I’ve been traveling the United States for the past year, hopping from city to city every few months. My most recent stop was in Denver, Colorado—the city known for great beer, legal marijuana, and incredible mountain views. I lived there for four months, and I absolutely loved it. I already can’t wait to go back to that beautiful state.
Here’s how I spent four months living in the wonderful city of Denver.
Embracing my adventurous side
Most people who move to Colorado are the outdoorsy, adventurous type who love to rock climb, ski, mountain bike, and spend as much time as possible outside. I’ll admit that I’m not the most outdoorsy person—just give me a kayak and a beer, and I’ll be more than happy. But as the saying goes, when in Colorado, do as the Coloradans do.
I didn’t free solo any rockfaces, but I did spend a lot of time outdoors—hiking, camping, river floating, and even flying a plane!
Some new friends and I went camping in Glenwood Springs (near Aspen) over the summer. On the three-hour drive there, I learned that it was dispersed-style camping, meaning there were no facilities (showers, toilets, lights, trash cans, etc). That was a first for me, but I ended up having so much fun! We spent the weekend getting to know each other, especially when a rainstorm passed by, and we all sheltered in a friend’s massive tent to play card games.
I love to hike, but I grew up hiking New Hampshire’s 4,000-footers, not Colorado’s massive fourteeners. So, as I hiked around Colorado, I made sure to choose trails that worked for me. Even though I stayed at lower altitudes, I got to experience absolutely breathtaking views.
There are endless trails to explore around Denver, but here are seven of the best easy hikes I found while in the area.
One of my favorite hikes was at Red Rocks Park. I looped around the Trading Post Trail and took in the beautiful landscape that made me feel like I was on another planet. Afterwards, I went to a concert at the world-famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre. I got to see a Queen tribute band perform as a thunderstorm rolled by in the distance. The storm took “Bohemian Rhapsody” (“thunderbolts and lightning, very, very frightening me!”) to a whole other level!
Enjoying the crazy weather
I lived in Denver from July to November, so I got to experience all kinds of weather throughout the summer, fall, and the first snow of the season.
During the summer, I got to enjoy the sunshine without the overwhelming heat (thank you, high altitude!). This made the aforementioned outdoor activities much more bearable.
And, with the Colorado summer weather came Colorado summer storms. Throughout July and August, a storm would pass by in the afternoon almost every day. It would pour for about 20 minutes, then dissipate. I lost track of the number of rainbows I saw!
As a New Englander, I have high expectations for fall foliage—and Colorado did not disappoint. The aspen trees turned a bright yellow for several weeks during September and October, and I couldn’t get enough of them. The best leaf-peeping spots I found were in Castlewood Canyon State Park, the town of Silverthorne, and Echo Lake. The bright pops of yellow sprinkled among the evergreen trees and snowcapped mountains were just stunning.
Making lots of friends
I’ve lived in five different cities over the past year, and Denver has definitely been the most welcoming. I made so many great friends, especially thanks to the Flight Night events run by the Facebook Group Denver’s New Friends, Fun and New Adventures.
I’ve gotten good at going to events by myself, but it was so nice to have a group of friends to go places with. We went dancing at the Grizzly Rose, cheered on the Denver Broncos and the Colorado Avs, ventured out on a haunted pub crawl, and so much more. I already miss those guys, but I know I’ll always be able to go back and visit them.
Indulging in legal marijuana
Colorado was one of the first states to legalize marijuana, and they certainly still embrace it. In Denver alone, there are about 200 dispensaries throughout the city. So, naturally, I had to check them out.
At each dispensary I visited, the budtenders (yes, that’s a real job title) were very knowledgeable about their products, and they helped answer many questions. As someone who doesn’t smoke very often, tends to get paranoid while high, and doesn’t even like the smell of weed, I was able to find products that gave me a relaxed high, and that actually smelled pretty good!
I also visited the International Church of Cannabis, and I cannot recommend it enough. The church is home to “Elevationists,” or those who worship the spiritual benefits of cannabis. The interior of the renovated church is so colorful and beautiful, and it comes to life during the BEYOND show, a guided meditation and laser light experience. The show is performed every hour throughout the week (more details here). Just know that you cannot smoke in the building, so make sure to have a toke outside before you go in for the show!
