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The Neighborhood: LoDo
Over the past few years, Lower Downtown—aka LoDo—has seen a resurgence of activity, with bars, shops, and restaurants opening in once-vacant retail spaces and newly constructed buildings. Plus, with the reopening of Union Station, the neighborhood is now bustling with even more traffic, making it both an area rich with history and a contemporary hot spot.
Boundaries: Downtown Denver sits askew to the rest of the city’s grid because it leans northwest (it was built first, around the river banks). Its outline is, generally, Cherry Creek Trail and North Speer Boulevard to the west, Lawrence Street to the south, 20th Street to the east, and South Platte River Trail to the north.
Who’s There: Working professionals—both renters and buyers—who aren’t afraid to spend a little extra to live in the heart of the city.
The Hub: Historic Larimer Square has been the longtime neighborhood attraction thanks to its quaint boutiques and stellar dining options, but Union Station is also drawing crowds now that the remodel is complete.
1. Get Cultured: Much of LoDo has a historical feel (it was the city’s first settlment in the 19th century), but the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is nothing but modern. From its sleek exterior to the avant-garde works showcased inside, the museum packs a 21st-century punch. Make sure to check the calendar so you don’t miss the latest special exhibit (currently on view: a selection of films, drawings, and paintings by Los Angeles-based artist Paul Sietsema). Plus, the top floor is equipped with a kid-friendly interactive play space and a rooftop cafe to rest your feet and recharge.
2. Eat: LoDo has many places to nosh—with more opening faster than we can keep track. Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen is ideal, if you are in the mood for German-style sausages or pretzel buns with hand-ground and house-cured mustards. The Mile High outpost of The Kitchen has quickly turned into a classic (try the Bolognese), and the Oregon-bred Thirsty Lion has seating for hundreds if you have a big party. In Larimer Square, you can’t go wrong when choosing between TAG, Rioja, and Osteria Marco—all of which were created by some of the city’s best chefs.
3. Sip: The amount of watering holes in this ‘hood is dizzying. Check out Terminal Bar inside Union Station for a place to relax, even if you aren’t trying to kill time before hopping on a bus or train (the patio facing Wynkoop Plaza affords fabulous people-watching opportunities). During happy hour, Squeaky Bean‘s specialty drinks are just $5. If bubbly is your flavor, try champagne bar Corridor 44 in Larimer Square. Or there’s always Wynkoop Brewing Company, which helped build Colorado’s craft beer scene.
4. Shop: Tattered Cover Book Store is a Denver staple. It’s bargain-priced used books as well as best sellers and plethora of hard-to-find magazines make it an all-too-easy place to drop a few bucks—and stay a few hours. For the wardrobe-focused, Goorin Bros. hat shop has plenty of fedoras and cloches and Scarpaletto Shoes offers an enormous selection of footwear from around the world. Stop by newer spots Timbuk2 and Elevation Cycles—and old favorites like Patagonia and Hailee Grace (the boutique was the Top of the Town 2014 pick for women’s clothing).
5. Get Crafty: The creators of Upstairs Circus may be geniuses. They took Pinterest-inspired DIY crafts and combined them with booze. Book yourself—and a few friends—a reservation to make yourselves a bracelet, distressed wood wall art, wine bottle tumbler, or woven dog collar, all while enjoying signature cocktails, house wine, or local brews. Plus, the venue serves truffle Parmesan popcorn—free for good customers, $12 for bad ones.