Help me plan a surreal vacation
May 2, 2013 10:57 AM   Subscribe

I'm visiting Denver later this month and am curious about what the city has to offer that is unique and offbeat in a specific way. I like the kitschy/cheesy, I love the weird/slightly spooky. My best trips to strange cities have involved: antique fairs and curio shops, museums centered around one niche concept, rambly old graveyards, outsider art in all forms, graffitied ruins and abandoned spaces, anything historical that focuses on the everyday experiences of common people.

I've looked at Atlas Obscura and Roadside America, but it seems that most things I've found are a couple hours' drive outside of the city. I'm looking for something a bit closer.

I have already come across the Museum of Miniatures and Toys and Linger (a mortuary turned very tasty looking restaurant), both of which look promising. Of course, I'll also be doing the mandatory hiking and brewery touring.

I would be grateful for any tips the hivemind can share!
posted by erstwhile ungulate to Travel & Transportation around Denver, CO (15 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I have never been anywhere in Denver but the Denver Airport, but I got stuck there during a 4 hr layover in the middle of the afternoon one time and amused myself by wandering around trying to find all the landmarks in the Denver Airport Conspiracy. There is a wealth of craziness around that airport (and I'll give them that many of the architectural choices are... uh.... interesting.) So you might be able to start your tour right after you step off the plane!
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:02 AM on May 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

If you like kitschy/cheesy, you have to go to Casa Bonita
posted by Clustercuss at 11:02 AM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Denver International Airport is very sinister.
posted by Wordwoman at 11:02 AM on May 2, 2013

I hope this isn't too much of a derail from what you're looking for, but when taking a break from your touring, you might enjoy Mario's Double Daughters Salotto. It's a bar with delicious drinks and what can best be described as a Tim-Burtonesque ambiance. I'm into the same sort of creepy/spooky/kitschy stuff you describe and I quite enjoyed it.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 11:03 AM on May 2, 2013

Linger is a terminally hip yuppie restaurant in a newly gentrified part of town.. Might not have the type of vibe you really want.
posted by cakebatter at 11:33 AM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's a bit outside of Denver proper but if you are willing to venture up into the mountains... Idaho Springs has some odd gems. The Phoenix Gold Mine tour is authentic and can be creepy, especially when conducted by one of the actual miners.

Also I haven't been in 15 years, but the hot springs in Idaho Springs are in a really David Lynchian old resort. Especially the mud baths in the basement.... shudder.
posted by MrHalfwit at 11:48 AM on May 2, 2013

If you can get out of the city and into the mountains for a mine or ghost town tour, that would be spectacular. I remember visiting Cripple Creek when I lived in Littleton and was sufficiently creeped out by the mine tour. It's about an hour or so from Denver, in the Pike's Peak area.

There is also the Buckhorn Exchange at 10th and Osage in Denver (parking lot and light rail station across the street). They specialize in big game meals (elk, buffalo, etc.) and boast liquor licence number one in the state of Colorado. It's been there since the 1890's and the whole place is chock full of taxidermied animals and wild west memorabilia. It does get crowded on Fridays and Saturdays, but you can pass the time waiting for a table by enjoying a drink and some old cowboy music in their upstairs lounge. I never go to Denver without visiting the Buckhorn.
posted by youngergirl44 at 12:59 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

depending on the length of your stay, a car rental may be in order. go an hour or so north and you can bathe in natural hot springs. go about three hours south and you can visit the surreal, ever-changing sand dunes, the largest in north America. in between are a handful of ghost towns.

also, just outside of Denver you won't have trouble finding small fields of barking prairie dogs, even in more urban areas.
posted by jander03 at 1:31 PM on May 2, 2013

Westminster Castle. As I recall it's less than 1/2 hour from downtown.
posted by LonnieK at 1:32 PM on May 2, 2013

It doesn't meet your drive proximity criteria, but I love the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. It's where Stephen King wrote The Shining. Hard to walk the halls and not see creepy twins out of the corner of your eye.
posted by cecic at 2:19 PM on May 2, 2013

As a kid, I loved Tiny Town - and now I see that it's better than ever! Fun for adults in touch with their inner child.
posted by dbmcd at 2:28 PM on May 2, 2013

You could hang out in Cheesman Park in the evening.
posted by humboldt32 at 4:19 PM on May 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

+1 to Buckhorn Exchange
posted by reptile at 4:26 PM on May 2, 2013

When we went to Denver a few years ago, we went to Buffalo Bills Gravesite. We didn't go to the museum, but i suspect it's kitchy. We went mostly for the view. I really liked Lakeside Amusement Park which is semi-decepit. It's got great old signs and architecture. Admission is only $2.50!
posted by vespabelle at 5:35 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, Reineke Brothers in Littleton! It's a highly surreal magic and costume store. Bonus: it's super easy to get to from Denver by light rail.
posted by Wordwoman at 7:43 PM on May 2, 2013

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