As with any large city, there are so many cool things to do, that it’s hard to pick just a few. For those of you visiting Denver, CO, I will be compiling my thoughts on various activities and food locations across the city to help you pick the best options for you and the length of your stay. For those who live in and around Denver, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these spots. But for now, in this first installment I’d like to share my impressions of Denver’s Meow Wolf installation, Belmar Park – a nice spot for history and a stroll, and a couple takeaways for African cuisine in the city and drinks at Death and Co.
TL:DR Go to Meow Wolf. Skip Death and Co. And explore the suburbs for good food and a unique park.
About Me and How I Travel – Is This Guide for You?
The blogs that I get most excited about are those written by people who have a similar travel style to me, and who are looking for similar things.
Relevant to this urban guide – I’d like to briefly describe what it is that I look for while visiting cities, so you can tell if this guide is for you.
First, when it comes to museums and art, I am a huge fan of immersive installations. I like being able to explore, touch, climb, and experience history and art.
I’m also a HUGE nerd, so give me fantasy and sci-fi and I will be happy.
And finally, when it comes to hiking, I am not a purist. I consider most trails to count as hiking and when it comes to exploring new places, I enjoy strolling parks of all sizes and difficulties.
Meow Wolf Denver – Convergence Station
I’m a huge fan of Meow Wolf, which is no surprise. I love immersive museums and I especially love immersive art. And what I enjoy even more about Meow Wolf is that there are stories and worlds to explore in their spaces. Parcing out the story and feeling like you’ve traveled somewhere out of this dimension is all part of the fun.
Below, I will explain a bit about Denver’s Meow Wolf, and give you an idea if you’d like to spend the money on a ticket. My goal will be to do so without spoiling anything much for you.
Worlds of Convergence Station
When you first enter the building, you will find yourself in a terminal leading to Convergence – a place where four different worlds are colliding. The terminal feels like a spruced up version of an airport or train station, and I think it is a great transition space from Denver to the fanciful story within. If you don’t mind the extra charge, you can engage most fully with the story using a Q card. But if you don’t want one, you will still enjoy yourself – especially if it is your first time. There is just so much to see!
You will take an elevator up to C Street, and begin your adventure of exploration. When you get to any Meow Wolf, the employees will basically set you free to explore, without any explanation. But don’t let that scare you. These are spaces that are meant to be interracted with and investigated.
C Street itself is like a crazy version of New York City, complete with buses, corner stores, and pizza shops. Check out every corner, touch buttons, open doors. Anything that they don’t want you messing with, they lock down. If you are interested in the story, pay attention to the small details, and if you just want to explore, let the maze of the building take you where it will.
No matter your method of experiencing the space, know that in Convergence Station, the stairs and elevators are your roads back to reality. No matter how lost you feel like you are in the building, if you find one of those, you can go back to floor one, where you came in.
The other worlds of Convergence Station include Numina, which is a wonderland in a strange forest. This is my favorite part of the space, because I love the recreation of nature with the strange twists of the story. Even when this room is busy, it feels a little more open than the others, and that creates spaces where you can snatch some peace at the base of the alien trees.
There is also the Ossuary, which is like an ancient, stone library of memories. And Eemia which is home to a crystalline temple in the middle of frozen hills. In between, there are all kinds of unique and intriguing rooms and spaces.
One Extra Tip
The first floor might seem like the least interesting space, and unless you want to buy food or gifts, there truly isn’t a lot there. HOWEVER, there is one space down there that I think a lot of people miss, but don’t! Specifically, there is a theater area where they play music that is coordinated with light shows and interactive projections on the walls and floor.
When I first visited, I enjoyed a 3-4 songs here. It was beautiful and calming; and it was really really joyful to watch people of all ages playing in the space. Check it out!
Feeling Lost? Or Want to Engage with the Story?
I’ve yet to do this myself, as I like just exploring and trying to piece things together, but for second visits and those of us who want to know the story going in, there are a couple things you can do to learn more about Convergence Station before you go.
First, do a little sleuthing around the internet. There are whole communities that specialize in Meow Wolf lore and figuring out all the puzzles of the installation. The Meow Wolf Youtube station is also full of wacky and interesting tidbits of lore.
Finally, you can pick up Convergence Station, in-world books at the gift shop. I sprung for a couple of them, and I really enjoyed having the time to read through them and learn more about the universe that they have created.
