Denver has become the capital of cool with progressive attitudes, friendly people and a festive atmosphere that’s perfect for a singles weekend getaway.
“Please, don’t let it be my last day!” That was my first thought as I wiggled a little deeper into an unbelievably comfy bed at the Oxford Hotel, a beautifully restored 122-year-old luxury hotel in the heart of LoDo, lower downtown Denver’s trendy, old-is-cool area of the city. If only my bed at home could be like this white cloud. After three nights, I felt as if I’d caught up on decades of missed sleep.
I peeked out from the goose down comforter. The morning light was creating a golden halo around the heavy, old-fashioned draperies covering the tall windows that overlooked Wazee and 17th Street just a block from the old Union Train Station. The station is currently undergoing renovations to become a major transportation hub that will link to Denver’s sophisticated light rail system that will soon include a line to the city’s airport.
The ease of getting around is just one of the reasons why Denver is an annual weekend getaway for me. It’s easy to get here and once I’m here, no need to rent a car — most everything is walkable. The downtown area, where I love to stay, is about 50 years ahead of Los Angeles in terms of progressive urban living; there are tons of interesting things to do, day and night, and a significant population of fellow singulars. In fact, for three years in a row, Forbes rated Denver as the No. 1 best city for singles in America.
Propping up on a few fluffy pillows, I was struck once again by the gorgeous room. Restored to look as it might have back in the day when gold and silver barons made millions in just months, with high ceilings, rich red brocade draperies and heavy tasseled tiebacks, it was like waking up on a movie set. But instead of facades, this lovingly restored hotel is the real deal and definitely one of Denver’s most eclectic and fascinating places to stay.
There are several great hotels in downtown Denver, many near the LoDo area, but my corner room on the third floor of the Oxford was just the ticket for a long, luxurious weekend in the mile-high city. Surprisingly, despite the posh décor, the hotel is pet friendly — something I learned when a handsome cowboy pulled up to check in with a friendly Australian shepherd that came bounding into the lobby.
Just next door is the Oxford Club Spa & Salon, with a signature stone massage experience that starts with a milk-and-honey foot ritual, proceeds to a full-body dry brushing and ends with warm river stones placed on stiff muscles while expert hands melt knots into butter. There’s a full-service salon there too, super convenient for a blow dry and style — a great way to avoid the usual “getting ready” process in the hotel room before a night on the town.
This Gold Rush-era hotel gave me a hunger for more history, so my weekend included a stop at the Molly Brown House Museum. You may remember Molly Brown from the movie starring Debbie Reynolds (The Unsinkable Molly Brown), or as the brave matron in Titanic who demanded that her lifeboat crew go back in search of survivors.
Brown’s home has been restored to look as it did when she lived there in the late 1800s. Now, dedicated docents in old-fashioned attire will lead you though the house. Check out the Molly Brown House website beforehand for special events like high teas and costume parties. One that caught my eye was the “Art of Flirtation Cream Tea,” where you sip tea with pinky extended while you learn to flirt Victorian style, using your fan, gloves, handkerchief and parasol.
Just a few walkable blocks west of the Molly Brown House, near the 24-carat gold-domed Colorado State Capitol, you’ll find a cultural oasis known as the Golden Triangle Museum District with eight different museums, as well as Denver’s main library with its dramatic turrets, towers and rotundas. Grab a snack and a coffee at Mad Beans & Wine Café and then walk across the courtyard to the Denver Art Museum, both the original building with its shimmery glass tiles that sparkle in the sun and the newer Frederic C. Hamilton Building, an even more futuristic architectural adventure designed by an inspired Daniel Libeskind, who modeled the building after the crystals found in the mineral-rich Colorado Rockies.
It’s easy to get back to LoDo. Just walk across Civic Center Park and over to the 16th Street Mall, where you can catch the free shuttle bus, a horse-drawn carriage or a pedicab back to your hotel. My chosen form of transportation, however, was with Denver B-cycle. With this bike-sharing program you can pick up a bike from one of the many B-stations, use it to pedal to your next destination and then park it at another B-station.
