Denver

Travel Blogger Lauren Monitz Loves Denver's Friendly Energy and Perfect Patio Weather

"It's a city that attracts a ton of young energy and young blood, where everyone is in a good mood all the time."

Photo courtesy of Lauren Monitz; Design by Maitane Romagosa/Thrillist
Photo courtesy of Lauren Monitz; Design by Maitane Romagosa/Thrillist
Photo courtesy of Lauren Monitz; Design by Maitane Romagosa/Thrillist

Lauren Monitz is a freelance travel and food writer and influencer who lived in Denver for over a decade before moving to Texas, where she now lives. Her blog, The DownLo, features offbeat adventures and things you didn’t even know you wanted on your bucket list. As told to Andrea Morabito.Denver is like a little utopia in this weird bubble, where everyone is young, single, pretty, and fun. It is the most millennial city in the country and everyone is there because they want to be. There are tons of startups. Everyone is friendly. It’s like everyone’s drinking the Kool-Aid, where they all say hi to you, they all smile, and strangers on the street will invite you to go hiking. You can wear yoga pants into pretty much any restaurant or bar, and it’s just a city that attracts a ton of young energy and young blood, where everyone is in a good mood all the time.

Colorado has all four seasons, and while most people come to ski in winter or in summer for the hiking, fall is truly my favourite time here. Coming from the Midwest where it’s too cold to go outside nine months of the year, fall in Denver is absolutely incredible. You can get insane leaf peeping like you wouldn’t believe. The mountains are just the most beautiful backdrop and there are pumpkin patches, haunted houses, pick-your-own farms, and hayfields to provide the quintessential fall feels.

The fall weather in Denver is pretty perfect – it’s still 70-75 degrees in September and October, and crisp at night. You get that awesome mountain air that has your hair drying fast and your skin feeling light, tight, and youthful. Denver truly has a way of keeping you young.

Most people use Denver as a jumping off point for all of ColoRadical’s wonders, and one of my all-time favourite road trips is Palisade, the Western Slope’s secret wine region just outside Grand Junction. It’s amazing for fall colours, and has about 30 small, family-owned wineries you can bike to or hire a driver to take you around, and each have their own unique touch, like an alpaca farm. Palisade is also known for their peaches, so seasonally you can pick-your-own fruit and bring home some great tasting treats.

The best thing to do in town is post up on a patio until the wee hours of the night. Food halls are a staple of Denver dining culture and you can’t go wrong at one of the OGs, The Source or Avanti Food & Beverage, which both have amazing rooftops to take in the whole city. Another one of my go-to spots is First Draft in RiNo, which is the heart of the street art scene. They have a pour-your-own tap wall to try a bunch of different samples, which you can follow up with a food crawl through RiNo.

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COURTESY OF THE MARRIOTT BONVOY BOUNDLESSâ„¢ CARD
COURTESY OF THE MARRIOTT BONVOY BOUNDLESSâ„¢ CARD

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*Valid for a one-night stay at a hotel participating in Marriott Bonvoy® with a redemption level up to 35,000 points.The Highlands is another must-see neighborhood to get a taste of Denver’s lovable weirdness. Pop by Linger, a former mortuary turned eat-uary. You can literally get a drink out of a VW bus on their rooftop, go next door for an ice cream cone served out of a giant milk bottle, and then walk through a bookshelf into one of the top 50 speakeasies in the world without missing a beat.

I lovingly describe the food scene in Denver as fusion confusion, for its odd combination of ingredients. You can seriously find everything from deep fried tacos to bone marrow fried rice. Chef Troy Guard is my absolute favourite chef, with a bunch of spots in town, he can do no wrong, especially with Pop Rocks as one of his staple ingredients. Los Chingones guacs my world, it’s just a fun lively atmosphere and you really can’t go wrong with queso and tacos.

Denver is also beloved for its beer scene, and with one of the highest number of craft breweries per capita, you couldn’t throw a rock and not hit a brewery downtown. The Great American Beer Fest is definitely the highlight of the season and year (though sadly it’s cancelled for 2021 because of COVID). It’s the biggest beer festival in America and while I’m not a beer person, there are all kinds of crazy combinations and flavours like peanut butter and pineapple and it’s worth it for the people watching alone. People come from all over, donning dirndls and pretzel necklaces and it’s basically as close to Germany as you can get on this side of the pond. Just about every mountain town throws an Oktoberfest celebration, too, so pretty much expect the beers to be flowing in fall.

As for getting out of town, Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Steamboat is one of my all-time favourite places. It’s clothing optional after 9 pm when the stars come out, and the whole Milky Way just opens up, so it’s truly a magical place. For a day trip, Colorado Springs is highly underrated with Garden of the Gods, one of the best free parks in the country. You can see the gorgeous rock formations, drive up Pike’s Peak, one of the only Fourteeners (14,000-foot mountains), you can scale in your car, get some hippie spa action at neighbouring Manitou Springs, and feel far removed from the Denver metro area.

To see Denver grow and evolve how it did in the 10 years I lived there was just crazy. I travel full-time, and I would come home not just to new restaurants, but to entire new neighbourhoods (looking at you, Dairy Block “micro district”). Sometimes it got to the point of being unrecognizable.

Now that I live in Texas, I miss the city most times, to be honest. It’s funny, I originally never thought I could live in Denver, after growing up in Chicago. I assumed it wasn’t a real city and there was no culture. But after moving there, I never wanted to leave.

Denver

How to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Denver This Year

For a successful St. Patrick's Day, hit these parades, barcrawls, parties, and festivals.

