News

100 Things to Do in Colorado Before You Kick It

  • 100. Be the first skier of a Colorado ski season Each year, resorts throughout the state race to be the first to open. And once the winning ski area is established, another competition gets underway -- to be the initial skier to hit the slopes. Achieving this goal takes a number of important characteristics, including the desire to set everything else aside, be it work, school, family commitments and/or common sense, to stake your claim, as well as to challenge yourself on each and every mogul before anyone else gets the chance. We know you can do it.
  • 99.  Sign your name (or take a pic) in the tunnel at Red Rocks This is more of a bucket-list item for musicians, but every act wants to be able to have its name on a wall that has been signed by the likes of Jerry Garcia, Joan Jett, Snoop Dogg, STS9, Phish, Atmosphere, 311, the Fray, Kaskade, Deadmau5, Skrillex, and pretty much every other act that has ever graced the famed stage of Red Rocks. It's the tunnel that leads from the green room to the sound board, and every act takes a moment to appreciate the work that was put into the side of a mountain and makes it possible to play before taking in one of the most beautiful sights in the world: the sun setting on the Rocky Mountains behind a wall of fans.
  • 98. Celebrate Elvis's birthday with the late, great Velvet Elvis Although Velvet Elvis was officially laid to rest in 2011, his spirit, like his inspiration, will live on forever. Every year around this time, he mystically reappears to deliver a Blue Christmas and to celebrate the King's birthday (like this Friday, January 10, at the Oriental Theater). If you haven't seen this show, it's worth adding to your bucket list. The must-see concert is so faithful to the essence of Elvis that you'd swear the King never truly died.
  • 97. Busk on the 16th Street Mall In the past decade, the Denver music scene has gained massive exposure thanks to acts like the Lumineers and the Fray -- a fact that inspires a new wave of musicians every year to reach for the brass ring. Before working toward wowing capacity crowds, however, a real test for musicians is seeing whether they can capture the attention of an otherwise inattentive audience. Can you make captive commuters stop and hear you out? Only one way to find out.
  • 96. Audition for the People's Fair Okay, so you've successfully busked on the 16th Street Mall, and now you're ready for another rite of passage in the local music scene: auditioning for the People's Fair. While the crowd at these annual tryouts is obviously more engaged, the task is a little more daunting. After watching so many acts perform, the judges' ears are subject to fatigue, and you only have a few songs to prove your merit and hopefully earn a slot to perform in front of thousands at Civic Center Park. But whether you make the cut or not, it's worth throwing your hat in the ring, just to say you did.
  • 95. See a summer concert at the Botanic Gardens While seeing a show at Red Rocks can be an epic experience, the intimacy can sometimes get lost, the higher the row you're sitting in. One of the things about seeing outdoor shows at the Botanic Gardens is that most spots on the grass around the stage are close enough that you won't have to use binoculars. And for the past few years, the folks at Swallow Hill have been doing a stellar job booking a variety of acts, including last year's lineup, which included such luminaries as Tony Bennett, Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Arlo Guthrie, Bruce Hornsby and Chris Isaak.
  • 94. See Itchy-O wow unsuspecting crowds.  Although you never really know where Itchy-O is going to turn up (that is, unless it's New Year's Eve), the spectacle is always exhilarating, not only because the massive marching band creates such a joyful noise, but because it's also endlessly rewarding to witness the surprised/bemused/befudled looks on the faces of unsuspecting onlookers who've never seen the band before. Whether the outfit is crashing shows at the Gothic, appearing on stage with David Byrne and St. Vincent, or manning an outpost at Riot Fest, it's totally worth being on hand to see this Denver treasure in action.
  • 93. Catch a Colorado Symphony collaboration You're probably already aware of how blessed you are with the number of world-class venues and artists we have in Denver. So it's easy to take for granted just how unique and awesome it is that our city's symphony goes out of its way to immerse itself in the music scene by initiating one-of-a-kind collaborations you won't see anywhere else. From performing songs from Beck's Song Reader at last year's Westword Music Showcase to backing a host of lauded locals like DeVotchKa, the Lumineers and Gregory Alan Isakov, the Colorado Symphony is as innovative as it is sharp. If you get the chance to see one of these special events, don't pass it up.
  • 92. Visit the Colorado Music Hall of Fame While it's relatively new, having only inducted its first class in 2011, the Colorado Music Hall of Fame is steadily building an array of artifacts from local music luminaries, everyone from celebrated performers like John Denver and Judy Collins to local legends like Harry Tuft and Barry Fey. The Hall, which is currently housed at 1STBANK Center, is in the process of making a move to Red Rocks, where it will set up a permanent home. So whether you stop by now and admire the collection or wait until it moves to Morrison, make it a point to pay a visit.
  • 91. Take a Class at Swallow Hill Swallow Hill has been integral part of music education in Denver for more than three decades. The Julie Davis School of Music teaches more than 5,000 students every year. Swallow Hill offers classes, private lessons, workshops and camps that cater to a number of different interests and ages, on a variety of instruments, including guitar, bass, banjo, percussion, fiddle, harmonica, ukulele and hammered dulcimer. And once you've got some chops under your belt, you can take advantage of Swallow Hill's varied jam sessions.
  • Skip ad in seconds.
  • 90. See a summer concert at Chautauqua Auditorium Built over a century ago, the Chautauqua Auditorium is one of most distinctive venues in the state with its barn-like construction. The 1,300-person spot, which is open from May through September, brings in an impressive line-up every summer; folks like Chris Isaak, Lyle Lovett, Joan Baez and Wynton Marsalis have all played there.
