Denver recon visit: neighborhoods, music scene?
February 26, 2013 7:57 PM   Subscribe

Last-minute trip to Denver starting March 6. I'll have wed-fri and then monday for me-time in the city and I plan to do my usual routine whenever in a new city: investigate it as a possible future home.

I'll be renting rooms via airbnb in central areas and getting around without a car (I'm fearless of the cold). I travel light, so I have no problem relocating to a new room in a new neighborhood each day.

I've reviewed the related previous posts, but I wanted to ask this question from the perspective of a 29 year old straight single male searching for a place to call home. I like being around pubs, coffee shops, local restaurants, used bookstores, Hackerspaces, parks, record stores.

My favorite form of exercise is swimming, so I'll be sure to scout any areas which might have a gym with a lap pool.

I'm Unitarian Universalist. Would any of you know which local congregation might be a good one for someone my age to plug into? I'll be able to go scout a sunday service while I'm there.

What might you add to those previous threads, and has anything changed since they've been up?

To ask it another way: if you were in my position prior to moving there, what would you tell yourself to do and where to go while there? What experiences did you have that gave you the idea that this place might work for you?

Where should I go on a thursday or friday night to check out the local music scene? My tastes are broad.

Thank you!
posted by myriad gantry to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Well, to get you started, Wax Trax is ground zero for record stores. Capitol Hill (where Wax Trax is located) is fairly bursting these days with coffee houses, bookstores, parks, etc., but I don't know how expensive it is, in case you're looking to live on a budget (it's gentrified a lot since I last lived in Denver).
posted by scody at 8:23 PM on February 26, 2013

Best answer: Coffee: Pablo's (6th and Washington), Bike Cafe (Uptown on 17th)
Food: Watercourse and City O City (same owners, vegetarian/hipster)
Used bookstores: look on South Broadway where there are at least a few (around here)
Parks: check out Washington Park (which has a Rec Center with a pool) and City Park. Also, check out the parks along the river and the Cherry Creek trail.
Record stores: Wax Trax on 13th and Twist and Shout on E. Colfax
UU: I have no direct experience but I am sure you would want the one in Denver proper at 1400 Lafayette St

I think you have to be way more specific regarding what you are looking for in a pub and restaurants.

I'm not sure what made me realize that Denver could be a place for me. It has a lot to do with the fact that it is a city but is accessible to the mountains and foothills for outdoorsy stuff. I also think Denver has a fairly good network of bike trails and the public transportation is getting better all the time (as they add lightrail lines).
posted by fieldtrip at 8:27 PM on February 26, 2013

Ask additional questions or provide clarification. Please feel free to memail, too.
posted by fieldtrip at 8:29 PM on February 26, 2013

I did a VERY similar trip in January (AirBNB, got around without a car (though I got a 5 day unlimited transit pass), explored neighborhoods).

I don't have a ton to offer by way of experience, but *EVERYONE* recommended Capitol Hill and the various "XX Park" neighborhoods.

Denhac is pretty neat, I structured my trip so I could go to their open house night. They were a great group of people with some fun toys/equipment on hand.

PadMapper is the often recommended site for apartment searching in the Denver area, in case you're wanting to check out properties during the trip.

Beyond that, I found that the people were amazing, folks were always happy to offer suggestions or point me in the right direction.

I'm moving sort of near Cherry Creek in June (I had to weigh neighborhood choices with "will they allow my dogs").

I hope the trip goes well!
posted by HermitDog at 8:34 PM on February 26, 2013

On Friday, the First Friday art walk may be of interest. It, naturally, gets far less crowds during the winter but that can mean it is easier to actually check out the artwork. It is in the Santa Fe Arts District....there is often some neat stuff going on.
posted by fieldtrip at 8:36 PM on February 26, 2013

I just relocated to Denver two weeks ago.. 28 year old girl. I landed in Wash Park. I'll be out of town on a business trip until March 7th but memail me if you want to meet up for a beer while you are here!

