Travel to Denver, Colorado – Episode 419

categories: USA Travel

Hear about travel to Denver, Colorado as the Amateur Traveler talks to Lance Longwell from about his hometown, the “Mile High City”. Denver is the capital of the state of Colorado and sits where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains.


Lance’s family has been in Colorado and more specifically in Denver for over 5 generations. His great-grandfather was the first utility commissioner of Colorado. My (Chris) great-grandfather also moved to Colorado in the 1880s.

“Denver has a lot to offer. It is just a little bit north of dead center in the state of Colorado and butts right up against the Rocky Mountains so that anywhere within in the city you go you have these beautiful vistas of the peaks towering over this gorgeous city. Denver is truly a gem in the Mountain West. There are a number of native American sites and monuments just to the east of Denver, easily explored. And then of course, just to the west the beautiful mountains and all that has to offer in terms of outdoor activities.”

“Denver as a city is very small. It is only about 600,000 people, but the greater Denver metro area is about 3.5 million people made up of 12 different counties and over 50 different municipalities so there is a lot to explore there. It is not a very compact city to explore. You need to allow time to explore. Denver itself is workable in 3-4 days depending on your interests and there are a number of wonderful side trips from the city.”

“In my opinion, the highlights are the cultural and the outdoor activities that the city has to offer. There are a number of world-class museums including the Denver Art Museum and the Museum of Nature and Science. Denver also has a lot of outdoor activities: Confluence Park, Washington Square Park rival anything that any other city would have and are definitely worth spending time and exploring.”

“Denver is a very outdoorsy oriented city. Colorado always ranks highest on the list for the fittest state in America. There are a number of great parks. Washington Square Park is a wonderful urban city park just a little bit south and east of downtown Denver and around the park has grown into a trendy neighborhood. The park itself has a wonderful lake, it’s great to walk around and from the east side its a very photogenic spot where you can take photos back towards the west with the skyline of the city and the mountains in the background. You will see a lot of photos of the park in magazines and books.”

Lance gives us some tips for some of his favorite festivals, neighborhoods, and restaurants in the city as well as side trips from Denver.

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Show Notes

Travel Addicts
Visit Denver
Denver Art Museum
Clyfford Still Museum
Denver Museum of Nature and Science
Dinosaur National Monument
History Colorado Center
Ghost Towns of Colorado
Phoenix Gold Mine
Washington Park, Denver
Red Rocks Park
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Great American Beer Festival
Oskar Blues Brewery
Golden City Brewery
Golden Brewery Coors Tour
City of Golden
Olde Town Arvada
Highland, Denver
16th Street Mall
LoDo, Denver
Colorado State Capitol
Dr. Colorado
Coors Field
Pawnee National Grassland
Boulder, Colorado
Downtown Boulder
Colorado Springs
U.S. Air Force Academy
Garden of the Gods
Denver Mountain Parks
Snooze Eatery
Brown Palace Hotel
Osteria Marco
A Taste of Colorado
National Western Stock Show
Mutton Busting


Putin Signs Law Forcing Bloggers/Writers To Register With Media Office
Frontier Airlines to charge up to $50 for bag in overhead bins


Oops, we moved Winnipeg! See John’s comment on Travel to Winnipeg, Manitoba – Episode 418 for some corrections


Chris: Amateur Traveler, Episode 419. Today the Amateur Traveler talks about museums, beer festivals, and ghosts towns as we go to The Mile High [00:00:20] City Denver, Colorado.

Chris: Welcome to the Amateur Traveler. I’m your host Chris Christiansen.

go to NEWS


Chris: I’d like to welcome to the show Lance Longwell, coming to us from [00:01:50] and come to talk to us about Denver, Colorado. Lance, welcome to the show.

Lance: Thanks for having me, Chris.

Chris: I put out a request through my networking [00:02:00] contacts and social media recently that Denver is a show that I wanted to do. And, lance, you have some connection to Colorado. How long has you family [00:02:10] been in Colorado?

Lance: My family has been in Colorado and, more specifically, in Denver for over five generations which makes us [00:02:20] practically founding fathers of the city. And my great-grandfather was actually the first utility commissioner of Colorado way back in the [00:02:30] day.

