Denver is a cool town. It’s got old squares, new skyscrapers, dive bars, and even a Mile High Stadium. From the old days of the gold rush through to the green rush of today, Denver has been a town that attracted the migrant and the tourist, alike.
For the visitor, be they a family, or some 420-friendly buds, there is a bunch of fun things to do in Denver. And, with the glorious backdrop of the Rocky Mountains to create wonderful experiences, you’ll be keeping memories alive forever.
1. Red Rocks
Red Rocks is the one Uber ride that could cost $20 or more from downtown.
It had to be done though— even though this is going to be an urban visit overall, Red Rocks is the one trip needed to get near some sweet mountainous action. This is what to do in Denver if you want to get your outdoors on, but still want to be a part of civilization.
There is an embarrassment of landscape at Red Rocks. It is spectacular and mystical.
Not only are the natural formations beautiful, but the natural amphitheater that creates this gorgeous, mind-blowing event space is historic. It’s a century old, and everyone — absolutely everyone — who is anyone has played here. Just a few examples: The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Radiohead, and U2.
“Under a Blood Red Sky.” U2’s live tour video was shot at Red Rocks back in 1983, when the band was just a bunch of fledgling rock gods without equal, playing with fire and about to shake the world. As opposed to these days, when they force their comfortable music down our digital throats.
In that video, Red Rocks was the coolest place on the face of the earth. It still is.
When done, you could easily walk into the town of Morrison from the amphitheater. There is a cute little diner called “The Cow” with pleasant, young staff, who made a Cowboy Casserole that totally hit the spot when we stopped by for breakfast.
The rest of the town is just as friendly and picture worthy. Enjoy.
2. Union Station
They say, it’s the gateway to the Rocky Mountains. Well, who would dare mess with such poetry?
Yup, Union Station, established in 1881 (but beautifully renovated in 2014) is somewhere that, if you are using public transportation, you are probably going to cross when looking for things to do around Denver. So take a moment to check the old place out.
The great hall is elegantly decorated, and surrounded by equally well-appointed shops, and the Terminal Bar is where impeccably dressed bartenders serve no less than 30 beers on tap. There’s even a hotel, The Crawford, named after the developer who turned the station around, Mrs. Dana Crawford. And she did a damned fine job of it.
Every detail has a kind of old school with an American, and more specifically, Colorado, charm. Many use its workstations to work on their laptops and charge their phones, and for one man-bun-sporting gentleman to knit something (no doubt) ridiculous, as when I was there.
However, the hall makes this traveller want to run determinedly across it, dropping luggage, striding forward, and not caring about the staring masses — the only goal to stop someone-who-doesn’t-deserve-me from catching that last train out of town, and out of my life.
Ultimately, I’m saying it’s photogenic — like being on a movie set.
You’ll dig it.
3. International Church of Cannabis
For those of you looking for awesome things to do in Denver this weekend, what could be better than going to church? Seriously — this place is dope.
A short stroll from the bars and stores of South Broadway, and only a block from the legendary brunch favorite Lucile’s Creole Cafe, you’ll find the incredibly friendly folk at the International Church of Cannabis, who go by the name “Elevationists.” These guys took a dilapidated, 113-year-old chapel, restored it, then commissioned awe-inspiring, hand-painted, custom cathedral ceilings, along with a funky, cool facade — turning the former eyesore into a world-class destination.
Breathtaking. Magical. Beautiful. They’re all words that people have used to describe the chapel. Absolutely friggin’ incredible was another way of putting it.
Personally, I cried.
The gift shop area is just as eye-catching, with a mad collection of weird and crazy-cool chairs.
There are lots of Kidrobot art toys, and plenty of games — including an original Space Invaders and a Galaga arcade machine. There are a couple of cool paintings for sale by Okuda San Miguel (who painted the chapel) and a limited-edition Kidrobot collaboration with the legendary Kenny Scharf (who painted the facade of the church.) Denver artist, Kym Bloom also had several interesting pieces for sale that perfectly reflected the brightly-themed, pixelated feel of the space.
For all those that believe cannabis is a positive influence in their life and for those who spiritually elevate themselves via the ritual use of marijuana, this is one of those “must see” Denver attractions. They are open for public viewing Thursday through Sunday. Check times here.
Sign up in advance for an opportunity to be invited to attend church events while you’re in town.
They also have a sweet line of T-shirts — I’m wearing mine now.
4. Casa Bonita
Casa Bonita was immortalized, in 2003 by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, as Cartman’s favorite, most-awesome place on earth. But, what would a couple of dudes at the Academy Awards, in lady attire, and on acid, know about awesome?
“It’s like the Disneyland of Mexican Restaurants,” Kyle Broflovski, South Park resident said.