I also second the wash park rec center pool for a great place to swim (and the park itself for a run).
posted by cakebatter at 8:43 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

On Friday, the First Friday art walk may be of interest. It, naturally, gets far less crowds during the winter but that can mean it is easier to actually check out the artwork. It is in the Santa Fe Arts District....there is often some neat stuff going on.

First Friday would be this Friday, March 1st, so the OP will miss that.
posted by alex_skazat at 9:02 PM on February 26, 2013

Shoot. So it is. I was thinking the OP was coming this weekend.
posted by fieldtrip at 9:09 PM on February 26, 2013

We moved to Denver a year ago. We currently rent in Cherry Creek, but bought a house in the Highlands, which is a neighborhood across the river from downtown. 32nd street in the Highlands is a neat pocket with lots of local restaurants, bars, etc you should check out. Other areas we have loved include Wash Park, Congress Park, and the South Pearl Street area. Nice walkable neighborhoods. The mountains are so close, hiking is great, food here is good, beer is excellent. Oh, and the weather is amazing. Plus, no mosquitoes! Lots to offer. If you have more specific questions, please ask or memail me.
posted by fyrebelley at 9:47 PM on February 26, 2013

Pretty much everything on your want list except a church of your choosing is available in the Baker neighborhood. Add to that a cinema (the Mayan) a bowling alley (granted it's the redonkulously trendy Punchbowl Social, but still), a post office, multiple small craft brewers, a distillery and we're within walking distance of Cap Hill and the Santa Fe arts district.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:12 PM on February 26, 2013

I live in Boulder but am quite fond of the Berkeley neighborhood. You may want to check it out.
posted by cyndigo at 10:37 PM on February 26, 2013

If you like beer, you can try a good local assortment (as well as some of the best coffee in town) at the aforementioned Bike Cafe - formal name is Denver Bicycle Cafe. Fits your demographic perfectly.

Also, if you are into beer, seek out Wit's End brewery - it's hard to find, in a warehouse just west of I-25, but totally worth it.

You can't check it out in March, but there is an outdoor, Olympic-sized pool in Congress Park. Not fancy but HUGE and fantastic for summer lap swimming. Other than that, Denver Parks and Rec has many indoor gyms (such as the one in Wash Park mentioned above) - cheap, decent fitness facilities all over town.

I've been to the UU church at 14th and Lafayette and keep meaning to become a regular - definitely worth checking out.

This is a great place to be 29 and single, especially if you like playing outside as well as city stuff. People move here from all over, so the vibe is very social, easy to meet others like you. Hope you like it!
posted by TrixieRamble at 12:06 AM on February 27, 2013

I've lived in the Denver area for... 13 years? Or so?

It's a fine city - mostly how cheap you can live here, although that's been changing...

But if you're not interested in the mountains nearby, there's literally no special reason to live here. It's a largish city, located in the Midwest, which isn't very attractive - I don't think.

There's all the trappings of any largish city, except for any sort of water - we're in the middle of a drought, that turns summer into "The Shit is on Fire" show, that Denver has a front row seat to.

I'd love to tell you about our wonderful music scene, but you didn't mention much about that. It's also a city that's mildly doable without a car, but certainly not built in mind for people without one. I've managed well for 8+ years without having one. But 20 miles riding a day is what I do, on a low mileage day of commuting. Which is fine for me, as I ride bikes for insane distances for fun, I can see how others may not like that.

posted by alex_skazat at 12:13 AM on February 27, 2013

I'm not sure what a hackerspace is, but maybe Club Workshop fits the bill? My husband is crazy about it.
posted by TrixieRamble at 12:14 AM on February 27, 2013

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for the great responses everybody.

