Tech

From Hot Pots to Hot Properties, Denver's Ten Best TikTok Accounts

Evan Semón
Although TikTok infiltrated internet culture seven years ago, it really took off during the pandemic, when people started using the app to learn how to make whipped coffee and watch people fight over toilet paper in grocery stores.

Over a billion active monthly users now waste an embarrassing amount of time scrolling through the platform, endlessly consuming content until their brains have the most trending sounds on loop. The Denver Broncos account alone has 733,000 followers (as of October 3).

TikTok has even turned into a search engine. Rather than Googling "best bars in Denver," you can now search for bars on TikTok, then scroll through a stream of flashy thirty-second videos. Instead of typing "most expensive house in Denver today," you can turn to TikTok, where a real estate agent will fill you in. Fast.

Almost everything you could ever want to know about this city can now be found on TikTok. Colorado TikTok creators have filmed themselves sipping lattes at the most aesthetically pleasing cafes in Denver. They've taken tours of homes and apartments so that you don't have to, and shared the best hikes and adventures they've discovered around the state.

TikTok also spills plenty of things you don't want to know about this city, including details about the dismal dating scene and the usual weather complaints. Denver offerings tend to lack humor, and some official sites are just plain lacking: The TikTok account for Visit Denver has no videos, and Jared Polis's TikTok primarily shows off his shoes.

But there are bright spots, thanks to some creative Coloradans — including relative newcomers to the state who want to share their discoveries and maybe make some money, perhaps even become influencers, in the process. But others simply want to celebrate the wonderful new place where they live.

Here are ten of our favorite Denver TikTok accounts:
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Yesenia Chinchilla's TikTok will make you hungry.
@denverfoodscene

@denverfoodscene

Search anything related to Denver on TikTok and you'll stumble across denverfoodscene, a popular account that shows off the area's best restaurants and other eating opportunities. Its creators have tasted shiny caramel apples and sugar-coated apple-cider doughnuts at Ya Ya Farm and Orchard. They've eaten gooey, ice cream-covered cinnamon rolls and smothered burritos at Hashtag, and visited favorite Manila Bay Filipino Restaurant time and again.

The account has 509,400 followers and posts high-quality videos almost every day, so you could be forgiven for assuming there's a big team churning out content — but the crew is just 31-year-old Yesenia Chinchilla and her husband, Daniel Perez. They moved to Denver in 2016, and Chinchilla started denverfoodscene on Instagram about a year later as a way to explore the city.

When TikTok started to become popular in 2020, she expanded the brand to the video platform, where it is now well ahead of its Instagram sibling, which has 198,000 followers.

The TikTok site got a big boost in July 2020, when Chinchilla posted a video of different types of tacos with a trending sound that said "These are real tacos, not from Taco Bell."

From there, denverfoodscene has grown into a full-time job for Chinchilla. The site makes money off of restaurants that ask for paid partnerships as well as from its sponsor, Metropolitan State University of Denver, which reached out to Chinchilla in September of 2020. Two years later, that connection has proved to be a productive one, bringing exposure to the campus, financing to Chinchilla and deals to followers; using the code "Denverfoodscene" even waives the MSU online application fee.

"I really like that it’s now to a point where it’s organically growing," Chinchilla says of the site and her community of followers, who share their feelings about the food they like and different restaurants. One of the biggest challenges? The negative comments that hate on the restaurants she features. "I feel like with anybody, if you’re on social media a lot, it just mentally is not good for you," she says. "I constantly have to catch myself [on] how long I’m on these platforms."

While Chinchilla plans to expand and add to her team — denverfoodscene is already active on TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and even Pinterest — she knows this won't last forever. "Eventually people aren’t going to want to see me," she says. "Right now we’re just taking it day by day and exploring more ideas for what we can do with it."


@theamandabittner
Like many users, Amanda Bittner connected with TikTok during the early days of the pandemic. She'd follow trends, do dances and post cat videos that now make her cringe. Originally from Pittsburgh, the 31-year-old moved to Denver last November after living in Raleigh, North Carolina, for nine years. There she'd worked for a company called Offline that would post stories about events and restaurants around town, so she'd often go out and try new places and post about them on social media.

