After finishing my first job contract post-undergrad, I moved from Creede, to Denver, Colorado, in September of 2017. I was just getting used to the romanticized style of the “wild west” mixed with “granola hippie” lifestyle – I couldn’t just leave Colorado after 5 months. Not only that, but the mountain skyline does hurt either. Living my life in small Wisconsin towns, I was ready to hit the city life as hard as I could.
After 3 and a half years, I’m in the process of taking my life, and of course my dog, Roger, back to the mountains. Unlike Creede, Glenwood Springs will have more than 400 residents year-round. With my nostalgia glasses on, I’m able to reminisce and start to miss the places I’ve found special memories at in my early-mid twenties.
Denver has been the city I thought I found myself…lost myself…and have finally (after 6 months of therapy), started creating a great relationship with myself. This city has seen me practically sprint two miles from Capitol Hill to downtown while trying to make it on time for my temporary job as a server, struggling to pay my bills. This city has seen me cry at a bar, after a guy I rejected, told me I’d “be very unfulfilled” in my life. Denver has gotten the great privilege of having the first bar to ever “cut off” my best friends and I, after one of them flashed me from across the room. I never saw myself buying a permanent home – or starting a traditional family here; but the experiences I’ve had here are worth so much to me.
If you find yourself in the Mile High city, I couldn’t recommend stopping by these places more. You won’t find these as the standard tourist spots, or most “Instagram-able views”. These establishments and small businesses have been the backbone of my cherished moments – and ones I’ll never forget.
Disclaimer: As of March 2021, there is still a global pandemic happening through the world -COVID-19. Please stay safe, wear a mask, practice social distance, and respect all rules and regulations placed by the CDC, State of Colorado, and their independent businesses.
La Lovely Vintage (Broadway, Denver)
You can find the most unique places in the metro area on Broadway – and competing with the other vintage shops isn’t easy. But, there is something charming and special about La Lovely Vintage, that makes me want to spend hours pacing back and forth through their little shop.
With huge cacti lining the widows, accenting the crisp interior white walls, La Lovely Vintage transports you to a comforting shop that treats their vintage pieces with love and care. With candles made out of old beer cans, one of a kind denim pieces, and eye-catching jewelry pieces – I end up feeling lost, and out of this world in this vintage shop. It is nearly impossible for me not to take 3-4 laps around the store, taking in everything more than once, before deciding I need to stick to my budget.
My cherished memory: After a morning of shopping around the giant Goodwill on the corner of Broadway, I crossed the street to check out the local vintage shops. Stumbling through a wig shop, exclusive plant shop, and bookstore – I took a peak inside La Lovely Vintage. Sifting through the t-shirts, I found the black and white shirt (see photo above), from my college town, La Crosse, Wisconsin. With a graphic design showing an old biker gang pulling up to the Pearl Street bars, I knew I had to take this piece home with me. Along with the shirt, I ended up with a candle described as “Mahogany & Smoke”, becoming my favorite soy candle I’ve ever found.
Their website: https://lalovelyvintage.com/
Hours of operation: Tuesday- Saturday 11am-6pm & Sunday 11am-5pm
Tarantula Billiards (Downtown, Denver)
They dub themselves, “The best billiard bar in Denver for over 16 years“. It’s not fair to the rest of the competition to compare, as it’s been the only billiard bar in town I’ve had a drink at. In a pre-pandemic world, this huge pool hall could hold a decent amount of people on a Saturday night, and it did. Never too crowded, loud but never too loud, and patrons ranging from pool experts, to townies, to restaurant workers – Tarantula is a great place to meet different people.
What I really love about Tarantula is based more in the aesthetic of it all. This corner bar is located in a busy area in the downtown scene, flashing it’s red neon sign to attract the eye. There’s something so pleasing to me about having a Stella Adler on tap, having fun at a loud bar, and walking outside – standing under the beaming neon while other patrons smoke cigarettes on the side of the street. I’d like to call it teenage dream meets adult alternative aesthetic. It feels like a place where people share secrets, or admit mistakes drunk at the bar.
My cherished memories: I celebrated a promotion from a hostess to a server when I was hustling to stay alive at a theater supper club in the Denver Center for Performing Arts. I drank Stella after Stella after tequila shot one night with a friend. I danced around a pool table, laughing harder than I had in weeks. I got stood up by a friend there, and made a new one that night. I was almost unexpectedly kissed as my Uber pulled up one night under the neon lights.
Their website: http://tarantulabilliards.com/
Hours of operation: Sunday-Saturday – 11AM-1AM
Amethyst Coffee (Broadway/Capitol Hill, Denver)
Although I haven’t stopped in since the pandemic started, Amethyst is still a special place for me and my caffeine dependency. With latte specials changing seasonally, I’ve never grown tired of the selections – even feeling brave enough to try something new (who know I’d ever love matcha). Outdoor seating with fireplaces gives additional space, complimenting the “cozy vibe” inside. No matter where you sit, you will be exposed to sunlight – which makes reading, journaling, or chatting with a friend over coffee that much better. The love and care their staff puts into plating drinks and pasties is obvious – and did I mention the awesome vegan donuts?
