Serious and playful eats in Denver

RJI-KeypadThis post is sponsored by the The Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI).

Help make journalism stronger. Innovate on your terms. Start thinking now about applying for an RJI Fellowship (applications open after Thanksgiving). See RJI Executive Director Randy Picht in the RJI Midway booth from 1-2 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 15 – or any of the RJI team 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday.


Those visiting Denver for the first time might not place it in the same class of previous ONA host cities (Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, oh my!), but it only takes a short stay to realize that the Mile High City is maturing into a true metropolis. What better way to explore a city that is “having its moment” than with a fork in your hand?

Right Next Door…

Conference goers would be remiss not to take the elevator to the Hyatt’s 27th floor, where sweeping views of downtown and the Rocky Mountains greet you at Peak’s Lounge. The high-altitude cocktail lounge serves classic drinks made with local liquor, like an Old Fashioned made with Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, or a Rocky Mountain Mule — a Moscow Mule made with Wilderness Trail Distillery vodka.

Just across the street, Stout Street Social serves up seafood, sushi and savory bar food in a hip, sports-bar-esque setting. Take advantage of $4 glasses of wine and $2 off sushi orders during happy hour.
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8 great ways to get outside during ONA16

Having lived in Colorado for the past five years, I have explored much of the state. I have summited — or attempted to summit — peaks, climbed hills, soaked in hot springs and have the bruises, sprains and scars to prove it. These activities are made for those who want to take a pause from the hotel scene, a brain break from the conference, or may have an extra few days to relax post-conference and enjoy Colorado’s outdoor bounty.

So, my fellow ONA-ers, here is what I have for you: a list of suggestions from me, with input from my friends and family and the Internet.


Red Rocks Park + Amphitheater (Credit: Red Rocks Park + Amphitheater)

Red Rocks Park, Morrison, CO

About: Red Rocks is 868 acres, consisting of two, three hundred-foot monoliths and surrounded by red sandstone rock. The park is located at 6,450 feet above sea level and is the only naturally-occurring “acoustically perfect” amphitheater in the world. You can hike, bike, shop, dine and enjoy concerts.

Distance from host hotel: 16.2 miles (28 minutes with light traffic)

Roxborough State Park, Littleton, CO

About: The park has nearly 4,000-acres and according to Colorado Parks & Wildlife, is filled with dramatic red-rock formations, abundant flora, and wildlife from deer to bear. I’ve never been, but after looking at the photos, I want to go. Warning: No drones allowed.

Distance from host hotel: 27.7 miles (59 minutes with moderate traffic)

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO

About: As the name suggests, this park is filled with dynamic sandstone rock formations and breathtaking views. That description is about as good as it gets. Enjoy lunch at the glass-enclosed café with views of Pike’s Peak.

Distance from host hotel: 68.5 miles (1 hour, 29 minutes with moderate traffic)

Pike’s Peak Cog Railway, Manitou Springs, CO

About: Speaking of Pike’s Peak, why don’t you take a ride on the cog railway? The railway has been taking passengers to the 14,115 summit of Pike’s Peak since 1891. When I took it last May, we only made it halfway up because of snow drifts, but I don’t think you’ll have that issue in September.

Distance from host hotel: 72.4 miles (1 hour, 42 minutes with moderate traffic)

Dinosaur Ridge

About: A suggestion from my sister-in-law that is now going on my Colorado bucket list. Many Jurassic Period dinosaur fossils were found at sites along the ridge and it continues being a site for excavations.

Distance from host hotel: 14 miles (23 minutes with light traffic)

Manitou Inclind, Colorado Springs, CO

About: The incline is a difficult, physically active (not ADA accessible) hike up a one-mile trail, which climbs 2,000 vertical feet. That is all you need to know. If you go, I’ll go.

Distance from host hotel: 72.6 miles (1 hour, 44 minutes with moderate traffic)

Hike Rocky Mountain National Park or Roosevelt National Forest, Larimer County, CO

About: A few weeks ago, ONA board members Mandy Jenkins, Kim Bui and I hiked in Roosevelt National Forest and made our way into Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a delightful experience, with amazing views. Pack plenty of water, bring a jacket and snacks and have fun! Bonus: 2016 marks the centennial of the US National Parks. What better way to celebrate than to hit up one of the earliest parks established?

Distance from host hotel: Entrance in Larimer County, 67.9 miles (1 hour, 45 minutes with light traffic)

Mout Evans Scenic Byway

About: The Mount Evans Scenic Byway is the highest paved road in North America that climbs through nearly 9,000 feet of elevation gain to the 14,264-foot summit of Mount Evans. It’s AWESOME and one of Colorado’s famous “fourteeners,” or peaks above 14,000 feet above sea level.

Distance from host hotel: 60.2 miles (1 hour, 41 minutes with light traffic)

8 Other Places to Explore

Kelly Metz is the ONA16 Volunteer Coordinator.