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A Social-Distance-Friendly Staycation Guide to Denver, Colorado

Amid this pandemic, the safest place for you, your family, and your community is at home. That’s why most of us aren’t even planning a proper vacation right now. But, why not consider splitting the difference between staying home and flying halfway around the world with a staycation? Now is the best excuse you’ll ever have to explore Denver like a tourist: Stay in a hotel (or Airbnb), try new restaurants, and venture outside the city to “those must-visit attractions you always talk about but still haven’t visited, even after living in the city for five years.” Here are a few of our favorite accommodations, restaurants, and excursions for a Denver staycation.

Where to Stay

It is possible to plan a safe, social-distance-friendly hotel stay in the city right now. To minimize your overall travel, the closer you stay to home, the better. Also, consider Airbnbs and smaller, boutique hotels, which limit your interaction with other guests. Here are a few of the best staycation-friendly accommodation options in Denver.

Historic Carriage House

Historic Carriage House Airbnb in Denver, Colorado

Denver has no shortage of incredible Airbnbs, but Historic Carriage House is our hands-down favorite. It’s been featured in Architectural Digest and tops just about every list of “Denver’s Best Airbnbs” — with good reason. As the name implies, the property is a beautifully repurposed and redesigned late 19th-century carriage house that once sheltered horses. The interior is awash in exposed brick, concrete flooring, and a quirky, eclectic mix of furnishings and décor. The amenities are thoroughly modern, however, including a Netflix-enabled smart TV, heated floors, and a private garden with a hot tub. The best part is that prices hover around $120 per night.

Moxy Denver Cherry Creek

Moxy Denver Cherry Creek Hotel

Most wouldn’t consider staying at a Marriott “destination-worthy.” But, the mega-chain’s newish daughter brand, Moxy Hotels, wants you to reconsider. The Moxy Denver Cherry Creek is bright, bold, and modern with a playful edge. Every room boasts must-have amenities like lightning-fast Wi-Fi, functional furniture, eclectic artwork, and large, flat-screen smart TVs, with upgraded suites adding mountain views. With a great location, an onsite beer garden, and nightly rates of just over $100, it’s a fun, unique spot to base any Denver staycation.

The Ramble Hotel

Lobby at The Ramble Hotel in Denver, Colorado

With “a great reverence for the magic and escapism a hotel can provide,” The Ramble Hotel is a damn-near-perfect boutique hotel. The industrial-chic design is modern, moody, and stylish without pretense. Each of the 50 rooms features a bespoke design awash in deep, rich colors, vintage-inspired lighting and furnishings, and a theme that feels as though it were plucked from a sleeper car on a luxury train. Think hickory flooring, wood-paneled walls, and plush, imported rugs. The hotel boasts four onsite restaurants and bars. Most notably, however, is Death & Co. — the second outpost of the world-famous NYC cocktail bar by the same name — where hotel guests receive priority service for to-go orders and room service.

What to Eat

Uchi Denver

Sushi at Uchi Denver

If you’ve slowly grown tired of weekly Pizzeria Locale and Tap & Burger deliveries during the pandemic, consider thinking outside the (bento) box. Uchi Denver from Austin’s James Beard Award-winning Chef Tyson Cole is the fourth restaurant under the Uchi banner, and, thankfully for sushi lovers, it boasts a bold, Texas-sized menu to boot. The offerings are creative, innovative, and uncommon. So, even if you have a favorite sushi joint in the city, Uchi likely has something you’ve never tried. The restaurant is currently open for dine-in service (according to strict guidelines) or, even better, pick it up or get delivery through Uber Eats.

My Brother’s Bar

Burger at My Brother's Bar in Denver, Colorado

Sure, you’ve already been. But, My Brother’s Bar is still the perfect place to eat (again) for three reasons: Its historic cachet as the oldest bar in Denver (honestly, Kerouac drank here); it serves some of the city’s best burgers; and it has two winter-ready outdoor patios available right now. Delivery is also available through Uber Eats and DoorDash.