  • 89. See a summer concert at Mishawaka Amphitheatre For decades, the Mishawaka Amphitheatre has been one of the state's legendary outdoor music venues, bringing in stellar line-ups of both national and local acts every summer. Located right next to the Poudre River, not too far from Fort Collins, the Mish is small enough with a 750-person capacity to good view of any of the rock, jam-centric, bluegrass, reggae bands the venue brings in.
  • 88.  Play the open mic night at the Meadowlark While the intimate Meadowlark hosts a stellar weekly jazz jam on Mondays, it's also had a long-running Tuesday night open stage. The weekly gathering on the small basement stage has attracted a number of the city's finest singer-songwriters over the years who have come to test new material or refine older songs. Come play in the spot where the Lumineers, then a duo after moving here from the East Coast, first got their start, playing many an open stage here before moving on to bigger venues.
  • 87. Play at the blues jam at Ziggies Established four decades ago, Ziggie's has been known as the oldest blues bar in Denver. And over the years, the Sunday blues jams there have become legendary. While the Blues AllStars and Doc Brown Blues Band alone are reason enough to visit the spot on Sundays, jammers are given a warm welcome here, and it's an inviting spot to hone your chops.
  • 86. See a show at a DIY space like Rhinoceropolis or 7th Circle Music Collective Denver has a long tradition of off-the-beaten path one-off shows and DIY venues going back to at least the '70s. Today, this approach is best embodied at Rhinoceropolis and 7th Circle Music Collective. These are places where you can most easily witness emerging and developing talent before it plays more commercial spaces. Much of the underground show circuit still exists and can only be seen at places like Rhino and 7th Circle. In years past, acts like HEALTH, Lightning Bolt, Dan Deacon, Matt & Kim, High Places and Indian Jewelry tried to only play DIY venues for the level of freedom of performance presentation it offered and for the access those places offer to people under drinking age. Yeah, you won't be able to buy alcohol at these places, but if you want to see something before it gets too refined, look no further. You can say you were there when instead of merely reading about it later.
  • 85. Go to Lipgloss With the exception of perhaps only one other famed club night, which has lasted since the early '90s, Lipgloss is Denver's longest running club night. More than a dozen years after first being launched, the night, helmed by co-founder Michael Trundle, still attracts a throng of dancers every Friday night to Beauty Bar, where Lipgloss moved from its former home at La Rumba nearly two years ago. Make it a point to come out and see why Lipgloss has lasted so long, and why its played host to so many high profile guest DJs over the years like Andy Rourke from the Smiths and Peter Hook from Joy Division and New Order.
  • 84. See a jazz show at El Chapultepec  Aside from jazz legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Chet Baker, Eddie Harris, rockers like Bono and Mick Jagger, even former president Bill Clinton, have stopped by El Chapultepec since Jerry Krantz, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 77, inherited it 1968 from his father-in-law Tony Romano. As saxophonist Max Wagner, who headed up the house band there for three years, says, "The best of the best and the greatest of the greatest came through that place and played there because they could count on a great rhythm section and an open door policy to visiting jazz dignitaries that is very rare across the county."
  • 83. See a jazz show at Dazzle  While it's one thing to see jazz luminaries at some bigger venues in the area, seeing legends like Benny Golson, Curtis Fuller, Lee Konitz, Jim Hall or Bill Frisell in the intimate confines of Dazzle is a completely captivating experience. With a feel not too far off from New York's famed Village Vanguard, Dazzle doesn't really have a bad seat in the house.
  • 82. Crate dig at Twist & Shout and Wax Trax While CDs sales were down 14.5 percent last year, vinyl sales increased 32 percent last year, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Sure, it's much easier to get your hands on newer vinyl releases and vinyl reissues these days, but there's still the thrill of the hunt for rare and unique stuff that you'd never find digitally, and both Twist & Shout and Wax Trax are two of the best spots in town to flip through the wax.
  • 81. Record a song at the Blasting RoomRecording at the Blasting Room in and of itself won't make you famous, but it will make you feel that way when you stop to think about all of the acts that have recorded there. Name a topshelf local act and chances are better than good that they've tracked here -- and so has a parade of other lauded out-of-towners like Rise Against, NOFX, Gogol Bordello and As I Lay Dying. It's the facilities as much as the people running it. Founded in the mid '90s by Bill Stevenson of the Descendents, the Fort Collins studio also boasts the keen ear of Stevenson's partner Jason Livermore and Andrew Berlin. Trust us: You can hear the difference.
  • Skip ad in seconds.
  • 80. Ride the Kit Carson County Carousel in BurlingtonVisitors to Colorado don't automatically get here and go east, but that's a shame, because those folks don't know what kind of small-town valhalla they're missing by avoiding the plains of Colorado. The antique wooden Kit Carson County Carousel originally operated at Elitch Gardens in the early nineteenth century before making the move to Burlington; lovingly restored and preserved, it now keeps the spirit of the county fair alive every summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
  • 79. Walk where the dinosaurs walked on Dinosaur Ridge The Dakota Hogback above Morrison, near Red Rocks Amphitheatre, has been criss-crossed with fossils and visible dinosaur tracks from prehistoric times. After humans settled here, some of them were removed or vandalized, but in the 21st century, they are now protected as a a National Natural Landmark. But you can still visit them up close, on hiking trails and bus tours, guided or unguided as you prefer. Bonus? See where the first Stegosaurus bones ever discovered were found. Every five-year-old kid in your path will befriend you for life.
