The Perfect Gay-Friendly Weekend in Denver
Denver has the most vibrant GLBT scene in the West, with citywide annual events and a busy club scene. The Mile High City is also home to one of the biggest Pride Festivals in the country, held every June, as well as the Colorado Gay Rodeo, held every July. Follow this detailed itinerary for the perfect GLBT weekend, written by gay travel expert Andrew Collins.
On Friday, your first afternoon in Denver, take a little time to orient yourself and get to know this friendly but unmistakably cosmopolitan city. The vibrant GLBT community here permeates the city, but you'll find an especially visible presence in historic Capitol Hill, which is anchored by charming Cheesman Park, a good place to relax with a snack from nearby Dazbog Coffee (1201 E. 9th Ave., 303-837-1275). This popular java joint is a good spot to pick up several of the city's LGBT resources, including Out Front Colorado . You can also pick up other great resources in Capitol Hill, at the GLBT Center of Colorado (1301 East Colfax, Denver, CO 80218 | 303-733-7743).
No matter what time you awaken on Saturday morning - well, at least assuming it's still morning - make it a point to sample some of the amazingly good pancakes served at Snooze (2262 Larimer St., 303-297-0700), a cool cafe near Coors Field where you might try pineapple-upside-down pancakes or molten-chocolate French toast.
In the afternoon, you might plan a short trip just outside of town to get a sense of this beautiful area. It's just a 30-minute drive to Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, in foothills of the Rockies, just west of town. Here you can tour the stunning natural concert hall that has hosted countless superstar rock bands over the years, or hike the park's gorgeous terrain. Or, make the 45-minute drive up to the gay-friendly town of Boulder, whose historic downtown buzzes with lively shops, cafes, and restaurants.
If you'd prefer to spend the day in Denver, you can still get the blood flowing, perhaps with a bike ride around the enchanting Cherry Creek neighborhood. You can rent bike using the new Denver B-Cycle Bike Sharing program -- go to DenverBcycle.com for details. Or walk to your heart's content amid Cherry Creek's dozens of fine shops - upscale Cherry Creek Shopping Center (3000 E. 1st Ave., 303-388-3900) and Cherry Creek North (1st-3rd Ave. at University Blvd.) are two of Colorado's premier shopping destinations, with a mix of top chain and independent stores.
As the sun sets on Denver, you could remain in Cherry Creek and grab dinner at one of the neighborhood's fine restaurants, such as swanky Ocean (201 Columbine St., 303-377-5350), a superb seafood eatery, or North (190 Clayton La., 720-941-7700), which specializes in modern Italian fare. Or if you're returning to downtown from an excursion to Red Rocks or Boulder, plan a special meal here. Consider one of the restaurants operated by Denver's much-celebrated master of mod Mexican cuisine, Richard Sandoval. These include Tamayo (1400 Larimer St., 720-946-1433), in lively Larimer Square, and Zengo (1610 Little Raven St., 720-904-0965), a sleek and trendy space just north of downtown, where you can try inspired food that melds Asian and Latin influences (don't miss the cucumber mojito). For a more casual, but still stylish dinner, head to Hamburger Mary's (700 E. 17th Ave., 303-832-1333), an open-air bar & grille for open-minded people. Not your run-of-the-mill burger joint, Mary's is the only franchise in the country that actively markets to the GLBT community.
Saturday night is a great time to check out Denver's most happening gay nightclub, the always-packed Tracks Denver, (3500 Walnut St., 303-863-7326), a massive warehouse disco with two big dance floors, one spinning the latest house music, the other offering up classic '70s and '80s anthems. This is also a good night to visit the city's funky South Broadway neighborhood, which has a clutch of popular gay nightspots, including long-running BJ's (1380 S. Broadway, 303-777-9880), a low-keyed neighborhood joint; the Compound, (145 Broadway, 303-722-7977), a fun dance bar; and Boyztown (117 Broadway, 303-722-7373), a lively spot known for strippers.
Start Sunday morning off with a hearty breakfast, perhaps with a meal at the gay-popular cafe Racine's (650 Sherman St., 303-595-0418). The food's great – family friendly atmosphere.
Sunday afternoons are a good time to explore some of the city's wonderful cultural diversions, or simply to curl up with a latte and read a book at the city's most famous bookstore, the Tattered Cover (1628 16th St., 303-436-1070) which has a particularly atmospheric location in historic LoDo, a neighborhood where you'll find plenty of inviting shops, boutiques, and galleries. The Tattered Cover has an extensive selection of books with GLBT interest.
Fans of the visual arts should allow time to explore the fantastic Denver Art Museum (100 W. 14th Ave., 720-865-5000), a dramatic newly expanded facility that stages thought-provoking exhibits and installations and is also home to a superb restaurant, Palettes (303-534-1455), which makes for an excellent lunch choice. If you're a devotee of theater, opera, and music, see what's planned at the state-of-the-art Denver Center for Performing Arts, 1101 13th St., 303-893-4100, which comprises several venues and hosts everything from touring Broadway shows to acclaimed opera at the new Ellie Caulkins Opera House.
The opera house is also an excellent place to enjoy a final meal in Denver, at Kevin Taylor's at the Opera House (303-640-1012). In this snazzy subterranean dining room, you can sit back and dine on such lavish creations as ahi tuna with miso broth and a knockout dessert of house-made butterscotch pudding with Venezuelan chocolate syrup. It's hard to think of a better way to finish up a three-day weekend in this progressive, fun-filled city that has become one of the great gay urban destinations in North America.
New Mexico resident Andrew Collins makes frequent forays to Denver and always finds great new things to write about. He's the expert guide on gay travel for About.com and spanned the globe researching countless guidebooks and magazine articles over the past 15 years.