Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours in Denver. The state of Colorado has become quite popular with tourists recently. But many of these travelers would rather head into the Rocky Mountains than spend 24 hours in Denver. I’m here to tell you that people who give Denver a pass are sad, deluded individuals!
Denver is the capital of Colorado, and it is a fine place to spend at least a weekend. With 24 hours in Denver, you can immerse yourself in the art scene. You can also get a fine drink or ten. We don’t want to waste any more time, so let’s go now!
24 Hours in Denver
Where to Stay?
You’re in luck, Internet Stranger, because I have the perfect place to hang your hat during your 24 hours in Denver. It’s called the Lumber Baron Inn, and it is run by the friendliest couple in the world. They will give you breakfast made to order each morning. (Just feast your eyes on that flawless avocado toast with egg above. I got to eat all of that, but you haven’t yet because you haven’t been to the Lumber Baron.
The Lumber Baron is also in a quiet, safe neighborhood, so you’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep unencumbered by the sounds of young Denver hooligans. Except that the Lumber Baron is probably haunted, so you might hear a ghost or two. But that just adds to the charm!
If you’d rather explore great deals on hundreds of hotels in Denver, click here!
24 Hours in Denver
What to Pack?
You’ll also need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
If the weather is rainy or snowy, which happens in Denver, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out without feeling like some gauche tourist with gross feet.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
24 Hours in Denver
Morning: Molly Brown House Museum
At this point, you’re probably thinking the name Molly Brown sounds familiar. Was she a distant cousin? Your third grade gym teacher? If I add the word Unsinkable in front of her name, does that help? What if I said “Kathy Bates”?
Yes, Ms. Molly Brown is most famous for being on the Titanic, yet not drowning even a little bit. But many people don’t know is that Molly Brown also lived in Denver, Colorado. If you are interested in learning more about her fabulous life, which you really should be, you can visit the Molly Brown House Museum.
You can only visit the house by guided tour. The earliest tour leaves at 10 AM, and you’re going to need to take that one to make our afternoon schedule. So let’s get straight to the…
three fun facts: molly brown house museum
1) How’d she get such a nice place?
You’re probably thinking Molly Brown was born to luxury, right? After all, that’s usually the case with people who have mansions. But Miss Brown was born to a poor family of Irish immigrants. (Back then her maiden name was Margaret Tobin.) She dreamed of marrying a wealthy man, until one day she met Mr. J.J. Brown.
He…had no money either. But he and Molly loved each other, so they were married. Lucky for Molly, Mr. Brown soon struck it rich in the mining business. So she chose love over money and ended up having both. This is the kind of luck we can only dream of having!
PS. Mrs. Brown was never referred to as Molly during her life. Our docent told us Molly was a name for an Irish servant, so a lady like Mrs. Brown wouldn’t have used it. She went by Maggie to her friends. So don’t be surprised if your docent refuses to call her Molly during the tour.
2) What’s the deal with the titanic?
Molly Brown isn’t just famous for not sinking on the Titanic. She was enormously helpful after the ship began to sank. As a woman in first class, she was easily able to get into a lifeboat. But she didn’t give up on the others who were left behind. She encouraged the crewman in charge of her lifeboat to go back and rescue as many people as possible. (You might recall this scene in the movie Titanic, and it’s pretty historically accurate.)
What the movie doesn’t show is that Mrs. Brown didn’t give up on the rest of the survivors even after she was safe shore. She started a committee to help the less wealthy passengers on the Titanic rebuild their life. The committee raised over 10,000 dollars, which was quite a lot of money back in those days.
Throughout her life, Mrs. Brown was known for her involvement in charitable causes. She even helped resolve a strike between a group of miners in Ludlow, Colorado and their boss. (You might have heard of him because he was also the head of an obscure family named Rockefeller.) No matter how rich and famous Mrs. Brown became, she never forgot where she came from.
3) how did her house become a museum?
Mr. and Mrs. Brown separated after 20 years of marriage, though they were never officially divorced. Mrs. Brown continued to devote herself to noble causes, like advancing women’s suffrage. But even the Unsinkable Molly Brown was affected by the Great Depression. She had to turn the Brown Mansion into a boarding house.
Fortunately for her, by this point she had moved to New York City to pursue a career in the theater. (It’s not every woman who would be willing to take the stage for the first time in her 50s. But I think we’ve established that Margaret Brown was not Every Woman.)
Like many other historic buildings, the house was almost demolished in the 1960s. Fortunately Historic Denver was able to buy it and turn it into a museum, so you and I can visit it to this day!
