There are lots of cities on my “list.” After 30 years, I was finally able to cross Denver off my list. Up next are (in no particular order): Boston, Austin, New Orleans and Seattle. I also really want to make a trip up to Michigan. Also, North Carolina. Then there’s Europe. I will get to them all some day.
But back to Denver, a trip that has been in the making for several years now. Every time I saw the Cardinals were playing in Denver, I would look up flights and try to make the timing work, but for some reason it never did. I mostly blame weddings. But wedding season is starting to slow down for us these days (cue lots of babies instead), so we now have way more free weekends to do whatever we want.
As I was looking at the Cardinals schedule earlier this year, I noticed they were going to be in Denver over Memorial Day weekend… I thought, ‘Perfect!’ So I sent out a message to all of my college friends to see if anyone else would be interested in tagging along with us. I had already managed to find flights for under $300/person and was already looking at Airbnb’s that would cost less than $50/night per person. I ended up getting four other friends to jump on board: Tony, Jared, Adam and Mickey.
This was the Sunday before we left for Denver – we got together for dinner to discuss our final plans at the new Rosalita’s in West County (which is MASSIVE btw). We all basically agreed upon one thing: We were going to be “breezy.” And that’s when our trip’s hashtag was born: #breezyindenver. And that’s exactly how we were.
Tony, Jared, Tyler and I flew to Denver on an early flight on Thursday and landed at 7 a.m. Adam and Mickey opted to make the 11-hour drive instead. Even though it would’ve been cheaper, I’m still glad we flew. I really have no interest of ever driving through the entire state of Kansas, which I’ve heard has got to be one of the most boring drives ever.
So, the four of us got an Uber from the airport, and we happened to get picked up by the most interested Uber driver I have ever met – a stand-up comedian born and raised in Denver. Our Airbnb, which was just outside of downtown Denver, was a good 30-minute drive from the airport, so we got a good earful from this guy. He had no shortage of crude and witty comments to make about Denver, the legalization of marijuana and all the different types of people migrating to Denver because of it. To put it in polite terms, he’s rather upset about the influx of Californians and plans to move up north to Fort Collins to get away from them all.
Our Airbnb was in this really cute neighborhood just 10 minutes from downtown
Denver, and walking distance to a few bars and restaurants. It kind of reminded me of South City here in St. Louis. It was a two bedroom little Tudor house that had been remodeled on the inside, had an upstairs and downstairs living space, two full baths, kitchen, dining room and a yard with a deck. It was perfect for the six of us!
After dropping our stuff off at the Airbnb, we decided up first on the agenda, and most important, was food. Tyler and Tony had gotten several recommendations on brunch and dinner spots for us, and one of them was Snooze, which happened to be about a mile from our Airbnb, so within walking distance.
Snooze, self-dubbed as “An A.M. Eatery,” originated in Denver and now has locations in California, Texas and Arizona, as well. I, along with every other millennial, have developed an obsession of brunch. We’ve done plenty of brunches in St. Louis, so when I say Snooze is the best brunch I’ve ever had… that’s a bold statement.
The first time we went (yes it was so good we went twice out of the three opportunities we had to eat brunch), I got the breakfast pot pie, mostly because it was the first thing I saw on the menu that caught my eye and I was starving. Although it was scrumptious, this would be the first of many mistakes I would continue to make when it came to food in Denver. You’ll see why later.
But to help you see why I made the decision I did, here’s the description of the breakfast pot pie, according to Snooze’s menu: “Snooze’s homemade rosemary sausage gravy smothers a flaky puff pastry, topped with an egg your style (we’d say sunny side up!). You’ve reached breakfast bliss, complete with hash browns.” I’d have to say “breakfast bliss” was the perfect way to describe it.
Our waiter, who was delightful, also brought us out a pancake on the house for the four of us to share. I forget now what all was on it, but it was heavenly, and it made us feel REAL special. Come to find out, that seems to be a regular thing they do, kind of like the complementary chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant, only at Snooze, you get amazing pancakes. I think more brunch places need to jump on this complimentary pancake train, just saying.
I also ordered my usual trio of beverages when I’m on vacation: coffee, water and a mimosa, which fulfills the following purposes of caffeination (not a word, I know), hydration and boozation (also not a word, I realize). It’s pretty spectacular and I highly recommend it, especially at brunch.
After our lovely little brunch, we decided to take a stroll around the neighborhood (which included a stop at a liquor store, of course). Since we got into town so early, we still had plenty of time to kill before our friends Adam and Mickey got in, so we decided to take an Uber to City Park and walk around there for a bit as well. It was a beautiful day for walking, fortunately.