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Amanda Bittner uses TikTok to discover Denver.
@theamandabittner
Those habits proved handy in a new city, where she now produces things-to-do videos about restaurants, coffee shops and day trips in Colorado, all tightly curated to a Denver lifestyle. On theamandabittner, she shares videos titled "The most instagrammable alley in Denver," in which she shows off the Dairy Block, and "Four dreamy remote work spots in Denver": Hudson Hill, the Ramble Hotel lobby, Table Public House and Dandy Lion Coffee Company.

Bittner works full-time in social media marketing and content creation for a company called Mic Drop Workshop that helps women become strong public speakers. Her TikTok is a hobby: "This is all just for fun that I do on nights and weekends," she says. But since she has over 10,000 followers — technically, 26,700 and counting — she's eligible for the creator fund, a TikTok program that pays people a certain amount to continue making content. "I joined and started making money from TikTok itself, but it’s very minimal," Bittner says. "I think over the last two years I’ve made maybe $150." The site does make more money through Bittner's own partnerships when brands or local businesses pay her to post a video.

Along with the growth in followers, Bittner has also seen an increase in haters and trolls, including some who tell her that Colorado's full and to stop posting videos of the state. "There have been very nice natives that have told me I’ve found hidden gems and spots that they didn’t know about, which means a lot, but sometimes a big struggle of mine is that I focus more on the negative comments than the positive ones; the negative ones just feel a little louder sometimes," she says.  "I’ve posted all kinds of travel videos from all different cities, and I’ve never gotten the haters that I’ve gotten here in Colorado. People are very territorial."

Still, she feels pressure to constantly post. "If a day goes by that I don’t post, I feel like I’m behind," Bittner admits. "No one’s telling me that; it’s just a weird pressure about being a creator. I feel like I’ll be punished by the algorithm if I don’t post."

She gets many of her ideas from followers, who often make suggestions. She's also in a text chain with about fifteen to twenty other female social media content creators around the state who bounce ideas off of each other. "In Denver, there are a lot more creators than where I came from," Bittner says. "I feel like I was a big fish in a small pond in Raleigh. Here in Denver, there are all kinds of people making creative videos."

Fortunately, she has no desire to become an "influencer," she says. "I feel like people think influencers are cringey or showy or shallow, and I don’t want to be any of those things. I’m just a normal girl posting my experiences."
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Denver realtor Andrew Vascassenno creates TikToks related to the housing market.
@andrew_denver_realtor
@andrew_denver_realtor
Best known to locals as "the guy who does the most and least expensive houses in Denver," Andrew Vascassenno has been creating TikToks related to the housing market for a little over a year. Vascassenno moved from Arizona to Denver in 2017 and went into real estate full-time in January 2020. He joined TikTok in February 2021 and, with a background in accounting, started to make personal finance- and tax-related TikToks. "I did that for two months straight, got burned out and kind of ran out of content," Vascassenno says. "Personal finance is a very saturated market." (As proof, the hashtag has 6.8 billion views.)

So Vascassenno decided to take his real estate knowledge and put it to use. In addition to the most/least expensive homes videos he posts every Monday, he creates short clips offering the pros and cons of neighborhoods around Colorado so that someone looking for information can do so by watching a thirty-second clip rather than watching a long YouTube video.
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Denver realtor Andrew Vascassenno creates TikToks related to the housing market.
@andrew_denver_realtor
"I’ve got a playlist where I’ve got all the pros and cons videos lined up and all the neighborhood tours videos lined up," Vascassenno says. "If someone just wants to go through every neighborhood in Colorado in twenty minutes, they just scroll through thirty-second videos over and over and get kind of an overview of it, because it’s digestible and it's not an overload of information." He also posts home tours, things to do and news about the Colorado housing market.

Although Vascassenno started his TikTok in 2021, he didn't see a spike in viewership until this spring; now he has 24,400 followers. In May, he posted his first video to hit one million views; it talked about the best cities for new college graduates.

Vascassenno tags every one of his videos with the hashtags #livinginDenver and #movingtoDenver to keep up his viewership. "Let’s say someone’s living in Florida and they’re thinking about moving to Denver," he says. "You go to TikTok and type in the search bar 'moving to Denver'; I want my face plastered all over that search result."

Despite having gone well beyond the 10,000-follower threshold, Vascassenno hasn't signed up for the creator fund. TikTok already helps him make money by acting as a platform to scout real estate clients, he points out; most of his clients now come through TikTok.