Find Your (New) Favorite Green Chile

Green Chile at Adobe Denver

If you’ve spent more than five minutes in Denver, you know that green chile is tied with overstuffed breakfast burritos as the city’s comfort food. You probably already have a favorite. But why not spend a little lockdown time considering a new one? Check out Chef Blaine Baggao’s New Mexico-style green chile at Adobe Denver; savor the SoCal-influenced, masa-thickened variety at North County; or opt for pure, unadulterated chile verde (just like abuelita used to make) at El Taco or La Fiesta. The best part is that all of these outlets are currently offering pickup or delivery.

What to Do

Right now, the safest things to do near and within the city are all outdoors. Use this time as an excuse to check out all those al fresco Denver bucket-list experiences that all the tourists talk about but you’ve yet to see for yourself. If heading into the mountains for a week isn’t in the cards right now, check out these great things to do a little closer to home.

Go Play in the Snow (and Ice)

Ice Castles in Dillon, Colorado

Playing in the snow doesn’t have to involve skiing or snowboarding. You can still find that “zipping down the mountain” experience without strapping things to your feet. Head to Ruby Hill for a free sledding experience (perfect for family and date nights) or go tubing at Fraser Tubing Hill near Winter Park. For something altogether different, Ice Castles has returned to Dillon. This one-of-a-kind installation uses hundreds of thousands of hand-gathered icicles to create frozen sculptures, tunnels, slides, fountains, and, of course, castles. They’re all lit by LED, so it’s best to visit at night. For something a little closer to home, head to Evergreen Lake, where you’ll find Colorado’s most picture-perfect ice skating rink.

Complete Your Denver Brewery Hop

Taps at Bruz Beers in Denver, Colorado

The number of breweries in Metro Denver is dizzying. The actual total ranks north of 75 and closer to 100 if you take into account neighboring cities. There’s hardly been a better time to grab a flight at the few (or dozen) you’ve yet to visit. Start building your wish list here if you haven’t already. The best part is that many breweries like Seedstock are set up with winter-friendly outdoor patios, and some like Cerebral Brewing and Ratio Beerworks are delivering, too. If you’re partial to (or also enjoy) liquor, wine, and cider, you can always make checklists for those as well. Many of the city’s distilleries, wineries, and cideries are set up for al fresco tasting and to-go orders.

Explore Denver (and Beyond) Like a Tourist

Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs

Locals in every city are quick to pooh-pooh the tourist attractions in their hometown, but those attractions are popular and “touristy” for a reason. If you’ve never explored Denver’s most famous spots, now’s the perfect time to put on your tourist hat and try to see the city for the “first” time.

Garden of the Gods is an easy first pick, and that’s exactly why we’re including it. Even among the long list of Colorado’s natural wonders, this Colorado Springs attraction ranks near the top. Explore its more than 1,300 acres of sandstone formations with a hike, by bike, or on horseback. The park is situated at the base of Pikes Peak — arguably the state’s most famous 14er (that would be a mountain that rises higher than 14,000 feet in elevation) — and the one that inspired the poem America the Beautiful. Round out your visit with a drive to the snowy summit, where you’ll find some of the state’s best views.

While you’re at it, take in the views at Red Rocks, too. Although the amphitheater is famous for its legendary concerts, most have been canceled for the foreseeable future. But, it’s still an incredible destination even when nothing is going on. Plan a midweek visit if possible where you can enjoy a leisurely hike around its beautiful sandstone formations, and take in the stunning views without the crowds.

Lastly, check out Union Station (again) for plenty of social-distance-friendly indoor things to see and do. The stunning, century-old Beaux-Arts architecture make this a worthy destination in its own right, especially in winter. But, it’s also become something of a foodie destination with everything from authentic Italian eats at Tavernetta to farm-to-table cuisine at Mercantile to cocktails at Terminal Bar located inside the station’s historic ticketing office. Plus, the collection of local retailers like Tattered Cover Book Store makes this a spot worth lingering at well past dinnertime.

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