Denver’s fast expansion has ushered in a host of new bars, eateries, and hangouts that seem to be popping up overnight throughout the Mile-High City. However, there are still quite a few mainstays of Denver that are beloved by locals and well-worth checking out. From hidden gems to bustling nightlife— we’ve outlined how to tour Denver like a local here!
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Quirky Hidden Gems
Larimer Alley Cats
Tucked in an alley near Larimer square are hundreds of ceramic kitties! Part of a city-wide initiative to spruce-up the underutilized and underappreciated alleyways, these cat statues were installed by artist Kelly Monico in June 2018. They can be seen lounging, climbing, and prowling around the space above the alley, and are quite an adorable spectacle! To find the kitties, start at Ocean Prime on Larimer St, continue northwest on 15th, and turn left into the alley right behind the restaurant. They provide an excellent photo op, and are sure to brighten your day.
1up Arcade Bar
This 21-and-up arcade is an absolute blast. Packed with all the games from your childhood and complete with a full-service bar, it is every adult’s dream. Play pinball and skeeball, as well as classic video games like Mario Bros, Pacman, and everything in between.
Denver has a few prohibition-era speakeasies that provide a truly unique experience. Enter through the back door of a stylish 1920s ice cream parlour to find Green Russell, a stylish underground cocktail ‘lair’. Or, try a trendy drink at Williams & Graham, a craft bar hidden behind a bookshelf.
International Church of Cannabis
Tour Denver like a local at this psychedelic chapel. Members of the International Church of Cannabis, also known as Elevationists, commissioned Okuda San Miguel and Kenny Scharf to paint the interior and exterior of the building. It’s open to the public on Fridays from 1-3pm, and Saturday & Sunday from 12-5pm and is probably the most “Denver” thing in Denver.
Divino Wine Shop
Divino is all things a neighborhood bottle shop can hope to be— classy yet welcoming, knowledgeable yet unpretentious, and always well-stocked. Dave Moore, founder and owner of Divino, wanted to make wine and spirits approachable for everyone, and provide wine-newbies with unique, delicious wines that won’t break the bank. Head over to this South Broadway staple and ask for a recommendation – no bottle is a bad bottle at Divino.
Nightlife & After-Work Spots
Wynkoop Brewing Co.
Co-founded by former Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, Wynkoop Brewing Co. was once one of the only businesses in LoDo. Since the 80’s this brewery has been perfecting the art of craft beer, good times, and hospitality. Rub elbows with locals, Colorado natives, and transplants alike at this welcoming spot.
This hidden gem situated in RiNo is one of Denver’s best-loved nightlife spots. Meadowlark hosts DJ’s, Indie bands, and more. People come in droves to dance, enjoy cheap drinks, or chill on the back patio in the afternoon sun.
Situated in a historic building on the bustling Lincoln Street in the heart of downtown, Armida’s is hard to spot. It’s modest stage has become a local legend— beckoning locals and out of towners to belt out their favorite tunes to an always welcoming, excited crowd.
An award winning, underground nightclub, Milk Bar is the downtown locale to dance the night away. Costumes are strongly encouraged— so don your best vintage apparel and head below Broadway for a night to remember.
The Mayan Theater
Since the 1930’s, this quirky movie theater has showcased everything from art flicks to big box movies to foreign films. Declared a historic landmark by the city of Denver, the architecture of this building is one of only three theaters in the county designed in Art-Deco Mayan Revival.
Laws Whiskey House
Stranahan’s is the name most frequently associated with Colorado Whiskey and many tourists make it a point to tour their whiskey house. Skip this well known spot and head south to Laws Whiskey House – a Colorado distillery quickly becoming a household name.
This corner store sells books, coffee, records, and more. Plus – it’s staffed by some of the most knowledgeable folks in town. Looking for a rare, mint condition comic book or searching for that specific record to add to your collection of Jamaican Dance Hall? Swing by Mutiny and browse their varied and extensive collections.
Clyfford Still Museum
While Denver Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art certainly house revered collections, the Clyfford Still Museum is something else entirely. It showcases the extensive works of this introverted, renegade artist. Guests can view how Still’s life and style changed over time through this museum’s vast collection.
Hike Mt. Falcon State Park
This park is only about 30 minutes from downtown, and offers a mild-yet-challenging hike that is suitable for all ages and fitness levels. Catch spectacular views of Red Rocks amphitheater, snow-capped rockies, and the Denver skyline off in the distance.
Great Eats, No Frills
Brewery Bar II
Home to one of the best green chiles in Denver. Their take on the famous dish will delight your taste-buds! This sinus-clearing, tongue-numbing bowl of hot green goodness is the perfect winter delicacy and model of Colorado cuisine.
Located in historic Five Points, Rosenbergs is a beacon of bagel-colored light in this western expanse. Prior to Rosenbergs, it was near-impossible to find a truly great bagel so far from the East Coast. But rest assured, Rosenbergs has fine-tuned the traditional New-York style bagel— part crunch, part chew, total goodness.
Looking for a truly unique dining experience that’s more than ornate bites on satellite-sized white plates? Look no further than Buckhorn Exchange. It’s a national historic landmark and has been serving Denver residents since 1893. While locals obviously don’t eat here on the daily, it’s the perfect place to take out of town guests or treat yourself to the fine dining experience without the frill.
A quick jog down Federal opens up a world of international dining delights. Not to be missed is Pho 96: Home to affordable yet authentic Vietnamese food. Whether you want the best hangover cure in town or are looking for a low-key spot to catch up with friends over a steaming bowl of salty goodness, Pho 96 is the spot.
Find Your Dream Apartment in Denver
Now that you can tour Denver like a local, reach out to AptAmigo for a 1-on-1 apartment hunting experience. All you need to do is tell us your preferences and we’ll compile a list of buildings you’ll love! Once you’ve chosen your top buildings from the curated list we’ve created, we will schedule a day of tours, be there to ask all the questions you never thought to, and even Uber you to each apartment. The best part? It’s completely free.
Abigail is a freelance writer who loves exploring new places - especially in the southwest - and moved into her van full time last fall. When she's not working on writing gigs to support her #vanlife endeavors, she loves packrafting alpine lakes, floating lazy rivers, and trail running.