A recent weekend had us traveling to Denver, Colorado to attend a volleyball tournament for my daughter. This was my first time in Denver, and I was excited to explore “the Mile High City” (Denver is one mile above sea level) between volleyball matches. We flew in to Denver on a Friday night to get ready for the upcoming 3-day tournament, and since much of our time would be centered around the Colorado Convention Center, we chose not to add the cost of renting a car and having to pay for parking. So, we limited our exploration of downtown Denver (it is the tenth largest downtown in the nation) to the walkable areas from the convention center, but we were grateful for the small glimpse we managed of this colorful city.
The tournament, Colorado Crossroads, is a huge tournament that takes place at the Colorado Convention Center where many teams from the western United States come to compete and see it they can qualify for a Junior National bid. Although the girls worked hard and came in 9th place (out of 64 teams in their division), they missed getting a bid since bids were only given to the top 3 finishers. There were 3 divisions for each age level 12-15 yrs, which basically translated to an enormous number of teams. Not to worry, there will be other qualifier tournaments to try for bids, but this tournament was a fun way to compete against teams from other states and see how they fared.
The Colorado Convention Center had a great eye-catching design element, the blue bear out front. I hadn’t heard about it prior to seeing it, so it was pretty shocking when I first saw it and it instantly put a smile on my face.
When we had free time we walked in various directions from the Convention Center. To the southeast was the Civic Center Park where the Capitol Building can be viewed. It’s a great place to explore, as well as sit on a bench and soak in some Vitamin D. We walked around on a Sunday so the area was relatively quiet, but I can imagine it would be busier on a weekday when government offices were open.
To the north of the convention center was 16th St. where many restaurants and shops were located. We picked some of the places because of recommendations and research, but other places we just walked in and tried. Our hotel, the Courtyard Marriott Downtown, was in a great location on 16th St., but was a hit and miss. Some of the families on our team had a great room with high ceilings facing the street, while others of us had a very dark room facing into their “courtyard” where construction was going on. Construction was going on in the lobby and everything seemed a bit unorganized. However, the staff there were amazing and went above and beyond to make us comfortable. I would stay here again if I had one of the street facing rooms.
Moe’s Broadway Bagel was a great place to grab an inexpensive breakfast, while Modern Market for lunch kept it healthy for us (loved their Chipotle Steak toasted sandwich and their salads). What we really enjoyed and went back for a second time was the popcorn from City Pop, especially the toffee popcorn. The freshness of the popcorn is what set this popcorn apart, these are seriously dangerous. Once you start munching away, the entire bag will somehow magically disappear, through no fault of your own of course.
Modern Market (menu) had delicious, healthy food that kept us energized and able to watch a million hours of volleyball and take our walking tours.
City Pop (popcorn and candy store) was right off of 16th St on Champa St and had uniquely flavored, fresh tasting popcorn.
We had a team dinner at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery and this establishment handled a large group extremely well (great food and beer as well). By the way, Denver claims that it brews more beer than any other city in the nation (any contesters?). There was an incident at the restaurant when a lady, obviously affected by drugs, came into the restaurant and smashed her head against a wall, making her head bleed. The lady started to make her way to the bathroom near the area where our group was, but the restaurant staff quickly intercepted her and proceeded to “escort” the screaming lady out the back of the restaurant. The lady at one point grabbed the booth back right behind where I was sitting, then screamed when the staff pulled her back. See, this is exactly why I don’t like to sit in the middle of a booth, you are quite trapped, any crazy, drug-affected person can get at you. The restaurant staff used this moment to teach the girls that drugs are bad and to not use them or they would end up like that lady. Bravo, Rock Bottom Brewery staff, bravo!
A macaroni and cheese grilled cheese sandwich from The Melt (menu) on 16th St. was exactly what my daughter wanted after a day of volleyball.
We had some free time before heading to the airport for our return flight, so we visited the Federal Reserve Money Museum (free) on Curtis St. They have a small museum where you can pick up a pamphlet and go on a self-guided tour. Don’t forget to pick up a bag of shredded money as your free souvenir.
There is still a huge list of places I still want to visit in Denver, but our initial sneak peak gave us the impression that Denver is a modern city (that values art) with good food and friendly people. For now, we’ll keep dreaming of someday returning to Colorado to experience their famous “great outdoors,” but being in Denver and seeing the snow covered mountains in the distance, sure made us long for that day to come soon.