27 Things Denverites Really Want Out-of-Towners to Know About the Mile High City
Get to know Denver through our many city murals, like Emmanuel Martinez's "Confluent People," painted in 1999.
Denver Arts and Venues.
There's a bizarre alternate reality on the Internet when it comes to Denver -- there's the city we know and the city being sold to out-of-towners through fake blogs on real estate websites, like this list: "27 Things People From Denver Have to Explain to Out-Of-Towners." The problem with these listicles and factoid sheets full of cheeky and supposedly helpful information about our city is that they are painfully incorrect. So in order to provide a more accurate depiction of our Queen City of the Plains, I surveyed my Facebook friends -- I think roughly 80 percent of my 1,325 Internet friends have a Denver connection, so they made up an adequate spread of opinions -- and came up with 27 things you really should know about the Mile High City.
It's called Wash Park, not Washington Park.
27) We love our parks and green spaces and have plenty to go around Are you a fitness freak? Head to Washington Park (or Wash Park, if you want to sound like a real Denver dude) and skate, rollerblade, bicycle or push your tricked-out stroller and high-fashion baby around this lake loop. Or put on your best duds and cruise Cheesman Park on a Sunday afternoon, throw down a blanket and read a book at the Hungarian Freedom Park or shoot some hoops at Chaffee Park. Want to sound like you're from around here? Catch one of the many cultural events and musical gatherings at Columbus Park -- which we natives call La Raza Park.
26) We don't call it Sports Authority Field at Mile High -- it's just Mile High Yes, we know the company paid to have it called Sports Authority Field at Mile High. But back in the day we had a stadium named Mile High, so we still call it Mile High. Also, we are very proud of living at 5,280 feet, if you hadn't already noticed. Now drink some extra water and buy a dozen lip balms to keep in your car, purse, jacket, pants, etc. You'll need them up here.
25) We rep our neighborhoods with pride The Northside, Montbello, Cap Hill (that's Capitol Hill), Baker, Five Points -- those are all real places in and around Denver. Don't let the SoBos, LoHis and NoDos fool you -- If you've been here for five-plus years, you don't use those weird abbreviations. Except LoDo. LoDo exists and it is code for hell on earth after 2 a.m. (also know as Let Out) on any weekend night. Or after a Rockies game. Don't try to brave LoDo or its traffic without checking IsThereAFuckingRockiesGame.com first. It is a trusted resource.
Mondo is our man!
Javid Rezvani for Westword.
24) In Denver, our fashion, design and style scene is legit We may not be known for our style, but hello? Have you heard of Mondo Guerra, Project Runway Allstar and Denver native? Or Fallene Wells, also a Project Runway alum and fashionista who still lives and works out of the Mile High City? These high-profile, pop-culture couturiers have done well on the national scene, but we are also home to household names and relentless fashion ambassadors like Brandi Shigley, always ahead of the curve, and fashion and style-conscious business owners Tran and Josh Wills, trend-watcher boutique Goldyn, the Fashion Design Center Denver and so much more.
23) We have our own accent and our own slang -- but it is neighborhood and friend group-specific I've heard many a friend joke that we like to put an A where an E is supposed to go -- like if you ever hear someone say "Danver," then you know you are talking to a native. Some of us talk slowly and with a strangely unplaceable drawl, and some of us talk like New Yorkers. I grew up here and someone once asked me if I was from Boston. There are definite things that we say -- a friend on Facebook pointed out a local use of the term "bud," which we often use in place of "dude" -- but once you spend some time here, you'll start to get our little nuances and really appreciate Denver's unique voice.
Denver Dim Sum legend, Star Kitchen.
Lori Midson for Westword.
22) Brunch is definitely a thing -- but we've also got great dim sum and breakfast burritos any time of the day There are brunch joints all over this town -- Cafe Society can help you find them -- but Denver does brunch one better, with weekend meet-up spots for food from all over the world. Kings Land, Star Kitchen and The Empress are just some of our best dim sum joints. We also have Santiago's breakfast burritos (even with multiple locations, the Federal Boulevard Santiago's always seems to have a drive-through line out into the street), El Taco De Mexico, Tacos Jaliscos, Tarascos and, of course, Chubby's. There's only one original Chubby's -- at West 38th Avenue and Lipan -- despite what you may have heard. If you want to know a great Denver story, read up on how the Cordova family does it. Speaking of burritos...
21) Denver's Mexican food is some of the best -- and much of it can be found on Federal Boulevard We've got too many great taco trucks and taco joints to count -- Westword's Mark Antonation ate his way up the infamous culinary street of Federal Boulevard from south to north for you, if you want to learn about every mom-and-pop spot on Feds -- plus other restaurants serving up chicharones, tamales, tortas and tacos al pastor all over the city. Even the El Paisa taco truck on Federal is still getting rave reviews after it recently made the news for other reasons. Ask anyone who's lived here for a while for their favorite Mexican joints -- there are dozens of choice spots, each one of them uniquely Denver.