Chris: And, just to bring a level of bizarre to this, my great-grandfather moved to Colorado in the 1880s and my [00:02:40] grandfather was a rancher and a cowboy in Colorado and was actually on the last roundup in Colorado when they put up the fences. So, we’ve got some [00:02:50] depth of history here. [laughs] But I didn’t have enough specific experience with Denver even though I had been there and had a wonderful time. So I really wanted somebody who knew that better and you grew up in [00:03:00] Denver.

Lance: I grew up in Denver. I don’t live there currently, but I go back several times a year to visit family. So it very [00:03:10] much the home turf for me.

Chris: And why should be visit The Mile High city?

Lance: I think Denver has a lot to offer [00:03:20]. Before getting into what makes Denver great, I think it’s worthwhile to just understand where it is. And it’s just a little bit north of dead [00:03:30] center in the state of Colorado and butts right up against the Rocky Mountains. So anywhere within the city you go you have [00:03:40] these beautiful vistas of the peaks towering over this gorgeous city. And Denver is [00:03:50] truly a gem in the mountain west.

Chris: Well, and you mention that it’s in the center of the state. I think it’s almost exactly in the geographic center of the state. And the [00:04:00] right side of the state is flat and the left side of the state is not. My family’s from the right side of the state, from the flat part. But, uh.

Lance: The [00:04:10] Eastern Plains, low level grasslands. There’s a number of Native American sites and monuments just to the east of Denver easily [00:04:20] explored. And then of course right to the west the beautiful mountains and all that that has to offer in terms of outdoor activities.

Chris: Excellent. And what [00:04:30] kind of itinerary would you recommend for Denver

Lance: So a great itinerary for Denver first of all Denver as a city is very small. It’s only [00:04:40] about 600’000 people but the greater Denver metro area is about 3.2 million people made up of 12 different [00:04:50] counties and over 50 different municipalities. So there’s a lot to explore there. It’s not a very central or compact city to explore [00:05:00]. Either Denver proper, the city and county of Denver or the broader metropolitan areas. So you really need to allow time to [00:05:10] explore. I think Denver itself is workable in 3-4 days, depending on your interests. And then there are a number of [00:05:20] wonderful side trips from the city to take in some of the mountains and some of the plains.

Chris: OK. And the highlights of the city [00:05:30], in your opinion, would be what?

Lance: in my opinion, the highlights of Denver are the cultural and the [00:05:40] outdoor activities that the city has to offer. There are a number of truly world-class museums, from the Denver Art Museum [00:05:50] and the museum of nature and science in the city and both are favorites of mine. I love to go when I’m back visiting family. [00:06:00] And then Denver’s also has a lot of outdoor activities. Confluence Park, Washington Square Park rival anything that [00:06:10] any other city would have and are definitely worth spending time and exploring.

Chris: OK. Let’s slow down and do each of the things you mention in a little more detail then [00:06:20].

Lance: OK.

Chris: You mentioned museums, so let’s start with museums. And you had two on your list and I’ve got I think a third on my list. So you’re first two were the [00:06:30] art museum?

Lance: The Denver art museum.

Chris: Mm-hmm. The museum building itself being fairly interesting shaped.

Lance: [laughs] [00:06:40]

Chris: Not a lot of right angles in that building.

Lance: Correct. So for those who have not been to Denver or seen the art museum. The art museum is [00:06:50] a, if you could envision a steel iceberg flipped on its top. And so the point sticks [00:07:00] into the ground and then there’s this gigantic steel superstructure with a huge point, it’s the only way to describe it, [00:07:10] coming off of it. It is unlike any building I’ve ever seen. But, within the building itself, that angular structure actually [00:07:20] creates some very unique spaces to view both the permanent as well as traveling exhibitions. It allows them [00:07:30] the ability to configure a lot of the walls so a lot of the walls are moveable so that they can get large pieces in and it’s a beautiful place to see art [00:07:40].

Chris: Now there’s another art museum that I went to next to there, the Clifford Still Museum, which would probably be a good place. I would recommend people stop if you like [00:07:50] his style of art. He doesn’t happen to be my favorite artist so I’m not going to recommend it but I will mention it just in case someone happens to be a fan of [00:08:00] that. He is an abstract expressionist, so if you like abstract expressionism, this would be a good museum. But, um, I don’t. So. [laughs] And you had a [00:08:10] second museum you were mentioning.

Lance: The Denver museum of nature and science is a natural history museum. Great for [00:08:20] families and they have a lot of permanent exhibits relating to dinosaurs. There’s a lot of archeological digs in the state of Colorado to [00:08:30] extract dinosaur fossils. That’s covered and a planetarium and obviously IMAX really giving families the opportunity [00:08:40] to get hands on with science.