"I set a goal for, I think, 50,000 by the end of this year, and with the way things are going, we’ll see if it happens," Vascassenno says. "I’m also not super concerned with that kind of vanity metric. I’m more concerned with if there's a percentage of people within that list that wants to do business with me and wants to work with me."
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A Pao creator filming at Babe's Tea Room.
@pao_denver
@pao_denver
Pao, which bills itself as "Yelp for Gen Z," is actually an app designed to help people find the "hidden gems" of a city. Anna Zervos was a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, when she thought that people needed a new kind of online business and restaurant guide. She created a team — her mother and best friend — and moved to Boulder, where the app was launched in 2018. Zervos is still the CEO today, and Pao continues to expand its reach. "Our goal was to kind of battle the dinosaur apps like Yelp and Trip Advisor, things that were kind of outdated," says Jillian Brown, Pao's marketing and communications manager.

Pao launched on TikTok in 2020, with accounts focusing on Denver, Los Angeles and Miami. While the Pao crew found places to showcase, businesses were soon paying to be featured on the app. "We definitely do some of our own sporadic content, like wanting to feature businesses that we think are really cool," Brown says. "Primarily they are businesses who come to us wanting to be featured on the account."

Taking note of its success on TikTok, in the summer of 2021 the company launched Pao Creative, a content creation company dedicated to making short-form videos for TikTok and reels for Instagram. Today Pao Creative makes TikTok content for such businesses as Spectra Art Space, Babe's Tea Room and Little Man Ice Cream. "Spectra Art Space is a really great case study," Brown says. "They were one of our very first clients with zero followers on TikTok, and now they’re at 13,000 or 14,000."

As for Pao's own TikTok — pao_denver has 47,600 followers — Brown says its aesthetic keeps it unique. "I think a really huge benefit for us is we’ve spent tons of time brand-building just on our own of what kind of content we want to push out [and] how we want to come across," she says. Pao's most popular videos include drink spots to try this weekend, as well as "vibey" date-night spots in Denver, including Toro Latin Kitchen and Lounge and Avanti Food & Beverage, as well as other photo-worthy spots like the Marijuana Mansion.

And through Pao, anyone can post cool spots they find while traveling, sharing them with followers searching out information on other cities. But it all comes back home to Colorado, where the app got its start.

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Michelle Nguyen at ViewHouse.
@itsnuwin
@itsnuwin
Aesthetics are important to 23-year-old Michelle Nguyen, a lifestyle video creator with 5,718 followers. With videos that range from "a day in the life in Denver" to "the best nail salon in Denver," her TikTok account is full of Denver "influencer" content.

Recently, her most popular videos have focused on where to get the best hot pot, sushi and boba around Colorado. "I’m scared to post anything that’s not hot pot at this point," Nguyen jokes during a lunch break from her full-time job doing corporate marketing.

Nguyen grew up in Vietnam and came to the United States in 2017 to attend college at the University of California, Davis. She moved to Denver for work and has been using TikTok to try new places and meet people ever since. She's also been using it to show her friends back in California that Colorado is far from a Midwest desert with nothing to offer.

She's long been interested in videography and social media. "When I was a kid, I used to carry a GoPro around my chest and I would walk around," she says. "I was really into videography. Going to college, your parents are kind of in your ear, and they’re like, you shouldn’t do it [social media], it's not a real thing, get a job and do it on the side."

In college, she started a food Instagram account, thedavisfoodie, and her friends encouraged her to start recording the restaurants they visit on TikTok, leading to that hot pot success. Now she regularly features different Asian restaurants around Denver to show off the scene. "My best friend, Megan, that I met here in Denver, she never tried Vietnamese food or hot pot, and now she keeps begging me to go back every single time," Nguyen says.

While the TikTok is a hobby, she takes it seriously and struggles to keep up. Working an eight-to-five job, spending evenings with friends and maintaining a healthy lifestyle doesn't leave much time to film videos. "It sounds stupid, because a TikTok is three minutes maximum, but to do voiceovers, to edit the videos and everything, it takes me about an hour or two," she says.

In California, content creation — specifically on social media — is an oversaturated market, she notes, making it nearly impossible to stand out and be noticed on the platform. In Denver, though, there are far more opportunities to get audience engagement, because there aren't already a million people making the exact same video.

