I’m a small town girl at heart, but I love the city during the holidays and Denver is especially Christmassy at this time of year.
This past weekend, we visited Denver with the intention of immersing ourselves in the holiday spirit and we accomplished our mission.
Ryan and I arrived in the city around 1 p.m. and checked in early to our hotel, the brand new Le Méridien in downtown Denver. From the chandelier in the lobby to the rooftop bar, Le Méridien is 20 floors of modern, classy comfort. Plus, the location of this Denver hotel is ideal if you’re catching a show at the Denver Performing Arts Center or attending an event at the Denver Convention Center, as both are less than a block away.
Le Méridien would be an ideal hotel to stay at during GABF (Great American Beer Festival), but I’d reserve your room now as the entire city books up during that week.
After checking in, we walked to the Denver Christkindl Market, about two and half blocks from Le Méridien. It was a balmy 60 degree December day and the market was warm and crowded.
With the increased popularity of the market, I’d highly recommend exploring it on a less busy day (weeknights are ideal). The delicious smoked salmon by Chef Neuhold is still the best food at the market. Most vendors are cash-only at Denver Christkindl Market, so play accordingly.
Our next goal was to check out a new-to-us brewery, but after a short Uber ride, we discovered that there were no seats to be had at the Denver Beer Company so we skedaddled down the street to My Brother’s Bar. I first visited Denver’s oldest bar in 1999 while visiting the city with my then boyfriend, now husband.
We bellied up to the bar where we enjoyed delightful conversations with two of the best bartenders in Denver — “best bartenders in Denver” was a recurring theme of this trip, during which we enjoyed both the holiday spirit of the Mile High City and the craft spirits too.
After a drink at My Brother’s Bar, we ambled through Confluence Park and took in the scenes which included a guy stand up paddle boarding on the South Platte just below the pedestrian bridge.
We walked by Miracle Bar at the Wayward, Denver’s very own pop-up Christmas bar. I had this on the list of possible stops during this trip, but it wasn’t open yet and we didn’t make it back. We peeked in the window and it’s definitely the spot for those of you who are Christmas crazy (you know who you are).
While at My Brother’s Bar we’d had a short discussion about oysters and that’s all it took for me to put Must Eat Oysters on my to-do list for the evening. That was fairly easy because on our way back to the hotel we walked through Union Station, home of Stoic & Genuine, a seafood restaurant with a fine oyster menu.
Union Station is the best, especially when it’s all dressed up for the holidays.
Back at our hotel, we changed for dinner and enjoyed a pre-dinner drink at The Lobbyist, the lobby bar at Le Méridien. The Lobbyist also serves up sweet treats and scrumptious coffee drinks in the morning.
Le Méridien’s town car was out dropping off other guests, so we opted for Uber to drive us to Charlie Brown’s Bar & Grill on Capitol Hill, our ultimate evening destination.
Charlie Brown’s is a longtime Denver tradition, and not only is it Denver’s oldest piano bar, many a famous celebrity has sipped a cocktail at this joint.
We managed to get seats at the bar, just a few yards away from the pianist who, at 7 p.m., was already surrounded by admirers. We ordered drinks, Greek pizza (an excellent choice) and more drinks all while belting out Christmas tunes and the occasional piano bar favorite.
Our bartender, Sean, said he’d probably heard Piano Man 500,000 times in his sixteen years of slinging drinks at Charlie Brown’s. Sean is an outstanding bartender in all ways, and in between piano tunes, he kept us entertained with stories. For instance, the much-told anecdote about Bill Murray having stopped in at Charlie Brown’s and serenading the regulars has apparently been greatly exaggerated, but it’s still a great story.
What happens every night at Charlie Brown’s is exactly what this crazy world needs more of; people of all stripes singing happy songs together. No one asked anyone who they had voted for or where they stood on climate change. It seemed that everyone in the bar was singing and there wasn’t a frown in the house. I wish I could bottle up whatever THAT magic is and sprinkle it everywhere.
From Charlie Brown’s we Ubered to Ship Tavern at The Brown Palace for a nightcap. This place has a special spot in our hearts as it’s where we had our wedding reception after party. On that night, a crew of performers from the Denver Performing Arts Center took over the piano and belted out show tunes for a couple of hours. Our guests were enraptured.
Ship’s Tavern was buzzing, but we did get a table just feet from the piano player, which was a beautiful ending to a fabulous evening. Of course, it didn’t quite end there, from The Brown Palace we hopped in a pedicab and serenaded the peddler, and everyone else on the 16th Street Mall, with Christmas tunes all the way back to our hotel (he loved it, I swear!). Pedicabs in Denver run about $2 a block.
The next morning, we enjoyed a leisurely morning in our room with fancy coffee from The Lobbyist followed by brunch at Corinne, Le Méridien’s exquisite restaurant. The French toast is basically cake and that made Ryan’s entire day.
If you do a holiday outing in Denver this year or in the future, we recommend using this blog post as a handy reference guide. Just remember, Uber and Lyft are readily available in Denver, so if your drink, click your app.