Thank God for Denver.
After we left the Bowerbirds, our cross-country road trip took on a more decidedly “Southern” tinge.
A few hours from North Carolina, a heavy storm forced us to pull over somewhere near Whitesville, West Virginia, where we stayed in a Super 8 motel and ate Hooters for dinner. The next morning, we continued on towards Central City, Kentucky, where Katie’s grandma was waiting for us. The two days spent there were filled with eating out (McDonald’s happened twice), playing Continental Rummy, shopping at Wal-Mart, and definitely not drinking (the county just recently went from dry to damp). That was followed by the long drive across Missouri and, more notably, Kansas, which never fucking ends and is home to apocalyptic storms that you can see yourself driving directly into from miles away.
Thus, Denver was like an oasis in the vast cultural desert of middle America. We were expecting snow-capped mountains and skiers and weed and stoned skiers skiing down snow-capped mountains smoking weed, and all the other things people who’ve never been to Colorado’s capital associate it with.
So we were surprised when we realized those mountains were kinda far in the distance, and that it was 90+ degrees, and that Denver is pretty awesome.
It’s a young, hip town (in that totally gentrified, non-threatening, kinda frat-bro way) that’s super dog-friendly — dog dishes outside most businesses, pet-waste stations scattered around town. And it’s also just super friendly, in general. Ice cream stand employees ask you about your plans for the day, everyone wants to pet your dog, and the guy working the pizza counter hands you free snacks when you walk in.
Everyone there drives a Subaru and loves beer and playing frisbee in the park.
Denver is kinda like what we hear Portland is like: a place “where young people go to retire.”
In short, we had a great time in Denver, thanks largely to Mark’s friend Ben, who he met in Israel last year, and Ben’s girlfriend Kacey (thanks again guys!).
A city is always better when you’ve got locals to show you around.
Here’s 10 things to do in Denver that you can do to ensure your time in the Mile High City is just as good:
1. Start the morning by hitting Snooze.
You just have to go to Snooze, an A.M. Eatery, for breakfast. To satisfy your sweet tooth, you can’t go wrong with the sweet potato pancakes (pictured below) with homemade caramel, pecans, and ginger butter.
For those that prefer their breakfast on the savory side of life, the chilaquiles benedict (pictured below) is off the hook. We had more traditional chilaquiles in San Francisco’s Mission District, but Snooze takes the concept to another level. The ranchero-sauced tortillas are stacked and topped with cheese, barbacoa beef, and poached Niman Ranch eggs, which are then topped with pico de gallo, cotija cheese, and a cream cheese hollandaise.
Just don’t try to count the calories.
2. Reduce, reuse, B-cycle.
Don’t be an asshole gasoline-waster guy. The best way to see the city (while burning off some of those breakfast calories) is by renting a bike from any of the Denver B-cycle stations around town. Rides under 30 minutes incur no usage fee, so keep that in mind. Return your bike to any station when you’re finished with your ride.
3. Pretend you’re in an architectural rendering.
One of Denver’s newer neighborhoods, The Highlands, was almost so perfect it looked like one of those renderings you’d see city planners publish. We seriously felt like we were walking onto someone’s drafting board!
4. Take in a work of art…
…of the sandwich persuasion.
Here are the required steps:
a) Go to the Masterpiece Deli.
b) Order a Cuban sandwich.
c) Eat it with gusto!
d) Ignore the impulse to get another one. (Or don’t. Whatever. It’s your life.)
5. Give your dog a bone.
Just up the hill from the Masterpiece in the Highlands, you’ll spot a 28-foot-tall old-fashioned cream can. That’s Little Man Ice Cream. Take your dog up to the window and the employees will likely offer him/her a drink of water and a milkbone.
The only catch: You’ll have to buy yourself some ice cream or gelato. (Damn!) Luckily, two giant scoops of gelato (toasted coconut and chocolate for Katie!) and two scoops of strawberry ice cream for Mark only set us back $5 and change.
6. Get really, really high.
Technically, if you’re in Denver, you’re already pretty high at 5,280 feet above sea level. But if you drive about 15 minutes west on the expressway to the town of Golden (home of Coors Brewing Co. and the birthplace of the Jolly Rancher), you can get even higher — on the Heritage Square Alpine Slide.
And, despite what Tom Petty says, coming down is the funnest part.
You get a great view of the city below and can pretend like you’re part of some sort of concrete bobsled team.
7. Take up a hobby in parks and crafts.
Denver loves beer, which is very convenient because so do we!
The best selection of craft beer is at Argonaut Liquor (skip the Scotch in a can, trust us), and the best park to drink it at while people-watching is Cheesman Park, where, in the span of 15 or 20 minutes, we saw one couple bust out their wine glasses and cigars…
…while these guys performed acrobatics about 50 yards away.
9. Pub pedal.
Crawling is for babies. Be an adult and take a trip on the Denver Bike Bar, which will take you from one drinking hole to the next while you burn off calories pedaling and chatting with friends in transit.
9. Eat some ‘Fucking Tacos,’ man!
Image source: blogs.denverpost.com.
Pinche Tacos, which loosely translates to “Fucking Tacos,” started as a food truck a few years back. Now, it’s a brick-and-mortar restaurant serving what it calls Mexican-style street food, although it’s really more like southern California-style tacos.
Despite the misnomer, you can have a great meal (and a few margaritas or variations of the Moscow Mule) here for pretty cheap. Mark highly recommends the cow tongue taco. When going to salsa, skip the yessina abuela (“grandma’s recipe”), which is totally flavorless, and go for the one with the radishes (forgot the name), the molcajete, and the xnic-pec.
10. Power up before turning in.
The 1Up Arcade Bar is one of the only places where you can play classic arcade games (including Skee-ball!) at classic arcade-game prices ($.25) while drinking a 40 oz. of your favorite malt liquor.
As you can see, Denver is one classy city.
NOW GO TO BED!