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Adventure, Travel

Hilary Oliver is an adventurer, photographer, and filmmaker based in Denver, CO. We’ve asked Hilary to develop city guides for a few of Colorado’s most treasured cities. You can learn more about Hilary and her travels at her website, and on Instagram (@junipermedia).

There are two kinds of people in Colorado: mountain people and city people. Unless you’re in Denver, that is. If your idea of a vacation has you torn between exploring cafes and shops and getting out for some hiking, biking or climbing among rugged peaks, Denver’s perfect for you. You can be out on a trail, shooting photos of the sunrise shining on the Continental Divide and then be slurping down a perfect pour over with your cafe breakfast less than an hour later. I mean, really, who should have to choose between a sunrise hike and chilaquiles?

I’ve been based out of Denver for the past 10 years, and one of my favorite things in the world to hear someone from out of town say is, “I’m coming to visit!” Except it’s so tough to narrow down the best restaurants, cafes, hikes and climbs to do in a short amount of time! Here are my go-tos for a fantastic Denver weekend.

Watch the sunrise from up high
In the summer, early morning is the time to hit the trail. The mountains still feel cool from the night, deer are still quietly enjoying their breakfast alongside the trail—and you can see the sun rise over the plains. Sure, sunset hikes can be lovely, too, but in Denver the sun sinks quickly behind the mountains that rise to the west—and the heat of the day can still linger. So set the alarm early, and instead of gulping down your coffee before you leave, take it with you. Head to someplace like Windy Saddle on the Chimney Gulch trail, or Matthews/Winters Park, and find a picnic table or flat boulder along the trail to brew up.

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Eat at City O’ City
Denverites are nuts about brunch. Sometimes I think that waiting in line for brunch would qualify as one of the city’s favorite pastimes. But one of Capitol Hill’s best kept secrets is the breakfast at City O’City. It’s a vegetarian restaurant and bar—a bohemian night spot that serves up satisfying, interesting meals even late—but it’s also open, and often quiet, during breakfast. Order the Chilaquiles or Breakfast Arepas, which come topped with mouth-watering homemade pickled onions. Or if you’re a sucker for southern comfort food, try the Sardou—eggs with grilled artichoke hearts, creamed spinach and toasted almonds. Keep an eye out for musical celebrities here and at the sister restaurant, Watercourse Foods —they’re near a couple of music venues and have served the likes of the Beastie Boys and Fleet Foxes.

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Shop on South Broadway
Denver’s different neighborhoods are part of what make it awesome—small enclaves of cafes, theaters, local restaurants and galleries branch out within a bike-friendly distance in all directions from downtown. But the best combination of old-school establishments and new, up-and-coming businesses is on South Broadway. Find antique treasures and odd curiosities at Ironwood, try on perfectly curated vintage styles at Boss—or perfectly curated minimalist modern styles at Fancy Tiger.

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Cool off at Sweet Action Ice Cream
When you’re about to drop from shopping, point yourself toward Sweet Action. Their ice cream is all made from local Colorado dairy, from the basic vanilla and chocolate to the whiskey brickle made with Denver’s own Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey. They’ve always got a couple of super-creamy vegan options, too, like vegan biscuits and jam or chocolate-chocolate chip. Then, if you’re done with your sight seeing, duck into an indie film at the 1930’s art deco-style Mayan Theatre.

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