By the time we got back home, I think we were all pretty pooped from being up so early plus the traveling, so we all decided to take naps until Adam and Mickey showed up. It was perfect timing. Once they arrived, we headed over to a local brewpub in our neighborhood, called Vine Street Pub & Brewery. It seemed like burgers were the go-to here, but for some odd reason I decided to get a grilled cheese. I was expecting a fancy, gourmet “adult” grilled cheese, but what I got was a pretty basic grilled cheese with bacon and tomato. I was also expecting Fritos since the menu said it came with “corn chips,” but apparently that means good old, regular tortilla chips. So I basically got a kids meal at a bar, cool. Everyone else’s food looked pretty good, though. And they had local beer from Mountain Sun Brewery, originally based out of Boulder. We once again had the nicest waiter ever (seemed to be a trend in Denver) who wrote down a ton of restaurant/brewery recommendations for us on the back of a coaster:
After our mid-afternoon “snack,” we went to a brewery that was on our list of recommendations and it happened to only be 1.5 miles away, thus setting the tone for our trip – lots of eating and drinking.
We happened to arrive at Cerebral Brewing right as they were opening up for the day. It ended up being one of my favorite smaller breweries we went to. It had a really cool, nerdy/hipster kind of vibe, which was right up our alley. It kind of reminded me of Side Project, actually. Their homepage says, “A scientific approach to beer. Beer is too vast a medium to be approached thoughtlessly.” Turns out, they happened to be hosting a fundraiser that day for Habitat for Humanity, so not only were we supporting local business, we were being charitable, too. We were feeling pretty good about ourselves for that.
Plus they had really good beer, including Secret Chat Room, which was my favorite of their IPAs that I tried, and Work From Home, an imperial breakfast porter flavored with coffee and maple syrup that was to die for.
After Cerebral we headed home to wash up for dinner.
We decided on Avanti, “a collective eatery,” based on another recommendation we’d received. It was a pretty cool concept and definitely had a hipster vibe (which was most of Denver).
Avanti actually houses SEVEN different restaurants inside with several different common areas to hang out, eat and drink, including a cool lounge area and a gorgeous rooftop deck. Each of the mini restaurants are actually inside modified shipping containers, and they include:
- American Grind
- Bamboo Sushi
- Brava! Pizzeria Della Strada
- Chow Morso
- Quiero Arepas
- Souk Shawarma
- The Regional
As you can tell by their names, the food represents a vast array of cuisine from all over the world. Tyler and I decided to get sushi and pasta (strange combo, I know), but they are two of my favorite things so it worked!
After Avanti we ventured across the street to Prost Brewing, an extremely German brewery – “prost” actually means “cheers” in German. And that pretty much wrapped up our first successful day in Denver!
We started the day off with, of course, brunch – the most important meal of the day. This time we headed over to Denver Biscuit Co. It was a bit of a wait, but they gave us free coffee while we waited outside, so it wasn’t too bad. Plus it gave Adam and Tyler time to go pick up our rental van for the day.
Once inside, I ordered a boozy iced latte, which completed two of my morning objectives while on vacation (caffeinate and boozinate), so I only had to order one additional beverage (water) and not two to complete the last objective (hydrate).
Then we all split a massive cinnamon roll, which was a great warm up for what was to come… giant biscuits.
Again, this is where I went wrong and ordered The Dahlia, which included a housemade sausage patty, apple butter, fried egg & maple syrup, which sounds delicious right? It looks amazing, too:
Well, everyone else got The Franklin, or something similar to it, which had buttermilk fried chicken instead of the sausage patty, plus Tender Belly bacon, cheddar cheese and the best part… gravy. You can get either sausage or vegetarian mushroom gravy, and while everyone else ordered the sausage gravy (which is also what I would’ve picked), my husband chose the mushroom.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love mushrooms, but my friend Tony and I instinctively scoffed at him for choosing the vegetarian option, which would we most likely do in most situations (no offense to vegetarians, we just like our meat, a LOT). Tony and I ended up being in the wrong, though, because the mushroom gravy was definitely more savory and flavorful than the sausage gravy, believe it or not. I guess vegetarian options can be OK sometimes. (Can’t believe I just said that.)
After brunch, we all saddled up in our sweet minivan for the day and headed out to the mountains. Initially, we had planned on our second day in Denver to be our “adventurous” day, where we would do a hike of some sort in the mountains. But unfortunately, two weeks before we arrived in Denver there was a blizzard and the mountains got around two feet of a snow. Typically all of the national parks open up Memorial Day weekend, but this would not be the case for us. Even the scenic byways were closed, so we weren’t even able to drive into the mountains at all, which was a bummer.
Oh, the storm also threw us for a loop with our Airbnb. Our first Airbnb we booked was damaged by a hail storm, so two weeks before our trip I had to frantically search for a new Airbnb which ended up costing us double what we were originally going to pay. It was still relatively cheap, but that kind of sucked.
Note to self: Next time I take a trip to Denver, I need to go in July to avoid issues like this in the future!