  • 78. Cruise Federal Boulevard on Cinco de Mayo Denver's healthy Latino community knows how to have a good time on Cinco de Mayo. But while the official party goes down in Civic Center Park, la raza -- the denizens of the barrio -- take over Federal Boulevard, showing off their lowriders and waving the Mexican flag. It's where the real action is
  • 77. Go four-wheeling in the San Juan Mountains Colorado is blessed with some of the most beautiful country in the world, and it's something to brag about. But for flatlanders and urban folk, the search for its wildest places and most spectacular vistas proves difficult unless they're willing to backpack in. Four-wheeling in the mighty San Juans offers another alternative, and professional tours will ensure that you don't fall over a cliff and die trying.
  • 76. Watch fireworks from Ruby Hill  You can have your pricey seats at Coors Field or spend a ton to gawk from the vantage point of Elitch Gardens on July Fourth. But if you really want to know Denver, you'll head to Ruby Hill Park, with its panoramic view, to rub elbows with the hoi polloi for the best show in town.
  • 75. Get your cosplay on at Denver Comic Con In its first two years, Denver Comic Con has proven a big hit with the pop-culture crowd on a number of fronts. It's also one of the best places to let loose your inner superhero: Inside and out, Comic Con is the perfect arena for gawking at cosplay devotees -- or for being one yourself.
  • 74. See where Buffalo Bill is REALLY buriedThe dispute still surges between Golden's Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave and the scoundrels in Cody, Wyoming, over where Western showman William T. "Buffalo Bill" Cody is buried, but most history books agree that his bones really are buried on Lookout Mountain. Go and see for yourself -- and while you're there, check out the awesome museum.
  • 73. Visit Doc Holliday's grave (and then go soak your bones) in Glenwood Springs nother more infamous celebrity's bones lie here in Colorado -- those of dentist-turned-gunman Doc Holliday, who was a hard-boiled gambler and best buddies with lawman Wyatt Earp (whom he famously stood with at the OK Corral). By the time Holliday landed in Colorado, he was an alcoholic who soon died in Glenwood at the tender age of 36 and was buried in Linwood Cemetery. Seems the town's therapeutic hot springs were more hindrance than help for his tubercular lungs.
  • 72. Take in a Pack Burro Race during Leadville's Boom Days You haven't really experienced Colorado until you've reveled in Leadville during the annual Boom Days celebration, which is full of mountain-centric activities inspired by the high-altitude town's mining roots. But the highlight is the annual International Pack Burro Race, a grueling 21-mile race to the summit of Mosquito Pass and back again, with a grand finale on Harrison Avenue, where runners sometimes have to tug their recalcitrant burros over the finish line. It's exhilarating, funny, and the epitome of old-fashioned fun.
  • 71. Visit the Kirkland Museum As far as local museums go, the Kirkland is a hidden jewel among a splash of big statements; fastidiously curated, it's a mid-century fanatic's dream. Its paean to Colorado painter Vance Kirkland's work, milieu and collections of art and objets is the ultimate flashback to a distant but not so faraway time and place. Also, it's a great place to wander on a rainy day.
  • Skip ad in seconds.
  • 70. Have a drink under the full moon on the roof at MCA Denver Drinks and rooftops were made for each other, and they're just that much better when the rooftop in question features a cafe, an elegantly multi-leveled angular garden and, underneath it all, galleries full of mind-bending art -- all right in the heart of the city. In a city with a casual vibe, MCA's rooftop offers a little bit of low-key glamour, and at night, under the moon, it can make you feel as if you're in the coolest spot on the planet.
  • 69. Spend a haunted night at Croke-Patterson Mansion The Croke-Patterson Mansion, a chateau-esque marvel built of red sandstone in 1890, is a designated historic landmark. After sitting empty for years, the historic home reopened as the Patterson Inn, a bed-and-breakfast with spacious rooms and glowing reviews from its guests, most of whom seem either unaware or completely at ease with the fact that they are sleeping and brunching in one of Denver's most notoriously haunted residences. Occultists -- who rarely have the opportunity to contact the spirits of the dead in such comfort, are welcome, but anyone who's read some of the spookier stories about the house might want to leave their dogs at home.
  • 68. Locate all the gnomes at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science The Denver Museum of Nature and Science has a bit of serendipitous lore: Hidden gnomes are scattered throughout the dioramas, peeking around the meticulously arranged brush and branches in the matte paintings. Finding all of them without the assistance of guide is a rite of passage for museum-goers and a chance to play a real-life game of Where's Waldo? And don't miss the polar bear sunset diorama while you're there; people have been oohing and aahing over it for decades.
  • 67. Take a stroll through time across the Millennium Bridge The world's first cable-stayed bridge of its kind, the Millennium Bridge's modern arc crosses over some of the oldest parts of Denver while connecting downtown bustle with Highland's blend of old and new. The Central Platte Valley footbridge might not be as grand as the Golden Gate or Brooklyn bridges, but it does offer a short walk through time to all who cross it.
  • 66. Hold a seance in Cheesman Park If there's anywhere in Denver to ghost-hunt, it's the old Mount Prospect Cemetery, known today as Cheesman Park. Its history includes a very Poltergeist, they-left-the-bodies-but-moved-the-headstones tale: Undertaker E.P. McGovern was hired in 1893 to remove the corpses from the cemetery, but saved money by hacking up bodies, putting them in child-sized caskets and never finishing the job. Maybe 2014 is the year to commune with the disgruntled spirits. Bring candles and break out the Ouija board.
