Denver is known for its exciting outdoor activities like skiing and snowboarding, but there’s more to offer in the Mile High City than what meets the eye. Behind the curtains is an artsy city with murals and art exhibitions, live music, and distinctive dining.
Not only is Denver, Colorado, an outdoor city with plenty of active activities, it’s also home to some pretty unique live music venues (such as the Red Rocks Park Amphitheater). You may have heard of that rare venue, but one thing you would have never guessed (because I certainly didn’t) is that Denver has more live-music venues than Austin. Crazy right? So staying downtown Denver to experience the epitome of live music in The Mile High City is a must. We have the perfect suggestions on where to stay and what to do!
Where to Stay
Located in the heart of the buzzy Lower Downtown area of Denver (LoDo), The Thompson Denver is set to become Denver’s most sought-out upscale hotel, and I can totally understand why. It’s the Thompson Hotel brand’s first hotel in Colorado!
Whether the Mile High Suite or King Bed City view — one thing for certain is that any suite or room where you choose to lay your head will be a great one. You’ll most certainly enjoy the sweeping downtown views of the colorful city and marvelous Rocky Mountains from the floor-to-ceiling windows.
The space is divided into three sections. The Garden room basically feels like a sunroom with city views, but the sculptural corner fireplace makes the space feel even more warm and inviting. If you’re looking for a more private, intimate, and cozy ambiance, check out The Library, which also offers a separate nook to play billiards. Last but certainly not least is the Living Room, which includes a long bar under the striking skylights.
One thing you’ll notice throughout the hotel is the beloved trickster of European folklore, Reynard the Fox. Order the Après Ski at Reynard Social and you’ll see the surprise once you gulp it all down. The Reynard Social was actually named after the little guy. The lively sunroom and bar lounge features an inventive menu of après-inspired dishes you need to check out. Sip on a craft cocktail like the Summit Selfie while overlooking the Rocky Mountains and Denver skyline. Stop by BarM for countless drink options; try the French Martini that’s sweet and easy to take down.
Famous French Cuisine
Inside this stunning space is celebrated French Cuisine helmed by the one-and-only James Beard Award finalist and Michelin starred French Chef Ludo Lefebvre. Chef Ludo is the culinary visionary behind the hotel’s signature restaurant, bringing his culinary magic to Chez Maggy. Dive into the classic French cuisine by ordering the Escargot. If you want something more filling, both the Steak Tartare and the Burger à la Française will surely please your meatier side. On the lighter side, I suggest trying the Onion Soup Gratinée, which seemed to be very popular with guests.
I certainly couldn’t get enough of celebrity chef Ludo’s delectable dining. ‘Twas a delightful dining experience. You can catch more of him on the TBS TV show “Rat in the Kitchen,” hosted by iconic roasting queen and comedian Natasha Leggero and of course the one and only Chef Ludo. The show is about a mix of professional chefs and passionate home cooks competing to create competitive dishes during each cooking challenge, all while trying to impress Chef Ludo. Throughout the challenge the so-called “Rat” in the kitchen tries to sabotage their fellow players, and if succeeded, the rat walks away with the money in the bank. I’m a sucker for a good competitive cooking show! If you are too, you can catch “Rat in the Kitchen” on TBS Thursdays 9/8 central time.
The best part about staying at the Thompson Denver is that it’s super close to all the entertainment! It’s an easy walk to the historic Union Station, Coors Field, and buzzy bars and restaurants of the Dairy Block.
Catch a pedicab ride with Fair Weather Pedicab and experience the city in a whole new, intimate way. Owner Zak Bloom’s vision is to show off the city he has lived in and loved for over 20 years. And he does just that! You’ll have the best views of city life. This is a convenient and fun way of getting around the city from a unique and exciting vantage point. Zak actually has his own close ties to the hotel. Chez Maggy by Chef Ludo pays homage to Zak’s aunt who was tragically killed in a drunk driving accident. So the hotel is near and dear to his heart, just like the city itself.
Seeing the city via pedicab is the best way to spot the pregame district and hit Larimer Square. Looking around downtown you see a lot of colorful, incredibly creative and inspirational art murals. I was told by Zak that they close off the street so that artists can come paint these fantastic murals.
Take one of the exciting pedicab rides and arrive at Meow Wolf Convergence Station. Travelers of all ages, prepare to travel into inter-dimensional worlds you’ve never known existed. The Convergence Station features four floors all brought to life by more than 300 creatives and 110+ Colorado-based artists. Many personal stories are woven throughout these converged unparalleled worlds. Travel into the unknown and uncover the mystery of the psychedelic, mind-bending art, infamous portals, secret wormholes, I mean the list goes on. Adults, I know you need a break from those kids, and Meow Wolf has got your back. Adult night is the first and last Wednesday of every month. Walk around with a drink in hand kid-free as you take in its greatness. Believe me when I say this will definitely be one of the most unforgettable and transformational experiences you’ve had in your existence. (At least for me). It made me want to keep coming back for more! The time I had wasn’t enough. Well great news for us Texans . . . Meow Wolf plans to open two new permanent “portals” in Grapevine (2023) and Houston (2024)!
Inside the multiverse transit station lies HELLOFOOD Café and Bar (Patio). Visitors can recharge from their cosmic exploration to find substance in tasty treats and cold bold brews.
Walk to Rioja for lunch, located in the historic Larimer Square. Rioja is James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southwest Jennifer Jasinski’s much-acclaimed restaurant. Chef Jen’s creative cuisines have an emphasis on handmade pastas and local Rocky Mountain ingredients. The wine list and cocktail selections are authored by Gruitch, and complement Chef Jen’s cuisine. Start with the Smoked Burrata with roasted walnuts and honey vinaigrette. The navel orange makes the dish super sweet. The Fresh Bacon is more up my alley, as the pork belly was super flavorful and satisfied that slight meat craving. The dishes look as good as they taste, as they were super vibrant and plated beautifully. For Chef Jen’s handmade pastas, try the Artichoke Tortelloni or the Spring Risotto. As for the main, I went out of my comfort zone and had the Liberty Farms Duck Breast, which was very juicy and tender and not gamey at all. The carrot-turmeric purée made a great compliment to the dish. Other notable meat mentions: Lamb Two Ways and Grilled Wagyu Tri-Tip.
Colorado Craft Beer
After chomping down, walk to Wynkoop Brewing Co. for a quick pre-game. Wynkoop is Colorado’s First Brewpub, home to tastemakers and rulebreakers. I especially love that the brewpub is located in a modest basement underneath Denver’s largest pool hall. It’s so easy to spend the day here drinking and socializing with friends. Over the years, Colorado’s craft beer industry has exploded, and Wynkoop is here to stay serving up cold handcrafted beer. If you’re brave, I dare you to try a Rocky Mountain Oysters beer. This the perfect place to pregame before a Colorado Rockies Game.
Speaking of which – are you even in Denver if you don’t visit Coors Field for a game? It’s a must for anyone who visits! Relax and enjoy the game at The Rooftop, the newest hot spot at Coors field, offering spectacular views and premium bars. Buy you some peanuts and crackerjacks, or whatever game food you choose. It’s usually always crowded with people, so watch where you’re going so you don’t drop your burger like I did.
Cover photo from Visit Denver.
Leean Vargas is the Highlight Reel newsletter editor at Texas Lifestyle Magazine and an honors graduate of Texas State University with a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. She is a concert enthusiast who loves traveling, photography, good food, and discovering new hangout spots in her beloved city, Austin, Texas.