Denver is a Millennial magnet and has grown 20 percent since 2010. The metro area now has 2.9 million people. Happily, they put in an excellent light rail system in anticipation of the boom. The nearby Rockies offer plentiful recreation. The Amtrak ski train leaves every Saturday if you want to spend the day skiing. Gov. Jared Polis is a gay parent raising two children. The state makes millions in profits off marijuana sales. The economy is so strong that the local transit agency (RTD) is cutting service since it can’t find enough transit operators. In short, it is an amazing and beautiful city that is worth a visit.
WHAT TO DO
The Frontrunners meet Saturday at 9:15 a.m. on Capitol Hill at 9th and Downing for a run or walk through nearby Cheesman Park which features great views of the Rockies. It’s a great way to meet locals and get travel tips. Afterward they go for brunch at the Buzz Café.
The History Colorado Center at 1200 Broadway is a great way to learn about the state’s interesting history. Current exhibits include “The Chicano Movement in Colorado” which chronicles the amazing Hispano and Mexican contributions to the state. Another exhibit chronicles the development of skiing in the state while still another showcases the development of craft breweries (which now total 300). You will also learn about the origin of the Denver boot and the Denver omelet. Finally, don’t miss the exhibit which chronicles the painful Amendment 2 which barred LGBTQ protections in 1992 only to be repealed in 1996.
Nearby you will find the stunning architecture of the Denver Art Museum, complete with hotel (The Art Hotel).
Learn about the varied topography and plant zones of the state at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in City Park as well as the state’s interesting geography. Plus it features great views of the Rockies.
The Pride and Swagger at 450 E. 17th Ave. is near the Hampton as is the very popular X Bar at 629 East Colfax. They pack them in for the nightly two-for-one drink specials which run until 8 p.m. The crowd is cute and friendly. Just up the road is Charlie’s which like Xbar has Sunday afternoon events. You will find Charlie’s at 900 E. Colfax Ave.
WHERE TO STAY
I like the Hampton Inn Downtown on Sherman St. near 17th Ave. It is actually in Uptown (just east of downtown) and close to the Capitol Hill LGBTQ bars and other neighborhood attractions. Nearby is the Warwick Hotel which is also nice but charges a resort fee. Avoid the downtown hotels along the 16th Street Mall for a more neighborhood feel in Uptown.
WHERE TO EAT
The authentic Mexican food at Las Delicias is very good. It is at 439 E. 19th Ave. The Marczyk Market at 770 E. 17th has great gourmet food to go. There is also a Hamburger Mary’s nearby.
The Zuni Street Brewing Company has great craft beers and local fare plus a food truck. Try the Zuni Street IPA. You can even bring your dog. You will find them in the trendy Highlands neighborhood west of downtown.
I took Southwest from Reagan in D.C. via a one-stop at Midway. The fare was reasonable, and they don’t charge to check your bag or change your ticket. Leaving Denver I took American Airlines. From the airport hop on the commuter rail to the recently renovated Union Station downtown and then take the free 16th Street Mall bus to the Court St. station for a short walk to the Hampton.
DENVER TRAVEL TIPS
At 5,280 feet in elevation, you may notice the altitude difference which can cause various issues. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Take aspirin if you get a headache. You will probably adjust after 24 hours.
Winters can be cold and snowy but neither lasts. After a storm, Chinook winds off the Rockies raise the temperature to the 50s and 60s with abundant sunshine 300 days of the year. Be warned though that it is not uncommon to have a snowstorm in October or even April. It was 64 degrees the Saturday I was there although snow was predicted for Sunday. You are not in Chicago.
Uptown has avenues while downtown has streets. So you can get confused if you are on 17th St. or 17th Ave.
You won’t need a car since Denver has a great transit system (and bad traffic). RTD is the name of the agency that runs the light rail, buses and commuter rail.
Outfront Colorado is the local LGBTQ magazine which also has a great map of where the bars are. Westword is the weekly alternative paper that has lots of local events.
Denver is ever-changing and I find something new every time I visit. You will too.
Bill Malcolm has lived in Colorado twice — in Boulder and in Snowmass — and currently travels there for his day job. His syndicated LGBTQ value travel column currently appears in GRAB Chicago Magazine, The Washington Blade, qnotes (Charlotte), and other publications.