More clarifying details:
I'm definitely into mountains and outdoors. It appeals to me that Denver has a strong focus on that kind of practical, sincere activity instead of hipness per se. Cause I'm not all that hip. But hipness can make a city interesting and I appreciate it. Just pondering what sort of place I can fit in, what shapes the spirit of a place, ya know?

I spent two days in Boulder a few years ago and had the pleasure of hiking the Flat Irons and tasting my first Fat Tire.

alex_skazat: regarding music scene, I like small underground indie rock clubs. Hackerspace: google it. I do own a car, but am unafraid to cycle, walk, or use public transport. Prefer it really, when feasible.

I make a good living, and can afford up to $1,000/mo in rent comfortably. I currently pay $850 for a nice 1,000 sq ft place downtown in my current city, but I know that that's not typical elsewhere. Denver's affordability is a plus.

Beer: I appreciate good craft beer, but what appeals to me are pubs. The kind of pubs you have in Philly. Where strangers are interested in talking to you. My current city drives me crazy how people look at you like you're a serial killer if you strike up a conversation.
posted by myriad gantry at 4:58 AM on February 27, 2013

For clarification, Denhac = Denver Hackerspace.
posted by HermitDog at 7:49 AM on February 27, 2013

I can't really comment much on the bar-scene, as I don't drink all that much. But, there's literally too many micro breweries to list, safe to say, you're going to kind of stumble into them. Never been to Philly, so I'm not sure what type of pub you're looking for. Avoid Lodo, is my only consolation.

For music around what you may be looking for, you may try seeing a show at one of the theatre-type venues: Bluebird, Ogden, Gothic and the Filmore. There's also smaller venues like Hi-dive, Marquis, etc - we can get from "dive" to "downright weird" by going from the Lion's Liar to Bar Bar. Most all shows are listed in the weekly Westword, which you can pick up almost anywhere. If you were here on the 1st, I'd invite you to my band's show.

I tend to avoid almost any public transportation options, save for the regional, Denver <> Boulder bus, which I take almost every week at least. Anything in town can be cycled faster than busing it.

The light rail is expanding and is exciting, but currently doesn't go to any real destination I want to go - it just literally goes in a S -> N line from the 'burbs. And it's literally shadowed by a bike path. In the future(!), there will be lines that go E <> W, most interestingly to Golden, as well as a separate line to the airport, which will be lovely. Still, it's somewhat of an expensive ride.

I don't think the rent-a-bike system will be up and running by March, but it seems to be popular. Expensive, again.
posted by alex_skazat at 3:19 PM on February 27, 2013

I'm not sure why Alex thinks the public transportation and B-Cycle , bike rental kiosk program, systems are expensive...they are both very average compared to the rest of the country.

Denver is in the middle of the largest expansion of public transportation in the U.S. I think it is rather exciting. The west rail line (to Golden as mentioned) will be operational within a few months. The northwest line to Westminster (to start with) and the line to the airport will both be coming on in 2016. It is an awesome time to live in Denver. [But, yes, as of today. The north-south lines to Littleton and the Denver Tech Center have limited use for anyone who doesn't live in the south suburbs or commute to the DTC].
posted by fieldtrip at 7:35 PM on February 27, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you for the answers everyone! This has all been very helpful and will make a difference for me.

Alex: Lion's Liar sounds right to me. I'll be sure to make an appearance.

The mass transit expansion is exciting to me indeed. At least in the sense that the voters in Denver want this. My current city foolishly rejected a major transportation bill last year and made everyone wonder if it's even worth the effort to improve the place.

Since answers keep trickling in I'm going to wait another couple days before marking this 'answered.'
posted by myriad gantry at 5:18 AM on February 28, 2013

Response by poster: oh! one more question: what's the best way to get to and from the airport from downtown?
posted by myriad gantry at 9:36 AM on February 28, 2013

"Best way" = drive.

Alternatives: Supershuttle, RTD SkyRide, Taxi.
posted by FlamingBore at 11:05 AM on February 28, 2013

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