Finding Some Hidden Gems in and Around Denver, Colorado

After our lovely stay in Roosevelt National Forest where camped for 4 nights and spent the days venturing into the Rocky Mountain National Park we had had enough and were ready to reenter civilation.

Visiting the City of Lyons

Typical Dispensary in Colorado

Lyons is located on just a short drive from Estes Park and is known informally as “The Double Gateway to the Rockies”. It’s a small town that only has a population of a couple thousand but boasts an unusually large number of places to eat and shop. We stopped into a wonderful little market/deli that goes by the name of “St Vrain Market, Deli & Bakery”. They had freshly baked breads, hand-made sausages, and very fresh local produce. It felt like a co-op straight from small-town Vermont.

I went into my first dispensary during our stay in Colorado and thought everything looked rather ‘normal’. I stood at the counter behind a 60-something year old couple and waited patiently as they purchased some kind bud. When it was my turn I inquired about a very particular blend of CBD/THC for a certain variety of vaporizers. I thanked the educated and professional older woman who had helped me and then walked out to get Sylvie some much needed Mexican food.

Unfortunately the pinball place called “Lyons Classic Pinball” had very limited hours and I wasn’t able to satisfy the wizard inside of me. Next time, maybe.

A Quick Jaunt Through Boulder

An old stomping ground for one of my oldest friends, the college town of Boulder is home to many left-leaning residents, students, and establishments. University of Colorado Boulder, or CU as the locals like to say, is situated at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and is 25 miles northwest of Denver.

After a brief hike introducing us to what Chautauqua Park had to offer we wandered through Pearl Street where we watched some street performers and the main store for Prana. We spent much of our time enjoying a progressive cafe before jumping back in our 2010Honda Civic and heading into our final destination for the day, Denver.

Denver - A Modern City with Much to Offer

We arrived at our Couchsurfing host’s house a just as the sun began to set. She was a 20-year old student from Russia and treated us with an immense amount of hospitality. She even gave us her room and bed while she slept on the couch in the main room. We met two of her three roommates. The one we failed to meet was a mid 40-year old Vietnamese woman that clones and cares for marijuana 🌱 plants.

We did some of the typical stuff one would do when visiting Denver.

  1. Visited Red Rocks Amphitheater - Outdoor music venue surrounded by large red rock formations

  2. Walked Larimer Square - Denver’s most historic square

  3. Quickly Sprinted Down the 16th St Mall - Outdoor shopping…barf

  4. We were lucky enough to discover and experience the Japanese Country Foods restaurant, DOMO. Domo Restaurant was chosen by Zagats in their 2001 guide as being the 5th top Japanese restaurant in the United States. It was also selected #1 in the United States for Décor. The building was reminiscent of a warehouse but once we walked in we were in awe. The restaurant was decorated in a beautifully original and unpretentious manner. There was a museum in back with all types of Japanese cultural relics. The menu was very clear about not catering to vegetarians and gluten free people. I tip my hat do you Domo, well done! Sylvie and I attempted to decipher the foreign and overwhelming menus before finally settling on two dishes different that in which we were only 40% sure of their contents. Later that night when I told my friend Logan about our time at Domo his face lit up and he reach out and bitterly shook me with joy. He was impressed about our selection and reaffirmed the restaurant’s notoriety. Props to Sylvie for having found the place!

  5. Got lost in Tattered Cover Book Store - One of the largest independent book stores in the United States. With over more than half a million books and personalized staff picks in the form of handwritten post-it notes scattering the stacks making it out in only an hour was quite a feat. I could have spent days in this place. In addition to all the books and reviews there were a plethora of author/speaker events throughout the year.

  6. Catching up with an Old Friend at Declaration Brewery - It was the first time Sylvie and Logan met and it was a fabulous time. Logan provided us insight into the city of Denver and we reminisced about old times. Denver has a Beer scene that is out of this world. It’s a stark comparison to Philadelphia, where there is essentially no brewery scene. Philly does have a beer scene but it’s mostly just bars serving up other city’s bubbly brews.

  7. Visiting Garden of the Gods - A rock formation about 1.5 hours south of Denver. It was a beautiful day and we wanted to get some activity in, despite me having a cold. We were a bit disappointed for having driven so far out of the way just to find a poorly marked what seamed to be tourist trap. There is no doubt the Garden of the Gods is a great place to take kids or for a nice weekend getaway from Denver but since we’ve been visiting national parks this left us wanting!

Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver, Colorado

Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, Colorado

Garden of the Gods, 1.5 hours south of Denver, Colorado

We couched surfed just south of the city for a couple more nights while I recovered from a cold. The evening before hitting the road Sylvie and I met with a longtime friend of mine, Logan. He showed us around his neighborhood, West Park, which Sylvie thought was “absolutely wonderful”. The nearby park, West Park, was large and had bike paths, volleyball courts, tennis courts, a stream running through it. Logan said it was a place where young families like to hang out.