And of course, the day we decided to do some exploring outside of Denver it was pretty cloudy and raining off and on. But we decided to make the best of it and made our first stop at Red Rocks, where we were able to sneak in a quick half mile hike before it started raining on us.
I had been told you can definitely feel the difference in altitude when you’re in the Mile-High City (especially when you’re from St. Louis which is basically at sea level), but I wasn’t expecting to be quite as palpable as it was. By the time we reached the “peak” of this short hike, I was huffing and puffing pretty hard.
We decided to check out the amphitheatre, too, and by this time it had started raining pretty good so we had to wait it out in the car for a bit. We didn’t stay long after we got out, because it started sleeting/hailing on us.
And that was the extent of our sightseeing/hiking for the trip. By this point we were all ready for a beer, so we began our brewery tour with the first stop at Avery Brewing in Boulder.
It was a much bigger brewing facility than I had expected, with self-guided tours. We enjoyed our beers out on their patio and had excellent service, in which within seconds of placing our drink order with our waitress, our beer would arrive. She would input our orders on a tablet, which would send it to the bar and someone else would bring the beers out, it was amazing. Technology, man.
Stop #2 was in Fort Collins where we went to Odell Brewing and New Belgium, which were right down the street from reach other. The patio at Odell was packed, so we opted for a rousing game of quarters inside instead. It was fun while it lasted, but ended shortly after we broke one of the tasting glasses.
Then it was time for our last stop of the day, which was my favorite – New Belgium! It was by far the coolest brewery we went to, it was a beer oasis. Like a playground for adults, with beer and live music.
They had some crazy yard games that originated in Belgium, like Rolle Bolle, which is a little like bocce ball, but instead of rolling a ball you roll a heavy rubber wheel/disc thing on a cement structure that reminded me of a half pipe. It was hard, but pretty fun! And the beer was delicious, of course.
Thus ended our brewery tour and we headed home so we could freshen up for our second night out on the town. We had made plans to meet up for dinner with a friend of ours from college who lived in Denver. We grabbed a few drinks before our delicious dinner at Work and Class, where they boast a “good food, no fuss” style and promise a “square meal, stiff drink, and fair price.” I’d have to say both are true.
We grabbed a few drinks before our delicious dinner at Work and Class, where they boast a “good food, no fuss” style and promise a “square meal, stiff drink, and fair price.” I’d have to say both are true. After dinner we hopped over to our last brewery stop for the day, Epic Brewing, which was unfortunately getting ready to close by the time we arrived. But I think we were all OK with that because we were pretty tired after our adventurous day.
Since this was going to be our last full day in Denver, we decided to start it right with another trip to Snooze. Plus, we wanted Adam and Mickey to have the same experience we did, and it did not disappoint. We were once again served a complimentary pancake for all of us to share, which was just as heavenly as last time. This time, however, I decided to go with an eggs benedict AND a pancake, and I had no regrets this time.
I got the Bella! Bella! Benny, complete with “thin slices of prosciutto, Taleggio cheese, and perfectly poached eggs on toasted ciabatta, topped with cream cheese hollandaise, balsamic glaze and arugula.” And when they say “perfectly poached eggs,” they mean it. I’ve never had a better poached egg in my life. For my pancake, I got the blueberry Danish pancake, which is topped with “blueberry coulis, sweet cream and almond streusel surrounding a center of lemony cream cheese filling.” It was to die for.
After brunch we decided to just head back to the BNB to hang out and chill until the game that evening. It was actually perfect. Some of us took naps and then I played my first game of Ticket To Ride (and won!) before we decided to whip out our friend’s beer pong table for some drinking games.
Funny story about this legendary beer pong table, which actually belongs to my friend Mattie, who gave birth to her first son Sam yesterday! This beer pong table has now been on two trips without Mattie, the first one being my senior year spring break trip to Gulf Shores, the second being Denver. I’m not really sure why we thought taking it on either trip was OK, but Mattie, you are a saint for letting us borrow your table without you!
After a few games of flip cup, beer pong and finally ending with Civil War, we decided it was time to head out for the game. We pre-gamed at Falling Rock, a tap house near the stadium (like we needed to). Needless to say, we were all feeling pretty positive by the time we walked into Coors Field.
A friend of mine warned me that Rockies fans were not your typical baseball fans, who rather than actually watch the game, used the stadium as a cool, outdoor bar to hang out and drink in, with a baseball game going on in the background. Once inside, I found out why: It IS a cool place to just hang out and drink, with its multiple levels of outdoor bars that are open to anyone and everyone (unlike Busch where each section is reserved for those specific ticket holders). Plus the views of the mountains from the upper levels are pretty breathtaking.
Our seats were in the bleachers, but Tyler met up with a friend who was sitting in a different section, which I’m glad we checked out because it gave us a much different view of the stadium.
But we discovered some real fans in the bleachers, who kept photo bombing our pictures, which was pretty funny.
With a Cardinals win (their only win of the series actually), it was a great way to end our trip!