You might associate this city with winter—as a gateway to top ski resorts, or where you lost hours during an airport layover. But Denver is lively year round as long as you’re ready for every kind of weather—on the same day. (Layers!) Breweries nationwide compete this month at The Great American Beer Festival, held at the Colorado Convention Center from Sept. 24 through 26. Orange County breweries won four awards last year. When the weather goes bad, Cherry Creek Shopping Center provides indoor luxury shopping, people-watching, and a play area for kids.
Nearing completion of an $86 million renovation, the Denver Botanic Gardens ($9 to $12.50) is a serene respite in the heart of the city, showcasing native plants, a Japanese garden, and the handblown glass sculpture, “Colorado,”
by artist Dale Chihuly. Denver is home to one of two U.S. Mints available for public tours, which are free but require online reservations. The Denver mint makes all denominations of coins. A few blocks away, the awkwardly named History Colorado Center ($8 to $12) showcases Slinky, Gumby, Mr. Potato Head, and others in the traveling exhibit “Toys of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s,” now on display.
For breakfast, be sure to visit Lucile’s for the beignets ($5) or Eggs New Orleans ($10), but prepare for a wait on the weekends. A few blocks south, Chowder Room will please your seafood cravings with a three-variety chowder sampler, Hawaiian poke, or oysters ($3 to $26). Head north on Broadway for dessert at Sweet Action Ice Cream, which features flavors such as chocolate molé, Stranahan’s whiskey brickle, and Colorado sour cherry. For winning cuisine such as Grilled Hotchkiss Colorado Wagyu short rib ($28), go to Larimer Square and dine at Rioja, home to Denver’s first James Beard Award-winning chef, Jennifer Jasinski.
The Brown Palace Hotel ($229 and up) offers elegance and an undeniable sense of history. Opened in 1892, every U.S. president since Teddy Roosevelt has visited, except Calvin Coolidge. For a modern and individual feel, try the boutique Hotel Monaco ($195 and up), which has a nightly wine hour and is pet friendly. If you crave a more personal approach with a fantastic breakfast, Capitol Hill Mansion Bed and Breakfast ($154 to $229) is located on Denver’s Millionaire’s Row. The National Historic Landmark offers afternoon wine service by the fireplace and eight rooms, each named for Colorado wildflowers.
Southwest, Frontier, and United airlines have nonstop flights from John Wayne Airport to Denver International Airport.