Chris: In fact, one of the national parks, a little bit out of the range of Denver, is the [00:08:50] Dinosaur National Monument in the northwest corner of the state. So clearly a lot of dinosaurs there, probably second to Alberta I would say.

Lance: There are a lot up [00:09:00] there. There’s a dinosaur museum in Grand Junction that is quite good for the topic and Craig, Colorado, just outside of [00:09:10] Dinosaur National Monument, makes a good base to explore all of the different fossils up there.

Chris: Excellent. And then I mentioned I had a third museum I wanted to add. And that’s the [00:09:20] History Colorado Center and I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to go there yet, ’cause it’s fairly new. I think it opened two years ago as I recall. But I really enjoyed it, especially [00:09:30] because I did not grow up in Colorado. I grew up in California, but my family’s roots go back to these small towns in Colorado and [00:09:40] it was a wonderfully presented museum. Because it is a new museum it does a very good job using audio / visuals of explaining some of the history of Colorado. And [00:09:50] especially one of the exhibits that I liked was sort of looking at life in a small town and they picked one particular town that had boomed when the railroad went through and then basically, [00:10:00] as the interstates went through later on and the life went away from where the railroads were, kind of went through more of a bust. And so it was interesting looking at [00:10:10] that small town as a micro chasm of Colorado.

Lance: there are a lot of towns like that in Colorado.

Chris: There are, indeed.

Lance: And up in the mountains, the ghost towns [00:10:20] from the mining days.

Chris: The silver mining towns. Yeah.

Lance: particularly down, well there’s a few just west of Denver and then there are a number in the southern part of the state near [00:10:30] Telluride and Durango. Most of those are four wheel drive accessible only, but are wonderful to try and get up and explore.

Chris: Well, and when I was[00:10:40] there with the Denver tourism board I was there for the travel blog exchange conference two years ago I think and we went to a gold mine, the Phoenix [00:10:50] Gold Mine tour just outside of Denver, Colorado and you can tour that gold mine and see the way that things work there. It’s a relatively small mine, but a [00:11:00] real interesting peak into that part of Denver and Colorado’s history. Excellent. Where to next?

Lance: Denver is a very [00:11:10] outdoorsy-oriented city. I think Colorado always ranks highest on the list for fittest state in America [00:11:20] and Denver’s pretty high up there in the cities. So there’s a number of great parks. Washington Square Park, not to be confused with the one in New York, is a wonderful [00:11:30] urban city park just a little bit south and east of downtown Denver and around the park it has really grown into a trendy [00:11:40] neighborhood. But the park itself has a wonderful lake, it’s great to walk around, and from the east side [00:11:50] it’s a very photogenic spot where you can take photos back towards the west with the skyline of the city and the mountains in the background. So [00:12:00] you’ll see a lot of photos from Washington Park in magazines and in books. So I definitely recommend that one.

Chris: You were mentioning Denver being fit and [00:12:10] that was emphasized for me when we went to visit red rocks. Which, speaking of parks and also places where very good [00:12:20] musical venues, but red rocks as you had all of the people who were at altitude, I should mention or at least for those of us who are flatlanders what we would consider altitude, running [00:12:30] the steps in red rocks and some of us were huffing and puffing just walking up this natural amphitheater just [00:12:40] outside of Denver.

Lance: So, I’m glad you mentioned red rocks. I grew up very, very close to there so it was practically in my back yard. [00:12:50] It is a wonderful concert venue and great to see the natural rock formations any time of year.

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Lance: There are a number of [00:13:00] special events held there throughout the year. We just passed Easter, but there’s a sunrise Easter service that is mesmerizing is about the [00:13:10] only way I can say it. They also have a film series there are free concerts throughout the year. Not every concert’s free obviously, the big name [00:13:20] acts, but there are a number of opportunities to take in red rocks and relive some of the glory days.

Chris: [laughs]

Lance: Because it seems like [00:13:30] every musician has recorded an album there, from U2 to John Tesh.

Chris: That’s a bit of a range. OK.

Lance: [laughs]

Chris: Excellent. What else should we see while we’re in [00:13:40] Denver?

