48 hours in Denver

by Carolyn Koehn on January 4, 2024 in Travels,

Denver Delivers! 48 hours in the mile high city with an agenda beyond the great outdoors.

When travelers think about Colorado, many conjure images of the great outdoors. Colorful Colorado easily earns that reputation for its beautiful rivers, mountains, and plains. Remember that Denver is near the mountains, not in them. Our mile high city itinerary shares some other great opportunities you should consider the next time you are in Denver.

Getting there

The first to greet us was the airport’s iconic tented roof, inspired by the Rockies. As I navigated the airport, I was surprised by the size and hustle. This airport’s passenger traffic makes it the third busiest in the US and the sixth busiest in the world. 

Denver:  D is for Delicious

This past fall, Michelin guide inspectors debuted the Colorado Michelin Guide. The award ceremony donned the state with forty-eight awards, twenty-eight of them in Denver.

  • Michelin One Star:  Five in Colorado, three in Denver
  • Green Star:  Four in Colorado, two in Denver
  • Bib Gourmand:  Nine in Colorado, eight in Denver
  • Michelin recommended restaurant:  Thirty in Colorado, fifteen in Denver

As a result, the culinary experience was a purposeful focus of our itinerary. Make a reservation as Michelin recognition has made a table harder to come by.

The Maven Hotel lobby eliminates traditional boundaries, creating open adjacencies with the outdoor Dairy Block Alley, office space, shopping, and dining. Photo courtesy Visit Denver.

Where To Stay in Denver:  D is for Dairy Block

Denver revitalization has touched many neighborhoods, including the Dairy Block in lower downtown (LoDo).  The Windsor Farm Dairy Company has been transformed into a vibrant, walkable destination with retail, dining, office and hotel space. Within walking distance are Union Station, Larimer Square, 16th Street Mall, Coors Field, and local colleges.  

We stayed at The Maven Hotel, a modern, boutique hotel located in the heart of the Dairy Block. Off the open concept lobby are the Dairy Block Alley, the Dairy Block Market, restaurants, shopping, conference space, and shared offices. Unique art from the lobby to our room made the journey a sensory adventure. Our large, modern room offered comfortable furniture, snuggle-enticing bedding, and a balcony overlooking Coors Field. The hotel also shares a variety of discounts at many of the Dairy Block businesses. Just scan their QR code on the hotel key sleeve for all the latest details:  free drinks, free apps, free coffee, discounts, etc.

City Park offers a beautiful green space with Denver’s skyline in the background. Photo Captain Colorado Photography.

Day 1:  Packing It In

The City Highlights and Beyond

For our day-one itinerary, we started at Union Station. This beautifully restored terminal still hosts rail passengers, but its former ticket stand is now an elegant bar. Additionally, its footprint includes a hotel, retail, eateries, and more. After grabbing coffee, we hopped on a half-day tour with Aspire:  Denver, Red Rocks, and Beyond. This tour escorted us past many city highlights:  City Park, the Convention Center and its famous blue bear, historic Five Points neighborhood, River North Art District, Coors Field, and more.  

This aerial view shows the enormity of the Red Rocks in comparison to the amphitheater. Photo courtesy Visit Denver and Bob Ashe.

Beyond the city, we visited the breathtaking Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater as well as Buffalo Bill’s favorite Lookout Mountain. These two stops offer grandiose scenes from mother nature and are the highlight of the trip. The half day adventure included a break for snacks where we enjoyed savory pastries from  Maria Empanada and a quick sample at Denver Beer Company.

Denver Union Station’s transformation shifts its focus from passenger rail to an attraction for a multitude of travelers. Photo courtesy Visit Denver.

Back in the City

After our return, we grabbed a snack at Union Station and then ventured on to Denver’s Botanic Gardens. It has a number of differently themed gardens such as our favorite, the Japanese garden. With a quick Uber ride to the Denver Art Museum, we viewed the renowned American Indian and Western art. From the museum, we walked to a nearby rooftop bar, Fire, for a pre-dinner cocktail beside the impressive firepit.

Linger revives a former mortuary with its elevated international street food. Photo courtesy Visit Denver.


Popularity makes reservations required at Linger. Formerly a mortuary, this employee-owned restaurant serves an elevated take on street food around the world, accompanied with themed cocktails. You can choose seats from the interior or its rooftop with great city views. Celebrating the space’s history and the international kitchens, we enjoyed the Mortuary Margarita along with the New Saigon. Makayla and Tina took us on a tour of the shareable bites menu:  Bombay Nachos (the table favorite), Bao Bun Trio, Skewer Kebab Trio, and Pad Thai.  Make room for dessert. The Italian “Coffee” & Doughnuts were to die for.  (Pun intended.)

Building murals convert this once warehouse district into a walkable art museum. Photo courtesy RiNo Art District.

Day 2:  Taking It In

After a packed first day, we opted for a more relaxed day two agenda, revisiting some of the quick stops we made the day prior. We returned to City Park for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. One of its unique exhibits is Gems and Minerals, a reminder of the state’s mining history. Following, we returned to RiNo to see more of the building murals. Our art excursion eventually landed us at The Denver Central Market, home to eleven vendors serving a variety of provisions and spirits. We created a lunch combination from different stalls including a gourmet salad, wood-fired pizza, and wine. 

Oakwell Beer Spa offers relaxation with a casual vibe. Photo courtesy Visit Denver.

Relax Differently

After lunch, we continued our stroll to Oakwell Beer Spa, which offers relaxation in a casual environment. Its lobby includes a tap wall of eleven beers, ciders, and wines, all from Colorado. The spa menu allows you to customize your spa experience and your beverage menu. If your fellow is weary of a spa, this is a great ice breaker.

Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant, Ash Kara, serves delectable Middle Eastern Cuisine. Photo courtesy Colleen O’Toole.

The final stop: Ash Kara

Last, but in no way least, was our final dining destination in the LoHi neighborhood. Ash Kara is another restaurant where popularity makes reservations required, especially after its Michelin Bib Gourmand recognition. The mixology masters a spin on traditional cocktails such as Gettin’ Zhuggy Wit’ It (most popular), Sundaze in Oaxaca, and Bodacious. Executive Chef Reggie Dotson and his team deliver contemporary Middle Eastern cuisine. Kelsey helped with our selection of shareable bites:   Falafel, Saganaki, Carrot Kibbeh Nayyeh (table favorite) and a trio of Htipiti, Whipped Labneh, and Babaganoush. As a main course, our table shared the Wood Fired Eggplant Tajin. This final celebration was a great way to conclude our forty-eight hours in Denver.

The Mile High City provided us with miles of fun.  


Cover photo courtesy Visit Denver.

Have passport, will travel. Motivated by her first international trip at twelve years old, Carolyn Koehn pursued a career that would take her around the globe. Following a global career as a finance executive, Carolyn leverages her Latin heritage, Southern upbringing, expat living, Texas residency, and world experience into her travel, lifestyle, and culinary writing.