Returning from one of our Midlife Road Trip adventures, I somehow managed to book a flight home to Atlanta that included a 7-hour layover in Denver. Ordinarily I’m the kind of guy who would rather pass a kidney stone than endure a long layover in an airport terminal, but the Denver International Airport had free WiFi, so I knew hanging out wouldn’t be a totally miserable experience.

I settled in chair near an outlet, plugged in my laptop, posted some pictures to my Facebook, and began Tweeting for suggestions of how to kill time at the airport. One of my Twitter friends who had lived in town suggested that I check out Denver’s LoDo district. I had no idea what this was; he explained that locals refer to Denver’s historic Lower Downtown area as “LoDo”.

I was intrigued. I checked my GPS, did a few calculations, and decided that I had enough time for a quick excursion into the city. So I put away my laptop, booked a rental car with my cell phone, and, within 15 minutes, I was on the interstate heading into town.

 

 

Considering that the state of Colorado legalized marijuana in 2013, I was expecting the view of the city to be obstructed by a cloud of haze. Instead, I found blue skies and snow-capped Rocky Mountains serving as a spectacular backdrop to the city’s skyline. This was definitely a better alternative to sitting at the airport.

My first order of business was to find something to eat. My friend suggested a breakfast place called Snooze on Larimer Street. There was a huge crowd waiting outside so I decided that this must be a good place. I was told that there would be about a 15-20 minute wait for a table; 45 minutes and two gallons of coffee later, I finally was seated. Wanting to go low-carb, I ordered fried eggs and corned beef hash (based on some reviews I read on Yelp). I was not disappointed. It was totally worth the wait. 

In talking with some of the locals at the restaurant, I learned that LoDo is the hip place to see and be seen in Denver. With live entertainment, restaurants, shops, boutiques, breweries, and rooftop bars, there’s no shortage of fun here, either. The district is adjacent to Coors Field, home of Major League Baseball’s Colorado Rockies. Though my visit was during daylight hours, I could easily imagine how fun it would be to visit on a game night.

 

 

After breakfast, I got in my rental car and cruised up and down the streets, admiring the architecture of some of LoDo’s grand buildings. Union Station is a large Romanesque masonry structure with high arching windows and a bright orange sign encouraging people to “Travel by Train.” I was told the station is being renovated to include a hotel, shopping, and restaurants. 

Another cool looking building is the Daniels & Fisher Tower. As a 3/4 replica of the famous Campanile San Marco in Venice, it is one of Denver’s most recognized landmarks. The tower originally was built as a part of a department store but today contains office condominiums and Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret in the basement. Seems like somebody should open a pizza place in there!    

Viewfinder Tip: If you don’t want to drive on your next trip to Denver, book a hotel in LoDo and get around on foot. 

Driving around in a rental car is not my preferred way to experience a destination, but not wanting to risk missing my flight, it was the best I could do. Behind the wheel, I checked out all of the places the locals from the restaurant recommended: the Rockmount Ranch Wear Store and Museum, the Tatter Cover bookstore, Riverfront Park, and Larimer Square. I admit, this was kind of like judging a book by its cover, but I did see enough and learn enough to know that I definitely want to return to Denver.

I also now know where I want to stay when I come back: The Oxford Hotel. Built in 1891 during Colorado’s silver bonanza, the Oxford Hotel was the epitome of opulence with its spectacular furnishings and extensive art collection. It is even rumored to have a resident ghost! I love places with a history, especially when they are in walking distance of all of the fun. Hopefully, the next time I visit Denver, I’ll be able to experience some of that fun for myself.

What do you love most about Denver?