Lance: One of the other things that’s very popular is craft beer. It seems like that’s become the thing everywhere. But Denver probably [00:13:50] has the best claim to the draft beer capitol of the country. Its home to The Great American Beer Festival every year and leads the [00:14:00] country in beer production per capita. So there are, I believe, over 120 different craft breweries in the metro-Denver [00:14:10] area. And we all have our favorites. I would give personal call-outs to Oscar Blues just up outside of [00:14:20] Boulder and actually the Golden City Brewery, known as the other brewery in Golden, Colorado as two good ones for the novice.

Chris: You mentioned the other one [00:14:30]. So, probably, most people know which is the main brewery there but there’s one that’s probably a little better known, if not held in higher regard, by all beer drinkers [00:14:40] at this point.

Lance: That is correct. So golden, Colorado is home to Coors Brewery and it is also, I [00:14:50] believe it is still the largest single site brewery anywhere in the world.

Chris: Oh, I didn’t know that. OK.

Lance: Yep. They offer a wonderful free tour. I’ve done it [00:15:00] many, many times with friends visiting from out of town. But Coors tour shows you the entire brewing process [00:15:10] and is probably one of the top attractions in the Metro-Denver Area.

Chris: So, what I’m hearing you say is “Make sure you do the Coors Tour and then go drink beer someplace [00:15:20] else”.

Lance: [laughs] Yeah. I think everybody has their own preference on the kind of beers they like.

Chris: And I would have to say that [00:15:30] in Coors’ defense, Coors light happens to be one of my favorite beers because, of course, I don’t like the taste of beer. So, um…

Lance: I actually like cooking with Coors, personally [00:15:40].

Chris: OK. OK.

Lance: I use it for a lot of my cooking projects. And then, I think if you think back to my original comment about Denver being a [00:15:50] series of cities, it’s over 50 different towns that make up “Metro Denver”. There are a lot of [00:16:00] little, well not little, but there are a lot of towns that make up the metropolitan area that have a lot to offer. So we’ve already mentioned Golden, home of Coors [00:16:10] Brewery and Golden City Brewery. Golden sits down in this valley between the two Table Mountains to the east actually it’s in the foothills [00:16:20] and the Rockies to the west. There’s a lovely little downtown pedestrian area and a [00:16:30] path along Clear Creek to walk. And the little towns like Golden, there’s another one Old Town Arvada. Those little [00:16:40] places within Denver are great to explore. The highlands neighborhood just to the west of [00:16:50] Denver that sits up on the bluff above the Platt River has really taken off in recent years. So this is where people are [00:17:00] discovering, if you will. And it’s kind of not the tourist area of downtown or where the conventioneers go, but these areas [00:17:10] are where Denver’s happening now.

Chris: Well, you mentioned pedestrian areas too, though. It seemed to me, and I am not an insider by [00:17:20] any means in Denver, that the actual downtown there at the 16th street mall kind of between I would put it between the capitol and the ballpark is a [00:17:30] pretty happening place these days also. In fact it surprised me how much was going on down there because as many times as I’ve been to Denver I’d never really spent time in that downtown area.

Lance: They’re really [00:17:40] worked hard to try to renovate downtown. 16th street mall has always been somewhat of a go-to area. They’ve been [00:17:50] renovating it and really trying to bring in new businesses. At the far end, down near the ball park and the train station which is currently being [00:18:00] renovated, is the neighborhood of Lo-Do and about 15 years ago that was the [00:18:10] happening place in Denver. A lot of restaurants, high end restaurants, went in there. The Tattered Cover Bookstore, which is I believe one of the [00:18:20] largest independent bookstores in the country, and they’re based in Cherry Creek but they opened a massive book store in [00:18:30] the Lo-Do area and a number of art galleries and artist spaces and collaboratives went into that area. So Lo-Do’s been happening [00:18:40] for a long time, but some of the other neighborhoods, Lo-Hi and the Highlands just to the west have taken some of that [00:18:50] thunder away from Lo-Do.

Chris: OK. Interesting. And Lo-Do? Lower downtown is what that stands for, am I got that right?

Lance: Correct. Lower downtown and Lo-Hi being [00:19:00] the lower highlands.

Chris: Got it.

Lance: Denver seems to love these little abbreviations.

Chris: Well, they’re not the only ones. If we were in New York we’d be talking about [00:19:10] So-Ho. So anything else we should do in Downtown Proper, because I know you also have some side trips that you have planned for us here?

Lance: One of the most popular things to do [00:19:20] in downtown Denver is the state capitol. It is, Denver being the capitol being the state, the capitol building topped with its gold leaf [00:19:30] reflecting the sun is one of the more impressive state capitols in the US.

