Denver’s historic Union Station anchors the thriving LoDo neighborhood, downtown’s hippest district. Photograph by Eric Donzella.
An Insider Guide To Denver’s LoDo District
BY SUZANNE DAVIS
Once the unofficial capital of the swashbuckling Wild West, downtown Denver’s LoDo, or Lower Downtown, was a 19th century version of Las Vegas — the place cowboys and gold miners alike would beeline to carouse. Now fresh-faced for the 21st century, the historic district has evolved into Denver’s capital of cool, buzzing with après-ski cocktail bars and breweries, must-see museums, and countless independent boutiques. Sports more your thing? Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, is here too. Plus, the foothills of the actual Rocky Mountains are just 10 miles west, making the neighborhood the perfect launchpad for outdoor adventure. Whether you’re indoorsy, outdoorsy, or both, LoDo has a spot for you.
Here’s what to do, eat, drink, and shop for in and around Denver’s LoDo neighborhood — most within walking distance from
Sentral Union Station.
Explore Denver LoDo Area Map
EAT AND DRINK LIKE A LODO LOCAL
You’ll never go hangry or thirsty in LoDo, thanks to the district’s dizzying array of restaurants, cafes, and bars, ranging from casual eateries to upscale destinations. Read on for some of our favorite spots to eat and drink like a LoDo local.
THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN LODO DENVER
Eat and drink like a LoDo local with the tasty taco options from Tamayo. Photo by Richard Sandoval Hospitality, courtesy of Tamayo.
Offering everything from toothsome Southern fare to some of the best lobster rolls outside Maine, Denver’s dining scene is deliciously diverse.
DENVER MILK MARKET
On the footprint of an old dairy, this 16-vendor market hall is the place to nab everything from pineapple chili gelato (at Cornicello) to unagi salmon poke bowls (at Mopoke). On Sundays at 11 a.m., hit the patio on Wazee for the infamous Drag Bingo Brunch, hosted by local cabaret star Shirley Delta Blow.
denvermilkmarket.com, 1800 Wazee St.
Anyone who avoids inland seafood hasn’t been here. Thanks to its partnership with lobstermen in Stonington, Maine, this counter-service joint has the freshest crustaceans in town, flown in direct from the Atlantic Ocean four days a week. Order the Lobsterado roll, a New England frank–style bun piled high with butter-poached lobster tail.
maineshack.com, 1535 Central St.
THE PIG & THE SPROUT
Meat lovers who frequented Andy Ganuck’s now-shuttered restaurant Berkshire for “swine, wine, and a good time” will find more to love at his latest venture. The all-day menu wows vegetarians and carnivores in equal measure with dishes that run the gamut from brisket poutine and cheese curds to vegan brussel sprouts with carrot “bacon.”
pigandsprout.com, 1900 Chestnut Place.
Europe’s many wine bars inspired this intimate spot where vinyl records spin on bespoke turntables. Denverites belly up to the horseshoe-shaped bar for stellar wines from Sunday Vinyl’s private cellar, like Delamotte chardonnay and Austria’s Brundlmayer pinot blend. Elevated dishes — Prince Edward Island oysters in green apple granita; crispy chicken confit with autumn squash — provide satisfying food pairings.
sundayvinyl.com, 1803 16th St.
The words “Modern Mexican” elicit groans from food purists. After all, how much more delicious can this regional fare get? Mexican expat Chef Richard Sandoval proves there’s more flavor to discover with every dish on offer at this Larimer Square restaurant, including jumbo lump crab guacamole, mahi mahi tacos, and caramelized plantains with chipotle butter. Ask to sit on the rooftop deck for added ambience.
eattamayo.com, 1400 Larimer St.
Run by the same people behind Boulder’s much-lauded Frasca, this Italian restaurant churns out dishes even a Tuscan nonna
would adore, like seed-crusted duck breast with smoked parsnip and pine syrup, and venison and pear fagottini. The happy hour (every evening from 4 to 6 p.m.) is legendary — try the Venetian Spritz cocktail and sourdough crostini with heirloom tomato and whipped ricotta.
tavernettadenver.com, 1889 16th St.
