We didn’t know what to expect when we landed in Denver that Thursday morning. With little sleep due to all the changes in our home overnight with a friend, her son (our son’s best friend) and their dog coming over to hang out with our son and menagerie of pets while we are gone, we were a bit lazy. We used our new found Uber app to request a ride to the hotel from the airport. A few minutes later we were in the car and taking in the city for the 45 minute ride. At first it was sprawling land with minimal buildings but it quickly exploded with new luxury condo construction sites and urban structures. I have to say I love how many trees Denver has maintained throughout the downtown area unlike other cities I have been to where they look like a concrete plant exploded and left a 5 mile radius of a concrete puddle. Well on to the hotel.
The Hyatt Regency is smack in the middle of downtown and directly across the street from the Denver Convention Center where we were about to spend three grueling days at a convention for our business. The plan was to go out and explore a little of the city while we had free time but like I said, we got lazy…and we were blinded by the tantalizing access to the Regency Club on the 35th floor that our new key card provided. We filled ourselves with 5 star hor d’oeuvres and free non-alcoholic beverages (a few of which we snagged to put in our in-room fridge for later). The Club was gorgeous. Soft velvety dining chairs amid leather club chairs and sofas. Dark wood tables and granite counter serving areas were beautiful yet the massive windows overlooking significant landmarks like Broncos stadium, Union Station, etc were the real focal point. We went back up for dessert later that evening and let me just say…diet? What diet?…those desserts were out of this world.
Saturday night we decided to go out for dinner. We found an interesting restaurant in one of those local brochures you find in the lobby of hotels. It looked intriguing and different. One of our travel rules in our family is that we want to frequent local joints when we travel, not the chain places we can go to any old time when we are at home. I mean, really what would be the point of traveling then? So this restaurant happened to be the oldest in Denver and has a true wild west motif. The Buckhorn Exchange has old time newspaper menus inside it’s old brick building. Be prepared for the hundreds of stuffed hunting trophies on the walls, hanging from the ceiling and standing on the floor! We got a super fun selfie with those scary bears. The upstairs bar is an old covered wagon. They had an old timey musician that evening in the upstairs lounge which was filled with victorian parlor furniture. The food included selections of elk, buffalo, quail and rocky mountain oysters. My husband had those. I was not so adventurous. I highly recommend going here at least once on your next stop in Denver. The area is up-and-coming so keep that in mind and I don’t think I would plan to walk alone particularly after dark.
We managed to get outside of the four walls of the convention center on Sunday to get lunch. We walked up to the 16th Street Mall and found an amazing farm to table counter service eatery called The Modern Market. Let me tell you this place is IT! Do you know how hard it is to find stevia at restaurants? This place even has the brand name stevia. The food was organic, fresh, plated beautifully and delish! It’s a popular place with a long line and full seating at lunch time so that tells you how the locals feel about the food. We sat outside at the little tables and enjoyed the gorgeous weather.
We took a walk back to the convention center by going down 16th Street. The mall itself is outside and has an old historic feel for the storefronts and the street. Only the mall bus and police vehicles are allowed to drive on this portion of the street. Word of warning for downtown Denver is this. There are a great deal of homeless people around. Some speculate it is the recent legalization of recreational marijuana that is drawing these folks in from other areas. Maybe or maybe not but some of these folks are aggressive. Be careful and I wouldn’t advise walking around after dark without a group of friends with you.
Our last day in Denver we rented a Jeep Wrangler through Zipcar. This was our first experience with using a Zipcar and it was outstanding. Not only was it incredibly inexpensive, it was super easy. We downloaded the app, paid a small membership fee to join, selected a location to pick up our zipcar (which happened to be directly across the street from the hotel) and selected which vehicle we wanted. We were able to reserve it in advance but if you are more spontaneous you can take a chance and reserve it when you are standing there. We walked over to the Jeep, pressed the unlock button on the app and like magic the Jeep unlocked! The key and a gas card were inside waiting for us. Did I mention gas and insurance are included with Zip Cars? Sure beats the $240 quote the rental car company inside the hotel gave us for a one day rental!
Anywho, we drove out to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Refuge and took the roof panels off the Jeep before we headed out on the wildlife drive. It was incredible. We came across bison, swans, pelicans, prairie dogs, birds and various other creatures. The serenity just filled my soul.
We just didn’t have enough time to explore the area more on this trip but we did make note of some places we want to see when we return such as the Denver Mint which is a great stop for families but plan ahead since the hours are wacky. I know you are all wondering if we enjoyed a little recreational toke. Nope, none of that and we decided that the Rocky Mountain High t-shirt with the weed plant on it was probably not a good souvenir to bring back for the boy. We don’t want to be those parents or maybe we do?