Since the start of the new year, we've been filling a Colorado bucket list on our four blogs — Show and Tell, Backbeat, Cafe Society and the Latest Word. But now our suggestions are spilling over into print, so that everyone can see the top twenty items on our list of the 100 things to do in the Denver area before you die. Enjoy.
20. Order a Mexican hamburger at the original Chubby's at 2 a.m.
What is Denver's greatest culinary contribution to the world? It may well be the Mexican hamburger, a concept that got its start on Santa Fe Drive in the late '60s — about the time that Stella Cordova was purchasing the Chubby Burger Drive Inn on West 38th Avenue. She quickly bolstered the menu with a Mexican hamburger and some of her other recipes, including another incredible Colorado creation, the gravy-like green chile that's thicker, hotter and tastier than the New Mexican variety. Although Stella passed away a few years ago at the age of 100, her dishes live on — and there's no better way to fend off a potential hangover than stopping by Chubby's at two in the morning for a Mexican hamburger buried in green.
19. Hear your song played on the radio.
Denver has one of the most vibrant music scenes in the country, with a staggering number of venues and an equally stunning number of talented acts that hail from here. For a struggling musician, the struggle is made that much more palatable by the realization that hearing your music on the radio is not just a pipe dream, but a very real possibility. For the better part of the past decade, KTCL/Channel 93.3 has blessed a steady parade of acts with their That Thing You Do! moment. It hasn't always translated to fame and fortune, but it definitely celebrates local vocals. Hear, hear!
18. Watch the sun rise over Sloan's Lake from the Lakeview Lounge.
Denver's best dive bars are slowly disappearing, victims of this rapidly gentrifying city. And at the Lakeview Lounge, from a perch on a barstool — the floor is so worn that there are holes in the linoleum where the stools have stood for decades — you can see some of that change: The St. Anthony's development south of Sloan's Lake is about to explode. But the real view is directly east across Sheridan, across the lake — where, on the last day of Daylight Savings Time, you can watch the sun rise shortly after 7 a.m. (and the bar's opening), sipping a Bloody Mary and toasting a time-honored tradition.
17. Dance at the Church.
Ever want to do unholy things in a holy place? Look no farther than the Church, a nightclub housed in a building that was once really a church. The exterior still reflects that earlier calling — and the interior, with its three stories of dance floors, makes the Church one of the most beautiful clubs in the country. Once you get your grind on under the beautiful stained-glass windows and the cathedral ceiling lit by lasers and moving lights, you'll forget all about the fact that you're sinning in the house of the Lord.
16. Dance at Beta Nightclub to the FunktionOne sound system.
For fans of dance music, few things can compare to a perfect sound system — especially when the best international DJs are playing music through it. At Beta, the FunktionOne system takes this experience to an entirely different level. Each FunktionOne setup is custom-designed for the room in which it's installed, and at Beta, no expense was spared. Surrounded by four towering corners of speakers, Beta's main-room floor has no competition when it comes to sub bass and crisp audio. Couple that with the Kryo fog system that Beta keeps in-house, and you have a world-class experience. The biggest names in the world play the decks at Beta, and each one maintains that this is one of the best clubs in the country.
15. Relive your youth at Lakeside Amusement Park.
The rides at Lakeside Amusement Park are sturdy but not even close to high-tech, and their squeal-inducing, brain-swirling squeaks and trembles bring on a rush of instant nostalgia...if and when they're running, that is. The food is cheap and bad for you; the lines are short but the atmosphere is long. At Lakeside, you can be a bobby-soxed teenager forever and ever, even if you never wore bobby sox the first time around. It's our no-frills, down-and-dirty, magical fortress of fun — and, truly, you haven't lived until you've circled Lake Rhoda on a moonlit train ride. The neon alone is history caught in amber.
14. Make a pilgrimage to the first Chipotle.
Students love fast, cheap food — but in July 1993, they got more than they bargained for when a stylish, fast-casual Mexican joint opened near the University of Denver, at 1644 East Evans Avenue. Inspired by the big Mission burritos he found in San Francisco, Steve Ells decided to raise money for that fine-dining restaurant he planned to open one day by first opening Chipotle Mexican Grill, which would serve big burritos stuffed with quality ingredients. That was twenty years ago, and Ells never did open that fine-dining restaurant. Instead, he's opened more than 1,000 Chipotles around the world, feeding a cult of fans and inspiring endless knockoffs.