People living near exciting destinations typically never fully explore them. My son Garrett lives in Denver, Colorado. He snowboards in the Rockies, hikes the local terrain, drives by the same sights each week and frequents his favorite familiar pubs and restaurants. In June Garrett and I played tourists together, and we explored new sides of his city.

The Ritz-Carlton, Denver served as our home base during this visit. We relished incredible farm-to-table dining at Avelina and Table 6, and then sank our teeth into juicy steaks at ELWAY’S Downtown. We rambled through the Botanical Gardens, and we browsed the unique shops and eateries at Union Station. While exploring the Museum of Natural Science we paused to watch a film at the IMAX Theater. There is no denying that the mile-high city offers fun and excitement for visitors and locals alike. Before heading to the city, contact Visit Denver to discover desirable places to stay, exciting things to do and delicious places to eat.

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Upscale Lodging

The Ritz-Carlton, Denver is situated in the heart of downtown; affording us with easy access to delicious restaurants, trendy breweries, and the walkable 16th Street Mall – a mile-long pedestrian promenade. Garrett and I used the hotel’s complimentary first-come, first-serve hotel car service to destinations within a couple miles of the hotel when the weather was disagreeable. We resided on the 12th Floor, the Club Level, granting us entrance to The Club Lounge, which offers an elevated hotel experience that guests may purchase during their stay. Executive Chef Garrett Gooch and his team of culinarians craft five delicious gratis culinary presentations for guests to enjoy throughout the day. Frequenting The Club Lounge made it simple to savor a quick breakfast, stop in for a small bite during the day or imbibe in a cocktail before dinner.

Delicious Dining

ELWAY’S Downtown on the first floor of The Ritz-Carlton, Denver is open for breakfast, weekend brunch, lunch, happy hour and dinner. This fine dining steakhouse, owned by the famous former quarterback John Elway, serves steaks, seafood, salads and other scrumptious options. Renowned for their steaks, Garrett and I each selected a different cut to sample, along with an appetizer of grilled artichokes. Both steaks were cooked to perfection; and although we could not possibly finish the feast, we splurged and ordered the decadent cheesecake to bring back to our room for later.

Owned by Karen Pence and her partners, Avelina restaurant is located in the LoDo section of Denver. Karen expressed that both the staff and the owners feel that the restaurant is an extension of their own homes, and each member of the team takes pride in serving delicious food paired with impeccable service. Executive Chef Josh Oakley began as the sous chef and worked his way up to executive chef by the youthful age of 29. Karen says, “When Chef Oakley tries something new, it has to be better than the last version.”

The restaurant’s open space sets the stage for lively conversation. The reclaimed barn wood, high ceilings, and large hanging lamps give the room a modern and urban feel. The cushioned benches with small tables accommodate groups of two or four while the long tables with chairs in the center create excellent seating for larger groups. Specialty cocktails and mocktails accompany a delightful selection of beers and wines, and the menu is broken up into charcuterie and small and large plate options.

Dinner began with octopus. It was tender and adorned with shaved celery and Italian parsley. Confit marble potato salad and charred lemon aioli complimented the dish. The glazed bulgogi short ribs were so tender that they fell apart with a fork. The vegetable stir-fry served alongside consisted of sugar snap peas, onion, broccoli, bamboo shoots ginger, pickled carrots, cashews and plum sauce. Each bite was a flavor explosion. To finish, Karen recommended the chocolate hazelnut crunch cake topped with milk chocolate ganache and served with salted caramel ice cream.

Table 6 is owned by Sommelier Aaron Forman – a once successful dog musher who began his restaurant career due to a keen interest in wine. Aaron traveled the world tasting wines and learning from master sommeliers and highly acclaimed chefs and winemakers. Table 6 is a conglomeration of his knowledge and experiences put into practice.

Pairing up with Chef Mike Winston, Aaron created an American bistro that serves elegant upscale comfort food with unconventional flare. Chef Winston prepares traditional dishes with unique twists. His homemade tater tots with pulled pork and sweet slaw are served with pickles and jalapeno complimenting the dish, a favorite amongst the regulars. Vegetarian lovers will appreciate the ricotta-stuffed pattypans with eggplant and white beans lying on a bed of lemon beurre fondue.

The duck confit and Wagyu flank steak are delicious, but be sure to save room for dessert. The chocolate beignets with rhubarb come sprinkled with crushed dried strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. The taste is divine and inventive. The blueberry cream cheese tamale with lavender gelato and hazelnuts is amazingly different and a inimitable take on the traditional savory tamale.

Local Sightseeing

The best way to tackle any large city is by visiting the neighborhoods. The LoDo, Larimer and Riverfront district is Denver’s historical but hip area with brewpubs, a huge bookstore and plenty of restaurants and nightspots. Union Station is a must-see with a plethora of shops to browse and cafes to enjoy. Larimer Square is Denver’s oldest block with Victorian buildings hosting high-end specialty boutiques. Chef-driven restaurants pepper the neighborhood, and baseball fans must stop at Coors Field.

The Golden Triangle Museum District boasts the Denver Art Museum, numerous galleries, restaurants, venues for music and multiple theatres.

Cherry Creek, City Park and Uptown make up Denver’s premier shopping and dining neighborhood. The Denver Botanical Gardens boasts lovely displays of worldwide flora and fauna. I especially enjoyed the sculptures dispersed throughout the gardens, and Garrett felt like part of the Swiss Family Robinson family in the treehouse located inside the tropical conservatory. The Denver Museum of Nature & Science has been around for more than 100 years, and the dinosaur exhibit is superior to any other I’ve seen.

Visit Denver because it offers an eclectic array of interesting sights, incredible dining options and loads of outdoor fun, but don’t neglect an opportunity the next time you have a free weekend to be a tourist in a city near you.