  • 65. Shop your way down Broadway from First Avenue to Englewood Hipster Heaven, thy name is South Broadway -- if your idea of a good time is hitting every edgy boutique and antique store on Denver's own Great White Way. There are plenty of coffee spots and bars where you can caffeinate or quench along the way -- not to mention exotic ice cream parlors and hip eateries -- so it's easy to make a day of it.
  • 64. Buy your souvenirs at I Heart Denver n the wasteland of junky souvenir shops on the 16th Street Mall, there's one place that stands out: I Heart Denver in the Denver Pavilions elevates souvenir shopping to a higher level. Featuring one-of-a-kind handmade clothing, trinkets and Colorado-centric homewares by local artisans, as well as quality, regionally born-and-raised artwork, I Heart Denver has its finger on the pulse of the Mile High City....and your wallet
  • 63. Hike the Colorado Trail Stretching nearly 500 miles, from Waterton Canyon on the Front Range to far across the Continental Divide in Durango, the Colorado Trail is a hiker's dream, offering high-altitude vistas and meadows of wildflowers and mining ruins; depending on your stamina, you can cross it in ten days or, more likely, forty. Take the high road.
  • 62. Ride the rails Light rail, that is: The novelty of RTD's hurtling transit cars has yet to wear off for Front Range denizens longing to get from point A to point B without driving a car, especially with last year's debut of the West Rail Line from downtown Denver to Golden. So perhaps it's not faster than a speeding bullet, and sometimes the cars get crowded, but it's a quick and easy way to see the sights in a day's time. Give it a ride.
  • 61. Have a spot of tea at the Brown Palace -- or a cigar at Churchill Bar. The lobby of the venerable Brown Palace is one of the most stunning spaces in town -- and the perfect setting for a spot of tea...or maybe a cocktail or two. After that civilized ceremony, retire to Churchill Bar next door for a cigar.
  • Skip ad in seconds.
  • 60. Visit every Denver Arts District in one night on First Friday Each of Denver's arts districts has its own character and following, but as at an ice cream parlor, it's hard to settle on just one flavor. First Friday is a way to taste them all. It takes a lot of organization and even more parking karma to get the job done, but it is possible to take in the circus on Santa Fe Drive, see Navajo Street's inner circle of co-ops, hit a clay workshop on Tennyson Street and take a peek at the sleek Golden Triangle galleries before partying away the rest of the night in the warehouse havens of RiNo. Your prize? A lifetime of art experiences in one magical night.
  • 59. Sip free samples on the Golden Brewery tour.  Adolph Coors built his first brewery in Golden in 1873. The company has gone through many changes since then -- it's now known as Miller Coors -- but the tour at the world's largest single-site brewery remains a Colorado tradition. The self-paced, thirty-minute tour takes you through the malting, brewing and packaging processes, on through the "fresh beer room," where visitors can sip a cold sample, and on to the tasting room for more free samples -- and the time to buy fresh-off-the-line beer.
  • 58. Eat a turkey leg at Taste of Colorado The Taste of Colorado got its start as the Festival of Mountain and Plain, introduced in 1893 as an economic booster after the Silver Crash. Revived three decades ago as the Taste of Colorado, the festival has become an end-of-summer rite. And although there's a fine-dining area, roasted corn and giant turkey legs remain the crowd favorites.
  • 57. Grab your supply of roasted green chiles on Federal Boulevard Some like it hot! You know summer's about to end when the smell of roasted chiles starts wafting through town. Stop by any block on Federal Boulevard and you can find purveyors selling Hatch, fake Hatch and numerous other kinds of chiles, which they'll roast for you so that you can capture the flavor all year long.
  • 56. Order chow from a food truck and eat it in a brewery Denver's craft-beer boom was already under way when the gourmet-food-truck trend rolled into town a few years ago. But they proved a perfect pairing. Rather than twisting themselves into a knot trying to serve something other than pretzels, breweries like Denver Beer Co. could concentrate on creating their brews while knowing their patrons would find quality snacks at the food trucks parked outdoors
  • 55. Harvest your own vegetables at Miller Farms. For decades, Miller Farms has had a roadside market, but its real growth industry has been ag tourism, or farm tourism, which took off after the first "potato dig" in 1996. Today the farm offers a bounty of fall days when you can harvest many kinds of vegetables, as well as farm tours. Many other facilities now offer pick-your-own possibilities, but Miller planted the seeds.
  • 54.  Load up your basket at the Boulder Farmers' Market Today there are farmers' markets across the Front Range, in mall parking lots, on church lawns and in and schoolyards, but the daddy of them all is in Boulder. If you can't find something here to tempt you -- fresh flowers, incredible peaches, pickled vegetables, even a political cause -- you might be pickled yourself.
  • 53. Enjoy a glass of wine and the view from the Flagstaff House patio The Flagstaff House got its start in the '30s, when it opened as a restaurant in a former cabin high on Flagstaff Mountain. When Don Monette purchased the place in 1971, he refined it into a world-class, high-end dinner destination; his sons have continued the evolution, adding a world-class wine list. But one thing remains unchanged: the million-dollar view from the patio, just the spot to enjoy a glass of that wine.