There’s nowhere quite like Casa Bonita. If you are visiting, it’s one of those rare Denver attractions that may be exactly as you expect, or might not.
“Casa Bonita! Casa Bonita! Food and fun in a festive atmosphere,” Eric Cartman sings to the tune of La Cucuracha. He’s not wrong, it is quite something, and they really do, “have cliff jumpers and Black Bart’s Cave and all kinds of stuff.”
There’s a sweet fountain on the way in, and a 30-foot-high indoor waterfall. A diver juggling fire launches off the edge of a cliff and, well, it is definitely different. A mariachi band is playing, we take our seats.
Casa Bonita is made up of several themed areas. We are in the Rooftops. From here the visitor has a great vantage point to check out the entertainment and, even better, can sit at the “Cartman Table” as featured in S7,E11 of the show.
The food is very basic Mexican or American, and it’s all y’all can eat. But, it’s not why you come here. It’s not so much dinner and a show, as a show and something to snack on that’s mostly reminiscent of elementary school food which you are forced to pay for.
However, if you have prepared for the experience and you love those sweet, dripping sopapillas, you are in for a treat. Oh yes, raise the flag at your table and they will bring you more. More..? More. That’s right — keep those doughy pillows, and locally-sourced honey, coming. Oh yeah. Doughy. Mmmmmm. Honey...
Same chick just dived off the highest point. Damn — that is high. Margarita!
OK, so you have a few days in town, and only a limited number of weird or unique experiences. Is it worth it?
5. Euflora 3D Cannabis Center
Of course, the casual visitor looking for things to do in Denver this weekend may want to make a purchase from any one of Denver’s many cannabis dispensaries. Basically, it is legal for those 21 or older to buy cannabis for recreational consumption, even if illegal to consume in public, so long as you have a state-issued photo ID, or a passport.
However, if you want a unique experience, the Euflora 3D Cannabis Center is the best place for a visitor who wants to purchase their plant legally, and get a little more bang for their buck.
There, you can take photos of the weed growing in the growhouse out back. It is pretty amazing to see dozens of plants all growing together in one place. Big, green, and sticky.
On the main showroom floor, Euflora has cool podiums, upon each of which is a strain of cannabis. Each strain is contained in a clear box that allow you to look at the weed close up through a magnifying glass, smell it, and read all about it on a mini-tablet that provides all the info one may need. It’s a sweet place. You can buy everything from the clone of a plant, to edibles, to a kief-infused, pre-rolled joint.
You soon will get the feeling you’re not in Kansas anymore.
6. Colorado State Capitol
The 15th step is exactly 5280 feet, or one mile, above sea level. So a trip to the Colorado State Capitol can leave one truly a mile high in every way if you combine it with a trip to a dispensary — not that we would in any way recommend such illegal behavior as consuming in public, of course.
The Capitol is like a mini version of the one in D.C. First opened in 1894, it has a sweet gold rotunda, and it sits up a bit higher than the surrounding buildings downtown.
What? This is not right. There’s the cool step, it reads pretty clearly: “One Mile Above Sea Level.”
But, as it turns out, in 1969, some students from Colorado State University resurveyed the official elevation and found the mile high city was actually still living up to its name, but some three steps higher — on the 18th step.
What? Now, it turns out that in 2003 the latest measuring gadgetry was applied to the job and the official mile high measurement is now a little round marker way down on the third step. The third.
Is this some weird government exercise program? Capitol punishment perhaps?
Perhaps a stroll down Colfax Avenue is called for instead.
7. Crawl Colfax
Colfax Avenue was once described by Playboy as “the longest, wickedest street in America.” At 26.8 miles, that’s long enough to stage a marathon. However, we don’t recommend doing all that running. Instead, we suggest doing a pub crawl along the most decadent stretch from Capitol Hill Books to Voodoo Doughnut Mile High — an easily walkable distance of around half a mile.
Having already pre-gamed on White Russians, and having reached just east of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, we spilled from our UBER and into Prohibition, a faux-feeling bar with dark wood and some good beers. The best part is the hipsterrific children’s adventure book within which we were presented the check.
We stagger into LGBT hotspot X Bar. The window side of the bar is quite short, but we appreciate that it’s likely helpful to the differently-abled, and order drinks. The 2-4-1 beers during Happy Hour is a great deal. Cool place if it’s your scene.
On to 1Up Bar, and it’s awesome. It has the world’s biggest Pac-Man arcade game, tons of drink choices, dozens of classic arcade games (although no Asteroids. Bummer).
At Kinga’s Lounge things started to get messy — we had a couple more beers, and a delectable $25 carafe of cucumber and jalapeno vodka. Amazing. Things are falling apart.
Everything is right with the world again — punk rock and beer at the Streets of London Pub.
The group is breaking. Going home. Time to call UBER.