Boasting breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains, Denver, Colorado is a magical destination. Best of all, you can find several neat hidden gems without even having to leave the city. Many of these non-touristy spots are well-known and loved by local Denverites. As for accommodations, there are an abundance of Denver vacation rentals to choose from. Check out the city’s top attractions situated off of the beaten path.
1. Wizard’s Chest
Located in the upscale Cherry Creek shopping district, the Wizard’s Chest was inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, Middle Earth. This charming store overflows with every sort of game and costume you can imagine, including masks, wigs, and accessories. The lower level provides a wealth of fun from Magic Cards to Monopoly, and the shop has weekly gaming events that are open to everyone.
2. Casa Bonita
Casa Bonita on West Colfax in Lakewood is a classic Denver establishment known and beloved by generations of Denver children. Billed as the World’s Largest Mexican Restaurant, this place is safe for your kids to mingle and make new friends at the 10,000 square feet of arcades, and there are a myriad of themed rooms for every age. Enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet while catching one of the entertaining shows that include a diver plunging over 30 feet into a 14-foot pool, a Wild West gunfight, and a wild gorilla on the loose.
3. The Paranormal Park at Cheesman
Cheesman Park is located between 8th and York and boasts beautiful botanic gardens and stunning 150-mile panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains. You can picnic at this 80-acre park, stroll its peaceful paths and rest on one of the numerous benches to catch your breath. You may hear restless murmurings in the trees even when the wind is still or be startled by a touch on your shoulder when you are there alone. Why? This pretty city park was built on land once used as a cemetery in the late 1800s.
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4. Banjo Billy’s Bus Tours
Climb aboard this wacky hillbilly-style log cabin bus that is filled with couches and recliners to tour the city of Denver in style. This tour gives you a moving panorama of Denver history as you roll past the Unsinkable Molly Brown house and learn about the city’s corrupt oil industry. You can get spooked during a visit to the Croke-Patterson Mansion where wealthy citizens lived an unsettling existence amid strange occurrences. Chase those chills away when the bus takes you to several of the new craft beer breweries that are popping up in Denver.
5. The Buckhorn Exchange
Denver has a Wild West history, founded as it was in 1858 by gold miners. The Buckhorn Exchange was the first official Colorado bar to get a liquor license over 100 years ago. Located just minutes from downtown Denver, the Buckhorn is a museum and a fabulous place to taste foods reminiscent of 1893 fare. If you feel wild-at-heart, you can sample wild game dishes that feature elk, duck, alligator, rattlesnake. There are over 575 pieces of impressive taxidermy along the walls, including a giant buffalo, mountain goats, elk, moose and other critters.
6. Biker Jim’s
Biker Jim’s at 21st and Larimer in Denver’s trendy Lower Downtown area has received high kudos from famed chef, Anthony Bourdain. This is the nicest, cleanest and most incredible hot-dog haven you can find anywhere, with colorful motorcycle pictures lining the walls and classic rock music giving the space an urban-grunge feel. You can choose a gourmet rattlesnake, kangaroo, wild boar, or yak hot dog with a side of creamy fried mac and cheese or fried pickles. Wash it all down with a handmade shake, a cold beer, or specialty soda, and top it all off with their signature pie. You may have to crawl back to your vacation rental, but it’s all worth it.
7. Lakeside Amusement Park
Lakeside, at I-70 and Sheridan Blvd. is one of the oldest family-oriented amusement parks in the entire country. Generations of Denver kids have spent hours of fun in this quaint park with its prevalent 40s and 50s carnival vibe. Although the rides, such as the exciting Wild Chipmunk and Cyclone, are still made of wood, they are well-maintained and meet today’s strict safety standards. Plan a picnic under the stately, full-grown trees on a hot summer day, then head to the arcade for some skeet ball and other ticket-winning games. You won’t spend a fortune, and the park stays open until midnight, making it easy to fit into any itinerary.
8. Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys
This lovely museum is located just two miles east of downtown Denver in City Park West between 18th and 20th Avenues. The historic Pearce-McAllister Cottage houses over 20,000 objects that the museum uses to stage four major exhibits that change each year. You can see vintage Star Wars toys, enjoy the elaborately decorated dollhouses, view exquisite antique dolls from around the world and reminiscence about a childhood that was heavy on toy-soldier entertainment.
9. Boulder Tea House
Although not in the Denver metropolitan area, this Boulder Tea House is 30 miles north of the city and qualifies as one of the Denver-area hidden gems for its unique existence. This 10,000-square foot tea house was built and shipped as a gift to Boulder from Tajikistan, once part of Russia, in 1980. The construction was done entirely by hand without the use of power tools. You can find over 100 different types of teas and craft beers to enjoy with your meal, you can sit outdoors next to the lazy stream, or sit Indian-style on mats around simple tables called popshans. This gorgeous tea house is within walking distance of other Boulder attractions such as Pearl Street and the University of Colorado campus.
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