Well, Lakewood, actually, which is a suburb west of Denver. But I was an official resident of the city for 10 years and I’ve lived close to my childhood home in Lakewood since I was 2. I won’t say how many years that is, but I was here before LoDo ever existed, when we had only FIVE neighborhood malls, in a time when you could get a day ski pass for under $20.
I’m not technically a native, but I’m the next best thing…and probably one of the few long-time locals you’ll encounter. Well, other than our Mayor, of course.
The Democratic National Convention is finally here and the city has been transformed into an energetic hub of activity that’s part D.C., part L.A., with a whole lot of Midwest flair. We’ve seen some big action before (Summit of the Eight in ’97, for example), but none of it compares. History is being made here this week, and it’s a thrill to watch.
This also happens to be the 100th anniversary of the 1908 Democratic National Convention, held in Denver. That year, the city handed out 5,000 buttons to Denver residents that said, “I live in Denver, ask me,” hoping they’d serve as tour guides and help lost visitors.
I’ve been managing the Web site for the local Host Committee, which has been the center of my universe this year. We’ve partnered with the Denver Convention & Visitors Bureau, which is where you can find shopping destinations, vacation guides, and dining and entertainment options. There are also some great local guides out there: one here, and 5280 had a fun issue.
But I think geeks have been underrepresented, so I’ll list a few off-beat things you might find interesting:
Yeah, that’s right. The famous colossal yet healthy burrito was invented here at the first-ever Chipotle restaurant, which opened in 1993 near the University of Denver. It’s located at 1644 E. Evans Avenue. We’re so proud of this, there’s even an “I Have Been to the First Chipotle Ever” Facebook group.
For great hummus and falafel, check out Falafel King (located downtown and in Boulder), or Jerusalem restaurant near the University of Denver. We also have Wahoo’s Fish Tacos (note to Californians: our portions are smaller so order the large), Tokyo Joe’s, and Noodles and Co.
The Starbucks at 16th and Tremont on the mall serves a great soy cap. NOVO coffee at the Denver Art Museum is another downtown favorite. Check out Mile High Buzz for coffee house locations, reviews and Wi-Fi connectivity.
No worries. There are 5 in the Denver metro region. Yes, they have iPhones.
Literally. Denver is dry. Really dry. Sometimes under 10 percent humidity. Walking across the carpet in your hotel with your media in hand is a recipe for disaster. Touch something metal first before handling your gadgets.
If you do get invited to a special event, ask if it’s black tie. If it isn’t, then you can probably get by with your “dressy” Keens and good jeans.
Ditch the Heels
You’ll see girls wearing them, but take that route and the first thing you’ll do when you get back home is beeline for the podiatrist. Opt for your Danskos, Keens, Mephistos, Birkenstocks, Tevas, Josef Seibels, Merrells, or J-41s.
You’re unlikely to get in a fracas with the swat team, but watch out for unmarked vans on the side of the road. They have a tinted back window with a little flashbulb on the lower left side. We also have a few downtown intersections with photo radar.
Boy geeks in Denver are harder to identify. Compared to San Jose, they’re practically celebs — healthier and leaner. But you can spot them by the size of their man purses and by how tricked out their bicycles are. Sadly, the same rule applies to girl geeks, which makes them easier to spot.
We have the best honey around. Colorado bees summer here and winter in California, where they pollinate almonds, oranges and other crops. Look for Madhava and Clarks brands. We’re also at the tail end of peach and cantaloupe season from Colorado’s western slope. And we’re home to Celestial Seasonings herbal teas. You can find them all in our supermarkets.
Robert Redford once worked at The Sink restaurant on the Hill, where you can ask for tofu on your pizza without even a sideways glance. The Pearl Street Mall is the place to pick up your Free Tibet bumper sticker, Guatemalan juggling balls, and American Apparel T-shirts.
See Dinosaur Tracks
Take the Alameda route and go over Dinosaur Ridge toward Red Rocks to see a geological history of the Denver basin, complete with dinosaur tracks. While you’re there, head to the amphitheatre even if you’re not attending a concert. The park is open to the public during the day — you can run the steps and even walk on the stage.
Get Out of Town
Take a drive and see the mountains. Best afternoon trips are Estes Park (allow another hour or two for Trail Ridge Road) or Mt. Evans (within one hour from downtown, you can be at 14,000′ elevation — but read up on altitude tips first). If you have more time, try Frisco and Breckenridge, or Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak.
We have a national cemetery on the southwest edge of Denver. Its eastern section has been expanding rapidly since Afghanistan and Iraq. If you visit the grounds, you’ll find a beautiful lake, resident geese, and markers that date back to the 19th Century. It’s located at 3698 S. Sheridan Boulevard — their name database is available online.
Spell it Right
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. We’re Coloradans…not Coloradoans.
So, I have put on my button. Go ahead…fire away. I won’t tell you to drink more water (which you should), or where the A-list parties are (duh.) And no, I don’t have Daily Show tickets (nor do any of my geeky friends.) But otherwise, I’m happy to assist.