Chris: You can say it’s the most impressive state capitol in the [00:19:40] US and I’d back you up on it. And I’m not from Colorado.

Lance: OK. Trying to get a little Midwest modesty in there. It’s a pretty stunning building [00:19:50] in an amazing location and from the steps of the capitol looking out to the west you have the mountains, the purple mountains majesty. It’s pretty beautiful. [00:20:00] Along the steps of the capitol, it’s worth noting, we actually call out the 5280 feet of Denver [00:20:40] being a mile about sea level. So you can actually see it, marked right there on the capitol building, the elevation.

Chris: Because it’s not quite a mile high in most places [00:20:20] in Denver, we’d have to say. But it does get to that at that point [laughs].

Lance: [laughs]

Chris: Its close enough. Its close enough. When you’re trying to run and you’re from the flatlands it feels like a mile

Lance: [00:20:30] Denver does sit in a little bit of a depression in the Platt River Valley there. And back in the 80s, the [00:20:40] city had a real problem with smog that would settle in to that valley and you could just see it from the surrounding higher ground. But [00:20:50] those days are long gone and you can definitely run now [laughs].

Chris: Well, I can’t. But any particular tours you would recommend in terms of [00:21:00] seeing parts of Denver.

Lance: The one tour I personally haven’t been on, Chris, but a number of friends have gone on and they recommend it is a Professor of History. [00:21:10] He goes by Dr. Colorado and he gives a number of walking tours and presentations throughout the city of Denver and [00:21:20] also throughout the state. So something for the listeners to check out.

Chris: Excellent. And I would recommend that people take in a ball game with the Rockies [00:21:30] there at that baseball stadium. I know we mentioned, but they’re just beating my Giants 7-1 tonight so I’m not going to mention it.

Lance: [laughs] It is a gorgeous ball park [00:21:40] in the style of a lot of the newer ball parks out there. And if you sit behind home plate or along, I believe, the first base side if I’m getting my [00:21:50] directions right, you’ve got some great views up the mountains beyond.

Chris: Excellent. Well are we ready to do some day trips from Denver?

Lance: [00:22:00] Sure.

Chris: So you had also mentioned a Native American site near Denver. What was that?

Lance: It’s just north and east of the city is the [00:22:10] Pawnee National Grasslands. It’s about a 30 square mile area managed by the state of Colorado as well as some [00:22:20] private lands. This is pristine eastern Colorado grasslands where a lot of the bison used [00:22:30] to graze, if you will. There’s a lot of migratory birds and animals still out there and was an [00:22:40] important site for Native Americans. And is a great place to go hiking to take in some of the eastern [00:22:50] part of the state as opposed to the mountains in the west.

Chris: Excellent. And where else would you recommend that we go while we’re visiting Denver?

Lance: So a couple of [00:23:00] other good day trips or jaunts from Denver, Boulder and the Boulder county area separated from Denver by it’s about a [00:23:10] 40 minute, 45 minute drive. But at this point the city of Denver has really built up almost to Boulders’ doorstep. Boulder is the home [00:23:20] to the University of Colorado and downtown Boulder has a pedestrian mall called the Pearl Street Mall. It’s [00:23:30] in the classic European sense of a closed- off street – strolling, sidewalk cafes, a number of great restaurants along the [00:23:40] strip, and an art deco courthouse right on the center square. So Boulder’s definitely a great place to spend [00:23:50] some time and relax and right within the city of Boulder there are a number of mountain parks. So the trails leave right from town and [00:24:00] go up into the mountains and you can take in the sites of both Denver and Boulder leaving right from the City of Boulder.

Chris: Excellent. Yeah, the Flatirons up there in Boulder are a particularly [00:24:10] spectacular shaped mountains.

Lance: They’re like giant fins that stick out of the mountains.

Chris: Right. Right. Excellent. Any place else that you would recommend [00:24:20] that we go near Denver?

Lance: Colorado Springs is a separate city, apart from Denver, but its close. It’s about an hour and [00:24:30] 10, hour and 15 minute drive and Colorado Springs is home to the US Air Force Academy and also [00:24:40] Garden of the Gods, which is like red rocks. It’s a large urban park with giant rock formations. [00:24:50] It was once a Native American burial ground and the garden of the gods is one of the highlights of anyone who comes [00:25:00] to Colorado. They always talk. People always talk about the Garden of the Gods and it’s a great place to go hiking. Not strenuous hiking, ’cause you’re still at elevation [00:25:10] there, but it is the red rocks and the red dirt are like nothing else.

