Don’t call it comeback—Union Station has been here for years. But though its popularity has waxed and waned since it opened in 1881, it’s no longer just a transit depot, it’s a downtown destination.

When it first began service, the original Union Station played a critical role in the growth of Denver because it connected the city to the Transcontinental Railroad. After being partially destroyed by a fire in 1894, the current building was erected in 1914, including the notable exterior façade that still remains today. For decades, the building—and the surrounding area—languished as train travel decreased. Then, in 2008, city power players assembled the Denver Union Station Project Authority to spearhead a renovation that would not only change transit, but reinvigorate the heart of the Mile High City. Just in time for its 100th anniversary, the Denver icon reopened in 2014 with a new host of restaurants, a swanky hotel, and a renewed focus on bus and train transit.

In the decade since, the Union Station neighborhood has flourished. From new office buildings and apartment complexes to restaurants, bars, and green spaces, Union Station has officially gone from tired to trendy.

Neighborhood Boundaries: From the South Platte River at Confluence and Commons Parks to the west, to Lawrence Street to the east, the Cherry Creek Trail to the South, and 20th Street to the North

The Vibe: Buzzing. Under the shadow of skyscrapers, jay-walking pedestrians navigate traffic humming down one-way streets. This area is often home to parades, pub crawls, and other events throughout the year, so there’s rarely a slow weekend in this stretch of downtown.

Getting Around: We’d recommend arriving via bus, light rail, or train because they’ll deliver you directly to the neighborhood’s vibrant headquarters (and don’t you want to feel connected to its old-timey railroad roots?). If you’re thinking about driving on a weekday, prepare yourself to spend some time circling around before finding a metered parking space, and then plan to move your car every two hours to avoid a ticket.

Your Itinerary

Maria Empanada. Photo by Visvajit Sriramrajan


The only eatery issue you’ll encounter in Union Station is an overwhelming amount of options, which is why we’ve plucked our favorite places from the bunch. A short saunter north of Union Station, Maria Empanada bakes more than 12 varieties of the delightful doughy bites, ranging from sweet to savory. Whether you opt for the chicken-centric Diego with sauteed onions, bell peppers, and chimichurri sauce or the vegetarian Mushroom empanada, stuffed with mozzarella, garlic, and parsley, be sure to pair your pouch with one of Maria’s signature sauces. Another downtown favorite is Steamboat Springs–born Yampa Sandwich Co. (formerly Backcountry Deli), where you’ll find hearty sandos like the Turkey Trailhead, which is piled high with swiss, avocado, tomato, red onion, and honey dijon or the Grand, featuring three Italian meats, garlic mayo, and red wine vinaigrette. (Tip: Order online for pickup to avoid a long wait.)

If you have a celebratory dinner or date night on the calendar, nab a reservation at one of the neighborhood’s three-dollar-sign hotspots—we promise they’re worth every penny. Head to the Dairy Block to indulge in one of the city’s first Michelin-minted restaurants. The dining guide bestowed a star on owner Kelly Whitaker’s Brutø for its fine-tuned seasonal menu and Mexican-inspired small plates imbued with distinct flavor from the hearth. (It also landed on our list of the top 25 Denver restaurants in 2023). If you’re game for early eats, head over to A5 Steakhouse for its unmatched happy hour from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. every day of the week. You won’t find a better burger for a better price than you will at this cult-favorite Wazee Street staple. The steakhouse serves up an insanely juicy wagyu burger topped with butterkasse cheese, pickles, and onions for a mere $13. Since you’re not breaking the bank on your entree, order the oysters, too. They’ll only set you back $2.50.

Catch a Coffee Buzz…

For a close-by cafe, venture to the nearby Little Owl on Blake Street. With a farm-to-cup mission and single-origin brews, this quaint coffee shop means beans-niss. With a killer rotating seasonal menu featuring local flavors, like the Palishade cold brew, which shows off nearby Palisade’s peaches, Little Owl is ideal for the adventurous java lover. For a livelier environment, try out Huckleberry Roasters in the Dairy Block development on 18th and Wazee streets. You can grab a latte and then linger in the shops and eateries that fill the vibrant micro-district.

Stroll across the Denver Millennium Bridge for one of our favorite cafes that doubles as a cocktail bar in the evening. Hello Darling, located right across the street from Commons Park, is a bright and bustling outpost for Denver’s WFH employees. Huge rolling garage doors let in lots of sunlight and plush midcentury modern furniture gives the space a contemporary yet cozy feel. Did we mention there are outlets aplenty?

…Or a Boozy Buzz

You don’t have to go far to find a happy hour in this neighborhood. In fact, you don’t even need to leave Union Station. Step up to the historic ticket booth and choose from one of the 27 Colorado craft beers on tap at the Terminal Bar. In the summer, snag a seat on its sprawling outdoor patio; it’s the perfect perch for people watching. Citizen Rail’s happy hour offers an elevated vibe, with $8 classic cocktails (think: bees knees, daiquiris, and margs) and innovative small bites like potato chips and caviar. If you’re heading downtown on a weekend, try Poka Lola Social Club, a soda fountain-inspired cocktail lounge with an art deco flair located inside the Dairy Block. Its laid-back vibes and late-night service (open until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday) make this one of our favorite haunts to end the night.

Inside Rockmount Ranch Wear on Wazee Street in LoDo. Photo by Jerilyn Forsythe


For bespoke boutiques, head to Larimer Square, where you’ll find Hailee Grace, a local favorite for affordable, on-trend women’s styles. Looking to put your best foot forward? Check out Scarpaletto for high-end footwear from Blundstone to Cole Haan. If you’re looking for more Western-inspired getups, a visit to Rockmount Ranch Wear is a must. The shop has been dressing Denverites in denim jeans, cowboy hats, and bolo ties since 1946. Out-of-towners looking to bring home a trinket to remind them of their travels will find an assortment of treasures like Colorado tea towels and local jewelry at 5 Green Boxes inside Union Station. Before you hop on a train home, pop into Rocket Fizz, an old-timey soda pop and candy shop with several locations around Colorado that sells novel sweets and sips you won’t find anywhere else. Buffalo chicken soda, anyone?

Night falls on one of Denver’s most beloved art museums; photo by Kelly Shroads


The aesthetes among us will enjoy perusing Union Station’s laundry list of art galleries, such as the Robischon and David B. Smith Gallery. Or, get your artistic fix at the Museum of Contemporary Art, which has made a name for itself for bringing in renowned (and often controversial) exhibitions and attracting a younger audience. History buffs should consider going on one of the area’s many walking tours, like a historic tour of LoDo, Larimer Square, or 16th Street. If that sounds like a snoozefest, opt for a spooky stroll with Dark Side of Denver Ghost Tours. This two-hour walkabout will take you to all of the neighborhood’s most macabre buildings—and even some of the tunnels beneath the city. Of course, you can always skip the tours and choose your own adventure. With so many bars, restaurants, boutiques, and more blossoming around Union Station, there’s no such thing as a wrong turn.