Denver: 6 Insider Tips for Visiting Like a Local by Drew Belle Elsey

Denver — it’s one of the nation’s hottest cities, and for good reason. From a booming job market and low unemployment rate to endless outdoor activities and a burgeoning dining scene, it’s no wonder Denver is growing faster than any other U.S. city and is the country’s second best place to live.

However, with its high cost of living and competitive housing market, Denver may be better for dropping by than settling down.

When visiting Denver, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the sights and activities. Rather than experiencing The Mile-High City like a tourist, experience it like a true local with these six insider tips.

1. Skip the 16th Street Mall

Forgo the 16th Street Mall; it does not offer a genuine look into the city’s robust culture. Sure, it’s easy to access and is full of (chain) restaurants and stores, but you can get baby back ribs and Starbucks anywhere.

Instead, visit RiNo or Tennyson Street for a unique dining and shopping experience. From award-winning eateries to boutiques with local artisan goods, they won’t disappoint.

Tennyson Street Shops

Tennyson Street Shops

2. Venture Outside the City Limits

There’s so much to love in Denver, but there’s plenty to love outside Denver, too. If you have time, head to the towns of Golden, Evergreen, or Littleton, which are all a short drive from downtown.

Golden’s Coors Brewery Tour is free, and while Coors may not taste great out of the can, it’s crisp straight from the source. Afterward, rent bikes from the Golden Bike Library and cruise down historic Washington Avenue.

Evergreen is home to beautiful outdoor space and fine art galleries featuring revered Colorado artists. On your way back down the mountain, stop by Switchback Smokehouse for some flavorful barbecue and cold beer creekside.

Littleton’s downtown, which dates back to the Gold Rush, is lined with trendy rooftop bars boasting incomparable views of the Rocky Mountains, which pair perfectly with a refreshing Moscow Mule.

Coors Brewery Tour

Coors Brewery Tour

Evergreen Lake in Evergreen, Colo.

Evergreen Lake in Evergreen, Colo.

Evergreen, Colo.

Evergreen, Colo.

3. Brunch Hard

The Denver food scene is exploding. Top Chef is shooting its 15th season in The Mile-High City, Boulder, and Telluride. But let’s discuss the most important meal of the weekend: brunch.

While Snooze is a TripAdvisor shoo-in, there are several other places to get your brunch fix. Denver Biscuit Company, Root Down, and Beast + Bottle are a few local favs. And if you’re looking for a mind-blowing Bloody Mary, look no further than The Real Dill’s, which are made with artisan pickles.

Denver Biscuit Company

Denver Biscuit Company

4. Imbibe The Craft Culture

Speaking of adult beverages, you can’t come to Denver without trying the craft brew. From the hoppiest of IPAs to the mildest of blondes, this city has a beer to please every palate. Here’s a map of Denver’s breweries.

Enjoy a cold beer creekside at Switchback Smokehouse

Enjoy a cold beer creekside at Switchback Smokehouse

5. Explore The Outdoors

Denver has much more to offer than good libations. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast looking for adventure or just in the mood for a leisurely nature walk, Denver has you covered. If you have time, take a day trip to Mount Evans or Rocky Mountain National Park for breathtaking views and wildlife.

Just have a few hours to spare? Head to Chatfield State Park or Cherry Creek State Park where you can explore miles of trails, or rent kayaks and paddleboards for a relaxing lake excursion.

Chatfield State Park

Chatfield State Park

Kayak at Chatfield State Park

Kayak at Chatfield State Park

6. Do At Least One Touristy Thing

Red Rocks Amphitheater

Red Rocks Amphitheater

If you’re going to travel all this way, you have to see at least one tourist attraction. Head to the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheater for a concert or a hike. The scenery is spectacular and your butt will never get a better workout.

Prefer to stick close to the city center? Check out Denver’s Free Walking Tour. In just two hours, you’ll get an insightful introduction to downtown Denver’s top sites, such as the Capitol Building, Union Station, and Larimer Square.

Denver is overflowing with things to do. Before your trip, check the local calendar of events for festivals, concerts, and more.

Scenery at Red Rocks

Scenery at Red Rocks

Drew Belle Elsey is a Southern transplant living in Denver. She may have left her hometown of Vidalia, La., nearly a decade ago, but her love for crawfish, fried okra, and mustard greens remains as strong as her Southern accent.