At Tupelo Honey, Coloradans get to enjoy the iconic regional delicacies of the Carolinas, with an emphasis on humanely raised meats and responsible farming. With James Beard Award–winning Chef Eric Gabrynowicz at the helm, you won’t leave hungry, thanks to housemade pickles with garlic buttermilk ranch or wild-caught Gulf creole shrimp linguine.
tupelohoneycafe.com, 1650 Wewatta St.
SNACK & SIP
The Wild serves coffee in the mornings and cocktails in the evenings, but the glow lasts all day. Photo courtesy of The Wild.
The list of places to grab a coffee or a cocktail around the LoDo district is continually growing, but these are the spots we go back to again and again, thanks to their good vibes and easy proximity to Sentral Union Station.
THE CRUISE ROOM
In a word, iconic. Built within the Oxford Hotel when the fog of Prohibition lifted in 1933, Denver’s oldest continually operating bar took the British ocean liner Queen Mary
as its aesthetic muse. Interiors are Art Deco enough to impress Jay Gatsby — who would also appreciate the menu of inspired classic cocktails, from Manhattans to Juleps.
theoxfordhotel.com, 1600 17th St.
This mezcal and tequila bar is a whole vibe, with glitzy, rainbow-hued interiors and a stellar happy hour (Sunday through Thursday from 3:30 to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close). The Stealth Margarita (with Cazadores Blanco, St. Germain, cucumber, lime, and chili) is to die for, and you’ll regret not ordering the chorizo nachos with pickled red onions.
ghostdonkey.me, 1750 Wewatta St.
Wellness is the dish du jour
at this Scandi-inspired spot, thanks to the Glowing Green and Hawaiian Pink Dragon smoothies, detoxing fresh-pressed juices, and bowls that look like edible art (you’ll want to get your phone out to snap a pic). The frothy coffee drinks, including cortados and flat whites, are also as divinely decorated as you might expect.
kaffelandskap.com, 1750 Wewatta St.
LITTLE OWL COFFEE
Everything on offer at this barista-owned roastery shows attention to detail and design. Head to the Blake Street cafe to find indulgent donuts (blood orange and thyme curd) and artisanal coffee, all in a sleek, minimalist setting. Come summer, the coffee menu features even more delights, like the PBCB: peanut butter oat milk and housemade cold brew.
littleowlcoffee.com, 1555 Blake St.
MY BROTHER’S BAR
Colorado historians tell tall tales about this brick pub built in the 1870s — and they’re actually true. Beat legend Neal Cassady used to hang out here, often with his friends Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Even better than the whiffs of poetry hanging in the air are the classic menu options, including bison burgers and onion rings.
mybrothersbar.com, 2376 15th St.
RUN FOR THE ROSES
This subterranean cocktail bar tucked below the Dairy Block is renowned for its sustainable ethos — it produces just a single bag of trash in an entire weekend of revelry. On the menu of storied tipples: daiquiris and old fashioneds that your grandparents would appreciate.
rftrbar.com, 1801 Blake St.
is not a word usually attributed to coffee shops-cum-cocktail bars, but that’s exactly what this airy spot is, thanks to its blond wood finishes and profusion of Instagrammable plants. By day, order the golden root turmeric latte and a grapefruit drizzled with local honey. By night, go for candied walnuts and a Western Slope cocktail, made with Four Roses bourbon, branca, allspice, and Demerara sugar.
thewilddenver.com, 1660 Wynkoop St.
THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN LODO DENVER
Modern Nomad is 5,500 square feet of design finds — perfect for outfitting your space with some personality. Photo by Kellye Eileen, courtesy of Modern Nomad.
From consignment skis to bespoke linen blazers, the LoDo shopping scene has it all.
THE CONSCIOUS MERCHANT
When you bask in eye-popping views of the Rocky Mountains every day, you tend to live green. This zero-waste boutique offers everything you need for a sustainable home, from blocks of vegan dishwashing bar soap to cleaning brushes made from compostable teak and agave fiber.
theconscioiusmerchant.com, 1801 Blake St.
