36 Hours in Denver

The New York Times has a travel section where they feature a different location around the world and tell you what to do if you have 36 hours there. Penned in a style reminiscent of Lonely Planet guidebooks, it highlights appealing fine dining establishments and leisurely strolls along glittering rivers you won’t want to miss out on.

Since my now-annual VW Westy camping trip features a first stop in the mile-high city of Denver, I thought it might be helpful to detail what you could do if you, too, had 36 hours in Denver.


After a speedy Uber journey from the airport to Laura and Ryan’s new house somewhere in leafy suburbia, I met the incomparable Matthew who took me to buy the things I would need for my camping trip. Our first stop was Orvis, a fishing and clothing outfitter that is normally jaw-droppingly expensive but with Laura’s coupons is only mildly expensive.

I was fitted easily with an Encounter and instructions on how to get the fly rod on the airplane. (Strap it to your backpack and stand your ground if they ask you to check it.)

Next stop: REI.

As an east coast girl, I’ve never been to an REI. My version, EMS, closed down for good a few weeks ago, on what was fittingly my first day home. Denver is the home of the REI flagship store, a multiple-story building that feels more like a simulated outdoor vacation than a place to buy things. But oh, what things you can buy!

Matt dutifully followed me around the store as I chose warm clothes for what I expected would be a chilly camping trip in the mountains of Idaho.

“What about this one?” I asked him, choosing a beanie from an extremely limited selection. He looked at me with a face you might make after swallowing rancid milk.

“Maybe wear it sideways, or something. It’s definitely not La Croix.”

To celebrate spending a nauseating amount of money there, Matt bought me a coffee. Then we headed back to the house to discuss dinner plans.

Make Friends

Matt had a hot date at the batting cages, so he was going to leave me to settle in my basement room and wait for Ryan to get home from work.

“We can meet up for dinner after. Maybe get burgers somewhere,” Matt told me.

“Ryan said there’s a place just down the road. Tag, or something?”

“Oh, yeah. That place isn’t great. But it’s close.” Matt stepped out the front door after explaining where I could find everything I needed in the house.

“I’ll be back around 6:45,” he said. Then – “Oh.” He looked behind him uncertainly. “Just keep talking.”


“Keep talking. There’s a woman on the lawn.”

“What? Who is she?”

“Don’t go to the window. Just stay where you are.”

“But what is she doing?”

“I don’t know.”

Hesitating, I walked to the window.

“Matt, there’s no one here.”

He looked behind him, shrugged, and turned back to me. “OK, I’ll see you later!”


For dinner, we went to the burger place Matt had sneered at. Later on, Laura would also condemn them as having bad burgers. It was called Tag, and I found the burger to be super tasty, especially when paired with an IPA.


We wanted to do karaoke after, so Matt did some digging and found a place that had been recommended.

“El Charrito apparently has great karaoke,” he told Ryan and me, so we called an Uber and went.

It’s important to note that Ryan does not ever sing karaoke, and that Matt’s selection is generally hip-hop or musicals. For example, both of our long car journeys on this trip featured singalongs with Wicked or Disney.

El Charrito was nearly empty when we arrived, and it didn’t seem like anyone was singing – until we walked in and had a better look.

It was live band karaoke, a format I’m a fan of, but it was more than that. The selection was punk rock only.

“I don’t know any of these songs,” Matt lamented as we flipped through the list of choices. “Maybe this Blink 182 song.”

“Ryan and I will help you out from the audience,” I told him as we ordered another round of G&Ts.

What a surprise – and a joy! – it was to skim through the list and find a plethora of throwbacks to my pre-folk, punk rock days! Options ranged from Blink and The Offspring to the Distillers and, my pick, the Misfits.


I’m not gonna be humble about this – I slayed “Last Caress.”

“You remembered the pause,” the band complimented me when I was finished. “No one remembers the pause.”

I muttered something about Davey Havok and we decided to end on a high note and check out a different place.

The second venue couldn’t have been more different. It was a club with cages to dance in  and men belting out Adele and numbers from musicals. Matt owned this one. Ryan sat in the audience for moral support.

Go to Bed

We left the karaoke bar relatively late. Matt and I had a one-hour drive north to Dillon the next morning, where I’d meet Laura and get in the van and kick off our camping trip.  Matt and I would begin the morning with fairly nasty hangovers that would be ameliorated with a scrumptious breakfast at Olive and Finch and, later, a sustained 1-hour Disney singalong.

But it was time for bedtime in the basement, and that was exactly what I did.


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