Where to stay in the Denver/Boulder area?
May 15, 2017 4:35 PM   Subscribe

On a lark, my wife and I booked flights to Denver in June for a week's vacation. We've never even been to the state of Colorado. How should we divide up our time and what towns should we stay? We are into beer and vegetarian restaurants and funky shops and hiking.
posted by smackfu to Travel & Transportation around Colorado (16 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Spend some time in RMNP of course. I've had good luck with Air B&B in Lyons, but it's worth seeing what's available (in whatever sort of lodging you're after) in Estes Park. In Lyons, stop for some beers at Oskar Blues.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 4:43 PM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

My favorite vegetarian restaurant in Denver: WaterCourse
posted by kbuxton at 5:39 PM on May 15, 2017

It's been a while since my Boulder days, but... Dakota Ridge and any of the many Chautauqua trails were favorite hikes. Avery brewery is a good one, though of course there are plenty others. Mountain Sun is one of my favorite places ever!

Outside of Boulder: If there's a concert you're particularly interested in at Red Rocks, I'd say that's worth the trip. RMNP of course. I'm not exactly sure if I'd recommend the Coors tour out in Golden, but certainly it makes for a fun "compare-and-contrast" exercise after seeing all the smaller breweries. New Belgium is a great tour though it's a bit farther away (in Fort Collins).

Drink a lot of water (and not a lot of beer) for your first two-ish days there. And be sure to read up on Denver Airport conspiracy theories before arriving, if that's your thing.
posted by mustardayonnaise at 5:52 PM on May 15, 2017

I think Boulder is much more fun and nicer than Denver. That's where I spend most of my time when I visit the area. You don't state a budget, but the St Julien is the best hotel in Boulder, and where I recommend staying.
posted by primethyme at 6:10 PM on May 15, 2017

Two days Denver, two days boulder, two days RMNP - depending on your flights, I would stay in Denver the night before. Hit Lyons as suggested, Chautauqua, you could drive up to Nederland to get a taste of a nearby mountain town (it's not the best of them by far, but it's close to boulder), hit red rocks park in the morning on the drive from Denver to Boulder to see the rock formations - and maybe dinosaur ridge.

In Denver make sure to stop by union station and meander from there. In boulder see pearl street and the Boulder creek.

Drink water, wear sunscreen and sunglasses and a hat, bring layers for the mountains and an umbrella. Don't drink too much your first night.
posted by umwhat at 6:30 PM on May 15, 2017

Denver to Boulder to Lyons to Estes Park and RMNP. Great beer in Denver. Catch a Rockies game at Coors field if you like baseball. 16th street mall is ok during day can get sketchy at night. Denver has a nice Botanic garden. Good Art Museum. Boulder will easily accomodate your vegetarian desires. Spend an afternoon on Pearl Street Mall to fully experience Boulder. Chautauqua in Boulder is historic and has beautiful easily accesible hikes - I got married there! Parking can be horrendous though. Lyons is a cute stop on way to Estes/RMNP. Definitely visit RMNP. Estes is crazy busy in summer and shops are more touristy than funky. Fort Collins has a lot to offer too but is an hour from Denver.
posted by ChristineSings at 7:04 PM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hotel Boulderado next to a pedestrian mall, the top of which is an entrance to a mountain park with trails .
posted by hortense at 7:39 PM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

With respect to vegetarian ... Denver has quite a few Ethiopian restaurants with vegetarian dishes e.g. Mesir Wat and Kik Alicha. Be sure to request injera made with teff, not buckwheat.
posted by falsedmitri at 7:58 PM on May 15, 2017

Two places I can recommend in Boulder are the cottages at Chautauqua and the Foot of the Mountain Motel. Neither are air conditioned, but both are super charming and have good walking access to parks and trails, Chautauqua especially.
posted by zsazsa at 8:18 PM on May 15, 2017

Make sure to take the tour of the Celestial Seasonings tea factory when you're in Boulder! In addition to what everyone else said.
posted by trampoliningisfun at 8:45 PM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you find yourself in Boulder, Dushanbe Tea House is not to be missed. Seconding Avery (in Boulder) for beers.

Vegetarian restaurants in Denver: Watercourse and City O City are good options. I really like Root Down for a slightly fancier feel. Vital Root is also quite good.

