The Inside Out Guide to Denver

The Inside Out Guide to Denver
Credit: David Clifton

Imagine this: a city with a view of the mountains where it’s sunny for roughly 300 days of the year. That much sunshine alone seems too good to be true, but that’s Denver. Although Denver is smaller than New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and even Boston, it’s overflowing with craft breweries, art and fashion shows that span from Lower Downtown (LoDo) to the Five Points neighborhood, and live music at venues both in the city and 30 minutes away at the Red Rocks Amphitheater. Many make the pilgrimage to the Mile High City when their favorite band or artist is performing at Red Rocks, but you don’t need to wait for a concert to bring you to Denver. Their roster of tattoo artists, locally-sourced fare, and riverside hiking trails are sure to make your trip a memorable one.

Where to get tattooed in Denver:

Ritual Tattoo Gallery: Just north of the Highlands neighborhood, Ritual Tattoo Gallery is known for its low-key Brooklyn vibes. The studio can usually accommodate last minute appointments but, like most studios, we recommend making an appointment well in advance. Seven artists with wide-ranging skills have a chair at Ritual, but looking at their portfolios and Instagram, you’ll see these are the artists you’ll want for illustrative tattoos focused on realism.

4241 Jason Street, Denver, CO 80211, 303-455-1558

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Certified Tattoo Studios: With three locations and more than 30 artists on the east side of Denver, Certified Tattoo Studios can accommodate every style, interest, and timeframe. Artist Piper can recreate Colorado’s Aspen trees using illustrative techniques, whereas Skylar’s vibrant watercolors are more abstract and vibrant. Jon and Slow Death use black and grey stippling and shading to give clients a more realistic design. The studios also offer piercings and allow minors to get tattooed with a parent or guardian’s consent. Despite their size, we still recommend calling ahead.

1559 S. Broadway, Denver, CO 80210, 720-366-6925
120 S. Broadway, Denver, CO 80209, 720-638-1876
6250 E. Yale Avenue, Denver, CO 80222, 720-667-4745

Friendship Tattoo: It’s not common to find a hand poke-only studio, but Friendship Tattoo has three hand pokers in their Lakewood space. Friendship is new to the scene, having opened in early 2019, but they’re steadily building a large following — not a surprise if you take a look at their florals and dot work. Appointments can only be made through the individual artists and should be booked in advance, as hand poked tattoos require extra time and planning (though the studio does offer flash sales occasionally too).

8790 W Colfax Ave #100, Lakewood, CO 80215 (No phone)

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Where to stay in Denver:

The Maven Hotel: Staying at the Maven Hotel means you don’t necessarily need to leave the Maven Hotel. As part of Denver’s Dairy Block, a mini-neighborhood of creatives and locally owned shops, the building has a cafe, bar, multiple restaurants, a florist, among other gift and clothing shops. The rooms are quiet, modern, and clean, with beds so comfortable you’ll want to order up from one of the restaurants off the lobby and spend a night under the covers. The hotel is a five minute walk from Coors Stadium, where you can catch a view of the Rockies and, during baseball season, the Colorado Rockies themselves play. It’s also a short walk from Union Station, the REI Flagship Store, and Commons Park.

1850 Wazee St, Denver, CO 80202

The Source Hotel: The Source Hotel is a brand new building in the artsy Five Points neighborhood. What was once an industrial neighborhood is now the most up and coming space in the city and just a short drive, or slightly longer walk, from downtown. The rooms are spacious, with light colored wood and navy decor. Sadly, you won’t find a premium hotel bath at The Source, but that will just give you more time to enjoy the shops downstairs. In addition to standard hotel luxuries like turndown service, on-site parking, and a fitness center, there’s also New Belgium Brewing and Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, Reunion Bread Co. for fresh morning loaves and pastries, and Station 16 Contemporary Art Gallery for some on-site inspiration.

3330 Brighton Blvd, Denver, CO 80216

Where to get inspired in Denver:

Clyfford Still Museum: Named after Clyfford Still, one of the most prominent abstract painters of the 20th century, the Clyfford Still Museum opened in 2011 after Still’s wife bequeathed nearly all of his work to the city of Denver more than 20 years after the artist’s death. No other artists are on display, but Still’s collection is as varied as it is vast. His crayon and graphite drawings from the 1930s are more realistic than his pastels from the 1980s and, in a single museum, you can see the evolution of his work, which grows more abstract with each decade.

1250 Bannock Street, Denver, CO 80204, 720-354-4880

Robischon Gallery: The Robischon Gallery hosts multiple solo and thematic exhibitions each year, featuring sculpture, photography, painting, and video. It’s one block from Union Station and six blocks from the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, making it the perfect destination for an afternoon art walk followed by cocktails and small plates at Mercantile Dining and Provisions. Through varying mediums, you’ll enjoying different interpretations of a single theme at this carefully curated gallery.

1740 Wazee Street, Denver, CO, 80202, 303-298-7788

Ogden Theatre: Not all inspiration is visual. Ogden Theatre hosts a variety of concerts, with bigger acts like Jenny Lewis and Lizzo, and lesser known bands like Whiskey Myers. The venue has stood the test of time, originally built in 1919 to host live performances like dance recitals and vaudeville acts. From the late 1930s through the 1980s it served as a movie theater for the avant-garde and, later, Rocky Horror Picture Show. Today, it’s returned to its musical roots and hosts more than 150 live concerts every year.