But Denver has its drawbacks, Nguyen says, mentioning the awkwardness of pulling out a phone and tripod to film a video here. "In California, everyone is not fazed," she says. "They’re like, 'Oh, another person doing the same thing that every other girl in this restaurant is doing.'" In Colorado, she adds, you don't spot someone filming at a local business every day, making it awkward to be the one person who is.

Recently, she's received a few comped meals in exchange for featuring a restaurant on her page, and she'd like to pursue getting more business. "I feel like a goal is to be an influencer, but right now I feel like my following is not big enough," she says. "Right now, it’s a hobby that I want to be really invested in."
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Steven Dominici spills secrets about his Colorado hikes on TikTok.
@coloradohikes
@coloradohikes
TikTok isn't all about things to do in town. Coloradohikes shares information on the best hiking trails and other adventure spots around the state, and has amassed 128,100 followers who appreciate that focus. Some of the account's most popular videos include Glenwood Canyon, Coyote Song Trail and the Manitou Springs Incline. Short pieces on downtown Estes Park, Evergreen Lake and Ouray have also been hits.

Steven Dominici, who created the account, moved to Colorado from Chicago in 2015, and quickly took advantage of this state's outdoor activities. He started posting about them on Instagram in 2018, then created a TikTok at the end of 2019 that has far surpassed his 34,300 followers on Instagram. His full-time job is doing social media marketing for a lot of outdoor brands, but he still manages to check out five to six hiking spots a week.

"Posting for me is a little different than other TikTokkers," Dominici says. "I have to drive to the hike, do the hike, do the editing. All the hikes that you see are all from me. It’s a lot of work." Dominici lives in Evergreen, so there are a lot of great places nearby, but it's still tough to keep up. Fortunately, he loves what he's doing.

"I’m not really money-focused right now; I’m just trying to build a solid brand," Dominici says. "I love Colorado; it’s my favorite state in the world. Hiking is my passion, so I’m just trying to show people the passion I have through my TikToks."

And he's not shy about sharing detailed information. Part of the reason he started his account was because other people on TikTok will often show off hiking spots but not reveal where they are. "I would see this amazing post of people on a hike," he recalls, "and I was like, 'Oh, where’s that?' You type in on their comments 'Where is this?' and they would never tell you. Everyone's gatekeeping and no one wants to tell where it’s at. To me, nature is for everyone, so I think everyone should be able to enjoy it."

@i70things
Most followers of i70things came from Instagram, where the account has gained 228,000 followers; on TikTok, i70things continues to document all of the craziness that happens along the highway, from fires to floods to traffic jams to someone riding a bird scooter down I-70. The account's most-watched video has 4.6 million views; it shows a man who catches a fish in a nearby creek while his car is stuck in traffic. Another popular one features a construction sign that says "70 closed, not opening soon, don't ask." Bonus: This is one of Colorado's few funny TikTok accounts.
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Jonathon Stalls heads Pedestrian Dignity.
Evan Semon
@pedestriandignity
With pedestriandignity, Jonathon Stalls (profiled on westword.com last month) shares information about sidewalks and streets that aren't friendly to pedestrians, pointing out places that are not only undignified, but downright dangerous. Stalls grew up largely in Denver, and his TikTok shows him on walks with state and city officials, but other videos take you around the world, from New York to Dublin. The account has 110,800 followers, and many of them thank Stalls for illuminating the many roadblocks to easy and enjoyable walking.

@thedenverfoodie
Starting each video with a friendly "What's up, Denver?," the denverfoodie's creator, Jonathan Davis, highlights everything from food trucks to coffee shops to food halls around town. You can find the five best spots to get tacos or five of the best ice cream shops. It has its TikToks divided up by city, so that you can see what restaurants are recommended in a specific area. And with about 131,800 followers, people are clearly eating it up.

@coloradosnakehunters
If you're scared of spiders and snakes make you squirm, stay away. Hunter Johnson and Sean McMullen are both on the steering committee of Colorado Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, an organization that works to protect slithering creatures around the state, and they travel all over to find snakes and other reptiles, sometimes picking them up with their bare hands. While the content might be creepy, their TikTok has 20,300 followers, and its most popular video has 5.6 million views.

This story has been updated to remove a reference to a Denver International Airport site that is not official.
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Katrina Leibee, a recent graduate of Colorado State University, is an editorial fellow at Westword, covering politics, business and culture.
Contact: Katrina Leibee

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