is a great option if you want to wander around.  Central Market is nearby, along with tons of other options.  I mostly enjoyed looking at the different murals we passed!

16th Street Mall
This mile long pedestrian promenade in downtown is filled with windows to shop and places to grab a bite.  It’s a very bustling area and at certain times of the year it even has pianos on the sidewalks for people to sit and play!  

Denver Pavilions
This 3 story outdoor mall area in Downtown Denver is another option with tons of shops and restaurants, and even a movie theater.  We stopped in to see what was around after dinner one night and the area was very alive.  Don’t make the same mistake we made by looking for “the best view of Denver” because it definitely isn’t what you’d expect it to be haha. 

Shockingly, even after doing all of this there’s still plenty more on my list for next time!  If you have some extra time I’d add in the Blue Moon Brewery for lunch, drinks at 54thirty, and a hike to Hanging Lake!
XOXO, Cierra

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