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The Neighborhood: Golden Triangle / Civic Center
It wouldn’t take you more than a half hour to walk the entire length of Civic Center (known to locals as the Golden Triangle), one of Denver’s oldest neighborhoods, which today boasts a healthy mix of history and entrepreneurship. Under 2,000 people call the area home, and though it didn’t make our 2015 list of Denver’s Best Neighborhoods, the Golden Triangle is clean and quiet, filled with art, civic institutions, and plenty of quality spots to refuel.
Boundaries: Colfax Avenue to the north, Broadway to the east, and Speer Boulevard and the Cherry Creek Trail to the southwest.
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The Vibe: A healthy mix of business-casual, artsy folk, and out-of-towners, the Golden Triangle is where contemporary design meets old-school charm. Posh townhomes sit amongst museums, shops, and galleries, creating an atmosphere that’s more Washington D.C. than typical Denver.
Main Drag: Running from Civic Center Park through the middle of the Golden Triangle—lined with museums and galleries, as well as a stone’s throw from the hood’s best eating establishments—Bannock Street serves as the zone’s informal thoroughfare.
(Check out 5280‘s Neighborhood Guide series)
Morning Jumpstart: You have a long day of walking ahead, so it’s best to start your day off right. Although the Golden Triangle isn’t exactly a culinary destination (yet), there are a handful of charming coffee shops throughout the hood. Our favorites include Rooster & Moon Coffee Pub and Gather. The former is a spacious place to work or meet a friend, with playful décor (mostly old Dale’s and PBR signs) and no attitude for those who want to campout with their laptop for hours on end. In addition to great coffee and specialty drinks—we recommend the Cinful Joe latte, perfectly balanced with cinnamon and sugar—Rooster & Moon has an extensive menu, filled with breakfast options, salads, sandwiches, soups, and small plates.
Gather, on the other hand, is less for camping out on a laptop solo (although no one there would judge you), and more for collaborating with others and making things happen. Housed in the same building as Galvanize, a modern tech campus for innovators and entrepreneurs, the cafe provides the caffeine boost necessary to sustain your goal of changing the world. The atrium provides a bright modern place to gather, but it’s the coffee and Rosenberg’s Bagels that will keep you coming back.
The best part about both Rooster & Moon and Gather? Both also house full bars, for when your work day goes late.
Take in the History: With your belly full and blood abuzz, it’s time to start taking in the Golden Triangle’s sights. Start with a historic walking tour of the area: for $10 you’ll receive a guided excursion, a drink, and appetizers (the next tour is scheduled for August 4). Regardless, history buffs won’t want to miss a visit to History Colorado—where high-tech exhibits take your through the state’s rich past, Or visit the Byers-Evans House, an 1883 home turned museum and gallery (and the original Denver Art Museum).
Lunch in the Park: Refuel at Parsley with one of nine refreshing smoothies, a rotating menu of made-from-scratch soups, fresh salads, and sandwiches. We recommend grabbing a spicy Textured Tuna sandwich (with ginger, miso, black sesame seed, sesame oil, and a red pepper aioli) to go, and enjoying it at the 2,500-square-foot Civic Center Park. Another must-taste option, available from a food truck in the park on Tuesdays and Thursdays, is Quiero Arepas; everything is delicious, but the Reina Pepiada—?a chilled chicken and avocado variety of the traditional Venezuelan street food—is truly something else.
Art, Art, and More Art! With more than a dozen galleries, along with the Denver Art Museum and the Clyfford Still Museum, the Golden Triangle has become the place to appreciate art, as well as to buy it. We couldn’t be more in love with the Denver Art Museum, which not only adds art to the city’s skyline, but also houses one of the largest collections of Native American Art, as well as modern art and a Western American Art exhibition (photographer Alex Soth’s exhibit Colorado Dispatch, at the DAM until November 8, 2015, shouldn’t be missed). The $110-million Daniel Libeskind-designed Frederic C. Hamilton building is a work of art in and of itself, and as an added bonus, the museum has an endless array of interactive, kid-friendly activities. It also offers free admission on the first Saturday of every month.
Directly west of the DAM you’ll find the Clyfford Still Museum, dedicated solely to the 20th-century American abstract expressionist—and noted eccentric—of the same name. Although Still was not a Colorado native (he was born in New York), upon his death his wife chose Denver as the city where his legacy would live on. Today, the Clyfford Still Museum houses more than 3,000 of his works created between 1920 and 1980. The size and scope of some of Still’s pieces are incredible, while the experience of immersing yourself in one artist over several decades is both educational and moving.
After you refine your artistic sensibilities, take yourself on a tour of the Golden Triangle’s many art galleries. There you can find an array of pieces (mostly canvases, but sculptures and photography too) to suit any taste and most budgets. The staff at Walker Fine Art offers expert advice without pretension, while the William Havu Gallery, on the same block, offers more than 40 years of experience showcasing established artists (and framing their works for clients). The space at 1261 Gallery is alone worth a visit, but really the beauty of having so many galleries in one area is how easy it is to wander among them. Lovers of the Southwest and American art should check out Native American Trading Company to peruse beaded jewelry, turquoise bolo ties, Pueblo pottery, and Navajo textiles.
One-off Destinations: Although the Golden Triangle doesn’t have too much in the way of shopping (beyond art, of course), there are plenty of niche stores and services that are worth checking out. Beer lovers will appreciate CO-Brew, a store built for city-dwellers who love craft beer and the art of brewing, but maybe don’t have space to fully commit to any long-term projects. Couple Jamie and Jenna Williams built the space to educate folks of all experience levels, and the store serves as a homebrew shop and space for people to brew and package their own beer. CO-Brew is also a brewery, so if you’re simply a fan of drinking beer, don’t hesitate to stop in for a pint.
Kids will love Mago’s Magic Shoppe, filled with oddities and curiosities, perfect for any amateur Houdini. Mothers, on the other hand, will love consignment studio Wardrobe Works, where owner Robyn Wackerli has been selling like-new designer clothing at an affordable price for 20 years. Not only is the store impeccably curated, but Wackerli makes for a charming shopping companion. Amateur gardeners, decor enthusiasts, and lovers of quirky gifts will want to check out Urban Roots, a year-round garden store and design company.
(Read more: Discover the Art of Shopping in Denver’s Museum District)
Eat, Drink, Relax: Come five o’clock you’ll want to head to Charcoal, which boasts one of the best happy hours in town (added bonus: happy hour lasts all night at the bar on Tuesdays and Wednesdays). A large selection of $5 wines, premium well drinks, and $4 beers is perfectly complimented by a food menu that anyone could make a meal of. Must-haves include the truffle fries and crispy bacon-wrapped dates, but if you’re in the mood for a proper entree, make sure and order something that takes advantage of the restaurant’s 2,400-degree charcoal fires.
Make a Night of It: Head to the Curious Theater Company to take in one of the playhouse’s rotating productions. Founded 16 years ago, Curious has 28 professional actors, designers, and directors at its core?, and a motto of “no guts, no story.” Single ticket prices range from $25 to $44, although if you fall in love with the Golden Triangle—and we’re guessing you will—you’ll likely want to buy a subscription package.
(Read more: Denver’s Best Neighborhoods 2015)