  • 52. Get a cinnamon roll at Johnson's CornerThis classic truck stop on I-25 did a major renovation just after it turned fifty, which removed a lot of the old roadhouse charm -- but Johnson's Corner wisely made no changes to the old cinnamon roll formula. They remain incredible mounds of 
pastry, frosting and sweetness, as impressive in their own way as the mountains you can see across the asphalt to the west.
  • 51. Get a burger at Bud's Bar Want a burger? Good. Because that's all Bud's Bar serves -- burgers and cheeseburgers, accompanied by chips. But it's served in an unbeatable atmosphere: Bud's opened as a roadhouse in Sedalia back in 1946, and those years of tradition flavor every meal here.
  • Skip ad in seconds.
  • 50. Join the crowds at Pete's Kitchen at 3 a.m. Of all Pete Contos's places, Pete's Kitchen -- an iconic East Colfax institution -- has the most character, the best insomniac street-theater vibe. While the venerable joint is open 24/7, the crowds really start coming when the bars close up; by 2 a.m., there's often a line stretching out the door and down the block. But no matter what time you go, dining at Pete's is never dull; you'll be sitting by bankers, beatniks, bikers and buggy-eyed drunks, all tucking into gigantic plates of comfort food.
  • 49. Get called "hon" at Breakfast King at 4 a.m. For those who are feeling less social at the end of a night on the town, Breakfast King reigns supreme. For more than four decades, this has been the spot for Denver's night owls to land when they're in need of a feed. The crowd is a weird conglomeration of club kids and criminals, night-shift blue collars and just plain folks who've found themselves a little bit lost on the wrong side of midnight -- and they're all treated like regulars by the folksy waitresses.
  • 48. Hit a Santiago's drive-thru for a breakfast burrito at 7 a.m. Colorado is lucky to have many homegrown Mexican chains -- but none have been as successful as Santiago's. And with good reason: This chain, which has twenty locations (and counting), many with drive-thrus, serves up an absolutely addictive green chile. In mild, medium and hot, it's tasty enough at any heat level to slurp up on its own -- but it's even better smothering a Santiago's breakfast burrito.
  • 47. Try to chat with a knife-wielding kitchen worker at El Taco de Mexico "For truly amazing flavors, El Taco de Mexico is a must," wrote Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern, shortly after he and his film crew touched down in the Mile High City last year to chow their way through some of the town's most iconic restaurants. El Taco de Mexico, he declared, was "Denver's quintessential taqueria," serving the "best menudo and tacos in the city." And some of our favorite enchiladas, all prepared by the busiest, knife-wielding lunch ladies you'll see in this city.
  • 46. Have a martini in the Cruise Room The Cruise Room could be the Denver dining scene's most iconic spot. It's located in the Oxford Hotel, so its marble floors echo with Denver history, stretching back to the late nineteenth century. But the bar itself was created in the '30s, as Prohibition ended, modeled after the lounge on the Queen Mary; it got a quick remodel a decade later when the German toast -- one of a dozen circling the walls of the bar -- was deemed politically incorrect. Today you'll find all kinds of passengers hopping aboard a stool in the Cruise Room, and while the menu is now full of trendy cocktails, a classic martini is really the only thing to order.
  • 45. Drink the three-margarita limit at the Rio Grande The Rio Grande got its start in 1986 in Fort Collins, where college students came to rely on the restaurant's incredibly strong margaritas, made from a secret recipe (and originally mixed in a big bucket in a garage) -- limit three per customer. While the homegrown chain has expanded, with Colorado spirits added to the bars and more sophisticated fare to the menus, those big margs remain the big draw -- and the recipe is still secret.
  • 44. Get coffee at the Market and watch the action on Larimer Square More than three decades ago, when the Market opened on Larimer Street, the block was a tourist trap filled with shops and restaurants that locals avoided unless they had guests in town looking for some old-timey culture. But today, Larimer Square is one of the hottest restaurant areas in town, and a seat in front of the Market is an ideal spot to watch the action.
  • 43. Stop by Rioja and say hello to Jennifer Jasinski, Denver's James Beard Award-winning chef. Want to see how the restaurants in Larimer Square have changed? Stop by Rioja, one of the first chef-driven spots created in a groundbreaking partnership with the Larimer Group, and say hello to Jennifer Jasinski, who opened the place with partner Beth Gruitch a decade ago. The pair now have three restaurants, with a fourth coming in Union Station this summer -- and somehow, chef Jasinski still found time to compete on Top Chef Masters and win a James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest -- the first such honor snagged by a Denver chef.
  • 42. Try to get a reservation at Frasca Food and Wine In 2005, Frasca won Best New Restaurant honors in the Best of Denver -- and since then, it's continued to rack up kudos on both a local and a national level. In the process, Frasca has set the standard for excellence for local operations and become the embodiment of what makes the Colorado restaurant scene -- and Colorado in general -- great. This is a state where people come to start over, to start fresh, to start something. Frasca's owners, Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson and Bobby Stuckey -- both ex of the French Laundry -- did just that. They came to Colorado to do what they loved, and to do it on their terms. With Frasca, they not only created a restaurant that could easily rate among the best in any city, but confounded all expectations of what's meant by a "Colorado restaurant" -- raising the bar for everyone in the process.