24 Hours in Denver
Afternoon: Taming the RiNo
I admit the title of this afternoon’s activity looks rather daunting. Are there really wild rhinos in Denver? How are we to tame them? But in fact RiNo in Denver refers to the River North Art District. Since Denver is a city full of hipsters, the RiNo probably has the largest concentration of hipsters of anywhere in the continental United States.
But don’t let that deter you from visiting! The RiNo also has fantastic art, food, and interesting history, for such a relatively young city. That’s why I took the Denver Art Tour with Denver Urban Adventures. I wanted to see a local’s perspective of this neighborhood. I don’t want to spoil the whole tour, but I will share what I learned with…
approximately top 5: Rino edition
1) on the road coffee
Before the tour starts, treat yourself with the greatest cup of coffee I have ever had in my life. But would you believe me if I said this coffee came from the car pictured above? This car cafe, called On the Road Coffee, is literally as cute as a bug. (For you car nerds out there, the ride is a 1968 Volkswagen Beetle.)
My eyes bugged out of my head a little as I watched the owner, Matthew, prepare my flawless cup of coffee inside his wee vehicle. It was the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. I couldn’t even dream of adding milk or sugar to it. Was the coffee better because it came from a car or would this have been the greatest cup even if it had been served in an actual “building”? I’ll never tell!
2) lunch at portside
The tour starts at 1, so get lunch before at a cafe called Port Side. (I gave you a clever clue to the name in the photo of my iced tea above.)
Portside is one of those places where all the ingredients are locally sourced, healthy, and delicious. Eating at a cafe like this makes me feel like such an underachiever. I always feel pleased with myself when I manage to get something more together for dinner than a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Even the mustard in that photo looks gorgeous! I bet someone artisanally selected each perfectly round grain of mustard seed.
The name Portside is an homage to the building. Many of the buildings and stores on this street are located in former shipping containers. Using shipping containers to house buildings is convenient, sustainable, and often affordable. Denver is a very green city (in more ways than one), so it makes sense this trend would take off here.
3) if you want a beer, pal, you’re gonna pay for it…
If you played some bizarre word-association game with any American and asked them to say the first thing that came into their mind when they heard Denver, it’s likely they would say beer. So we couldn’t have a Denver walking tour without a cold one! But I was lucky because we stopped at First Draft Denver.
My guide gave me a card with enough money on it for me to get a beer. But instead of limiting myself to one flavor, I could use this card to get a small pour of one of the more than 30 beers they had on tap. I could go from a sour to an IPA to a stout and no one would stop me!
Aside from the beer, my favorite thing about First Draft was the memorabilia they had from a certain fine film from the 1980s that decorated all of the walls. Can you look at this poster above and name that film? No cheating!
4) drugs not included
During your 24 hours in Denver, there will be certain things about the city you can’t help but notice. Of course, there’s the beautiful sunshine, the healthy young people, and a certain…smell of skunk. Yes, recreational marijuana is legal in Denver, and the population isn’t shy about enjoying it in public. So though I don’t smoke pot, I was curious to see the inside of a dispensary, and I was glad the opportunity presented itself on the tour.
I don’t want to get your hopes up, Internet Stranger. Absolutely no marijuana products are included with the price of the tour. And there are certain rules you need to follow to enter any dispensary. First, you need a photo ID proving you are over 21. (I always have my passport with me anyway because I don’t know how to drive, and if The Man ever tries to steal my identity like they did with Sandra Bullock in The Net, I want to be able to prove I am me.)
Second, no photo taking is allowed in the dispensary. What is allowed is listening to the gentleman in charge of the dispensary wax eloquent about the different strains of marijuana and all the different ways you can prepare them in edibles. He was like the weed version of a sommelier. (A ganja-mmelier? A Mary Jane-ophile? I’ll keep working on this.)
I didn’t get anything because all marijuana does for me is make me so hungry I’ll be willing to eat an old piece of pizza off the floor. (Not that this actually happened to me once. AHEM.) But I was happy for the chance to meet some of Denver’s assorted weirdos.
5) street art of rino
Speaking of weirdos, I think this mouse is having some issues here. But he brings me to the final stop of our tour: the street art! No hipster neighborhood is complete without a bevy of beauties painted on its public walls. And RiNo has become well known for its murals.
I am justly famous for my musings on street art, so allow me to explain all of these works to you.