Chris: Excellent. One more place that you’d do [00:25:20] on a side trip? I want to get back to some other questions about Denver.

Lance: The other side trip that a lot of people do from Denver is actually up into the mountains to take in some of the alpine [00:25:30] environment, hiking up in the mountains, and also some of the mountain hot springs. So if you have the time to squeeze a little more out of your trip to Colorado [00:25:40] beyond Denver, I would definitely recommend that.

Chris: Well and a good companion podcast to this, actually two episodes of Amateur Traveler, one is on Colorado the whole state a little more [00:25:50] overview going down into some areas further way. And the other is Aspen, Colorado which we did an episode on. So if you’re getting into the mountains go listen to that episode also [00:26:00].
So, getting back to Denver itself.

Lance: Sure.

Chris: What’s going to surprise me about Denver?

Lance: One thing that a lot of people are really surprised to learn about Denver is it’s actually in a desert [00:26:10]. They think Colorado and they think mountains and snow. Denver gets over 320 days of sunshine a year [00:26:20]. It is in a desert. It can be very warm at all times of the year, so even if you’re going to Denver in February you should pack your shorts, because [00:26:30] you could need them.

Chris: Well it’s also…When you say a desert it is one of the driest places I’ve ever been to. And I am more [00:26:40] affected by the dryness there than anyplace I can think of I’ve ever been and it’s the only place I’ve seen snow happen in the morning be gone by the afternoon and no puddles because it [00:26:50] just evaporated. It just sublimated because it’s so dry that there really sucks the moisture out of both you and the rain that does [00:27:00] fall and the snow that does call.

Lance: That’s absolutely right. And for visitors the one piece of advice I always give is just drink more water than you can [00:27:10] ever possibly think that you can drink because you’re going to end up dehydrated both from the dryness as well as from the elevation.

Chris: Right [00:27:20]. One thing that the guidebooks are going to recommend to me that you’re going to say “Maybe not”?

Lance: I think we touched on it earlier – the 16th street mall [00:27:30].

Chris: OK. Interesting.

Lance: In my estimation, I just… I would recommend some of the other neighborhoods and I would find something else to [00:27:40] entertain and spend my time on. That would be a skippable one.

Chris: Interesting.

Lance: I think a lot of other guides and magazines have also raved about [00:27:50] the Snooze café. It’s a restaurant and very, very trendy but impossible wait times and I would probably [00:28:00] pass on that as well.

Chris: And then the flip side of that. The place that the locals know about that tourists, you don’t understand why they don’t go there.

Lance: I think there’s quite a number [00:28:10] of things. I think the neighborhoods that I’ve mentioned previously- the Lo-Hi, the Highlands, Old Town Arvada and [00:28:20] Downtown Golden. Although, Downtown Golden does get some traffic because of Coors. But some of the others you’re only going to be with locals in those places. The guide books [00:28:30] aren’t talking about them travel shows aren’t talking about them, and that’s really where some of the amazing things are happening in the Denver culinary [00:28:40] scene. So I would get out into some of the neighborhoods and get out of downtown.

Chris: Well, and you mention the Denver culinary scene. So any places you would recommend? Doesn’t [00:28:50] have to be high end, just favorites.

Lance: Well, I have a personal favorite, going way back forever, and that’s Chipotle. The original location [00:29:00] on Evans Boulevard from my youth. A favorite and, of course, now they’ve got them everywhere. So when I go back, I frequently make a stop there. But [00:29:10] beyond that if you’re looking a fine dining options in Downtown Denver, the Brown Palace has a tavern associated with it called the [00:29:20] Ships Tavern that serves wonderful new American. And I’ve spent many a birthday in the Ship Tavern at the Browns Palace [00:29:30]. And restaurateur Frank Bonanno has a number of restaurants in the great Denver area. [00:29:40] I would say Osteria Marco in the Larimer Square neighborhood would be a favorite and then Denver is well known [00:29:50] for having a large Mexican immigrant population. And the Mexican food in Denver is the best ever. I would put it up there [00:30:00] with anybody else, and it’s not Tex-Mex. It’s not chili on top of enchiladas, this is very authentic Mexican cuisine. [00:30:10] So, I think I would recommend to anyone going to Denver to try the Mexican food.

