Lower Downtown Denver, or LODO Denver is actually Denver's oldest settlement. It's a vibrant historic district home to some of the city's best cuisine, coffee & shops. I had quite a short trip - only 36 hours - to explore LODO Denver and mapped out the perfect stay for you. From eats, where to stay and what to see while you're here; Denver makes for the best weekend getaway trip. Are you ready?
- Hotel Teatro: Located on 14th Street, this adorable historical hotel is the perfect stay if you love rooms with character and amazing views. Book a room on either the city or mountain view sides and you'll instantly be charmed. The hotel counts with its own Restaurant & Bar - The Nickel - and a morning cafe of sorts - The Study - perfect for early cappuccino and a good read, their couches are so comfy.
Coffee & Juice
- Pigtrain Coffee Company: One of the couple places you can grab a cup of joe in Union Square, Pigtrain serves a number of beverages, fresh squeezed juices, coffee, tea and coffee cocktails.
- Amante Coffee @ the Oxford: Located on 17th Street, this little coffee shop has a couple fun neon signs so you cannot miss it if walking by. Perfect to grab a quick coffee - and even a breakfast sandwich - if you don't feel like walking and making it to Union Station so early.
- The Study: I am a bit biased with Hotel Teatro - this is their breakfast & coffee lounge; beautiful decor and just yummy treats. Best place to visit if you have some time in the early morning - they open at 6:30am.
Breakfast, Brunch & Lunch
- Snooze: Perfect for an early Saturday; make sure to hit Union Station super early - Snooze is typically super full and more than likely will have a wait so do account for that in your planning - and order the Snooze Breakfast Burrito and a Dirty Drunken Chai to replace your Mimosa.
- Sam's No. 3: A couple of blocks away from Hotel Teatro is a not-so-hidden Downtown Denver gem, this spot is great if you love a diner experience. Also on the more affordable side for breakfast, this spot is always full and may be a bit noisy for some - but the meal is totally worth it.
- Acme Delicatessen: Also located inside Union Station, Acme is a quick place to get a bite if you're pressed for time and just want to fast-forward to exploring Downtown. Just walk in and grab The Caprese Sandwich from their little fridge, along with a bottle of water to go; and start your day.
- Menya Noodle Bar: Along 16th Street Mall, Menya Noodle Bar is perfect for a filling lunch or dinner. Its specialty is obviously noodles however they do have some new items on the menu - like their Poke Bowls - that are delish. Also try the Yakisoba with a side of Gyoza if you're not really in the mood for a ramen meal.
- The Kitchen: A garden-to-table eatery with beautiful interiors - perfect to snap a photo and post on social media - The Kitchen is located on the corner of Wazee St and 16th Street Mall, with a concept like no other in Downtown Denver. Their food is locally sourced, supporting local farmers and their menu is quite varied, with loads of vegetarian options.
- Mangiamo Pronto!: On the corner of Wazee St & 17th St is the quirky Mangiamo Pronto! An Italian eatery that serves light lunches - and coffee - as well as a variety of pastas and Italian dishes. This spot's perfect if you don't want to grab a quick lunch yet get to sit down for a bit. Try their lunch menu from 11pm forward - the Tacchino Panini is delightful!
- Mercantile: The difference between eating, and dining can be savored here in Mercantile. Their European-style interiors and menu will have you wondering if you're still in Denver. They are a restaurant/market hybrid of sorts, so purchase some of their cheeses to go and ask them to help you pair them with their assortment of wines. Do know that their restaurant menu starts at 5pm - perfect for an early dining experience and their market & breakfast hours start at 7am.
- The Nickel: Located in Hotel Teatro, The Nickel has an amazing menu of a la carte dishes, cocktails and desserts - their menu does change during the day so do keep that in mind. I absolutely loved the Quail with Thanksgiving stuffing and cranberries, it was like childhood - if my childhood was a bit more refined. Do call in before arrival to verify how long the wait is and if so, reserve a spot beforehand if you're not staying at the hotel.
- Venice: Right off Union Station, on the corner of Wynkoop & 17th St is Venice; THE spot for the perfect meal + wine combo, their wine selection is impressive. This restaurant is of course, for the wine lover and those that want to splurge a little on a meal, it's perfect for anniversary celebrations and just a great night out with friends.
- Gaslamp: Located on Market St, Gaslamp is a super contemporary lounge that serves craft beers and artisan cocktails. Open for happy hour, yet they close quite late - 2am - compared to other venues around the LODO area.
