Just five days after finishing my last ever college final, my best friend Grace and I buckled our seatbelts for a trip to Denver, Colorado. Our play-it-by-ear four-day itinerary took us into the bustling and developing downtown Denver, through the beautiful town of Boulder, and up to the breathtaking peak of Red Rocks Amphitheater.
An early departure meant a brunch-time arrival, so we headed straight for Snooze A.M. Eatery in Union Station. I lugged my body-bag - oops! I mean suitcase! - through the restaurant to its outdoor patio, perched along _______ street. First things came first: mimosas. Next: food. Should we split something? I don’t know why I ask, because the answer is always an easy yes. As easy as the yes to mimosas. Our favorites caught our eyes immediately - a double-avocado whole-grain toast and a sweet potato and veggie hash, both with fried eggs. Though we weren’t our most adventurous selves with this order (if only you knew how fundamental avocado, whole-grain bread, eggs, and sweet potatoes are to my diet), it exceeded my expectations and satisfied all my brunch cravings.
I like to think Denver welcomed us with some of the first rays of sunshine all year. To soak it up and stretch our legs, we strolled through Washington Park in the afternoon and could have sworn it was a Saturday rather than a Wednesday, given how many dogs ran to catch frisbees their people threw for them, how many picnic blankets lay beneath spring-time snacks and beverages, and how many strollers wheeled tiny humans in adorable sunglasses.
We caught wind of a rooftop bar (one of many) that overlooks downtown Denver - Linger. The view, the music, and the people quickly convinced us we chose a cool spot. The rose, the sweet potato fries, and the charred edamame still linger in my memory (pun-intended). It’s a place for both the younger and older crowds, but not those who may have a fear of heights - more so for those wanting some affordable, but still tasty food and beverages paired with a stunning view of the city.
If there’s one thing I can’t get over about Denver, it’s the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. This place took my breath away, figuratively and literally. I mean, looook at that stunning view. Of course, being the young and active individuals we are, Grace and I just had to get a workout in. We tried to run the stairs, but were stopped by the unusually long distance between each step, so we resorted to a bodyweight HIIT workout instead. At roughly 6,400 feet altitude, my breath was almost literally taken away, but in the best way possible! Nutritional replenishment brought to us by RX Bar (not sponsored).
Not far from our Air BnB was Larimer Square with its cute little string lights and bustling downtown strip of restaurants, coffee shops, business, and more. We strolled (and grumbled about how nobody in busy cities knows how to politely merge on the sidewalk when walking by) the streets, picked up some lattes from Caribou Coffee, and then grabbed a couple salads from a little grab-n-go type of place of which I cannot remember the name. If we’d had more time and energy, maybe we would have strolled and shopped a little more. All we wanted was to walk, sip on a latte, look around, and enjoy the sunshine - you know, the sunshine we brought from California.
On this night - March 28th, 2019 - I discovered my favorite food. Or maybe it discovered me. Pizza had always been like that guy who is just so interested and determined in chasing after a girl (me in this scenario), but she has been indecisive and unable to commit… until now. She realized that the simplicity of an authentic Italian dough delicately topped with a homemade red sauce and just a modest (because modest is hottest) handful of quality mozzarella cheese was all that she wanted in a meal, and quickly - one or two bites in to the best Italian pie to cross my lips - she fell in love. Committed to pizza, and only the very best. Avanti F & B is the place to go for an affordable happy hour with a selection of wines, beers, and cocktails, and the best pizza I’ve ever had.
A short 30-40 minute drive North took us to downtown Boulder the next day. Despite a light sprinkling of rain, we walked the strip of coffee shops, boutiques, restaurants, and outdoor gear stores before driving over to see CU Boulder. It’s a beautiful campus - brick buildings, picture-perfect mountain view, and a stunning athletics field. But, not long after, hunger struck. Back in downtown Boulder, we spotted The Post Brewing Co. and took a seat at the bar to split a salad and our first ever plate of fried chicken and waffles. Fried chicken and waffles! Fried. Chicken. And. Waffles. Pizza still has my heart, but if anything ever changes… fried chicken and waffles.
Like water after a sweaty workout, we needed something sweet and substantial after lighter-than-expected lunch. Just a couple blocks from our Air Bnb, we found the Happy Bakeshop. I gazed at the adorable, fluffy little cupcakes, resisting the urge to lick the mesmerizing swirl of frosting off the top, and instead went with a scotcharoo. Grace picked some sort of cookie bar with just about every add-in imaginable: coconut, chocolate chips, cereal, peanut butter, oats, and more. If you’re in need of a sweet treat local to the Highland area, look no further.
Almost everyone we chatted with recommended we visit RiNo Art District for plenty of good food and lively breweries and bars, so we penciled that in for our Friday night. This place, I imagine, would be as cool as everyone made it seem if it weren’t pouring rain - that way, we could have walked around and explored multiple places over the span of the few blocks it covers. Still, we made the best of it at 10 Barrel Brewing with a couple ciders, a plate of baba ganoush, and a phenomenal falafel burger and sweet potato fries.
What would you say if I told you that I’d never eaten a chocolate croissant until now? A cafe-baker for 6 months, home-baker for 6 years, and I’d never thought breaking open a warm, flaky, chocolate-stuffed pastry could be so satisfying until I did exactly that at Allegro Coffee in Denver (our second choice when we ran into a 45-minute wait at Denver Biscuit Co.). Let it be known, far and wide, that I love chocolate croissants. Maybe I’ll attempt one, or maybe - as I do with quality, fresh-baked whole-grain bread - I’ll leave it to the expert bakers. PS don’t mind the breakfast burrito sitting beside the croissant, and excuse my harsh review here, but that burrito was far from… well, good.
We finished off our last day at the Stanley Marketplace with Emilie from Emilie Eats, peeking into little boutiques and restaurants and chatting about all things blogging, school, nutrition, and more. Sometimes I still find it hard to believe that I’ve made such strong friendships via Instagram! For dinner, we chose Bar Dough in Denver because now I’m just smitten over authentic Italian-style pizza and will take almost any opportunity to eat it. Ours was the mouth-watering Il Grande - absolutely delicious.
And that concludes my first trip to Denver! I had no intentions of “working” during my trip (except for a few emails here and there), so what you read about here was my itinerary. Had my trip been a few days longer, you can bet your bottom dollar I’d have visited Denver Biscuit Co., VooDoo Doughnuts, and maybe even Bar Dough one or two or three more times. Other recommendations I received but wasn’t able to fulfill were Chatauqua Park, Denver Milk Market, Pearl Street Pedestrian Mall, Park Burger, Little Man Ice Cream, and Root Down.
Thanks for feasting your eyes on my words, eats, and travels. I hope you enjoyed, and I hope you get the chance to see Denver and the surrounding beauty that is Colorado at some point. Ta ta for now!