Chris: And if I’m going to Denver, a particular time of year or a particular festival or day of year [00:30:20] that you would recommend I go?

Lance: The big festival in Denver is Taste of Colorado, which is Labor Day weekend, and I don’t know how many [00:30:30] hundreds of thousands of people they get to turn out for that. Another popular one is, of course, The Great American Beer Festival for those hop heads out there. [00:30:40] But, there’s really no bad time of year to get to Denver. In the winter, you may have a blizzard or flight disruptions [00:30:50] because of snow. But, as you’ve mentioned, it can snow 12 inches today and the snow can be all gone tomorrow. And there’s [00:31:00] really no bad time to go to Denver.

Chris: Yeah. My father said growing up in Colorado they said, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 20 minutes.”

Lance: I would agree with that.

Chris: In [00:31:10] California we say, “If you don’t like the weather, just drive 20 miles”. So it’s a real different approach. You’re standing in the prettiest spot in Denver. Where are you standing and what are you looking at?

Lance: [00:31:20] You’re standing in Washington Park on the east side of the lake and you’re looking back at the mountains and the [00:31:30] skyline of Denver.

Chris: Excellent. Before I get to my last three questions, anything else we should know about Denver?

Lance: The one other thing about [00:31:40] Denver to keep in mind as you visit the city, I mean it’s a western town so there’s a lot of western cowboy flavor to a lot of things [00:31:50] – to the restaurants, to the sports teams, we’re the Denver Broncos. Denver’s not just the capitol of the state, it’s really the capitol of that [00:32:00] entire region, that mountain west region, and there’s no other city of any size out there. If you kind of think about it, between [00:32:10] Kansas City and Vegas, there’s only Denver which would be a distance of like Frankfurt, Germany to Istanbul.

Chris: I think there’s a few people in Salt Lake City right now who are taking offense, but [00:32:20] OK. [laughs]

Lance: I mean, in terms of a major city that draws touring theatre companies, that brings international [00:32:30] art exhibitions, Denver’s really it for that area. So you do get the kind of things in Denver that you would get in [00:32:40] other major cities, particularly cultural and artistic traveling exhibitions and theater groups. So if you happen to be there [00:32:50] when something special is in town, you should really try to take advantage of it.

Chris: Excellent. Last three questions. One thing that makes you laugh [00:33:00] and say, “Only in Denver”?

Lance: “Only in Denver” is definitely the snowfall in the morning and you’re wearing shorts at 2:00 in the afternoon. [00:33:10] “Only in Denver” is also going up and going skiing in May when everybody else is getting ready for summer and you’re trying to [00:33:20] squeeze the last bit of adventure out of the season.

Chris: Excellent. You had mentioned the cowboy culture. One thing I noticed you didn’t mention, in terms of biggest festivals that I think [00:33:30] used to be the biggest festival, would be the Stock Show. And I wonder if that is an indication of how the city has changed over the years.

Lance: It is [00:33:40] still really popular. The Denver stock show happens every January and it’s still very popular. I have friends [00:33:50] who are, you would call them, Yuppies and they train their kids to be mutton busters.

Chris: Now you’re going to have to explain what a mutton buster is. Sheep? [00:34:00]

Lance: This is a sport for young children. I think they’re under the age of seven, and they, just like bull riding, [00:34:10] these little kids are strapped in with helmets and protective garb and they put them on the back of sheep. And off they go. So, mutton busting. I have [00:34:20] friends in Colorado, Yuppies, who have mutton busting kids. So it’s very much part of the culture still. Although, given [00:34:30] the influx of people from other parts of the country, some of it is waning. A lot of the open space where people used to have horses is also being developed [00:34:40], so some of that is being pushed further out from the city of Denver out to the east and the north.

Chris: I would say, the next time [00:34:50] somebody asks you the one thing that makes you laugh in Denver I would lead with the Mutton Busting. [laughs]

Lance: Oh, yeah? OK. [laughs] There are [00:35:00] numerous YouTube videos of said Mutton Busting, if somebody were enterprising and would want to check that out.

Chris: That is a new one and I grew up in a rodeo city. One of the [00:35:10] four biggest rodeos in the North America’s in this town that I grew up in also, and I’ve never heard of Mutton Busting. So that sounds like a Denver thing. Interesting. [00:35:20] Finish this sentence: You really know you’re in Denver when, what?

Lance: Every sunset is picture-perfect orange.

Chris: [00:35:30] Hmm. And if you had to summarize Denver in just three words, what three words would you use?