  • 41. Have a beer at the Wynkoop Brewing Company, Denver's first brewpub. In 1988, the year the LoDo Historic District was born, the Wynkoop Brewing Company became Denver's first brewpub. Even though there are now dozens of brewpubs and tap rooms around town, the Wynkoop remains a favorite hangout -- and not just because Governor John Hickenlooper first started serving the public here when he was a lowly unemployed geologist (and not because Patty's Chile Beer is named after Westword's editor, either). This turn-of-the-last-century space oozes history as well as beer: Grab a brew or two and a seat at the bar, and look out at history being made all around LoDo.
  • Skip ad in seconds.
  • 40. Spend 4/20 inhaling at Civic Center Park There's been plenty of hoopla about Colorado allowing the sale of marijuana to recreational users. But on April 20, buying pot isn't exactly a necessity. Even before the clock strikes 4:20, taking a deep breath is apt to have the same effect as if you had a joint between your lips -- which could happen, too, since there's a lot of sharing going on. It's a unique experience, and an inexpensive one, too.
  • 39. Catch a T-shirt shot by super-mascot Rocky Year in and year out, teams from around the country try to come up with ways to unseat Rocky, the Nuggets' hyperkinetic mountain lion,from his perch as the greatest mascot in sports. And each year, they fail. Snagging a T-shirt fired or boomeranged into the stands is just one degree of separation from the Nuggets' most valuable player.
  • 38. Take a really inappropriate photo with the Big Blue Bear An ursine icon like no other, the Big Blue Bear (aka Lawrence Argent's "I See What You Mean"), who spends his days and nights endlessly peering into the Denver Convention Center, has been satirized plenty of times -- perhaps most memorably when pranksters left some swirly blue poo beneath him. Coming up with a pic as good as this one won't be easy -- but if it were, this wouldn't be on our list.
  • 37. Attend an Avs game where Patrick Roy loses his shit When newly minted coach Roy was playing for the Avalanche during the squad's glory years, he had a reputation for feistiness: How many goalies have ever challenged another net-minder to a fight? And his screaming, bug-eyed, glass-wall-shoving display at a game earlier this season was astonishing to behold. Wouldn't you love to see him take things even further? And he could do it anytime.
  • 36. Ride the halls of the Stanley Hotel on a Big Wheel Those Steadicam scenes from The Shining during which Danny pedals madly from corridor to corridor may not have been filmed at the Stanley, the pride of Estes Park. But the striking edifice inspired the Overlook Hotel in author Stephen King's book. Imagine how much fun it would be to bring film and novel together from the seat of a badass three-wheeler.
  • 35. Buy something at Annie's, the planet's first licensed marijuana store Given all the attention paid to cannabis in Denver and Boulder, few would have bet that the first store to secure a local license would be in Central City. Then again, the historic community, which has reinvented itself plenty of times during its lifespan, has a reputation for long shots and beating the odds. And now, it's also known for Annie's, the little pot shop that could.
  • 34. Have the best costume during a Denver Cruisers ride Wednesday nights have become bike night in the Mile High City thanks to the Denver Cruisers, whose rides are the stuff of modern legend. And since each week has a different theme -- last year alone, they ranged from Woodstock to Redneck Yacht Club -- you've got a chance to outdo every other reveler on two wheels every seven days.
  • 33.Thrift-binge at every Denver-area Goodwill on half-price day We know plenty of you feel like committing harakiri every time you hear Macklemore's "Thrift Shop." But you needn't harbor a desire to rock those motherfuckin' flannel zebra jammies to love half-price days at Goodwill -- and there are so many great branches in the metro area that visiting all of them before the costs return to normal can set you up for the entire season. And the next one. And the next one.
  • 32. Open and close the Colfax Tattered Cover With the transition from physical content to the digital kind continuing at a rapid pace, plenty of bookstores around the country have found it impossible to survive. But the Tattered Cover is still going strong, in part because all of the outlets, and especially the main branch, are such great places to hang out. Spend an entire day there and prove it.
  • 31. Wear such disgusting makeup at the Zombie Run that even the other zombies are grossed out In only a few short years, the Zombie Run at City Park has become one of the largest, craziest and most entertaining annual events in Denver -- and each time around, lots of returning participants try to out-gore each other. Top them with simulated damage and decay so stomach-churning that even the undead will lose their appetite for brains.
  • Skip ad in seconds.
  • 30. Watch a Rockies game from the Purple Row Visit Coors Field with an out-of-towner and you'll inevitably be asked about the purple row -- the one that's said to be precisely a mile above sea level. But while that's an interesting factoid, there's something else great about these seats: Even though they're hardly at field level, the best of them offer an absolutely spectacular view of Denver and the mountains beyond.
  • 29. Drive over Trail Ridge Road Open only when the weather's warm enough to melt the snow that normally blankets it, the stretch of U.S. Highway 34 known as Trail Ridge Road reaches a maximum elevation of 12,183 feet, making it the highest continuous paved road in America. Drivers who take it across Rocky Mountain National Park traverse forests and mountain passes as they weave back and forth across the treeline.
  • 28. Watch the CU Buffs beat a decent team A decade or two ago, the prospect of the CU Buffs winding up in the win column after facing a formidable opponent didn't seem all that unlikely. But of late, the team has been beaten so many times and in so many different ways that it's a wonder the coaches haven't taken out a restraining order against the NCAA. Let's hope we all live long enough to see that change.
  • 27. Scale a 14er Colorado is home to 53 mountains above fourteen thousand feet, and getting to the top of them can involve anything from an easy drive to a technical rock climb. Luckily, the closest fourteener to Denver, Mt. Bierstadt, is also one of the easiest to climb; it's a three-mile hike to the top via the West Slopes route.