Traveling within Colorado
There was so much to see and do within the Mile High City, but I had just as much fun exploring the surrounding cities and towns. Whether I took the short drive to Fort Collins or the long journey to Steamboat Springs, it was always worth it.
One of my favorite day trips was when I visited Estes Park with my brother. The hour-and-a-half drive up route 36 was amazing—we wound over mountains and through canyons, taking in the views of the Rocky Mountain National Park in the distance. We then toured The Stanley Hotel to see the inspiration behind Stephen King’s horror novel, “The Shining,” and we even reenacted scenes from the classic film “Dumb & Dumber.”
Colorado is also home to some of the highest paved roads in America. Despite my fear of heights, I drove over several of them. I just gripped my steering wheel tight and tried not to stare out the window for too long. My favorite scenic drives were Independence Pass, Loveland Pass, and Trail Ridge Road.
The highest paved road in America is the 14,130-foot Mount Evans Scenic Byway that passes through Colorado’s Clear Creek and Jefferson counties. Before driving there, I learned it was closed for the season (it usually closes in October due to snow), so I drove up to Echo Lake (10,600 feet), instead. Let’s just say I was not disappointed with the view…
Throughout my stay in Denver, I traveled to six other cities and towns. You can read more about them in my article, “The 6 Best Weekend Trips I Took While Living in Denver.”
Eating and drinking throughout the city
After living in foodie cities like Austin and New Orleans, I didn’t have the highest hopes for Denver’s food scene, especially since it’s a city known for its beer and weed. But I had some absolutely amazing meals during my stay.
Here’s a quick recap of my favorite restaurants and dishes in Denver:
Linger is a modern, high-end restaurant based in a former mortuary. They serve upscale street food from around the world. My favorite dish was the Char Siu Pork Belly Steamed Bao Bun.
Ophelia’s is a restaurant, bar, and live music venue—and it’s haunted! Enjoy a variety of bites and drinks while you watch a show. My favorite dish was the Roasted Green Chili Cornbread.
Tavernetta brings an elegant slice of Italy to the beautiful Union Station neighborhood. I recommend taking advantage of their nightly happy hour. My favorite dish was the Arancino.
El Five offers a beautiful skyline view from their LoHi vantage point. They serve small plates inspired by the Mediterranean. My favorite dish was the Harissa Eggplant Fries.
Super Mega Bien is a tiny restaurant located in the Ramble Hotel. Dine on Latin American “dim sum style” small plates or family-style entrees. My favorite dish was the Ropa Vieja.
Blue Pan Pizza serves up some of the best Detroit-style pizza—just ask Guy Fieri! Their pizza is literally award-winning, so get there early to grab a pie. My favorite dish was the Brooklyn Bridge.
And what’s great food without great drinks?
With over 148 breweries, nearly 100 distilleries, and countless bars offering tiki drinks, wine, and craft cocktails, it’s dangerously easy to find great drinks in this city. And trust me, I found them!
While living in Denver, I also got to attend the 40th Great American Beer Festival. Over the course of three days, hundreds of breweries from all over the country flew in to share their craft beer with attendees. I lost count of the number of beer samples I tried, but I found dozens of breweries that I’ll be sure to visit in my travels!
For a deep dive into the best Denver drinks, check out my articles:
Bidding Colorado farewell
After living my best life in Colorado, it was tough to say goodbye. But my journey from Denver to Salt Lake City made the transition much easier.
Instead of driving straight to Salt Lake City in just seven hours, I took a three-day road trip through Grand Junction, Colorado, and Moab, Utah. I took my time and visited the Colorado National Monument, Dead Horse Point State Park, and Arches National Park. The views from these parks were unbelievable, and I will forever treasure this trip.
Staying with Landing in Denver
Throughout my journey, I often get asked about how I’m able to travel so freely: “Do you live in hotels? Do you live in a van? Do you have to lease a new apartment every time you move?”
Nope. I live with Landing.
Landing gives me (and my fur babies) the freedom and flexibility to travel wherever and whenever I want to. They provide luxury, furnished apartments in hundreds of cities around the United States. Their excellent customer service also ensures that I always have what I need. I definitely recommend checking them out today!