Ordinarily Extraordinary Denver

by Rich Rubin
Denver, Colorado Skyline

In many ways (you’ll see later why this is the ultimate compliment) it’s just an ordinary city, and that’s perhaps the thing I love best about it.

Rich Rubin

Speaking of amazing experiences, I venture to an out-of-the-way neighborhood near Empower Field and the wonderful Latino-owned brewery Raices Brewing Company, to experience the one and only Convergence Station. This is the latest project of the ever-creative Meow Wolf (the first two are in Santa Fe and Las Vegas). Let me try to describe it without being too wordy. Okay, here goes. You enter the “Convergence Station,” where the various fictional worlds of the place converge. “Welcome to Denver,” reads the sign in the Convergence Station, “head directly to the Earth Customs Office.”

Then you enter other worlds, as there’s an infinite variety of atmospheres to wander through. We come off the elevator to C Street, the sanitation district of the Planet of Immensity (or as it’s known, “The Immensity”). We see a pet store where the pets have taken over, a laundromat- like thing where the quarters you put in are returned to you at various points as you walk. Take your time and wander through this immersive experience: you’ll see the swamp area known as Numina, with fiber optic waterfalls and random, interactive sounds coming at you. You’ll visit Eenia, the ice world, with its Kaleidogoth Cathedral. You’ll encounter a variety of spaces created by different local artists, many of them interactive, and there’s no limit to the phantasmagoric creations of a series of fertile imaginations. It’s easy to spend an entire afternoon wandering through the many worlds, and just when you think you have a handle on the whole thing, something shifts, something changes, and all of a sudden, you’re in a world that’s completely different. It’s an incredible journey, and one you really shouldn’t miss.

Speaking of incredible journeys, Denver is well-placed for exploring some of the local wonders. There’s skiing, hiking, rafting, and just about any activity you can think of around a location that’s a stone’s throw from the Rocky Mountains. Don’t miss Red Rocks Amphitheater, the acoustically perfect natural amphitheater about a half hour from downtown Denver that’s attracted performers from Lily Pons to The Beatles, Johnny Cash to Jimi Hendrix, Jethro Tull and The Grateful Dead to Bob Dylan and Diana Ross. It’s a natural wonder not to be missed. While they host performances from Easter to October, it’s also a park open year-round, and you can explore the hiking trails scattered among over 700 acres of natural habitat with prairies, mountains, the eponymous rocks, and (at almost 6500 feet in altitude) some spectacular views!

Enjoying a Coffee During First Friday Art Walk in Denver, Colorado

Enjoying a Coffee During First Friday Art Walk in Denver
Photo: Kseniia Perminovajpg

If you prefer your natural habitats right in town, head to Cherry Creek (well, if you’re staying at the Clayton you’re there already) and the Denver Botanic Gardens, where I wander among various habitats (mountains, desert, Great Plains) past some of the most incredible water lilies I’ve ever seen, down rows of blossoming roses, into a Sacred Earth garden with plants important to the region’s Native Americans. It’s an experience I wouldn’t give up for anything. During a longish walk back to Clayton, I refuel at Cherry Creek’s Aviano Coffee, with its industrial chic look, rectangular bar with seating at one end, brick walls, nice patio out front, and friendly staff.

It’s part of a burgeoning coffee scene, and let’s explore it a little. Start your caffeination at Corvus Coffee Roasters, which I think is my favorite coffeehouse in town. There’s a raw, industrial look to the place, with pipes along the ceiling, and my friend and I have the exact same reaction: “The seats are gonna be uncomfortable and the coffee’s gonna be great.” And sure enough, this is a place that’s all about the coffee, and it’s pretty much the best in town. From here it’s on to Queensberry Rules Coffee, up in the Lower Highlands (excuse me, LoHi), and the minute I enter I realize I was here when their name was Black Eye. I enjoy a Palo Santo cappuccino, an intriguing combination of the traditional coffee drink with bitters from this tree, giving it a nice woodsy taste. Nearby is Pinwheel Coffee, where all the employees are teens, as part of a project to teach local youngsters business and other skills. There’s a case full of tempting baked goods like toasted oat/coconut bars with ganache filling, glittery 1950s diner chairs, rows of rainbowhued pinwheels dancing across the walls. There’s a nice, mellow feeling here, wide open and modern, and great coffee! Back in Lower Downtown, I head to Blake Street, where right next to my beloved ChoLon, is Little Owl Coffee. I love this tiny spot, with just a few seats in the window and on the patio, great coffee (I have a single-origin espresso), and really nice staff. It’s comfy despite (or because of) its diminutive size, and I always make it a point to stop in when I’m in the neighborhood and enjoy some of the best coffee in town. Not far away, in the Dairy Block, is Huckleberry Roasters. I see a cold brew/limeade blend and ask the barista, “Is it weird or kind of amazing?” “Both,” he smiles, adding in a cautionary tone, “It’s definitely a two-sipper.” He pours me a sample, and he’s right: the first sip leaves me undecided, but the second convinces me it tilts much more toward amazing, the acidity and slight sweetness of the limeade blending nicely with the richness of the cold brew. It’s my new favorite drink.

Related: Six Of The Best Places To Hike Around The World

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