Lance: Hold on tight.

Chris: OK. Now you have to explain [laughs]. Are we Mutton Busting here or why are we [00:35:40] holding on tight?

Lance: No. I think Denver is a city that is active, it is on the go, people are [00:35:50] very athletic and very engaged doing things. And Denver, as a city, is on the move and if you’re visiting, [00:36:00] grab on, hold on tight, and really immerse yourself in what the city has to offer.

Chris: Excellent. And Lance, where can people read more [00:36:10] about your travels?

Lance: At

Chris: Excellent. Well, thanks so much for coming on The Amateur Traveler and telling us a bit about the town where you grew up – [00:36:20] Denver, Colorado.

Lance: Thank you for having me, Chris.


Chris: Before we get into this week’s interview, I do have two news stories for you. [00:00:40] The first one may not be quite as relevant for you as it is for me. Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new law called The Blogger’s Law that requires [00:00:50] online writers with more than 3000 daily readers to register should they visit Russia. Now I don’t have more than 3000 daily readers, but I [00:01:00] did have more than 3000 listeners last year. So if the invasion of the Crimea didn’t do it, this may have put one more notch lower on my list of places to go.

This may not affect your places to go, but some decisions by Frontier Airlines may affect how you get there. They’re now going to be charging from $20 to $50 for bags that [00:01:20] go in the overhead bin for your carry-on bags. They’re going the route of Sphere Airlines. They’re lowering their rates of their tickets by 12% and then they’re going to add additional [00:01:30] fees. So if you are booking frontier, make sure you figure out the full cost of the flight, not just the cost of the ticket which is a good idea no matter who you fly [00:01:40].

Links to both those stories can be found at the show notes are


Chris: I had an email this week from John about the Winnipeg episode. [00:36:30] He had a couple corrections, and you can see the whole post that he sent as a comment on that episode. The most obvious thing that we got wrong in that is it was said Winnipeg is the southern-most city in Canada. And [00:36:40] as I look at my map, it is so not the southern-most city in Canada. In fact Quebec City, Montreal, and Ottawa are all south of Winnipeg. So we definitely missed that one.

John also took the exception of describing curling as a [00:36:50] uniquely Canadian sport because it was invented by the Scots in medieval times and remains a popular sport in Great Britain and Scandinavia. Although, from this side of the border, it sure [00:37:00] looks uniquely Canadian to us, I’ll have to say. And while baseball may have derived from England’s game of Rounders, I think it is possible to adopt a sport and yet have it be your own.

And there were a couple other things that [00:37:10] we got wrong, or were questionable. The one thing that I hope that you still get with any episode of The Amateur Traveler, and I think for me I certainly did get with Winnipeg, is “Is this a destination that I [00:37:20] want to go to?” and that’s really what we’re shooting for with every episode. So I do hope, from that episode, you were able to tell whether that is a destination that you would enjoy, even if we screwed up a few facts.

With that, we’re going to end this [00:37:30] episode of The Amateur Traveler. If you have any questions feel free to send an email to Or, if you have any corrections, do what John did and please post them as a comment on the episode so that we can get [00:37:40] all our facts right, which is our desire. I should say that John sent them to me as a private email, and I encouraged him to post them as a comment so we could have those out there. You can also join the Facebook community or follow me on Twitter, [00:37:50] @Chris2x. And, as always, thanks so much for listening.

Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

2 Responses to “Travel to Denver, Colorado – Episode 419”



Great place to travel on 4.20 😉



A few clarifications.

Washington Park
there is no ‘Square’ in the name
Nice views of the mountains, but not the skyline. If you want views of downtown skyline and mountains, that is City Park. (Where the Museum of Nature and Science is located.)

Tattered Cover
Great Indie book store, but no longer in Cherry Creek. (that location moved to Colfax)

Red Rocks
Great place ot listen to live music, but if you are short.. wear boots or something w/ heels, as sometimes hard to see.. and don’t go if can not handle marajuana smoke.

Great tons of great Mexican food… check La Popular near downtown for authentic
Also large Ethiopian community, so East Colfax has excellent lots of excellent Ethiopian Food.

True Denver Experiences.
Jog the 2.5 miles around Wash Park.
Rent b-cycles and go for ride on Cherry Creek Trail
Wander Colfax (around York/Josephine is good area)

Closer Great Day Trips
Mt. Evans Road
Golden Gate State Park

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