Belmar Park is unique location in southern Denver that wraps history and urban nature into one, neat package. Our first introduction to the park was via a walk down its little lane of historic, staged buildings from the age of prime Americana- with diners and pharmacies all stocked lovingly with painted props. To supplement this experiential learning about the history of the area, there is a free museum located in the visitor center. Although small, there are many hands-on elements of the museum and I left having learned more about the story of the town, and with a little more knowledge on bushels of apples. They also have a beautiful little giftshop and restrooms here.
If you walk the park, like we did, you will get to enjoy grasslands and wetland areas. In particular, I would suggestion taking a stroll around the lake and taking some time to bird watch. Even if you are an amateur, you will see a very cool variety of species utilizing this urban space. There are also some historic elements around the lake, hinting at the park’s past as an opulent manor. As with Mount Falcon (LINK), I am grateful that visionary and hard-working parks department folks and land owners turned this land into a public space for all to enjoy.
Walking here is relatively flat and there are both paved and dirt trails. Access to the park is free and there are also bathrooms available onsite.
Food and Drink Thoughts
African Grill is a spacious restaurant serving the southern Denver suburb of Lakewood, and I wish I lived next to this place. My experience with African cuisine is somewhat limited, as my 5 weeks in Namibia were mostly spent camping and eating camping food, and the only options I found in Phoenix (although I am sure there is much more!) was Ethiopian.
Now, I love Ethiopian food, but African Grill is not that. They have a totally different set of meal options, but their food is just as delightful and rich. I wish I knew a bit more about where this food originated from, but my sense from visiting is that it stems from the owner’s regional home.
From their website: “We have specialized in most popular cuisines from the continent of Africa, such us; South African “pap” and Chakalaka, East Africa “samosa and chapatti, North Africa “Couscous”, West Africa “Fufu” and “Jollof” Central Africa “Cassava, Plantains and peanut dishes.”
In any case, everything that we ate here was amazing. I highly recommend this place to anyone who either – already enjoys African cuisine of some kind, or is open to trying new foods. I can’t wait to go back.
Hell or High Water
Tiki bars are… kind of my thing. I love visiting them, trying their unique spins on tropical drinks, and enjoying the fantasy worlds that they create. Hell or High Water is a unique spin on this bar genre, with its emphasis on LGBTQ culture and curation of strange artifacts from modern history. With their swinging bar seats, and hollow TV set tables, this bar is highly immersive, and very fun. Their cocktail offerings span from traditional favorites to house creations, and everything that we tried was good. Many drinks are slung in fun tiki mugs, and food can be ordered from the restaurant downstairs via a digital ordering system.
With all that in mind, Hell or High Water is a small bar, situated above another restaurant. So, it can feel a little packed at times, and I would highly suggest getting a reservation for your visit.
That all being said, I would definitely recommend this place.
Death and Co.
I was really excited to visit Death and Co. when we made our first weekend visit to Denver. They are the second branch to the famous New York location, and everything that I had seen about them seemed to indicate that the quality of their cocktails would be really enjoyable. Unfortunately, I left their bar feeling like a visit to this place wasn’t worth my time or money and might not be worth yours either.
First, Death and Co. is a very busy spot. Parking is hard to come by and at dinner other drivers can become aggressive in searching for spaces. While the bar itself can’t control this, they don’t allow reservations (as of 2022), so you are not only racing for spots to park, but spots in line. This is stressful and unpleasant. We ended up waiting for more than an hour to get in. Luckily, there is food nearby to graze on while you wait, but you aren’t sure when you will get called, so you risk losing your spot while you eat.
Once we got in, we had a strange experience with our waiter, in that they seemed knowledgeable about the menu, but suggested one drink that was completely opposite to our described tastes. This could be totally understandable, except that the main thing we told them we didn’t like was the most notable flavor for the cocktail they suggested. Otherwise, many of the cocktails we wanted to try were not available, and the prices were through the roof.
For me, it felt like a bit of a pompous experience that didn’t live up to the hype. There are better cocktail bars without hour long lines and such high prices.
More on Colorado and Denver
As of writing this post, I have been living in Colorado for a little less than 5 months. And moving really took it out of me! So, we haven’t really gotten in gear in terms of exploring our new home state. That being said, I have a guide to Mount Falcon already available, and I am planning on continuing to write, in detail about the places we visit in Colorado. This will include loads of hiking, food, and culture both in Denver and beyond.
I also have posts on other parts of the nearby West. Check out my comprehensive posts on Arizona.
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