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Where artists go, people follow. River North (RiNo to locals) was originally an industrial neighborhood within the larger Five Points area, filled with warehouses, factories, and auto repair shops. Artists were drawn to the grittiness and began to set up shop in downtown Denver’s northeast end. In 2005, the River North Art District was born—and the area’s transformation into a creative hub began. Today, RiNo is home to some of the city’s best restaurants, breweries, bars, galleries, and boutiques (and even a karaoke bar). Co-working spaces, a hotel (coming soon), and major infrastructure improvements (real sidewalks!) are now cementing RiNo as the place to be in Denver.
Boundaries: According to the River North Art District, it’s I-70 to the north, I-25 to the west, Park Avenue West to the south, and Arapahoe Street to the east.
The Vibe: Energetic. Graffiti-covered facades and alleyways create a sense of cohesion between the new builds and more run-down structures. There’s something for almost anyone in RiNo, so expect to mingle with a cross-section of Denver’s growing population.
Getting Around: The neighborhood is small, so walking or biking (there are four Denver B-cycle stations) are the best options, but there is also free street parking, and the University of Colorado A Line light rail stops at the 38th and Blake station. Drink RiNo launched in January with free rides on circulator eTuks around the neighborhood at select times on Fridays and Saturdays. New pedestrian bridges, continuous sidewalks, and protected bike lanes are all in the works in certain areas as part of the city’s North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative redevelopment projects.
Eat: Hunger pangs are easily quieted in RiNo–once you decide where to go. Indecisive eaters should book it to six-month-old Denver Central Market, a food hall featuring a bakery, butcher, fish market, and ice cream shop, among other purveyors. For an a.m. bite, Port Side satisfies with strong coffee and delectable breakfast sandwiches, or grab a buttery morning bun to-go from Babettes Artisan Bakery inside the Source, another market hall. At lunch, stop by Stowaway Coffee & Kitchen for a salad, or grab a patio table and any sandwich served on the fresh-baked ciabatta at the Preservery. For dinner, you’ll find everything from Italian (Il Posto) to burgers (Chuburger) to ramen (Osaka Ramen) to seafood (Fish N Beer) to eclectic American eats (The Populist, Acorn).
Drink: Beer rules in this neighborhood (11 breweries and counting). But there’s booze to satisfy every taste, including cideries, wineries, and bars serving a little bit of everything (a speakeasy, distillery, and more are on tap for the neighborhood this year). We’re fans of Pon Pon Bar when we’re catching up with a friend and Nocturne Jazz & Supper Club for a special night out. During warm-weather happy hours, find us on the small patio at Cart-Driver or enjoying the fresh air at Blue Moon Brewery. For a caffeine buzz, stop by the neighborhood’s newest java house, Blue Sparrow Coffee.
Shop: Boutiques are among RiNo’s newest additions. Ladies will want to make time to peruse the racks at the perfectly on-trend Shea, Kit and Ace, home of supersoft cashmere essentials, and Bohemian fashion-truck-turned-store Meraki Moon. Outdoorsy shoppers should stop by Topo Designs for contemporary—and durable—bags, apparel, and accessories. U.S.-made homewares, including the loveliest scented candles we ever did smell, can be found at River North Workshop Co.; the shop also hosts regular workshops on gardening and crafting. If you’re in need of something a bit bigger for your house, check out Re For Your Home and Studio2b‘s showrooms.
Get Cultured: Of course, no trip to RiNo would be complete without some art. Beyond the fantastic outdoor graffiti and murals, the area is home to more than a dozen galleries and numerous artist studios. RedLine Contemporary Art Center is a not-to-be-missed neighborhood institution. We’re also fond of exhibitions at Helikon Gallery & Studios and Dateline, as well as whatever show longtime residents Sharon and Rexford Brown are curating at the Pattern Shop Studio, their house-slash-gallery. Contemporary dance company Wonderbound also calls the ‘hood home.
Sweat It Out: Fitness studios are becoming increasingly common as more people settle down in and around RiNo. Earn your beer (or cider or wine) with a spin workout at Epic Ryde, a pole fitness lesson at Tease Studio, a combo class at QiFlow, or a restorative hour at Manna Pilates.