  • 26. Crab walk up Red Rocks Obviously, going to a concert at Red Rocks is an amazing experience even when the band blows. But just as memorable is heading to the amphitheater on summer mornings, when fitness junkies turn the facility into the planet's most scenic workout center. Crab-walking from the foot of the stage to the last row should leave the ripped contingent impressed, and you ready to become one of them.
  • 25. Ride all of Denver's bike trails This one takes some commitment. After all, the city boasts more than 850 miles' worth of paved off-road trails, affording peddlers the opportunity to ride to attractions as disparate as REI and the Cherry Creek shopping district. As a bonus, those who aren't already worn out can link up to even more dirt trails perfect for mountain biking -- and starting the next Colorado bucket list.
  • 24. Follow Bat Masterson's urine stream to the bathrooms at the Oxford Hotel History is everywhere you look in Denver -- and that includes when you're looking down so as not to make awkward eye contact with the guy at the urinal next to you at the Oxford. That's because these marble marvels have been around so long that frontier lawman Bat Masterson is rumored to have relieved himself there. Draw!
  • 23. Get a picture with the dancing security guard at Red RocksIt's hard not to dance when you have the chance to see some of the biggest music acts in the world playing one of the best stages in the world on a regular basis. That said, a certain security guard at Red Rocks has made a name for himself by shamelessly getting his groove on. He's got moves that get the whole front row going, and he has no qualms about showing off for the whole show. If you ever get the chance, run down and get a quick picture with this guy, because chances are, you will never meet a cooler security guard, one who isn't scared to have a good time -- even when the boss is watching.
  • 22. Watch the sunrise and sunset on the same day from the Continental Divide The Continental Divide is the spine of America, separating rivers that drain east into the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans from those that flow west into the Pacific. It's also the perfect spot to watch the sunrise and sunset melt into the surrounding peaks. When the weather cooperates, there are any number of lookouts on the Divide, from the top of Mount Elbert, the state's highest peak, to Loveland Pass.
  • 21. Take part in the Tomato Battle at Copper Mountain You may not think standing outside in a meadow and getting hit with fruit (yes, a tomato is officially a fruit) sounds like a good time. But these smiles tell a different story. This outrageously enjoyable event is a reminder that getting messy can be a helluva lot of fun -- and making others look just as disheveled can be even better.
  • Skip ad in seconds.
  • 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.
  • 13. See Big Head Todd and the Monsters at Herman's Hideaway It doesn't happen often, but when it does, you definitely want to be on hand to see Big Head Todd and the Monsters get back to their roots and bring the band back to where it all started all those years ago: Herman's Hideaway. There's a special energy in the room every time Todd Park Mohr and company climb back on stage and play, as though the past two decades never happened. It's the Colorado equivalent of seeing the Boss at the Stone Pony.
  • 12. Spend the day at Water World... Sporting more water features than you could ever dream of experiencing in a single day, Water World attracts a monster wave of humanity every hot day of summer, all jostling on giant inner tubes and down massive slides or lazing in wave pools and traveling through the Voyage to the Center of the Earth raft adventure. Generally accepted as one of the best water parks in the nation, this is where Colorado cools off  its biggest beach. Famous fact: South Park immortalized Water World under the alias of "Pipi's Waterpark" in an episode titled "Pee!" Say no more.
  • 11. ...and the evening at Casa Bonita Casa Bonita is our castle of kitsch, a Pepto-Bismol-pink palace where the dirt is palpable and the food is nasty, but we go anyway, because, you know: Cliff divers! Fire spinners! Mariachis! BLACK BART'S CAVE! Eff Disneyland. Eff everything! We have Casa Bonita, world, and you don't.
  • Skip ad in seconds.
  • 10.  Survive an encounter with Blucifer. Denver is filled with wonderful museums and galleries. But the city's most renowned art collection may well be at Denver International Airport, whose public-art portfolio was named the best in the country by USA Today readers last year. We love Gary Sweeney's "America Why I Love Her" for its good-hearted celebration of America, and even enjoy how Leo Tanguma's murals have inspired a host of conspiracy theories about the New World Order building concentration camps under the airport. But the real leader of this pack? "Mustang," the giant blue devil horse that killed its creator, Luis Jimnez, and now stands guard outside the terminal, frightening tourists with its glowing red eyes and really large anus.
  • 9. Buy a cowboy shirt at Rockmount Ranch Wear. Patriarch "Papa" Jack Weil opened Rockmount Ranch Wear nearly seventy years ago, down among the warehouses of what's now known as LoDo, on the edge of skid row and the buried roots of early Denver. He famously lived to 107, and continued to show up for work there until the end. Now led into the 21st century by third-generation Rockmount heir Steve Weil, this Western-wear corral has become a favorite of rock stars and celebrities, who show up for their close-ups in Rockmount's signature diamond-snapped, sawtooth-cut cowpoke regalia. But even regular folks can buy a Rockmount to call their own, from the same brick warehouse in the same old part of town.
  • 8. Drink gunpowder whiskey and eat Rocky Mountain oysters at the Fort. Waugh! When Sam Arnold moved west, he became fascinated with the history of the region. So he set out to build an authentic, if slightly shrunken, version of Bent's Old Fort in the foothills above Denver, and turned it into a legendary restaurant: The Fort. The setting  with a stunning view of Denver  isn't the only draw here; Arnold also resurrected many recipes from the Old West, including whiskey flavored with gunpowder (less for the bang than to blot out the flavor of trading-post rotgut). It's just the thing to wash down that staple of state fairs and rodeos throughout the West: Rocky Mountain oysters. For the timid tenderfoot, the Fort serves its fried bull's balls with plenty of sauces to hide the taste...and texture.
