If you live in Denver, you know about the 16th Street Mall. If you are visiting Denver, you NEED to know about the 16th Street Mall. The heart of downtown Denver is centered around the tourist friendly 16th Street pedestrian mall. The mall, about a mile and a quarter long, hosts over 300 stores, 50 restaurants and the Denver Pavilions – an entertainment mega-complex that hosts a movie theater, Barnes and Nobles and numerous restaurants including Coyote Ugly and The Hard Rock Café. Visiting this area, with the parking and the traffic and the crowds, can be somewhat stressful for an out-of-town guest. So here is one Native Denver Dweller’s guide to the 16th Street phenom.
The first and most important rule is this: Stay at a hotel close to the mall. I highly recommend the Hotel Monaco, which is just ONE BLOCK off of the 16th Street Mall. The hotel has a funky, retro boutique feel. Upon entering the hotel, you are greeted by a chalkboard covered with dog names. These are the names of the pups staying at the hotel, although you would never know it. The hotel is spotless and clean – with a lobby to take your breath away and make you murmur “Oh my stars.” Stars indeed, cover their elaborately painted ceiling that arches over a tasteful lobby. It’s a great place to have a glass of wine, talk with friends or just stare at the ceiling. The rooms are decorated with an eclectic flair – looping leather headboards, art deco vases and mirrors are topped off by gorgeous orange and brown window treatments that showcase either Downtown Denver or a priceless view of the Rocky Mountains. One of the best things about the Hotel Monaco – besides its priceless locale – is that you are given a companion goldfish in your room for the duration of your stay. We named ours “Nazgul.” After taking in the complimentary wine reception that happens at 5pm every day at the Hotel Monaco, you are free to head out for your night on the 16th Street Mall. At just a block away, there is no need to pay for a taxi or take public transport. Even in silly high heels, it’s a short walk.
There is no shortage of restaurants on the mall, but we are particular to Earl’s – a warm, elegant restaurant with just a hint of edge. Request a table on one of their two huge outdoor patios, and settle in for the best people watching this side of New York City. The 16th Street Mall is known for their interesting folk, from street performers to models, from wild teenagers and drag queens to a Colorado Rockies’s pitcher – and you never quite know who you will see there! Start your evening with Earl’s famous Peach Bellini, and move on to their Los Cabos Chicken Tacos. Dinner is good no matter WHAT you pick, although we lean heavily towards Tilapia Piñata or a hearty Steak Frites. After dinner, as you roll yourself out of the restaurant, make sure to wait for the free Shuttle buses that run up and down the mall from morning until midnight.
Hop on a shuttle bus and let it take you down a few blocks to the Tattered Cover – Denver’s most famous independent bookstore. Through two towering stories of books and tons of antique furnishings, you will find the perfect place to take a breather from your wild night of fun as you peruse the offerings of Austen, Lewis or Dennis Leary. If you are feeling more naughty than book worm-ish, you can try and catch a burlesque show at the Clock tower Cabaret – they also have interactive spelling bees, if you think you can hack it while sipping a cocktail!
As your night comes to a close, you can hop back on the free bus and take it to Illegal Pete’s – a burrito and beer restaurant that is the coolest place in town – filled with ridiculously good looking hipsters, happily drowning their Pork Carnitas in Green Chili. If that seems a little low-brow for you, you could always head back to the Hotel Monaco Bar at Panzano. Ask a knowledgeable waiter for his wine recommendation, and you will be thrilled with the selection and the ripe grapes about to hit your tongue. Take in the city lights as you snuggle into bed, assured a great night’s sleep in your Italian Frette linens.
In the morning, head over to the Rialto Café for a simple, delicious breakfast – we recommend the Greek Omelet. Eat quickly and hop the shuttle buses for some morning shopping. When that’s all done, go get your car parked at the Hotel, and you are on your way. THIS is the way to do the 16th Street Mall – no traffic, no parking, no meters, and no crowds…just the best of Denver at your fingertips.