20) We can't talk about Federal without talking about Pho The best Pho restaurant on Federal really depends on who you ask -- some folks love Pho 96 because it's got a vegetarian broth and is open until 3 a.m. Others love Pho Duy because the basil's always fresh and abundant and the broth is so damn good. But there's so much more to Federal than pho and tacos -- there's J's Noodles Star Thai (called just J's by locals,) New Saigon, Saigon Bowl, we could keep going. Just know that when you come to Denver, you are visiting a haven of food from around the globe. Keep reading for nineteen more things you should know.
Casa Bonita, duh.
Kate Levy for Westword.
19) Casa Bonita is a real place and you should go there -- but eat somewhere else first Yes, Casa Bonita is a real place. And yes, we celebrate our birthdays there. But you need to know that while the restaurant that turned forty this year is charming, the food is not. Grab a bite to eat somewhere else on Colfax on your way -- my friend Rachel recommends the decades-strong Dino's Italian Food as a good option -- and though a food purchase is mandatory to get into the restaurant (you have to go through a cafeteria line to enter the magical world,) don't be shy about throwing your food away. Read our piece on how to survive Casa Bonita for more tips on having fun at this sacred place.
18) Lakeside is the best old-school amusement park this side of the Mississippi Lakeside Amusement Park has been entertaining families for more than a hundred years. Besides being home to an old-school wooden rollercoaster, a miniature rideable steam-engine train and mature trees and twinkling lights, this place is affordable. Just $3 gets you in the gates, and you can even bring your own picnic. Intrigued? Here are ten things you didn't know about Lakeside Amusement Park.
17) Colfax is King Next to Casa Bonita and Lakeside, Colfax Avenue is one of the more mythical places in Colorado, where tall tales often overshadow its true nature. The longest main street in the country, Colfax is known to attract shady characters -- but it is really the heart of Denver's personality. Full of bars, coffee shops, diners, restaurants, bodegas, panaderias, thrift stores, music venues and some of the best people-watching in the state, from east to west, Colfax is where it's at.
16) Our music scene is made up of some of the best performers you have never heard of Sure, we've got some nationally-recognized acts that make us proud, but Denver's hardworking, bands, MCs, DJs, noise artists, experimental jazz musicians, street percussion players and everyone between make us who we are. Visit Mutiny Cafe for harsh noise and poetry; stop by Three Kings Tavern for a good, old-fashioned rock show; head over to Cervantes for a true hip-hop experience; see some punks at Lion's Lair; get bass in your face at Beta Nightclub or stop by Rhinoceropolis for something unexpected. Check out Westword's list of the seven most underrated musicians for a look at some of our dozens of acts you may have never heard of.
Fine Gentlemen's Club.
15) Believe the hype -- our comedy scene is on point In a lot of those venues I mentioned above you can also find comedy -- from free, low-cost and interactive shows to big bills with international comedy headliners. Despite touring and performing relentlessly, Denver's own Fine Gentleman's Club still puts on the weekly, free, all-ages Too Much Fun comedy night at Deer Pile. We've got open mics almost every night of the week in every part of the city -- Kevin O'Brien's show at The Matchbox in Curtis Park, Mara Wiles's open mic at Syntax Physic Opera on South Broadway to name just two. Need some pointers? Each month, we offer a list of the ten best comedy events happening in Denver.
14) From small galleries to nationally recognized museums, our art scene has always been here We are truly an island of awesome artists out here on the plains, attracting serious national exhibitions like last year's interactive Nick Cave soundsuit performance and the Yves Saint Laurent Retrospective, both at the Denver Art Museum. Of course, there's the Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia exhibit opening at the Museum of Contemporary Art later this month, and who could forget MCA's 2008 Damien Hirst show. But we've also got Plus Gallery, which brought local painter Jenny Morgan into the spotlight (closing this month, sadly), RedLine, Gildar Gallery, Navajo Art District, the Center for Visual Art and dozens of other spaces that act as incubators for Denver art-scene makers.
Anthony Garcia Sr. working on one of Birdseed Collective's many public art pieces.
13) We're famous for Blucifer the demon horse and the Big Blue Bear -- but Denver's public art pride is in its murals Anthony Garcia Sr. and his Birdseed Collective have been installing murals all over his home turf of Globeville for years. Jolt, another celebrated favorite, has been a tireless champion of changing the perception of street art, and Jerry Jaramillo's work brought life to the Northside while he taught students all over the city how to paint. Thanks to the Urban Arts Fund, muralists like Gemma Bayly will be installing new work around Denver in the coming months. Keep reading for twelve more things to know.12) Tracks and EXDO: the monumental multiplex of a gay bar
Actually, to call Tracks just a gay bar is to be too general -- this LGBTQIA and ally-friendly space is a multi-room, multi-dimensional entertainment and nightlife hub. Supreme queen and hometown heroine Nina Flowers hosts the monthly Drag Nation showcase, but there are also multiple dance nights every week bringing national DJs, a killer ladies night and costumed affairs for every major holiday. In the summer the space becomes a beach complete with tons of sand; in the winter the place is packed with bodies and keeps it hot.
