From bad Mexican food to overpriced tourist traps, here's a local's guide to what to avoid in the Mile High City.
With more than 300 days of sunshine each year, an amazing location near the mountains, and a revitalizing urban core packed with restaurants and breweries, Denver is on the rise (T+L even named it one of the Best Places to Travel in 2016). But some of the city's most popular activities don't deliver in the same way. Take a hint from the people who live there, and skip these seven overrated attractions.
1. A Stroll Down 16th Street Mall
Lured by the free shuttle ride that runs on this pedestrian-friendly downtown street, visitors' first stop in Denver is often the 16th Street Mall. Take the shuttle if you need to get around town, but unless you love chain restaurants and vagrants, stay north of Curtis street. Looking for Denver's best shops and walking areas? Opt instead for the picturesque Larimer Square, or head to Denver's recently renovated Union Station, where you'll find great restaurants and plenty of fine people watching.
2. Casa Bonita
Just because it was featured on Comedy Central's South Park doesn't make it cool in real life. Yes, this historic establishment boasts cliff divers and an arcade, but the mariachis are irritating and the food is a far cry from the real deal if it's Mexican food you're craving. If you want authentic eats but don't care about aesthetics, head to El Taco De Mexico for excellent green chile and an array of satisfying tacos.
3. Pretending to be a Cowboy
It's been decades since Denver was a cow town. No one rides horses to school and the only time cattle run through the streets is for the city's annual National Western Stock Show Parade in early January. No matter how many people try to convince you to buy that cowboy hat, don't do it. Denverites are more likely to sport yoga pants or Patagonia down jackets than cowboy boots, so pick up a pair of running shoes from Boulder Running Company and join the locals at Washington Park for a 2.3 mile run.
4. The Coors Brewery Tour
It may be the world's largest single-site brewery, but the beer is stocked nationwide. In a city that consistently tops the charts for its number of microbreweries per capita, it's a shame to waste your time on brews you can get anywhere. Opt instead for one of Denver's award-winning breweries, like Great Divide (don't miss the Collette Farmhouse Ale or the Titan IPA) or Prost, where you can sample traditional German beers, like the gold medal-winning Weissbier.
5. Eating at "Historic" Denver Restaurants
Despite a buzzing culinary scene that's attracting top-notch chefs from around the country, gullible visitors still flock to the city's not-to-be-named "historic restaurants." Bland food, high prices, and awful menu items like Rocky Mountain oysters (bull, pig, or sheep testicles) are better left avoided. Follow the locals to more unique (and far more delicious) places to dine in Denver. Adventurous eaters should try Acorn in the hot RiNo neighborhood for oak-fired specialties, or Work & Class, where you'll find well-priced meats (goat, anyone?) and addictive side dishes. Hankering for a steak? Try Guard and Grace downtown.
6. A Tour at the Denver Mint
Most residents are rather perplexed by the tourists' fascination with the historic Denver Mint. Reservations, airport-style security, and a large-group, impersonal tour make the Mint more of a hassle than a good time. Coin collectors may enjoy it, but everyone else should consider a visit to History Colorado instead. Opened in 2012 and conveniently located near other popular attractions like the Denver Art Museum, the History Colorado Center has a range of permanent and temporary exhibits that will appeal to all ages.
7. Recreational Marijuana
Pot tourism may be all the rage right now, but it's mostly a novelty for locals in Denver. If trying cannabis is on your must-do list, be aware of the regulations. Visitors can only purchase 1/4 ounce at a time, no one can smoke in public, and the marijuana can't leave the state. Or just do what the locals do, and spend your evening at a wine and cheese bar instead.