  • 7.  Ride the 15/16 RTD bus routes  all the way. Colfax Avenue, aka U.S. Highway 40, famous (or is that infamous?) for being the longest commercial street in the nation, is 26 miles of Colorado lore, from the rundown, neon-lighted motels that have welcomed tourists into Denver from both the East and the West for decades to the more recent clusters of artist communities and hipster hangouts stretched along its expanse. But you haven't known Colfax at its grittiest until you've cruised it by RTD bus, lurching from stop to stop with the hoi polloi, traveling from the edge of the plains at Chambers Road in Aurora to the blue foothills of Golden at Tenth and Washington.
  • 6. See how the Beat goes on at My Brother's Bar. The building at 2376 15th Street has held a bar since at least the 1880s, perhaps even earlier. For more than forty years, it's been home to My Brother's Bar, a place so well known for its classical music, great, greasy bar burgers and down-home atmosphere that it doesn't even have a sign outside. But it serves up history as well as stiff drinks: During its incarnation as Paul's Place, which ran from Prohibition through the '60s, this saloon was a hangout for Neal Cassady, the inspiration for Dean Moriarty  as well as a generation of Beats and other free spirits  in Jack Kerouac's On the Road. But while Cassady was still a teen in Colorado, he rang up a big tab at Paul's  and asked a pal to cover him, as documented by a letter still hanging at My Brother's.
  • 5. Watch a Broncos game from the South Stands. Even during those years when the Broncos aren't nearly as good as they have been this season, it's no snap to get tickets  and they're even harder to come by in the South Stands, where they're treasured by incredibly loyal fans who pass them down from generation to generation. No wonder, since being in the presence of this orange-and-blue crew is a lot like rooting alongside members of a family  exuberant, passionate, occasionally insane members, granted, but family nonetheless. You'll never look at a Broncos game the same way again.
  • 4. Somehow, some way, get a ticket to the Great American Beer Festival The metro area has been dubbed the Napa Valley of craft beer, and a river of brews runs through it every fall, when the Great American Beer Festival returns to downtown Denver, bringing tens of thousands of bearded, pretzel-draped, soused beer fans to town. The festival, founded in 1982  six years before Denver got its first brewpub  has grown into a major international event, one that has to be seen to be believed. But good luck: Tickets sell out in a matter of minutes. Fortunately, festivities spill over into bars, brewpubs and tap rooms all along the Front Range.
  • 3. See a show at Red Rocks While seeing a show at Red Rocks might seem like the most obvious music-related thing we could pick to top our bucket list, there's a simple justification: Red Rocks is, hands down, the Centennial State's most prized destination. While playing a show here is a crowning achievement for any act, seeing a show here  with the majesty of the sun painting the sky behind you as it sets while you watch the city lights glinting in the distance below  is unlike anything you've ever experienced. Depending on who's on the stage, you might even call it religious.
  • 2. Join the Mile High Club  without ever setting foot in a plane. To join the Mile High Club in most states, you need a plane ticket, a vacant bathroom and some serious moxie. In Colorado, all you need is a partner, and with that "Menver" nickname long since outdated, finding one isn't hard, no matter who you are. With an average elevation of 5,280 feet, much of Denver is fair game for high-altitude nookie  but if you want to be precise about it, the city's official mile-high markers are a row of purple seats at Coors Field and a plaque on the steps of the State Capitol, the latter a particularly titillating place to join the club.
  • 1. Read the Thomas Hornsby Ferril poem at Confluence Park, where Denver got its start. Denver got its start when gold was found in the shallow Platte River, close to its confluence with Cherry Creek. Although that discovery was soon overshadowed by big strikes in the mountains, a tiny settlement sprang up along the banks of the two waterways in 1858, eventually turning into Denver. Today, Confluence Park is one of this town's great amenities, a great place to go for a stroll, try out a kayak, or just watch kids frolic in water that no one would have dared venture into two decades ago. And tucked away to the side is a plaque etched with this poem by longtime Denver poet laureate Thomas Hornsby Ferril:
Two Rivers
Two rivers that were here before there was
A city here still come together: one
Is a mountain river flowing into the prairie;
One is a prairie river flowing toward
The mountains but feeling them and turning back
The way some of the people who came here did.
Most of the time these people hardly seemed
To realize they wanted to be remembered,
Because the mountains told them not to die.
I wasn't here, yet I remember them,
That first night long ago, those wagon people
Who pushed aside enough of the cottonwoods
To build our city where the blueness rested.
They were with me, they told me afterward,
When I stood on a splintered wooden viaduct
Before it changed to steel and I to man.
They told me while I stared down at the water:
If you will stay we will not go away.
1 of 100
100. Be the first skier of a Colorado ski season

Each year, resorts throughout the state race to be the first to open. And once the winning ski area is established, another competition gets underway -- to be the initial skier to hit the slopes. Achieving this goal takes a number of important characteristics, including the desire to set everything else aside, be it work, school, family commitments and/or common sense, to stake your claim, as well as to challenge yourself on each and every mogul before anyone else gets the chance. We know you can do it.
We picked 100 must-have Colorado experiences in the arts, music, dining, and more for our 2014 Bucket List. Now, we've rounded them up in photo form. Which will you tick off this year?