This post is in partnership with Hotel Teatro & Ace Eat Serve. All opinions expressed are my own.
As I reached another year to celebrate my birthday, I knew I wanted to travel to a location where I can feel "on top of the world." Ever since I traveled to Honolulu for a birthday solo trip in 2016, I always made it a priority for me to travel and enjoy the company of myself and a place I've never been to before. Each trip has made me learn something about myself, and now that I'm turning 25, I wanted to find a quick getaway with an amazing outdoor view. With all the anticipating changes I'm making in my life, beginning the year in Colorado instantly popped into my mind.
Colorado has been one of the top must-see states on my travel list since I could remember. Everyone always gushes about their annual Aspen resort family vacations and Rocky Mountain 14-day hiking trips when I was a kid...and I always got a little jealous. One, I'm not the type of girl who just immerses herself in the wilderness and camp outdoors just to look at constellations and make fire out of wood, nor do people ever invite me to join in these types of escapades. People who personally know me understand that it's just not me (insert clapping with every underlined word).
However, Denver seemed like the best place to change that side of me. Being widely known as the "Mile High City," Denver had the best of both worlds when it comes to urban life and country side views. I didn't think twice about the opportunity to go to Colorado and spontaneously booked the flight...assuring myself that I'll figure out the details later. After exploring the city on my own, here is my detailed solo travel guide to Denver:
Going to/from Denver: If you are planning on directly going to downtown Denver, you'd want to get to Union Station. Once you arrive at the airport, go to the baggage claim area and follow the "train/rail" signs that will lead you outside the airport and down an escalator. The rail system will have ticket machines that accept cash, credit, and debit. If you're not a local Coloradan, student, senior, or served in the military, expect to pay the full adult fare for $9. The train ride will last approximately 30 minutes and Union Station will be the final station of the train route.
Around Denver: With the free mall rides, cheap Uber/Lyft prices, and easy-navigating streets, there are many ways to efficiently travel in Denver. I personally walked from Union Station to my hotel, but I always recommend considering the time of day you arrive in order to safely arrive where you need to go. You can read more about Denver's transportation here.
WHERE TO STAY
During my trip, I had the opportunity to stay at Hotel Teatro, Denver's Original Boutique Hotel! I was initially excited to check out the buzz about the new modern renovations happening, but once I learned how convenient the hotel location was to Larimer Square, Performing Arts Center, Convention Center, University of Colorado, and some of the best restaurants in the city, I was immediately swoon! As a first-time tourist, I felt like the best of Denver was within walking distance away.
You'll enter inside the lobby finding yourself staring at the beautiful historic architecture and country chic decor. However, once you step inside your hotel room, you'll notice the sleek, contemporary design. With it's marbled bedside counters, plush robes, oversized tub in the bathroom, and open window views of the surrounding city, you can't help but feel like the luckiest person in the world.
Some of the perks about Hotel Teatro is that they provide amazing breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Before you start the day, heading to The Study for breakfast is probably my favorite area of the hotel. The blue lounge area has a fireplace surrounded with tall, wide bookshelves filled with antique books that make you feel like you're in a cozy high-class cottage. Beside The Study, you can have lunch and dinner at The Nickel, which is a popular chic bistro spot for guests and locals to dine. The location, services, and amenities in this iconic hotel make Denver worth the trip for me.
WHAT TO SEE
Larimer Square: It's a popular spot for locals and tourists with good reason! I find it to be the most charming spot of downtown. The year-round twinkling strung lights and festive decor around the boutiques and bistros can't help but make you feel happy when you walk across. Support local businesses by shopping and dining in this area and enjoy the beautiful lights during the evening.
Union Station: Union Station is the heart of downtown Denver! Although it's a "get in and get out" area from the bustle of people frequently arriving and exiting the location, it's also a popular photo-op spot for many people. Plus, when you enter inside, they have some amazing stores and food spots that are open early for breakfast and coffee. My favorite shop inside? The cute floral stand called "Bloom" has the most beautiful floral arrangements I've seen!
Art District in Santa Fe/RINO Art District: Don't miss the opportunity to see some art while you're here! As a mural and color enthusiast, I am absolutely in love with the art districts in Denver. Grab breakfast to-go and walk around RINO or Santa Fe's art district and check out some of the most colorful scenic spots in the city.
WHERE TO EAT
Best Place for Breakfast: While I enjoyed The Study at Hotel Teatro, I also ate breakfast at Little Owl Cafe. The name itself intrigued me enough to take a visit. First glance, it's a small coffee shop with minimalistic design and contemporary decor. However, the cafe smells heavenly right when you stand in front of the cashier line with their fresh baked pastries on display. The menu is all under $10 and perfect for people on a budget.
Best Place to Dine: When it comes to food selection, aesthetic decor, and entertainment, Ace Eat Serve delivers it all. This Asian cuisine restaurant offers an amazing selection of dishes that can cater to everyone's tastebuds. The architecture and decor of the restaurant is designed with upcycled goods that create an upscale trendy environment for people of all ages to come. Best part, you can head over to the indoor or outdoor patio after dinner and play some ping pong with friends until closing hour. My dining experience was easily a highlight in my trip, so stay tuned for a detailed blog post for more inside scoop of this restaurant!
Best Place for Dessert: If you want dessert with a view, head on over to Little Man Ice Cream for some tasty sweets! This "milk jug" ice cream shop gives proceeds to charities for every purchase, and the one-of-a-kind seasonal flavors will make you want to come back every weekend! When you walk towards the Highland bridge at the end of the block, you get to see a fantastic area of the city. I highly recommend walking around the Highland area at sunset for a golden view.
OUTDOOR AREAS CLOSE TO DENVER
Red Rock Park and Amphitheatre: If you want to see the outdoors away from downtown, check out the Red Rock Trail! As a non-athletic person, the trail area was manageable with rewarding views of the most beautiful rock formations. You'll see lots of locals working out and young families strolling around the area. Plus, if you walk towards the top of the amphitheatre, there's a restaurant, shop, and music hall of fame area to cool off! This is definitely a great option for those who want a light and easy walking trail. You can reach Red Rock by car or by Uber ($10-13).
Lookout Mountain: If you're still up for more outdoor views, check out Lookout Mountain! The hike is more lengthy than Red Rock, but many locals say that it has the best view of Denver. If you love road cycling, you'll be able to join many other mountain bikers at the Chimney Gulch trail. You can find a nature center with interactive exhibitions that is perfect for families and small children. All in all, it's an amazing trail to enjoy the beauty of nature.
I hope my extensive birthday travel guide will give you an idea of what this amazing city has to offer! No matter the occasion, traveling to Denver for the weekend is an amazing experience that's worth seeing in person. If you have any questions, I'll be answering them in the comments below! Special thanks to Hotel Teatro and Ace Eat Serve for partnering with me on this post. If you want to see more, don't forget to check out my Instagram for other photos of my trip! Until next time- Ressa