This is a giant alien life form that is planning to take over the planet, starting with Denver, Colorado. It saw the movie Independence Day, so it wanted to begin its conquest far from Washington DC because it’s scared of Bill Pullman. The windows represent the alien’s eyes, from which it will shoot laser beams at you if you get too close.
This is Mario from Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers game. I assume the rest of the characters are failed attempts to create a sibling for Mario before they finally settled on Luigi!
This mural is completely different depending on where you are standing. It looks like a girl from one angle and a boy from another. It expresses how we are all gender fluid to a certain extent. Or the artist was just trying to mess with any high people who might walk down this street.
If you really like a piece of art, look for the @ symbol. The artist often has their Instagram tag visible so you can follow them on social media.
That’s all I have to say about the street art because I was eaten by this giant face. Farewell cruel world!!!
24 Hours in Denver
Evening: Drink and Eat the RiNo way
Any city can offer fun places to drink the night away. But Denver isn’t just any city. Everything here has to be local and sustainable and pretending it’s good for you, even if it’s not.
Want a little more detail than that? How would you settle for…
three fun facts: drinks of denver
1) what is a distillery?
A distillery is a place where they make spirits, as opposed to wine or beer. You know, the hard stuff. On The Liquid Tour, I got to visit the inside of newish Block Distillery and see where all the magic happens. And by magic, I mean how grains are left to ferment in giant vats until they “go off” and will get you intoxicated if you drink them.
The Block is a family owned business run by two brothers and a wife. (She’s married to one of the brothers; I hope not both, but I don’t judge.) One of the brothers showed me around the distillery, but I don’t remember which one, so I’m just going to call him Block Brother. He explained that they make their own gin and their own vodka. They haven’t begun to make their own whiskey yet because that takes time and they aren’t ready yet.
Of course the highlight of the visit was getting to taste one of their gins in a cocktail. (They have four different seasonal gins, which is a good excuse for coming back on a regular basis.) I was stoked to try their Ramos Gin Fizz, which is a classic cocktail in my mom’s hometown, New Orleans. It is said to be the perfect hangover cure.
The drink was delicious, but I was especially entertained by the giant hipster mustaches on the can of orange blossom water. (Orange blossom water is one of the ingredients of the cocktail.) I hadn’t realized that hipsters existed back in the 1900s!
2) what is a preservery?
What’s that you say? You never asked any such question and preservery is a made up word? I’m just going to pretend you didn’t say that, Internet Stranger! If we’re going to be doing all this drinking, we will need to fill our bellies so we don’t topple over and blight the beautiful streets of the Mile High City.
That’s why I stopped at The Preservery, which is a casual neighborhood spot run by a couple that wanted to give back to the community. I’m sure that preparing delicious food is one of the nicest ways to improve one’s community! I know my community was improved by stuffing it full of their squash and burrata salad. (By my community, I mean my tummy.)
I even liked their fresh potato chips, and potato chips and whipped cream are usually the only two foods I don’t like. (If you’re going to spend the calories, just eat french fries and vanilla ice cream! Why go for the lesser option.)
The husband in the couple, Obe, is a musician, so there are many portraits of musicians decorating the walls, My companion and I tried to guess who they all were. I was especially pleased with myself because I managed to identify the lead singer of Thin Lizzy. My fellow diner wasn’t aware that we were playing a trivia game with these pictures, but I was, and I decided I won. That now makes me Queen of Denver.
3) what is a cidery?
Despite what my spellcheck tells me, unlike preservery, cidery is a real word. And it’s pretty obvious what it means! A cidery is a place where they brew cider. Now, no self-respecting adult would spend an evening in a place where they prepared apple juice. This is the boozy cider we’re talking about here.
Of course I had consumed alcoholic cider before. After all, this is America. But until I went to Stem Ciders, I had never tried so many different kinds. Did you know that there’s rose cider, which is a combination of cider and red wine? Did you know you can infuse cider with anything from tea to cucumber? How about that you can make cider from crab apples? There’s apparently nothing these cider wizards can’t do.
Stem Ciders also has several games on hand, so my companion and I played one of those icebreaker games where you tell funny stories about yourself to pass the time. I just made everything up because I don’t think anyone has the right to know anything about me. That’s why there’s a man somewhere in Denver who thinks I used to be a werewolf.
That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Denver!
What would you do with 24 hours in Denver? Should we all be living our lives like Mrs. Margaret Brown, yes or yes? And when will the alien invasion of Denver begin? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Denver. If you have time for another 24 hours in Denver, try this itinerary.