VISIT DENVER
VISIT DENVER
VISIT DENVER

Grab your green and your Guinness-St. Patrick’s Day is around the corner, and there’s fun to be had. In addition to being the first big celebratory holiday after New Year’s, St. Paddy’s is also a signal of spring; more hours of sunshine, T-shirt temps, and filling Blake, Market, and Larimer with drunken revelry make up a particularly Denver type of equinox. However you plan to celebrate-with family friendly activities or for those over the legal drinking age only-there are parades to be watched, playful drinks to be sipped, and a whole lot of shamrock-ing to do.

Photo courtesy of Mile High Spirits
Photo courtesy of Mile High Spirits
Photo courtesy of Mile High Spirits

Dance a jig or two at Mile High Spirits’ Shamrock Shenanigans

March 17
If you’re ready to put your dancing shoes to good use, wiggle your way on over to Mile High Spirits-doors are opening at 12 pm and there’s no cover ‘til 10. Enjoy MHS’ drinks, big dance floor, and even bigger outdoor patio for all the Irish pride and shenanigans you can handle.

Cook Street School of Culinary Arts
Cook Street School of Culinary Arts
Cook Street School of Culinary Arts

Whip up steak for a St. Paddy’s Date Night

March 17
Cook Street’s special St. Paddy’s Day class involves making the perfect steak while sipping on Irish whiskey. On Friday only, learn about proteins, cooking methods, and choosing side dishes carefully while cooking up traditional Irish cuisine.

Crawl around town. You know, figuratively…

March 17 – 18
Is it a drinking holiday in Denver if there aren’t a handful of bar crawls happening? Probably not. St. Paddy’s Day is no different; you can start crawling from a number of bars, but a few in particular have everything plotted out for you (for a small fee). Start at the Ginn Mill and receive a map of over 10 pub locations you’ll be crawling to either Friday or Saturday, plus drink special vouchers. There’s also a crawl departing from Nola Jane (Friday only) with its own food and drink specials, plus a scavenger hunt and some St. Paddy’s merch, too.

The Fainting Goat
The Fainting Goat
The Fainting Goat

Visit one of Denver’s Irish Pubs

March 17 – 18
If you can’t think of a better place to spend St. Paddy’s Day then at a local Irish pub, we salute you-just be prepared to throw a few elbows making your way to the bar. Denver’s got several good ol’ pubs from Broadway to Larimer Square that’ll be in full swing this weekend, pouring fresh pints as far as the eye can see. Check out Scruffy Murphy’s, Nallen’s, The Irish Rover, Finley’s, The Celtic on Market, or the Fainting Goat for that SPD revelry you know, love, and trekked out for.

Photo courtesy of The OG/McGregor Square
Photo courtesy of The OG/McGregor Square
Photo courtesy of The OG/McGregor Square

Sip and savour St. Paddy’s themed bevvies

Through March 17
Everyone pulls out the green food dye and mint flavouring for St. Paddy’s, but there are some other creative drink specials to sample, too. The OG’s got a boozy milkshake for the occasion, aptly named “Who’s Your Paddy,” a mix of vanilla ice cream, Crème de Menthe, Tullamore Dew, Bailey’s, and whipped cream. BEZEL’s Irish Matcha Man is pretty unique, with Teeling Small Batch whiskey, lime, thyme-infused honey, and matcha powder. And then Slater’s 50/50 takes it to another level (unsurprisingly) with its Lucky Mint Green Shake: mint-flavored ice cream in a frosting-rimmed glass with Lucky Charm marshmallows, rainbow stripe sour strips, whipped cream and green sprinkles. Other notable specials can be found at Poka Lola Social Club, Dairy Block’s Moo Bar, and Seven Grand.

Sing along and cheers to live music

March 17
Denver’s The Monkey Barrel is known for its regular live performances, and this St. Patrick’s Day you can tune in to Elijah Petty & The Part-Times and other musical guests if you’re in search of a chiller spot to sip your Guinness. Or, have one of the best burgers in town while relishing the shenanigans and live music of Cherry Cricket Cherry Creek this St. Paddy’s Day. Food and drink specials will also be available through the holiday weekend, so leave extra room or wear your stretchy (green) pants.

HRCA Race Series
HRCA Race Series
HRCA Race Series

Show your St. Paddy’s spirit by… running?

March 18
Feeling restless? Or maybe you’re itching to get a few laps in before hammering down several pints this Saturday? Either way, Highlands Ranch is hosting its St. Patrick’s Day 5K where finishing the race gets you St. Patrick’s Day merch, an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast, and of course, a complimentary pint courtesy of Living the Dream Brewing.

Holidaily Brewing Company
Holidaily Brewing Company
Holidaily Brewing Company

Drink and do good at Holidaily Brewing Co.

March 17
This St. Paddy’s Day, Holidaily and the Gluten Intolerance Group are putting on their Raise a Pint, Lend a Hand fundraiser. A special glitter and green Firkin tapping is happening at 4 pm at both taprooms, with special (and gluten-free) treats available at the Golden location, thanks to Farmhouse 5280 and Waive the Grain bakery. 10% of all St. Patrick’s Day sales will be donated to the Gluten Intolerance Group.

Talnua Distillery
Talnua Distillery
Talnua Distillery

Party at a local distillery

March 17 – 18
Talnua Distillery is hosting a St. Patrick’s Day bash to remember this year, featuring food trucks, live music, special themed cocktails, and more. Limited bottles of Talnua’s exclusive Olde Saint’s Keep whiskey will be available for purchase, which you can hang onto while you dance along to pipe bands or eat a brat or two from El Jefe’s.

Watch some Irish step dancing

March 17
Head on over to Stanley Marketplace to witness the talent and skill of the students at the Wick School of Irish Dance at 12 pm, and follow it up with a green cerveza at Cheluna Brewing Co. Of course, plenty of tasty lunch and dinner options are available around the marketplace so you can soak up a bit of that beer.

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

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