Stop anywhere on your way back to LoDo to eat lunch, shop or watch street performers on the 16th Street Mall. And be sure to stop off at Larimer Square, the epicenter of Denver’s urban revival that began thanks to the vision of a woman named Dana Crawford. Where others saw urban decay and useless old buildings, Crawford saw “golden days” character and an opportunity to preserve the city’s colorful history. With her vision, Larimer Square became the cornerstone that launched the renovation of the LoDo area, attracting elegant shops and restaurants in what is now one of Denver’s most stylish commercial and residential zones.
Denver loves a good party and LoDo, especially on a weekend night, is party central. With Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, on its eastern edge, the Pepsi Center, home of NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, on the north, and a mile west, the Bronco’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High stadium, pre-game, after-game and even no game at all is always a great excuse for Denver people to get out and enjoy the many bars and restaurants in the LoDo neighborhood.
If you’re staying at the Oxford, a great place to start your night is at the Cruise Room, located just off the hotel lobby. Opened the day after Prohibition was repealed in 1933, this original art-deco bar was built for discreet drinking and now specializes in martinis. You feel as if you’ve time- traveled to the 1930s as you enter the warm glow of pinkish neon lights that reflect on the original chrome and rich wood wall panels. There are at least 30 kinds of martinis on the bar menu and the Cruise Room buzzes with chatty patrons from happy hour till closing time.
Although fancy cocktails can be found anywhere in LoDo, beer is Denver’s beverage of choice with a history that started with Coors and Tivoli and today thrives with an abundance of microbreweries. The Wynkoop Brewery Company is a great example. This enormous bar in an old LoDo warehouse has a beer menu that includes such brews as Cowtown Milk Stout with flavors of chocolate, coffee and milk sugar, and Patty’s Chili Beer with Anaheim and ancho pepper flavors. There’s even a Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout made with freshly sliced and roasted bull testicles!
An entertaining spot not to miss is the Corner Office on the main floor of the Curtis Hotel, another favorite because of its playful, mid-century modern motif. The bar is always packed and there’s happy hour every day of the week from 3-6 p.m. and again from 9 p.m. to closing. Located across the street from the stunning Denver Performing Arts Complex, which includes a concert hall, four theaters and other smaller performance venues, the Corner Office it’s a great place to stop in after a show for refreshments.
I often get surprised looks from my Los Angeles friends when I say that Denver is one of my favorite places for a long weekend escape but the fact is, whether your interest is great dining, Old West folklore, pub and club hopping, fabulous shopping, sports of all kinds, socializing with friends, art galleries or even the admiration of outstanding urban planning, by all accounts, Denver has emerged as a capital of cool.
Copyright © Kim Calvert/2013 Singular Communications, LLC.
We’re going to Denver the weekend of June 6-8, 2014. Join us! Click here to see the itinerary.
Frontier is based out of the Denver International Airport, which means it has its own terminal and own security checkpoint, making it possible to avoid the crunch of passengers from other airlines. And who can resist the images of the cute critters that adorn each aircraft’s tail? You’ll be there in about two hours and a round trip ticket can start as low as $200.
The Oxford Hotel
1600 17th Street
Denver, CO 80202
Rooms: $199 – $800
Homewood Suites by Hilton
550 15th Street
Denver, CO 80202
King Suites: $229 – $259
1405 Curtis Street
Denver, CO 80202
Rooms: $159 – $399
The Corner Office – Great happy hour, including late night
Blake Street Vault – Awesome hamburgers and beer
Sam’s No. 3 Diner & Bar – Killer breakfast at a great price (try the Wild Bill Skillet with buffalo grilled with jalapeños, onions, green chili and jack cheese)
The Cruise Room – Best martinis in town and a classic atmosphere
Wynkoop Brewery Company – Wildest beer menu—ever
Delaney’s Cigar Bar & Lounge – Cozy living room atmosphere and great cigars
Corridor 44 – Champagne rules at this upscale Larimer Square venue
1up – More than 45 classic arcade games and multiple sets of giant Jenga