Hiking: Rocky Mountain National Park on a weekday (also drive Trail Ridge Road--bring a coat and hat). Flatirons in Boulder.
posted by sugarbomb at 9:03 PM on May 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

After years of visiting family in Denver, and coming from sea level, first things first: learn something about altitude sickness, and ways to help shorten the transition. Not everyone reacts the same way, but there's no point in investing in busy activities the first few days without knowing how you'll feel.

Denver's a mile high, and the worst of altitude sickness (also known as mountain sickness) tends to occur over two miles up. My brother never had much difficulty. I've always had headache, fatigue, and nausea for a couple of days; I mostly stay quiet and hydrate like crazy and feel better by the end of day two. My husband feels horrible for about 8 hours after arrival, but then he's better. (Of course, it could be his getting used to my family rather than the altitude....)

Here's hoping you have no trouble, and a wonderful time!
posted by kestralwing at 9:51 PM on May 15, 2017

+1 for Dushanbe and Pearl Street in Boulder, plus RMNP and Estes Park. I've visited Colorado (mostly Boulder) a handful of times and here's what stuck with me that you might enjoy:

Pearl Street and downtown Boulder: funky shops, lots of little eateries with many leaning towards veggie-friendly cuisines. There's a salad at Kitchen Next Door that I particularly LOVED. Also enjoyed Boxcar, Mountain Sun, Sherpa's, a little hippie cafe (I think it was Yellow Cafe??)...If you're into live music or theater, they hold some outdoor summer performances in the amphitheater downtown. For shops, my favorites included Two Hands Paperie, Peppercorn, the bookstore downtown, and some gemstone/fossil/ local crafts stores (sorry I cannot recall the names but they are all concentrated on Pearl Street).

Special mention for Dushanbe: unique teahouse + restaurant. My favorite part about it is the ambience you get from the fantastic interior and park-like location next to the creek. The architecture has a fun little origin story: it was constructed in Tajikistan and shipped to Boulder for their sister-city friendship.

For beer--Colorado has so much beer...We had a bit at all of the random pubs we went to (e.g., Mountain Sun) but my beer-loving friend also took me to a brewery called Avery. It's a little drive out of town but they are super generous with the beer, and the food was good too.

Nederland also has some interesting shops and a wonderful little cafe called Happy Trails. I didn't hike around there but it is a little in the mountain areas so there may be hiking options.
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 1:41 AM on May 16, 2017

i'm a big fan of stopping by Gravity Brewing in Louisville on your way from Denver to Boulder. Good food good beer. And lots of great suggestions above.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:28 AM on May 16, 2017

First, I'd say Denver is *vastly* more interesting than Boulder these days, which seems very samesy-samesy and kind of "yes I suppose this was quirky in the '90s but now it just feels wealthy" ish? But there is a TON of cool stuff to do there, I am sure.

If you are interested in taking an awesome beer tour of the RiNo district, shoot me a MeMail and I'll send you my favorite route. June will be perfect weather. Rent a B-cycle and take a ride along the Cherry Creek bike trail.

Airbnb is the best in Denver. I would stay down near South Broadway between 3rd and Ohio. Lots of shops there. Also The Historian, an excellent beer bar with a patio deck and $10 (I think) lunch specials with beer + burger (veggie options too, I believe) + fries. You can also try Tennyson, which has a bunch of art galleries and restaurants. Santa Fe is also an excellent choice, especially if you happen to be in town on the first Friday of the month (First Friday is always a ton of fun.)

Further down on Broadway there's Grandma's House, which is one of my favorite breweries in the city -- not because the beer is super great (it's okay, and would be even better if there weren't SO MUCH good beer in Denver), but because they have Super Nintendo and delicious hard candies and old puzzles and lots of crochet.

My fiance is vegetarian and one of his favorite restaurants in the whole wide world is City o' City on Sherman and 13th. Watercourse is great, too, but I think it's overpriced and City o City has killer happy hour specials. Now I want to go there. If you want something fancier, Root Down is also phenomenal.

As for breweries not to miss (okay, these are spread out, but at least try to hit a few!): Ratio, Mockery, Fiction, Cerebral, Odd13 (up in Lafayette but making some of the best beers in the world), Station 26, Weldwerks (in Greeley, possibly only reason to visit Greeley).

Also, Estes Park is lovely. I'm getting married there in June so totally biased. BOOK LODGING NOW. IT WILL SELL OUT.
posted by good day merlock at 3:30 PM on May 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you're in Boulder on a Friday, Jill's restaurant in the St. Julien Hotel has a lovely vegan lunch buffet.
posted by lagomorph at 1:07 PM on May 17, 2017

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