Travel

What We're Looking Forward to in Denver in 2022

With plenty of hot new openings, the new year is going to be big for Denver.

While it’s indeed been a long, weird year, 2021 also brought us many moments of hope and positivity. We saw the much-awaited revival of Red Rocks concerts, the saving of Colorado institution Casa Bonita, an array of cool, new restaurants opening against all odds, and the introduction of one-of-a-kind experiences like Meow Wolf, giving us plenty to do, see, and eat over the last 365 days. And though there’s no way to fully tell what 2022 will bring, we’ve got our sights set on what’s shaping up to be a pretty bright future. New restaurants to try, art exhibits to contemplate, and places to shop are just some of the things we’re looking forward to in Denver this year.

Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row Denver

High up on the radar for exciting stuff coming to Denver this year is the new music venue-slash-bar-slash-restaurant from country star Dierks Bentley, which will settle in comfortably in LoDo. 1946 Market Street will see the opening of Whiskey Row Denver, the newest location of the popular venue that has homes in both Arizona and Tennessee. Expect live music from local artists five days a week and rotating weekend DJs, good ol’ Southern-inspired fare and cocktails, and a large patio with lawn games (because Denver, duh).

Shopping at Flyway Retail Center

Need more places to spend money in 2022? You’re covered! In the northeastern Denver neighborhood of Gateway, you’ll soon find the 223,000 square-foot Flyway Retail Center, which will feature clothing, general merchandise, groceries, and dining options for your every need. The space will have a town center plaza with outdoor seating and public art, and all storefronts, restaurants, and services will be easily accessible.

Photo courtesy of Hi Rez Photography
Photo courtesy of Hi Rez Photography
Photo courtesy of Hi Rez Photography

Brand new restaurants…

Coming to the local food scene is… quite the array of concepts that have our mouths watering and our hearts beaming for the perseverance of Denver restaurants. Thompson Denver, an “urban chalet” opening in LoDo this January will also be home to Chez Maggy, a French brasserie by acclaimed French chef Ludo Lefebvre, which will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And in addition to refreshing Casa Bonita, chef Dana Rodriguez is simultaneously working on her own concept, Cantina Loca, set to open this year in LoHi’s Espadín and bring Denverites Mexico City street food by way of, yes, tacos and tequila, but mezcal, enchiladas, and a ton of other goodness as well.

There’s a uniquely cool concept coming to Sunnyside in 2022 that challenges your predisposed ideas of what the term “social club” really means. Birch Road is a women-owned, BYOB clubhouse where you can bring, store, and savor your favorite spirits without worry of corking fees, bartender interactions, or end-of-evening bills. A monthly membership gets you exclusive fingerprint access to the social club of your Friday night dreams. Also on the social club wave is the long-awaited Five Nines, set to open this year inside the Clayton Members Club & Hotel and feature colorful, classic, craft cocktails in a sophisticated atmosphere. And last (for now) though certainly not least is an expansion of the popular surf, turf, and sushi restaurant, Water Grill, coming to LoDo in late January.

Photo courtesy of Cherry Cricket Littleton
Photo courtesy of Cherry Cricket Littleton
Photo courtesy of Cherry Cricket Littleton

… and expansions of favorites

Despite all odds, several beloved restaurants were not only able to survive this year but also thrive, meaning additional locations in 2022 to bring Denverites more of what we love. Cherry Cricket will be seeing a third location open up in Littleton this year, following the success of both its original Cherry Creek and more recent Ballpark locations. The newly opened Crack Shack (currently housed in Greenwood Village’s Grange Hall) will also expand this year with not one but two new locations-one near Park Meadows Mall and the other in RiNo.

Brand new breweries…

The ever-prospering Denver brewery scene will see a bunch of new additions this year, including Wisconsin brewery MobCraft Beer moving into the Curtis Park neighborhood and bringing along the “tacos, taps, and tequila” of Dee Tacko. Also opening up is Danico Brewing Company, which recently broke ground for its 66th Avenue and Tower Road location. And Live Slow Brewing will join the arsenal of Denver breweries with its Wheat Ride post, replacing Paramount bowling alley-though it’s keeping a few of the lanes for an added entertainment bonus when you eventually visit. The brewery will also be part of a larger hub to be known as Gold’s Marketplace, where you can bowl, sip brews, watch live entertainment, and snack on bowling alley-style food.

Photo courtesy of Dustin Holstein
Photo courtesy of Dustin Holstein
Photo courtesy of Dustin Holstein

… and, you guessed it, more of the ones we love!

Mental note: Pandemics might be good for craft beer sales? At least for a few of our favorites, anyway. FlyteCo Brewing is expanding from its singular W 38th Ave location to a new Central Park location, replacing the Punch Bowl Social at former Stapleton International Airport Control Tower, and RiNo’s Ratio Beerworks is taking over the former Declaration Brewing space to bring a Ratio location to South Denver. The team at Longmont’s Left Hand Brewing clearly knows strategy, as it’s parking a secondary location right next to Mission Ballroom for all your pre- and post-concert beer needs. More second locations planned for this year? New Image Brewing , Cerebral Brewing, and 4 Noses Brewing. Looks like 2022 will (thankfully) be the year of beer.

The Art of Banksy
The Art of Banksy
The Art of Banksy

The Art of Banksy

Denver, known for its impressive curation of art across several museums and constantly rotating exhibits-looking at you, Immersive Van Gogh and Denver Art Museum’ previous Monet exhibits-is expecting a new attraction this year that will likely blow attendance records out of the water. The Art of Banksy will be opening this April in the Denver Sports Castle building, the grandeur of which seems expertly fitting. Check out iconic pieces like “Girl and Balloon” and “Flower Thrower” as well as lesser known works by the popular street artist, including smaller, indoor pieces (as opposed to the famous outdoor works seen across the globe). Tickets are on sale now but are expected to sell out fast.

The reopening of Casa Bonita

If you weren’t following the fate of Casa Bonita as it hung in the balance this past year, do you even live here? Luckily for everyone, this pillar of Denver’s society was saved by none other than the creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, and perhaps even luckier is that award-winning chef Dana Rodriguez is going to breathe new life into the kitchen. This will include a total redesign of the kitchen space, new menu (obviously), and will revitalize the entire Casa Bonita space without sacrificing any of our favorite parts of it. Fingers crossed for snacking on sopapillas while watching dancing gorillas and divers in 2022.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Erica Buehler is a Denver-based freelance writer. Follow her @e_buehler on Instagram and @e_buehler_ on Twitter for more updates on Denver food and other Mile High shenanigans.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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