Feature

Reasons to Love Denver

December 2012

21 Because going to the Pec is still cool.

Buckets of icy longnecks. Greasy Mexican food. Jazz music. It’s not exactly the combination you might expect to find, well, anywhere—but that’s exactly what we love about Denver’s El Chapultepec. Since the ’30s, this narrow bar at the corner of Market and 20th streets has welcomed some of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. Frank Sinatra, the Marsalis brothers, Woody Herman, and the entire Count Basie Orchestra have played here. But let’s face it, the golden age of American jazz has come and gone. What makes the Pec relevant today is the nightly live music that ranges from blues and funk to, yes, jazz.

Angela Guerrero owns the Pec, but the bar has been in her family, in one way or another, since it opened. Since she was a teenager—Guerrero began running the kitchen at 13 years old—she has been privy to some of the Pec’s most-celebrated performances. Today, though, Guerrero is simply trying to keep the jazz bar alive. Every night she brings in talented musicians—Diana Castro & the Big Time Band, the Freddy Rodriguez Quartet, and the David Booker Band among them—and relies on Denver’s true music lovers to stop in. 

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22 Because the low humidity makes Denver one of the best hair cities in the world.

I love Denver for many reasons, but I’d be lying if I said the nearby skiing or the mountain views or the quaint bungalow I live in on a street in Wash Park was the primary reason. None of them is. Not even close. This may be incredibly vain, but, well, I just don’t give a damn. I love Denver because it gives me a modicum of control over my unruly hair.

Yup, you read that right. In my opinion, Denver deserves some serious kudos for its salonlike environment. I’ve been to cities on six continents—never mind spending an adolescence in the dewy air of the American South—and my naturally curly hair has never looked less ridiculous than it does here. Low humidity, modest rainfall, warm chinook winds: It’s a climatic recipe for smoother locks. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I should be cast in a shampoo commercial; I’m not even saying my mane looks good. I’m simply saying that if I want to leave my hair in ringlets, I can do so without looking like a young, female, blond version of Albert Einstein. And if I want to straighten the mess, I can—without having my work summarily undone by infernal wave-inducing humidity.

If you think this sounds like a trivial reason to love a city, I’d venture a guess that you have straight hair. Or you’re a guy. Either way, your opinion means less than nothing. —Lindsey B. Koehler

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23 Because a one-time geologist turned brewer turned mayor is the perfect person to be 
our governor.

Forget about partisan politics for a second. Never mind that he’s a Democrat. Instead, behold the man, the personage of John Wright Hickenlooper, the two-term mayor of Denver and now governor of Colorado. If we mustered the brainiest brainpower from the labs of the University of Colorado and paired it with, say, the most advanced technological savvy of the local Lockheed Martin campus, and were allotted an unlimited budget, and we contracted this team to engineer a Six Million Dollar Man–like humanoid to represent the political persona of Denver, someone to represent us, no one—not even in this positively ridiculous fictional scenario—could concoct a more fitting character than Hickenlooper.

The Denver of now—and for that matter, the Colorado of now—is a unique New West amalgamation. We are amply comprised of transplants who chose to stake their claims here. We opt (mostly) for civil discourse and aim for bipartisanship. We take leaps of faith, even though we may not all call it “faith.” And though we decide with our minds, we do so mindful of what is in our hearts. We produce some of the country’s best craft beers. We aspire to be healthy and green. We like solar and wind. We fancy ourselves as sturdy as mountains. We look just as good in cowboy boots as we do in hiking boots. We are grieving. We are recovering. We don’t have all of the answers and we say so. We’re trying and doing better than alright. We are imperfect. And so, this guy, John Hickenlooper, this former brewpub entrepreneur turned politician, this transplant from Pennsylvania who doesn’t always say the right thing, but always means well, this shrewd nerd who pretty much always comes close to pleasing everyone and is resigned to pissing off the rest, well, he’s ours, he’s just like us—and we like it that way.

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25 Because chef Justin Cucci knows what we crave way before we do.

Justin Cucci, chef-owner of Root Down and Linger, two of the city’s hottest eateries to open in the past several years, has the unique ability to anticipate what Denver wants, often before we know it ourselves. He takes an idea—vegetarian dishes or street food or a refabbed gas station or an old funeral home parking structure—and he elevates it. The results of Cucci’s big brain are on display in the form of restaurants that champion Denver in a way that once and for all removes any remaining “cow town” label. “There are a lot of great restaurants, but only a small amount of them communicate on deeper levels,” he says. “We preach connecting with people and communicating on many levels.” That ethos is apparent when you dine at one of his restaurants—Linger in particular—and the experience leaves you breathless. The views! The flavors! The vibe! The crowd! This is local dining at its most exciting. Coming Soon: Cucci is opening a Root Down outpost at DIA this spring and a live-music venue on the edge of downtown in summer 2013. 

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26 Because you can live 10 minutes outside of the Central Business District and afford to have a yard.

Whenever someone asks me why I haven’t moved to the ’burbs (For more house! For the great schools!), I show them my backyard—and then my car’s odometer. I lived in city apartments in the Big Apple and Denver for most of my 20s, and I longed for a patch of dirt to call my own. But I also grew up in a small Midwestern town and simply cannot move away from all the amenities a city has to offer.

The solution? Buying a home in one of Denver’s metropolitan neighborhoods. Park Hill, Washington Park, Congress Park, and the Highlands all have a suburban feel complemented by an urban location—and unlike similar spots in other cities, these areas can be affordable. An equivalent four-bedroom home in New York’s Park Slope would cost about $1,000,000 more than my abode in Park Hill and have one-third the yard (and a sizeable subway commute). It’s no better on the West Coast: A similar house in San Francisco’s Richmond neighborhood has a speck of a yard and comes with a $1.3 million price tag. Ouch

In Denver, I live about five miles from downtown, which is close enough that I can walk home from my LoDo office. And when I get home, I have a front yard and a backyard to stretch out in. I have a garden. We play cornhole in the grass. We have two grills. And I can already picture my son, now just a month old, playing catch with his dad in the back. In truth, I have too much yard to keep up with. But don’t tell the assessor; I’m not giving up an inch of it. —Natasha Gardner

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27 Because we’ve got front-row seats to a legendary quarterback bromance.

John Elway says he wasn’t nervous about his first date with Peyton Manning last March. Yes, he wanted Manning to see the upside of going steady with the Broncos organization. And, OK sure, he wanted Manning to think there was no one else out there who would treat him as well as the Broncos could. But nervous? Not really. After all, Elway had a backup boyfriend in Tim Tebow.

Still, when the phone rang in his office on March 19, Elway snapped the cell phone to his ear. When Elway’s fantasy free agent told him he had decided to become a Bronco, Elway flashed Fox a thumbs-up and his signature gummy smile. Elway had scored a once-in-a-lifetime catch—a 6-foot-5-inch, 230-pound dreamboat from Dixie with more passing yards than Dan Marino (not to mention Elway himself) and an uncanny ability to read defenses. 

Now, nearly a dozen games into the season, Manning is finally making the Broncos look like a playoff-ready team. But there isn’t any love lost. Elway lets Manning play the field, but insists that Denver’s newest star quarterback saves time to get dinner or play golf with the city’s most beloved Bronco every once in a while. Call it a working relationship, call it mutual respect, call it love, but the chemistry between two of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time is another reason to love Denver—especially on fall Sundays. 

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