With only a short visit to exciting towns, I like to stay within walking distance to its dining and attractions. Not having to rent a car at the airport has its advantages, and takes some of the stress out of vacationing. This is what I did when in Denver, Colorado recently, by making my home base The Residence Inn by Marriott at 1725 Champa Street. As it turned out I was in the middle of the
downtown dining action I would take in. It was only a block or two, to catch the 16th street hop on and off trolley, saving steps and time
At this Residence Inn, with the amenities of breakfast and a friendly wait staff I could leisurely start my day, after a sound sleep the previous night. In a walkable downtown like Denver, and with its trolley service to popular areas, getting around was much easier and congenial than driving in traffic, hunting for the locale, and then trying to secure parking. Plus walking in the mile high city is a great way to take in the altitude’s fresh air and work up a thirst. Of course this precludes snow falls, blizzards and subzero temps, which I was lucky enough to avoid for my November visit.
One venue not to be missed is the historic Brown Palace Hotel. You need not stay the night, but a moment or two in the elegant Atrium Lobby is a treat. Another treat is to avail yourself of the food, service and ambiance of the Palace Arms and Churchill Bar. Here old world style is a natural and only surpassed by the culinary delights served by the experienced staff. European antiques and period artwork decorates the expansive room and includes a set of dueling pistols said to have belonged to Napoleon. An informative self-guided tour booklet is available for your leisure.
And then there is the view from the Peaks Lounge on the 26th floor of the Hyatt Regency, on 14th and California streets, where they offer a variety of cocktails (martinis of course my favorite) along with light appetizers and views of the city and its horizon of mountains. It is quite a popular place and while the seating might not match up to the demand, it’s worth a try. I came for a sunset, which in November almost seemed to set earlier than when Peaks was to open at 4 pm, but I made myself the first to be seated and paused for the sunset. The only disappointment was that the end of the room where the sunset over the mountains could have been seen best was blocked off for a later private party. It was a shame for this brief Denver visitor, but the libation concoctions were both delightful and promptly served. I do so dislike ordering an ice berg (frost on the pond) martini to have it set at the bar and warm up.
The hard to get in, Green Russell underground bar in a speak-easy style bar, was a bit of a disappointment to my expectations. It was very much in demand, and my reservation was accepted, but with a bit of aloofness. What is amazing here is that the bartenders take their time and carve a block of ice into a globe for your drink. I was told it is to get the most chill for the drink without diluting it. I think it might also fill the glass so much so, that there is less drink in the drink. They have rules of no cell phones (great) and no standing, so you must reserve a table or place at the bar as I did. The Martini I had was exotically mixed with fresh herbs and press to order juices. So don’t be in a hurry. If you don’t like crowds in small places, this might not be your bar.
For an atmosphere of the old world try the art deco of The Cruise Room, Denver’s original Martini Bar, in the 1891 Oxford Hotel near the Union train station. Venture into their imaginative appetizers while holding your Martini glass high and paying homage to another age. Under the 1933 art deco panels, inspired by the Queen Mary ship, you may toast your good taste in art and atmosphere with a White Cosmopolitan of Finlandia Raspberry Vodka, Cointreau, Lime and fresh white cranberry juice and follow it with a Bond 007 of Stoli Vodka, Bombay Gin with olive or Lemon twist, as I did. The Cruise Room won the prestigious Miami Art Deco Award in 1983, and might win your praises too.
You’d think you might not be able to see straight from your weekend of libation sampling during your short downtown Denver visit. But after moderation, I suggest you see the Denver Art Museum with a current exhibition to accompany their permanent collection. I saw the very pleasing Becoming Van Gogh exhibition. On exhibition now through May 25th is a photography show called, "Seen Passing," and through June 8th a show of Modern Master Icons of the 20th century. With a bit of planning you too can take in the best of downtown Denver in a short weekend; be it art, Larimer Square shopping or gourmet dining.
Before you go check out:
Editors Note: Terry Zinn is past president of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association