Five things to do in Denver when you’re (mostly) sober (updated with new links)
The Great American Beer Festival, the terminus of the year’s biggest road trip for beer for many, the holy grail of ale, the mecca of malt, will be here soon.
And I’m not going.
September is a big month in my personal life with two major birthdays this year: my daughter’s 7th and my 50th. Besides, I started my full-time freelancing life less than a year ago; for some reason, the big checks do not arrive regularly in my UPS Store mailbox as I expected. Or small checks, for that matter.
However, Road Trips for Beer is not negligent enough to leave unmentioned the three-day celebration of fermentation taking place Sept. 16-18 in the Mile High City of Denver, Colorado.
Other writers have posted some great stuff about the festival itself; there are links to some of those at the bottom of this post. But for the purposes of this story, I will write about Five Things to Do in Denver When You’re (Mostly) Sober.
I lived in Denver for a couple of years in the early 1980s, when the craft brewing revolution was only a gleam in the eyes of a few bearded visionaries who were boiling wort and bottling their own beer in garages and sheds. But even though I fueled up with Old Style, Budweiser and the occasional Grolsch or Heineken at the time, I still managed to have fun. And I have since made several return trips to the area.
So for those of you who will be in Denver for a few days before or after the GABF, here is a handful of things that I did that 30 years ago that you can still do today. Please keep in mind that things may have changed since the last time I visited about four years ago.
Hang out in Washington Park
This 165-acre verdant oasis in the middle of the historic Washington Park neighborhood is the largest and oldest urban park in Denver. You can bike, jog or skate on the 2.6-mile trail that circles the park, or if that’s too ambitious, or just pack a lunch and spend a lazy hour or two people watching and enjoying the weather. There are two lakes and a pond inside the park, 10 tennis courts and a recreation center, too.
Have a Burrito
Try the “Ole” Special Platter at Pete’s Satire Lounge and Restaurant. Though in general the Mexican food in Denver is some of the best in the country, the Satire’s ginormous concoction of shredded meat, lettuce and tomato wrapped in a flour burrito and smothered with green chile and cheese is a delicious gut bomb of legendary proportions. If you have it for lunch, you’ll likely be able to skip dinner. Be aware of your surroundings though. This area of East Colfax Avenue is not the most upscale of neighborhoods, at least not the last time I visited.
Wander around Red Rocks
Red Rocks Park and Ampitheatre is about 15 miles west of Denver, but maintained by the city as part of its Mountain Parks system. It’s home of arguably the world’s best concert setting in a natural ampitheatre, but visitors can take a day trip there just to marvel at the massive red sandstone outcroppings , hike its sometimes challenging trails or check out the ampitheatre during non-concert days. The Zac Brown Band with Robert Randolph & the Family Band are on the concert schedule for the evening of Sept. 19.
Tour the Mint
Who doesn’t like to see money being made? The U.S. Mint in Denver is conveniently located in downtown, and tours are free. You must schedule your tour ahead of time on the Mint’s website. Note that “tour policies are subject to change without notification. If the Department of Homeland Security level is elevated to CODE ORANGE, the United States Mint at Denver will be CLOSED to the public unless otherwise noted.” Be prepared to go through a metal detector.
Take a Day Trip
Come on, you’ll be on the edge of the Rocky Mountains. There’s plenty you can do and see in a day’s drive. Head up to one of the old mining towns, like Idaho Springs, where you can still try your luck panning for gold. Have some fun in the laidback college town of Boulder, where you can check out the street performers and shops of the Pearl Street Mall or hike its extensive urban trail system. Drive to the top of a mountain, like Mount Evans, which is 60 miles west of Denver, or Pike’s Peak, about 98 miles south near the city of Colorado Springs. Better yet, engage in one of my favorite activities: Get a map and drive aimlessly through the Rockies. Consult the map only when you’re ready to get back to Denver – or when you start running low on gas. You never know what you’ll find – maybe even some September snow.
Though Road Trips for Beer will not be at the 2010 GABF, plans are being made for next year. And I’ll be in Boulder in November to get my microbrew-and-mountains fix at the inaugural Beer Bloggers Conference.
Here are some links to some previews of the 2010 Great American Beer Festival and the Denver Beer Fest.
Beer Advocate: Guide to the Great American Beer Festival
WestWord: A dozen non-Colorado breweries to try
Ladies of Craft Beer: Denver restaurants tap craft beer events
The Hop Press: When in Rome, err, Denver
Drink with the Wench: Mutinous Battle Chai release party announcement
Craftbeer.com: A Festival Deserving of ‘Great’
Jenn and Beer: Top Five: I’m really excited for GABF
TheFullPint.com: Going to GABF 2010!
Visit Denver: The Great American Beer Festival 2010
Road Trips for Foodies: A Citywide Suds Celebration in Denver
Pints for Prostates: Denver Rare Beer Tasting II Releases Beer List