Culture / Travel

How To Spend 72 Hours in Downtown Denver — What To Do, Where To Dine, and Ways To Get Around

Posting Up At The Brand New Thompson Hotel, The Mile High City Is Cool and Walkable (And Pedicab-Friendly)

BY // 05.05.22

As a first-timer to Denver, I wanted to explore all the city has to offer during a recent three-day visit. Not knowing much about the lay of the land, I was grateful to stay at Thompson Denver, a brand new, ground-up hotel located right in the middle of LoDo—a neighborhood known for its trendy dining and shopping scene. Within walking distance of the Thompson were several happening spots, including Larimer Square, Union Station, and the Ballpark District. With only 72 hours to experience the Mile High City, I made sure to hit as many can’t-miss restaurants, bars, attractions, and more—all walkable (or pedicab-able)—in the area.

Using the new Thompson Denver as a downtown home base, here’s how to experience some of the city’s best in just one weekend.

 

Thompson Denver_City View King_Credit Julie Soefer
A City View King room at Thompson Denver. (Photo by Julie Soefer)

The Brand New Thompson Denver Hotel

Just opened in February 2022, Thompson Denver is a luxury boutique hotel in Downtown Denver. Located on Market and 16th Street Mall, the hotel (part of the hospitality brand‘s expanding U.S. portfolio) was the perfect spot to post up and explore the city, as well as crash for a few naps in between excursions.

Designed by Parts + Labor (which also handled Thompson Nashville and the new Diner Bar in Austin) as a “modern-day urban chalet,” Thompson Denver boasts natural colors and cozy textures of the American West. Each guest room features a brown saddle leather headboard, dark hardwood floors with a woven wool rug, a work desk, and floor-to-ceiling windows. There is also a retro Victrola speaker sitting atop a bedside table so guests can play their own music through Bluetooth.

Bathrooms feature deep green-tiled showers (or large white bathtubs depending on your room or suite), and Bowmakers bath amenities from Brooklyn-based D.S. & Durga. The woody scent of the shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner matches the mountain vibes of the hotel. Guests can also borrow a cozy robe and slippers from the room.

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Denver
Downtown Denver is super walkable, but you can book pedicab tours and rides to get around.

How to Get Around

Downtown Denver is super walkable, but if you are looking for an easier (and much more fun) way to get around town, Fair Weather Pedicab is an excellent option. Founded by Zak Bloom, the transportation and tourism company has been showing off Denver to visitors and locals alike since launching in 2019.

On our tour, we rode through LoDo, River North Art District (also known as RiNo and home to some of the coolest murals), got a glimpse of Big Blue Bear peering into the Convention Center, sped by the Colorado State Capitol, and took a detour through Commons Park to get The Little Man ice cream in Highland. You can schedule a one-hour tour for $120.

Chez Maggy Denver
Chez Maggy is a French restaurant located in Thompson Denver. (Photo by Marc Fiorito of Gamma Nine Photography)

Where To Eat and Drink

Chez Maggy

Chez Maggy is a French restaurant located in Thompson Denver. It’s led by chef and TV personality Ludo Lefebvre. He is based out of Los Angeles where his restaurant Le Petit Trois has two locations. Chez Maggy is a love letter to Lefebvre’s mother-in-law Margaret, a Denver native.

I dined at the restaurant for both brunch and dinner. The smoked salmon tartine was a favorite in the morning with scrambled eggs, capers, and creme fraiche. For dinner, the French onion soup is a cheesy concoction of veal broth and gruyere. The Burger a la Française is another must-try on Chef Lefebvre’s menu. It includes American cheese, pepper gravy, pickled mustard seed, smoked mayonnaise, and beer-braised onions. Also, don’t miss the French Martini with vodka, cassis, pineapple, lemon, and vanilla. It is delightful.

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One must try the Liberty Farms duck breast at Rioja. (Photo by Joni Schrantz)

Rioja

For lunch or dinner, you cannot miss James Beard award-winning chef Jennifer Jasinski’s Rioja when visiting Denver. Start with the Oopsie Daisy — a tequila-based drink with ancho chile liqueur, orange Curaçao, lime juice, and pineapple simple syrup. Pair with the kampachi crudo starter which also has pineapple flavors, as well as avocado crema. The artichoke tortelloni is another favorite, as well as the fresh bacon pork belly. But definitely do not leave before trying the Liberty Farms duck breast with a pistachio crust. It comes with carrot-turmeric purée and a five-spice jus that you want to scoop every last bite up with.

Mercantile Dining and Provision

Swing by Union Station’s Mercantile Dining and Provision for Saturday Brunch to indulge in former Dallas Uchi chef Alex Astrani‘s new menu in Denver. If you’re more of a lunch mood, the Mercantile Burger is a great choice made with a Füdmil potato sesame bun, served with fries and chipotle aioli. For breakfast bites, the pork belly biscuit and Turkish eggs with garlic yogurt, Urfa, and grilled sourdough are both popular.

Thompson Denver_Reynard Social Fireplace_Credit Julie Soefer
Reynard Social serves craft cocktails and wine overlooking the Rocky Mountains. (Photo by Julie Soefer)

Reynard Social

If you’re looking for cocktails and light bites, the Thompson’s sixth-floor bar, Reynard Social, is worth a visit. Named after the beloved trickster of European folklore, Reynard the Fox, the bar includes three different rooms to relax in—one has a pool table. Crafted by cocktail curator/general manager Christopher Norton, the drinks menu includes can’t miss sips like the foamy Peak Interest (tequila, fig, raspberry, lime, and egg white) and the refreshing Slope Side Spritz with apple brandy, chai, lemon, and sider. Another favorite is the Après Ski, a warm cocktail with herbal liqueur, framboise, chocolate, and milk.

 

Wynkoop Brewing Denver
Wynkoop Brewing Company is a must-visit brewery in Denver. (Courtesy)

What To Do in Downtown Denver

Wynkoop Brewing Company

Colorado’s first brewpub (founded in 1988), Wynkoop Brewing Company, is a fun spot to take a private tour. Head brewer Todd Bellmyer led our group on a Friday afternoon. We got to explore every inch of the historic J.S. Brown Mercantile building and sample different Wynkoop brews along the way. Some of their most unique creations are the Angry Patty’s Chile Beer, Kurt’s Coffee Lager, and Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout (made with roasted bull testicles). I tried a minuscule sip of this last one—not my thing. The hazy Foggy Locomotive IPA was more my speed.

The upstairs area of Wynkoop is filled with pool tables, shuffleboards, darts, a bar, and several private seating areas. They also serve a full menu of burgers, salads, and even honey-glazed salmon with farro. The brewery is not currently doing public tours, but you can book a private tour here.

Meow Wolf Denver
Meow Wolf Denver just debuted in 2021 and is a must-see attraction in the Mile High City. (Photo by Jess Bernstein / Courtesy of Meow Wolf)

Meow Wolf Denver

Now for my absolute favorite part of the trip: Meow Wolf Convergence Station. After visiting the original Santa Fe location last summer and being blown away, it was on my bucket list to see Las Vegas’ Omega Mart and the Denver spot.

Opened near Empower Field (Bronco Stadium) last summer, the third and newest Meow Wolf is a surreal, four-story experience consisting of more than 70 installations. Like the original location, it’s not easy to explain with words alone—you just have to see it for yourself. It took us about two hours to get a glimpse of everything, but you can opt to spend five hours with a QPass — which helps you participate in the Convergence Exchange where you collect and share memories as you go through Meow Wolf.

And very exciting news for Dallasites — the next Meow Wolf is rumored to be coming to Texas.

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