This one-stop-shop for luxury home goods recently moved from LoDo to a larger space in Cherry Creek. It’s worth the 4-mile drive from Sentral Union Station to shop their collection of more than 40 brands of furniture and finishes, including Loloi rugs and Robert Abbey lighting. The space also serves as a de facto art gallery showing works by Colorado artists like James Vilona, a former member of the U.S. Ski Team who now makes sculpture from selenite minerals at his Weld County farm.
element-home.com, 1428 Larimer St.
In a 5,500-square-foot former auto body shop in RiNo (or the River North Art District, slightly northeast of LoDo — Denver loves its neighborhood nicknames), this market hall is a must-visit for decor obsessives. Among our favorite shops are ATLA, a Boulder-based furniture maker that plants ten trees for each modernist ash wood and steel table it sells; and the market’s namesake, Modern Nomad, where the wares include knitted sisal pendant lamps from Swaziland and antique wedding baskets from Rwanda.
modernnomadhome.com, 2936 Larimer St.
Denver may not be the first city that comes to mind when thinking about fashion, but sartorially-minded locals still have a number of high-end shops to satisfy their personal style. Ratio, a bespoke menswear shop in the city’s Lower Highland (LoHi) neighborhood bordering LoDo’s northwest edge, is a staple for Colorado’s dapper gentlemen. To get the perfect fit, they’ll measure you in 13 places for everything from custom dress shirts to blazers, which then arrive at your door direct from their factory in two to three weeks.
ratioclothing.com, 2559 16th St.
While we tend to gravitate toward indie shops, adventure enthusiasts should beeline to this outpost of the nationally known gear co-op, widely regarded to be the coolest REI in the country. It’s housed within the soaring ceilings of a 1901 brick tram depot along the edge of the Platte River and includes wow-worthy experiences like the 47-foot hand-sculpted climbing wall modeled after the Boulder flatirons.
rei.com, 1416 Platte St.
TATTERED COVER UNION STATION
It’s no surprise Denver’s most famous bookseller has a small but serviceable location within Union Station, the city’s Beaux Arts train depot built in 1914. What better place to pick up a transportive read on the go?
tatteredcover.com, 1701 Wynkoop St.
WILDERNESS EXCHANGE UNLIMITED
You’ll find outdoor gear galore for climbing, mountaineering, skiing, backpacking, biking, camping, and more at this resale shop. If you’re lucky to be in Denver during autumn, the alfresco fall Gear Swap — basically an open garage sale where the whole city comes to sell their old outdoor stuff — is epic.
wildernesssx.com, 2401 15th St.
TAKE IT OUTSIDE (AND BRING A FURRY FRIEND)
Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 10 miles west of downtown, is an only-in-Denver combo of concert venue and hiking wonderland. Photo courtesy of Denver Arts & Venues.
Grab your sunscreen, water, and sense of adventure before heading out to these popular Denver recreation spots.
Denver’s answer to Manhattan’s Central Park is this 330-acre stretch of lawn, built in 1880 to echo Frederick Law Olmsted’s landscape design vision. It’s studded with lakes and other amusements, including the
Denver Museum of Nature and Science
, where mummies and dinosaur bones await.
denver.org, York and 17th Ave.
You’ll occasionally spot fly-fishing folk in waders here, where the South Platte River and Cherry Creek meet, hoping to catch one of the waterway’s occasional trout. More frequent sightings include runners and bikers zipping along the water’s edge just below the city skyline.
denver.org, 2250 15th St.
DENVER BOTANIC GARDENS
Well worth the four-mile drive from Sentral Union Station, this pristinely manicured, 23-acre garden and lush tropical conservatory is heaven, even in the midst of a frigid January. In the summer, check out its calendar of outdoor concerts, which serve as ideal background music for wandering the themed gardens, including a Japanese shofuen
(garden of wind and pines) designed by Japanese-American landscape architect Koichi Kawana.
botanicgardens.org, 1007 York St.
THE FIIT CO.
Endorphin addicts adore this fitness studio near Coors Field, known for strength and cardio classes that come with a side of fun. If you’ve been go-go-go lately, you can also opt for a chillaxing YogaFIIT class.
thefiitco.com, 2110 Market St.
RAILYARD DOG PARK
Small dogs and big dogs both have their own places to roam at this fenced dog park by the train tracks, complete with water fountains and plenty of benches. Surrounded by high-rise towers and shady trees, Railyard Dog Park is the
place for pet owners, who gather morning and night to gab while their pooches run wild.
denvergov.org, 19th Ave. & Little Raven St.
RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATRE
Even way back in 1906, the acoustic advantages of the sandstone outcroppings jutting from the earth ten miles west of Denver made the region’s breathtaking red rock formations an idyllic concert venue. Now, Red Rocks Amphitheatre is nothing less than iconic (everyone from The Beatles to Wu-Tang Clan have played here), but it also boasts plenty of other outdoor appeal, thanks to 7 a.m. yoga classes and hiking throughout its 868 acres.
redrocksonline.com, 18300 W Alameda Pkwy., Morrison.
SLOAN’S LAKE PARK
Herons, white pelicans, Canadian geese, and other winged things seasonally flock to this 177-acre lake — but Denverites are there year-round. Thanks to its panorama of mountain views and nearby breweries like
, the park has become a mainstay for runners, cyclists, and picnic aficionados.
denver.org, 17th Ave. and Sheridan.
SOAK UP SOME CULTURE AND HISTORY
Sophisticated yet unpretentious, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is a must-see stop. Photo by From the Hip Photo, courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.
There’s never been a better time to soak up some culture and history in LoDo and Denver at large thanks to avant garde museums and sprawling performance halls.
COMEDY WORKS DOWNTOWN
Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Ellen DeGeneres have performed at this Larimer Square institution, eliciting guffaws and giggles since 1981. Cocktails like the White Gummy Bear or Dirty Arnold Palmer make it extra funny.
comedyworks.com, 1226 15th St.
DENVER ART MUSEUM
Freshly emerged from a $150 million renovation, this Gio Ponti–designed museum is now also home to a restaurant, The Ponti, led by James Beard Award–winning chef Jennifer Jasinski. Within the museum’s collections you’ll find everything from West African beaded panels dating to the 1900s to masterworks by Paul Gauguin and Claude Monet.
denver art museum.org, 100 W. 14th Pkwy.
DENVER PERFORMING ARTS COMPLEX
Denver’s version of Lincoln Center is the place to take in everything from touring Broadway shows to local theater productions. The expansive, 10,000-seat complex covers four blocks and has a jam-packed calendar of productions and events.
denvercenter.org, 1400 Curtis St.
MEOW WOLF DENVER CONVERGENCE STATION
Santa Fe’s much-talked-about immersive, explorable art experience has opened its third location with a four-story Denver outpost envisioned by some 300 artists (including more than 100 from Colorado). Expect a sparkling, glowing, fully otherworldly experience.
meowwolf.com, 1338 1st St.
MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART (MCA DENVER)
Designed by Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Adjaye OBE, this ode to contemporary art is one of LoDo's greatest gems. After working up a thirst wandering through the halls, head up to the rooftop cafe where you can sip cocktails inspired by the current exhibitions. Our current order: the ***Flawless cocktail, made with Laws rye, orange liqueur, lime, and basil.
mcadenver.org, 1485 Delgany St.
Built in 1930, this grande dame has retained her ornate “Zig Zag Art Deco” interiors and twin-console Wurlitzer organ. Nab any of its 1,865 seats to see comedians like Nate Bergatze, Whitney Cummings, and Lewis Black.
paramountdenver.com, 1621 Glenarm Pl.
Arguably one of the best-curated contemporary art galleries in Colorado, Robischon is the place to pick up pieces by established and future art world icons, including Richard Serra, Li Wei, and Kiki Smith.
robischongallery.com, 1740 Wazee St.
Explore Denver LoDo Area Map
READY TO EXPERIENCE LODO LIKE A LOCAL? LIVE OR STAY AT SENTRAL’S COMMUNITY IN THE HEART OF DENVER’S LODO DISTRICT:
Explore Sentral Union Station
ABOUT THE WRITER
After a decade as a magazine writer and editor in New York City, writing for everyone from Travel + Leisure to The New York Times, Suzanne Davis settled in sunny Denver. She's as obsessed with hiking 14ers (the region’s mountain peaks with at least 14,000 feet of elevation) as she is with seeking out Colorado's best local ciders, sourdough bakeries and dim sum spots.
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