There are plenty of must-visit attractions in Denver, in fact the Mile High City has something to offer just about everyone. It’s what makes it one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. While visitors and locals alike often flock to the many art and cultural institutions, recreation areas, and the vibrant foodie scene, there are plenty of offbeat offerings for those looking for something just a little bit different. Here are 11 of the most unusual experiences Denver has to offer.
This Lakewood institution, which opened its doors in 1974, credits itself as “The World’s Most Exciting Restaurant,” and it’s hard to disagree. While Denverites will often joke about the sub-par cuisine that Casa Bonita offers (the taco salad is usually a safe bet, but stay away from the all-you-can-eat dishes), the experience is well worth it. Guests will enjoy being seated somewhere in the 52,000 square foot complex, usually in view of a 30-foot tall waterfall where cliff divers and fire jugglers perform. After enjoying some margaritas and sopapillas (more agreeable menu selections), visitors can enjoy anything from puppet shows, arcade games, old-fashioned photos, to a romp through Black Bart’s cave.
While Denver has no shortage of antique shops, few are as fun as Fifty Two 80’s. This store is as much of a museum for 1980s pop culture as it is a store, with some 4,500 items from collectibles, toys, to memorabilia. Shoppers can expect to play their favorite Atari game, wax nostalgic over a few of their old childhood toys, and even have a chance to rifle through boxes and boxes of every 80s trading card game imaginable. It’s an absolute walk down memory lane for the Saturday morning cartoon era.
The bar scene in Denver is bustling, but visitors looking for something a little offbeat should definitely find their way to Williams & Graham. This LoHi neighborhood bar is fashioned to resemble a prohibition-era speakeasy, and not just because of the decor. Guests enter through Williams & Graham Bookstore, a small storefront with a hidden door behind the bookcase. The bar itself has a congenial atmosphere and cozy setup. The specialty cocktails are so good, the bar won the award for the Best American Cocktail Bar in 2015 by the Spirited Award.
Tours can often be a great way to learn about the history and culture of a city. In a city like Denver, where marijuana has been legalized, 420 Tours offers an experience of a different nature. 420 Tours prides itself on being Colorado’s premier cultivator of cannabis tourism experiences. This includes everything from all-inclusive 420 vacations, grow and dispensary tours, and other activities such as sushi and joint rolling dinners, infused massages, and “Budz and Sudz” craft weed and beer tours.
The Buckhorn Exchange is not only Denver’s original steakhouse but it’s also a National Historic Landmark and Western Museum. The Buckhorn has been open for business since 1893 and frontier cooking is still at the center of its menu. Diners can try anything from buffalo prime rib, elk and quail, to more exotic offerings like alligator tail and Rocky Mountain oysters. The main dining room is also covered floor to ceiling with taxidermied animals, itself a tribute to the American West.
This 80-acre urban park in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood is a popular place for residents to relax. There’s nothing overtly interesting about the park itself. Indeed, it’s a perfect spot for a walk or a picnic, as well as for those interested in exploring its lovely botanic gardens or panoramic views. However, its haunted history has attracted ghostbusters from all over. The park is built on top of some 5,000 unclaimed graves which were poorly moved in the 1890s. Many believe the spirits of those graves still haunt the park and surrounding area, making for some great stories and ghost hunting.
1UP in Denver’s LoDO neighborhood is a bar meets classic arcade in the best possible way. 1UP features more than 45 classic arcade games, 16 pinball machines, a few lanes of Skee-Ball and multiple sets of Giant Jenga. The bar menu features basic bar food, plus there’s 14 beers on tap and a full bar. They even have a jukebox ready to play everyone’s favorite tunes all night long. Be sure to bring plenty of quarters.
The Denver Flotation Center offers visitors the chance to spend time in the Oasis Flotation Tank, a sensory deprivation tank full of 10 inches of water saturated with 1,000 pounds of healing Epsom salts. The effect is that the body floats, similar to zero gravity, in an environment with no light and sound to create ultimate relaxation and experiences of heightened awareness. First-time floaters can get an introductory special for a one-hour session.
Denver is a fit city and Denver Patio Ride allows visitors to combine two of Denver’s favorite things: cycling and drinking. Denver bike pub crawls allow guests to explore the city on a pedal-powered bar bike for a truly unique experience. The bikes hold 16 passengers and go on designated routes through the LoDo and RiNo districts. There are also options to rent custom tours. Tours make stops at several bars along the way and are led by tour drivers.
Everything about the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys is a unique experience. The collection itself is housed in the Pearce-McAllister Cottage, a historic house museum well worth seeing. The museum’s permanent collection has over 20,000 items, from the O’Meara Someday House to the rare Japanese Friendship Doll, Miss Yokohama, and pieces from world-renowned artisan miniatures that are made from everything from wood and ivory, to silver and gold.
Linger is not only one of Denver’s most popular restaurants, it’s also one of the quirkiest. The restaurant is housed in what used to be the main building for Olinger Mortuaries, and it makes great use of its history. The old Olinger sign atop the building now lights up to say “Linger Eatuaries” and water is served out of old formaldehyde bottles. The menu is inspired by urban street food from all over the world and the cocktails are all made with fresh, local ingredients. The rooftop views are incredible, and the “Lite-Brite” bar top is worth checking out.