Three fulls days of activity in Denver

Settled near the base of the Rocky Mountains, Denver, Colorado offers an urban alternative to the majestic views and world-class skiing one often associates with Colorado. Short on time during your stay in the Mile-High City? Some ideas from an enthusiastic Denverite on what to do with only three days in Denver.

Day one

Start your trip off in style by checking into the famed Brown Palace Hotel. At over 100 years old, this luxurious, historical hotel boasts all the amenities. The Brown Palace Hotel offers a variety of tours as well, both public and private. Speaking of tours…next stop: Banjo Billy’s Bus Tour. At 90 minutes long, you can tour Denver from, as their website proudly proclaims, “an old school bus tricked out to look like a traveling hillbilly shack.” You can sit astride a saddle or on a couch with your travelling companions while your guide shares tales of ghosts, crimes, and classic Denver history. You’ve never toured like this before.

Following such an insane journey, it’ll be about time to grab lunch at Steuben’s. Featured on the show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, this diner was converted from an auto-mechanic shop and transformed into the eatery that has it all. Crave a Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich? What about St. Louis-style Ribs? Denver is full of “transplants” from around the country, and odds are that their homesickness can be cured with a stop at Steuben’s.

After lunch, you can spend your afternoon at the 16th Street Mall. It’s a fun outdoor mall complete with musicians, jugglers, that guy who looks like a statue…you get the picture. Packed with shops and eateries, you can pick up something kitschy and touristy here. Take the free tram up and down 16th St. when your feet get tired. Don’t forget to stop into Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for some apple slices dipped in gooey goodness.

Craving something uniquely Colorado? Now’s the time for some “Old West fare” at The Buckhorn Exchange. Feast on elk, buffalo, quail and other game at the oldest restaurant in Denver. The Buckhorn has served miners, gamblers, American Indian chiefs, President Teddy Roosevelt…and now you. Depending on availability, you might even get ostrich or yak on your dinner plate. Enjoy that glowing sunset splashed along the Front Range…tomorrow, you can go where the locals like to haunt.

Day two

Denver offers a great selection of gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan fare. Start your day off right with breakfast at Watercourse Foods. Specializing in “vegetarian comfort food”, you’ll be craving their homemade biscuits long after your trip is over. Committed carnivores, have no fear: these dishes are hearty, and the cage-free eggs will leave you feeling comfy with your karma.

A favorite neighborhood in Denver is most certainly the Highlands neighborhood. Between Highlands Square, the Lower Highlands (LoHi), or on the ever-popular Tennyson Street, this neighborhood is packed with art galleries, coffee shops, boutiques and restaurants. Browse wares from local artisans in this trendy locale, and enjoy a variety of healthy, organic cuisine. Step into the Village Bookstore and check out their back room for some great finds. You could score that obscure copy of an N.C. Wyeth-illustrated Treasure Island in near mint condition here.

Upon leaving the Highlands, you can head down to the upscale neighborhood of Cherry Creek for some high-end retail therapy. Step into a lovely little shop by the name of Apothecary Tinctura and get a tea to soothe what ails you, or pick up a cool gift for a child or for your inner child from the fantastically fun Wizard’s Chest toy store.

Then you can wash down your day of healthy eating with a delicious, juicy burger from the Cherry Cricket. Top it with strips of green chile (a Colorado favorite) or get more daring and throw some peanut butter on it.

Day three

Want more organic, fresh and local fare? It’s got to be brunch at Root Down. Make reservations, they’re always packed. Try their pulled pork omelet, or for a gluten-free option, their “Root Down”: Eggs Benedict featuring a quinoa English muffin. After filling up on yummy local cuisine, you may not want to rule out a trip to the beautiful Denver Zoo. Having just opened the spectacular $50 million dollar Toyota Elephant Passage, the Zoo is the place to be for animal lovers.

As the afternoon rolls by, a trip to the Mile-High City may not be complete without a Mile-High sporting event. Root for the Broncos, Nuggets or the Rockies, depending on the season, at Sports Authority Field, the Pepsi Center, or Coors Field. Get a Brat, kick back, and breathe in that fresh mountain air (okay, mingled with a hint of grease and booze. You are in a sports stadium).

The perfect cap to your journey? The best cookies and milk you’ve ever tasted (no, really) at D Bar Desserts. The place is owned and operated by Chef Keegan Gerhard of Food Network fame (he judges those insane pastry competitions). You might even spot him darting in and out of the kitchen, or chatting up customers. The D-Bar dinner menu is also tasty, as is their iced toddy coffee, but let’s keep focused on the task at hand. This is an unbelievable dessert place. Even if you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, order something decadent. Your companions may not want to share.

Here’s to a wonderful three days in Denver. Hopefully you can stay for longer next time, as you’ll surely see why so many choose to move here and call the Mile-High City their home.