While Denver's getting better and better at disguising the fact that it was once a cowtown with all the trappings of the Wild West, there are still a few holdover spots that provide a window into this state's rough-and-tumble history.
Here, in no particular order, are our five favorite spots to drink up Denver history.
Flagstaff House The Flagstaff House began its life as a cabin vacation home in 1929, but was transformed into an event center less than ten years later. When the Monette family bought the property in 1971, they gave it a sleek makeover and installed a fine dining restaurant. The family has run the place for more than four decades, continuing to up the ante on what they serve. With breathtaking views of the Boulder Valley, it's the most refined and occasion-worthy way to soak up a little Colorado history.
Gold Hill Inn The town of Gold Hill, nestled into the mountains above Boulder, was the first permanent mining camp in what would become the Colorado Territory, founded during the gold rush of 150 years ago. The property that would become the Gold Hill Inn was built just over a decade later, originally as a luxury hotel that later was transformed into a vacation property for single women, then finally turned into the Gold Hill Inn in the 1960s. Artifacts from the spot's long history fill the bar and dining room. Fair warning: In my review this week, I note that this place is a better place to drink than to eat.
Brown Palace For more than a century, the Brown Palace has served as the hotel of choice for most of the notable figures who pass through Denver, and its luxurious history practically oozes from the walls. You can soak that up at any of the establishment's restaurants and bars: enjoying a cocktail and cigar at Churchill's, for example, a lavish meal in the Palace Arms, or just a beer in the Ship Tavern.
The Buckhorn Exchange When the Buckhorn Exchange first opened in the late nineteenth century, it played host to many historic figures, including Indian chiefs, railroaders and miners, and it's seen presidents and the Hollywood set grace its tables, too. It also happens to hold Colorado's first liquor license issued after Prohibition. Today, the place channels the time period in which it was built, serving up a meaty menu beneath taxidermied animal heads and other mementos of its storied past.
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Old Louisville Inn A saloon built in the late 1800s, the Old Louisville Inn boasts one of the oldest bars in the state. It also sits on the remnants of a network of tunnels that used to connect all of the saloons in the town to one another (the Old Louisville Inn is the only one that remains). The bar once ran a brothel out of the back of the space, but now it serves up a family-friendly atmosphere and a menu of soups, salads, sandwiches and pub fair.