- Freshcraft: A couple of blocks off Union Station, Freshcraft is quite the place to visit if you're into craft beer or ale. They're more of a restaurant - they do serve some bar snacks and comfort food dishes - and they do close a little earlier at 12am.
- Museum of Contemporary Art Denver: A beautiful & modern building houses the Museum of Contemporary Art. It hosts 3 exhibitions (one on each floor) and they rotate every couple of months. If you're a student, make sure you bring your ID with you - tickets are $5 if you do - if not, your regular admission is only $8. They have quite a nice roof-top cafe with a nice view of the city. Honestly, this is a great place to visit if you love urban art and contemporary art movements - right now they have a graffiti exhibition and some Basquiat pieces - otherwise, you might be a bit bored.
- The Soundwalk: Stroll down Curtis St - somewhere around 15th & 16th Street -and you find yourself a little confused, and staring at the ground. Soundwalk is a Public art sound installation by artist Jim Green. The piece consists of sounds bursting through speakers under grates in the sidewalk. Pay close attention, you'll hear everything from gargling water, animals and beautiful chimes.
- Denver Art Museum: Take the Free Mall Ride Shuttle Bus until Civic Center @ Colfax and Broadway and walk a block up until you see the glass building. Denver Art Museum is your more family friendly option if you're traveling with kids or family or if you enjoy studying pieces from different art periods. Their offering is indeed more varied, ranging from painting to architecture, to pottery & costume design. They do close a bit earlier - at 5pm - so they're not your best alternative for a night at the museum. Tickets start at $24 for non-members.
- Tattered Cover Book Store: They have a couple locations, two in the LODO area (one in Union Station - quite smaller and more for souvenir shopping and their flagship on the corner of 16th Street Mall & Wynkoop St. Quite an amazing bookstore, with a bargain section right when you walk in to your left - perfect for impulse buys -and a coffee shop to your right in case you'd like to sip and stroll around the store, which I totally recommend. The book store is quite large and if you're into reading, grab a book and make yourself comfy in one of the many seating areas.
- Colorado State Capitol: Take the Free Mall Ride Shuttle Bus all the way to Civil Center and walk your way up to the Capitol building. Make sure you stop and spot the Mile High step and snap a photo! Also, walk inside from 10am to 3pm (Monday-Friday) for a free tour of the building.
- Union Station: Honestly, the heart of LODO is in Union Station. Go there hungry and have some coffee & foods at the various restaurants or just snap beautiful photos of flowers at the Bloom, inside the station. Grab a drink at the Terminal Bar or go out the next exit and check out the trains - actually, if you flew in, you can grab the train to the airport right here!
- Denver Millennium Bridge: If you love bridges and have an affinity for structures, visit the Denver Millennium Bridge. It overlooks Union Station and is a great spot to people watch and practice your train photography; it's always so active.
- Commons Park: Across the street from Millennium Bridge is LODO's largest park. Commons Park has Bike Rentals at Little Raven Street, if you're inclined to explore by bike - though those that love to jog and walk can opt for the trails along the park. PS: it has restrooms and is of course, free.
- 16th Street Mall: A one-mile-long pedestrian friendly mall, filled with (mostly) chain stores like Uniqlo and H&M as well as loads of local eateries, breweries and cafes. Use your GPS or grab a guide (you can find them on each corner of each block along Street Mall) with info on the shops and restaurants; hop on the Free MallRide Shuttle Bus and away you go!
- Larimer Square: A bit more eclectic than 16th Street Mall, Larimer Square is Denver's oldest and most historic block, and it makes for a fun spot for an afternoon of shopping for unique gifts and artisanal foods.
- Free MallRide: If you're planning on visiting anywhere near 16th Street Mall, hop on the Free Shuttle Bus on every corner. Don't worry if you miss one, there's probably another shuttle a couple blocks back, the wait is not long at all.
- RTD/Light-Rail: It's quite comfortable and great to get to other areas around Denver without spending too much time in traffic.
- Uber: If I didn't want to walk, Uber always proved itself to be quite reliable and affordable.
- Bus: Buses ran quite well in the downtown Denver area during the daytime - I resorted to Uber at any other time.
It doesn't really matter how much time you have to spend in Downtown Denver; there's so much to do and see, I promise you'll want to visit again and again. Happy Travels!