Here's Part 2 of top things to do in Denver if you're not a skier plus some restaurants we're fond of:
7. Brewery Tours
Both Coors (Golden) and Anheuser Busch (Fort Collins) offer free brewery tours and samples. If the Clydesdales are “in”, the visit to Anheuser Busch is a slight favorite, but both are fun. You can check their websites to see what's going on and tour hours.
8. Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
An old WWII chemical weapons manufacturing facility turned into a wildlife refuge? Yup! It's in Commerce City, it's free and it's terrific. There's a 9-mile scenic drive and miles of hiking paths and boardwalks through prairie and wetlands. One of largest urban refuges in the country, you can see bison, bald eagles, coyote, deer and scads of birds all in the wild and all within the metro area.
9. Natural History Museum, Denver Zoo, Fine Arts Museum, Center for Performing Arts, Botanic Gardens, Science Museum and more
I'm not trying to minimize any of these places by lumping them together. There's just too many to discuss separately. Denver has outstanding cultural opportunities. There's always something going on. The Zoo, for instance, is world class. The Center for the Performing Arts gets touring premieres of Broadway shows regularly and the productions are top shelf. Nothing is cheap though … unless you're patient that is. Most every venue offers “free days” or discount tickets once in awhile, so if you can't invest in tickets, do a little research to find out what's on offer that you can afford.
10. Mount Evans
Colorado has 54 peaks above 14,000' (4300m) and Mount Evans is not only the closest to Denver, but you can drive to the top. From late May till the end of October, the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, the highest paved road in the USA, is open to traffic and the ride is breathtaking. There's a ranger station about half way up providing info on the area. There are several mountain lakes with picnic opps en route. At the top, you can park and then scamper up the final few meters to the very summit. The highlight for us, beyond the view, is seeing the mountain goats that roam freely through the ruins of the old Crest House restaurant and the marmots that sun themselves on the boulders.
There's a moderate admission fee ($10/car) unless you have a National Parks Pass, in which case, it's free.
Denver's restaurant selection is outstanding. Like ethnic food? You'll find it here along with fast foods and gourmet. Check out Westword, the local, free weekly alternative newspaper, for their best picks in the category of your choice plus local entertainment opportunities.
Alas, Pagliaccis, our all-time favorite Italian neighborhood restaurant closed in August 2012, but there are a few other local restaurants plus a few touristy places we might recommend while you're here.
Brewery Bar II – This is a plastic tablecloth kind of place, but the Mexican food, especially the chile relleno, is reasonably priced and excellent. We've been going here for decades. We've only visited the “II” on Kalamath Street in Denver, but evidently there's a III and IV now, too.
New York Deli News– Outstanding deli sandwiches, half sour pickles like you get in a real NYC deli served in a bowl on every table (refills are free). It's pricy for lunch, but the portions are huge, the service is friendly and fast and the menu is Big Apple diverse.
Mataam Fez – It's Moroccan and it's an experience in itself. Sit on big, overstuffed pillows on the floor with a towel over your shoulder to wipe your fingers since you eat with your hands. The food is tasty if you like Middle Eastern cuisine. Never tried it? This is a good opportunity. It's a pricey “prix fixe” menu, but the food, belly-dancing, mint tea poured dramatically into your cup and the rose water finger bowls are worth it for a splurge.
Bennett's Bar-B-Que - We love this place for friendly service and great BBQ. Prices are reasonable. Try the Baked Potato All the Way for something different.
Buckhorn Exchange and The Fort - The Buckhorn Exchange is Denver's oldest restaurant serving buffalo, elk, quail and other “wild game of the day”. No, it's not cheap. Yes, you can get Rocky Mountain Oysters here (bull testicles sauteed just the way you like them … as if?) or alligator tail (not local). Lots of atmosphere and animal heads on the walls.
The Fort in Morrison specializes in local game as well … also not cheap, but a fun, fort atmosphere serving “food and drink of the Early West”. You can try braised bison tongue for an appetizer or buffalo steak for your entree.
For more Denver pics and info, check out our website.
There's lots more to Colorado than Denver, but most folks land here first so this is a place to start. Stay tuned for more talk about cowboys and mountain towns in the upcoming days. And yes, South Island, New Zealand is on the agenda, too. So much to see, so little time.