The newest hot spot in Denver also is where the town got its start: at the railroad station.
The newly renovated Union Station in downtown Denver echoes the past and celebrates the present. The historic 1914 building has undergone a $54 million renovation that incorporates public spaces, 10 local restaurants/bars, three retail shops (with more to come) and a spanking new 112-room luxury hotel carved out of what once were offices, a drafty attic and, frankly, empty space.
Denver got its start because of the railroad, so it’s only fitting that the station is the focus of this newest venture.
“This is the Grand Central Station of Colorado,” says governor John Hickenlooper. “(The developers) took a marvelous piece of architecture and turned it into a great place for people to gather. They took an abandoned freight yard and turned it into the heart of the metro area – maybe the state.”
The towering, open, four-story main body of the building has been beautifully renovated but long-time
visitors will still recognize the ornate great hall. Enormous multi-paned windows flood the core with light, illuminating a common area.
It’s the perfect place to meet a friend for coffee and a chat – there are lots of tables and comfy seating options.
Surrounding the great hall are bars and restaurants. Down one hall are two new versions of iconic Denver favorites – Stoic & Genuine (with fresh seafood) and the Kitchen Next Door, with its glowingly restored neon sign that once graced the train station’s only diner. Though pricey, they are distinctly casual – you may sit at a bar elbow-to-elbow with other guests.
Snooze is the place for breakfast. Part of a Denver chain, guests favor the “flight of pancakes” where you get to choose three different preparations on one plate. Be sure one of them is the cinnamon roll pancake.
Acme Burger & Brat Corporation offers just what it says – one desk clerk at the hotel confided he eats there almost every day. Pigtrain Coffee offers locally roasted brews of every sort, and the adjacent Milkbox Ice Creamery also features locally made frozen treats.
The Fresh Exchange is a great place to grab lunch, with salads, sandwiches, wraps and more – all made with fresh (and mostly Colorado) ingredients.
The place buzzes with activity, even on a week night.
Just here for a drink?
The Terminal Bar offers some of Colorado’s finest micro brews on its beer list, and the Copper Lounge on a balcony overlooking the great hall, as well as downtown Denver, is only available to hotel guests and parties with reservations.
New retail shops include Bloom, for unique jewelry, home accessories, gifts and a kiosk selling fresh-cut flowers. In 5 Green Boxes, find an eclectic mix of arts, crafts, jewelry, gifts and one-of-a kind furniture.
The venerable Tattered Cover Book Store has a satellite shop here with periodicals, artsy greeting cards and best-sellers in many categories.
The Crawford Hotel is named for award-winning Denver urban preservationist and partner in the development, Dana Crawford. (You might connect her to such well-known restoration projects as Larimer Square and the Oxford Hotel.)
Rooms include the second-floor “Pullman” rooms fashioned after the Pullman cars of luxury train travel (but roomier), and the Classic rooms on the third floor (with 17-foot windows), a nod to the station’s Victorian architecture. On the fourth floor – once an attic, there are loft rooms with vaulted ceilings and exposed beams.
Hotel guests may use the hotel’s complimentary Tesla car service to get to and from sporting events, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, other restaurants and shopping – anywhere within a two-mile radius.
With the approaching holidays, and all the shopping and entertainment there, maybe it’s time to enjoy Denver’s vibrant, bustling downtown from its newest hot spot.
Which is also its oldest.
Getting there: Parking in downtown Denver is at a premium. Hotel guests pay $34 a night to have their cars parked and retrieved by a valet, so visitors from Colorado Springs may want to park at the lot at I-25 and Lincoln, and ride the light rail to Union Station. It’s easy and convenient. And you don’t have to deal with Denver traffic! Go to www.rtd-denver.com/lightrail for schedules and fares.
For reservations at the hotel, call 303-628-5400 or visit www.thecrawfordhotel.com. Room rates start at $289 per night.
For information about Union Station, visit http://unionstationindenver.com
Linda DuVal is the former travel editor for The Gazette, a freelance travel writer and winner of several Lowell Thomas awards. She is the co-author of Insider’s Guide to Colorado Springs and writes a local Web site, Pikes Peak on the Cheap (www.pikespeakonthecheap.com).
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