Denver may be known for its outdoorsy and fitness-focused culture, but the city’s identity is also inextricably linked with two legal, mind-altering substances: weed and alcohol (namely craft beer). So, despite the plethora of exciting urban events and outdoor excursions on the Front Range, it can be difficult to find truly sober activities to partake in. (Read more about how alcohol permeates Colorado’s outdoor culture.)
But that doesn’t mean going dry in Denver has to be a drag—I would know; my last drink was on New Year’s Eve of 2017. Whether you’re looking to cut back, are doing a “Dry January,” or have adopted a clean lifestyle, here are 10 things to do in the Mile High City for the non-imbibing individual. Cheers to healthy living!
If you’re a fan of old-school hip-hop and dancing—and your rollerblading skills are on lock—then EXDO’s Roll event is an absolute must. At this monthly event, the fun revolves around the throwback tunes, not throwing back drinks (although there is alcohol served at the event). Black lights and jams from DJ Soup set the scene, so that you can focus on showing off your dance moves while smoothly maneuvering on skates. 21 and over; $5 presale or $10 at the door (skates included). Friday, January 18, doors open at 9 p.m. and stay open until 1:30 a.m.; EXDO Event Center, 1399 35th St. This is a monthly series; check website for details
Enjoy a Belly Laugh at a Comedy Show
Denver’s standup and improv scenes have never been better. While there are plenty of open mic nights and ticketed performances around town, Oskar Blues’ subterranean club in LoDo, the Black Buzzard, is a lovely little venue for local comics, thanks to its regular weekly shows. Head there on Tuesdays for an open mic night hosted by comedian Janae Burris, or on Wednesdays for a comedy show hosted by comic Christie Buchele (both shows start at 9:30 p.m.; doors open at 9 p.m.) Though the Black Buzzard is also a bar, unlike Comedy Works, there is no drink minimum to see a show. Free; the Black Buzzard at Oskar Blues Grill & Brew, 1624 Market St.
Are you and your friends smart enough to survive a Birdbox-type situation? Find out at the Denver Escape Room, where each hour-long scenario tests you and your teammates’ logic and clue-finding abilities. Like a board game come to life, each themed chamber has a different storyline and asks the players to uncover and solve a series of riddles and clues within a set time limit. The immersive adventure does not allow alcohol on the premises, citing that “you will need most of your brain power to escape the room.” We’re more than up for the challenge. $26 per person; Denver Escape Room, 11674 Huron St., #300, Northglenn
If you feel like a novice every time you step into an art museum, you’re not alone. The antidote to art naiveté is MCA Denver’s Art Fitness Training, a workshop that helps people of all ages learn the basic principles of contemporary art. Though January’s session is sold out, MCA just released their 2019 schedule, including monthly dates scheduled for Thursday nights from February through June. Participants will walk away with a better grasp of how to appreciate, interpret, and understand art. $15 for non-members, $10 for members; Thursday, February 21, 6:30 p.m.. This is a monthly series; check website for details
Meetups are a great resource for anyone who is looking to meet like-minded individuals. Though finding other non-drinkers can be hard in your day-to-day—asking strangers about their drinking habits isn’t exactly welcomed small-talk fodder—organized dry events and even a sober category on meetup.com makes it just a little easier. Sober groups include those tailored to the LGBTQ community, outdoorsy folk, motorcycle enthusiasts, those interested in mindfulness and yoga, and more.
Though Denver’s mocktail scene still has plenty of room to grow, there are a handful of restaurants that make exceptional N/A drinks. In addition to our list of six places to get a great mocktail in the Denver area from 2017, Morin—a new French eatery opened in LoDo just a few months back—also makes delicious liquor-free concoctions. Colorado’s kombucha scene is also in full-swing; here are four suggestions for where to find locally made versions of the effervescent, probiotic drink around town.
Each of these monthly events at the DAM—from a series called Untitled: Final Fridays—has a unique theme. Fittingly, January’s is New World/New Self, and includes an array of outside-the-box, interactive, and inclusive activities. Get to know yourself and others with a game of “people bingo,” understand pronoun/gender preference through the lens of tattoos (and get a temporary tattoo yourself), have your makeup done bv a drag-queen makeup artist, make good use of a costume-filled photo booth, take an art tour led by a fashion model, and much more. Included with the price of general admission ($10 for adults); Friday, January 25, 6 to 10 p.m.; DAM’s Hamilton Building, 100 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy. This monthly series takes places on the last Friday of every month
Early risers, this one is for you. If you’ve been itching to get loose on the dance floor, but aren’t exactly stoked on the idea of going out to a booze-soaked bar past sundown—then head to one of Daybreaker’s sunrise parties. Join other bushy-tailed and bright-eyed Denverites at their next local event at Cervantes on Wednesday, January 30. You can pregame the rave-like celebration with a 6 a.m. acroyoga session (that’s aerial yoga, folks), or just head straight to the booty-shaking headliner, DJ Alyson Calagna, at 7 a.m. Tickets to this sober shindig include Kombucha and breakfast snacks, too. Ticket prices vary; Wednesday, January 30, 6 a.m. for yoga or 7 a.m. for the dance party; 2637 Welton St.
Local group Sober AF Entertainment (S.AF.E for short) was founded by Denverite Duke Rumely, who has been sober since 1989. Rumely realized early on in his journey to recovery that, although he wanted to attend the same events and outings he did in his non-sober past, there were plentiful challenges in attending events where liquor and drugs were prevalent. Namely, feeling tempted to drink, like he didn’t fit in, or just plain awkward—sentiments anyone who has had any length of sobriety can relate to. Now, his nonprofit creates “safe zones” for non-drinkers (especially young people) at concerts and sporting events, and even sells discounted tickets to those who want to enjoy a night out while staying committed to their recovery. This month’s featured event is the University of Denver Pioneers vs. Colorado College Tigers hockey game. Prices vary; Saturday, January 19, 7 to 9 p.m.; University of Denver’s Ritchie Center, 2240 Buchtel Blvd. S; check calendar for future events
Don’t let the name fool you—this downtown joint isn’t just another coffeeshop. In addition to emphasizing local, organic, and healthy food options, Mercury Cafe is a true haven for creative souls and outside-the-box thinkers. As a live performance venue, Mercury focuses on giving a voice to local artists’ poetry, dance, and music. Though alcohol is served there, the Mercury’s appeal is far from boozy. In fact, its eclectic calendar includes regular open mic nights, poetry slams, storytelling, belly dancing classes, tango lessons, live jazz performances, and so much more. Check Mercury Cafe’s online calendar for the full list of events