935 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80218, 303-832-1874

Tattered Cover: This independent bookstore has moved around Denver since it opened in 1971. Now there are three locations in Denver, one in Littleton, and another in Denver International Airport. The location in Lower Downtown is a dreamy brick building with a cafe, inspired staff-picks, and rows and rows of literature for endless browsing. You wouldn’t be the first person whose tattoo is inspired by literature, in case you need that extra push.

2526 East Colfax Avenue, Denver, CO 80206, 303-322-7727
1628 16th Street, Denver, CO 80202, 303-436-1070
1701 Wynkoop Street, Denver CO, 80202 (No Phone)

What to do in Denver:

Sloan’s Lake Park: Home to the city’s biggest lake and its second biggest park of 177 acres, Sloan’s Lake Park is great for anyone looking to spend the day outside without leaving Denver. There’s a loop trail over two miles long, football, soccer, and baseball fields, tennis and basketball course, and, if you have your gear, power boating and waterskiing are permitted. The park is blocks from Tap and Burger Sloan’s Lake, where you can get a happy hour burger and beer for less than $10.

1700 N Sheridan Boulevard, ‎Denver, CO

Cherry Creek State Park: Spend the day on the water, bird watching, or on one of the park’s 20 trails. Dogs are allowed on most of the trails so even if your four-legged friend didn’t make the trip to Denver with you, you’ll get to meet some dogs on your hike. If you find yourself in Denver over the winter, cross-country skiing is permitted in the park (rentals can be found at Wilderness Exchange Unlimited). Before selecting your trail, be mindful of the altitude — one mile can feel like ten.

4201 S Parker Rd, Aurora, CO 80014

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater: Red Rocks is not a site to miss while in Denver. It’s a short drive outside the city and the scenery alone makes it a worthwhile trip. There are five trails in the park and, if the amphitheater isn’t closed for concert setup, you can climb the rows and check out the acoustics of the world-famous theater carved into the side of a mountain. Tailgating is a huge part of seeing a concert at Red Rocks, so plan to arrive early with plenty of snacks and drinks — most of which you can bring inside once the doors open. It’s true that there’s no bad concert at Red Rocks, but if ticket prices are steep, opt for general admission, where you’ll likely see most of your fellow tailgaters.

18300 W Alameda Pkwy, Morrison, CO 80465

Where to eat and drink in Denver:

Novel Strand: This brewery was actually born in upstate New York, where the owners had the dream to one day operate their own shop. Four years later, it was open in Denver’s Baker neighborhood. Unlike most breweries, they don’t offer flights or high-alcohol IPAs. Instead, Novel Strand specializes in weird, small batch beers. By weird, we mean every beer is a different take on a standard brew. There are sours and other funky beers, and even though most have an ABV (alcohol by volume) of 4.3% or lower, there is always a hoppy ale on the menu.

305 W 1st Avenue, Denver, CO 80223, 720-949-0246

Acorn: Inside The Source, a food and market hall, Acorn is a small, farm-to-table restaurant where you’ll definitely want to make a reservation. The menu changes seasonally, but a version of the kale salad, grilled bread, and oak-roasted chicken is available all year. Their cocktail list manages expectations perfectly by listing drinks as booze free, low booze, and high booze, and the beer list is as extensive as most Denver restaurants. The shared plates section of the menu is where to focus your attention, with four to five being optimal for two people. If you forget to make a reservation or arrive early, enjoy an aperitif at the bar in the center of the hall, or a beer from the brewery just behind it.

3350 Brighton Blvd, Denver, CO 80216, 720-542-3721

Bar Dough: Any restaurant whose pasta dishes come in small and large is immediately a favorite. The smaller option is the perfect size to compliment the ranch meatballs, fancy toast, and spicy clam pizza. Bar Dough is also next door to Highland Tap and Burger, where you can catch a game on one of their many televisions. Both restaurants have ample outdoor seating, which you’ll want to take advantage of whenever possible. Bar Dough is more refined than its neighbor but neither are pretentious by any stretch.

2227 West 32nd Avenue Denver CO, 80211, 720-668-8506

Beast and Bottle: Complex cocktails and artful plating make Beast and Bottle extra special. The menus rotate with the season, with year round sections for lamb and not lamb. If you’re not a lamb eater, don’t be deterred. There’s plenty on the menu for the red meat-averse, like the fermented pimento cheese dip, whole roasted kohlrabi, and chevre and chard pizza. While the menu is complex, the mismatched chairs will put you at ease, as does the rest of the cozy (but not cramped) dining room. Their cocktails, in and out of the bottle, are delicious and worth skipping over the beer menu for.

719 E. 17th Ave, Denver, CO 80203, 303-623-3223

The Kitchen: The Kitchen is a chain, but you wouldn’t know it from the interior. The brainchild of Kimbal Musk (the brother who isn’t trying to go to space) has locations in Denver, Boulder, Chicago, and Fort Collins. While every meal is sure to be delicious at The Kitchen, their brunch is exceptional — and we don’t just mean the Bloody Mary bar, where you can top your tomato juice-worcester-vodka highball with whichever toppings you’d like. The morning sweets, namely the bourbon pecan sticky bun, make for a great primer to poached eggs or the farmer’s breakfast.

1560 Wazee St. Denver, CO 80202, 303-623-3127

Want more? Check out the rest of our City Guides, including New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto.

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