11) Voodoo Doughnut is cool, but Colorado is home to its own original pastry shops, too Don't get us wrong -- we were stoked to see Portland's Voodoo Doughnuts join our foodie scene. But prior to its 2013 arrival, Denver was doing its own doughnut thing with Glazed And Confused, Walton Donuts and Jelly, just to name a few. We also count André's Confiserie Suisse, Detour Bakery, Panaderia Rosales and New Saigon Bakery & Deli as some of our favorite non-doughnut places to find sweet treats.
10) Obviously, if you like food, Denver is the place If it hasn't been stressed enough in this list, Denver loves food and has restaurants from all over the world within its city limits. Mexican, South American, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Indian, Italian, French, Japanese, Mongolian, Vegetarian and good old Colorado-born steakhouses -- see the Buckhorn Exchange, Denver's first official liquor license in one of its oldest neighborhoods for that -- to suit any palate. Check out our daily in-depth coverage of all this great food over on Cafe Society.
Noah Van Scriver.
9) Cartoonists and comic artists thrive in Denver If you wander over to St. Marks, a beloved coffee shop on East 17th Avenue, on any given Tuesday, you'll find the Drink and Draw meet-up, a back room packed with artists working away at their sketch pads and notebooks. This comic artist and cartoonist gathering is just one of the many things our strong arts community has produced, along with artists like Lonnie Allen, Molly Bounds, Sam Spina and Noah Van Sciver, who make good on representing Denver at galleries and Comicon conventions across the country.
8) Independent publishing happens here and our bookstores are gems Tinto Press, Counterpath Press and Suspect Press are just some of the independent publishing houses putting Denver work in the national spotlight, offering poetry, comics, novels and more. Plus shops like Kilgore Books & Comics, the Book Rack, Mutiny Information Cafe, All In A Dream Comics, Broadway Book Mall and Tattered Cover's various locations support locally-produced books by selling them all over the city.
7) Independent radio rules the airwaves in Denver We're so much more than our corporate radio stations let on. Denver is home to OpenAir 1340 AM, Colorado Public Radio's local-centric musical partner, Radio 1190 AM independent college station out of Boulder, premiere jazz hub KUVO 89.3 FM and, of course, KGNU 1390 AM/88.5 FM, Colorado's community-owned radio station serving listeners since 1978. Keep reading for six more things to know.
Slam champ Suzi Q. Smith.
6) Denver is home to globally-recognized slam poets and a thriving youth slam scene Denver is home to Grand Slam champs like Bobby Lefebre, is the birthplace of recognized teams like Slam Nuba and the Minor Disturbance youth slam team, and has hosted the Women of the World Poetry Slam. Plus, Denver is lucky to have strong Denver native poets like Suzi Q. Smith and Ken Arkind -- not just because they are some of the best, but because they've stuck around to teach Colorado kids their spoken craft.
5) From Broadway hits to one-woman DIY performance experiences, Denver does theater Since opening with the Boettcher Concert Hall in 1978, the Denver Performing Arts Complex has brought The Book of Mormon to the city multiple times, hosted Miss Saigon, The Phantom of the Opera and hundreds of smaller productions (including Off-Center @ the Jones' yearly non-traditional theater shows). But beyond our big, downtown multi-venue complex, Denver is also home to the Narrators storytelling series, Buntport Theater Company, Germinal Stage Denver, Su Teatro, Crossroads Theatre, The Bug Theatre and so much more.
4) Filmmakers make it in Colorado Enterprises like the 48-Hour Film Project, the Denver Film Society's Young Filmmakers Workshops and the Emerging Filmmakers Project give up-and-coming movie makers a way strut their stuff. But even Hollywood bigwigs like Quentin Tarantino are coming to Colorado to take advantage of our beautiful scenery and booming industry. Our comedy scene has also been pushed along by the video work of the Nix Bros., siblings who have been filming comedic shorts and the Grawlix's pilot for Amazon Studios, Those Who Can't, all here in Denver.
3) Dragon Boat Festival, Denver Jewish Film Festival, MLK Rodeo: Denver means diversity! Denver is not just home to cowboys and people who like to ski -- we're a proudly diverse city made up of communities from around the globe. From our history to our cuisine to our museums, shops and neighborhoods, our city shows the influences of Spanish, Mexican, Native American, African American and Early European cultures.
2) Our weather is insane -- and we like it that way Whatever cliche you've heard about Denver's weather is probably true -- it can snow in the morning and you'll be washing your car by the afternoon. We wear sandals in the snow, boots in the summer and sunscreen year-round. It never rains, but if it does, it rains a lot. We have blizzards that hardly ever lead to snow days. When fall hits like it is right now, always be prepared to have your heat and air-conditioning working in tandem. And those 300 days of sunshine everyone talks about? We've got 'em.
1) Denverites are friendly Whether you've been here for five minutes or fifty years, we're happy you're in Denver. Denver is home to many populations and demographics, people with differing political beliefs, socio-economic backgrounds and tastes in food, music, art and literature. We're a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll. We're activists, artists, musicians, legislators, business owners, educators, preservationists and families of all different shapes and sizes. Ask us for directions and we'll probably tell you a story about our favorite restaurant that you'll pass along the way. We wave and say hello to strangers on the street. Welcome to Denver!
Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Denver art and theater scene.