My cherished memory: Amethyst was a place I would frequent, especially when I needed a safe place to decompress. While dealing with a hard breakup, I’d sit by the window, drink a “dirty chai”, and journaled through my hardships. Amethyst became my safe haven for finding new independence.
Their website: https://amethystcoffee.co/
Hours of operation: Mon – Fri: 7am – 1pm & Sat – Sun: 8am – 3pm
Greenfields Bar (Lakewood, CO)
This bar may be off the beaten path for you if you’re vacationing in Denver, but if you make it around the Lakewood area, don’t forget to stop by Greenfields! Like I said before, I’m a sucker for “townie” bars with underrated character, and this one takes the cake. After going out on the town with another Midwest friend, he Google’d what bars might be close by, as we sat at the bar of Old Chicago, feeling out of place. Luckily, we walked in on a Friday night, being surprised by live music playing in front of a spacious dance floor next to the bar. Greenfields hosts musicians every Friday and Saturday night, offers food (which is exactly the kind of food you’d expect from looking around), and has a staff that truly, and subtly, makes sure a lot of the female patrons are feeling safe and comfortable. When I lived closer to Greenfields, it was my “home away from home”, stopping in after work – although out of place in my business casual attire – but, always welcome.
My cherished memory: After a rough week at work, and feeling exhausted from being newly single and dating around, I was stood up one night, but decided to stop by Greenfields anyways. By myself, I slammed a few draft beers, bummed a cigarette outside (I don’t smoke), and got enough courage to dance to the live music. Dancing like no one was watching (although, I can promise you, everyone was), I felt free.
Their website: https://greenfieldsbar.com/
Hours of operation: Monday – Friday: 1pm-2am & Friday – Saturday: 11am-2am
LowDown Brewery + Kitchen (Capitol Hill, Denver)
When in Denver: get a craft beer. Let me recommend one: Blood Orange Wheat from LowDown Brewery + Kitchen. Finally being vaccinated now, I’m looking forward to coming back to this Capitol Hill favorite before I leave the city. Being the first bar I ever stepped into on my first day in Denver, I fell in love with LowDown from the beginning. The first day I adopted my dog, we stopped by the outdoor/dog friendly patio section for some bonding time too. All of my favorite people have been dragged to LowDown for a night out with me, and my dog would be no exception.
Awesome craft beer, great board games with a space to play darts, and a Reuben sandwich to die for – LowDown is a neighborhood hangout mostly for patrons ranging from 24-35, making it a great place to meet someone new.
My cherished memory: In 2018, my two best friends flew from Wisconsin to celebrate my 23rd birthday in my new city. After nights of clubbing, partying at Coyote Ugly on 16th Street, and trying to recover from hangover after hangover – we got ourselves together enough to walk to LowDown on one of the last nights of their visit. Although I don’t think we had a “wild night” – I remember it meaning so much to me that my best friends were sharing a pizza with me at a bar that helped me come out of my shell.
Hours of operation: Sunday – Thursday: 11am-10pm & Friday-Saturday: 11am-11pm
Their website: http://www.lowdownbrewery.com/
The Cherry Cricket (Cherry Creek location)
I heard rumors about “Denver’s best burger” years ago from co-workers, all saying the same thing, “The Cherry Cricket”. It wasn’t until the last few months I decided I needed to give it a shot to see if the hype was true. Not only are the burgers stellar – with options for extra customization, but every dish I’ve tried from The Cherry Cricket has been top quality. I’d like to make the controversial statement that their “green chili” could compete with a lot of the other competition in town.
The Cherry Cricket’s rich history is obvious when it comes to the original structure of the building combined with the huge booths and pictures on the walls. Through a glass door through the back of the building, you will find outdoor seating, an enclosed patio, individual glass “tents”, and fireplaces. This beloved Denver business has embraced COVID social distancing protocols gracefully.
My cherished memory: Having a lunch date – alcoholic beverages included, days after the “Denver snow storm of the century” recently. After spending days cooped up, it was finally safe to drive on the city streets again. Unfortunately, I learned quickly the snowstorm took a toll on my tire, forcing me to spend most of my morning and afternoon at my least favorite place in the world: an auto mechanic shop. Dropping $150 on two new tires and walking back and forth from my apartment to the shop, I was almost ready to call it quits on my day. Instead of throwing in the towel, my boyfriend and I shared lunch, beers, and tequila shots at The Cherry Cricket and laughed the stress off.
Their website: https://cherrycricket.com/
Hours of operation: Sunday – Thursday: 11am-10pm & Friday – Saturday: 11am-11pm
The Brewery Bar II (Denver, CO)
Ultreia (Union Station)
Tattered Cover Bookstore (Multiple locations)
Hudson Hill (Capitol Hill)