The best way to bar hop around Denver’s eclectic bar scene is to start on Denver’s 16th Street Mall, the hub of LoDo (lower downtown). The light rail is a safe, cheap option to get to and from 16th Street, a pedestrian street that offers a free shuttle all night long. Denver’s best bars are in close proximity to the 16th Street Mall, but you have to get off the mall to find them.
Fun is the mantra at The 1-Up, a ‘barcade’ that harkens back to the ‘80s with vintage arcade games. Arcade games? You might ask. It works for 1-Up, which gets crowded every night after 8 p.m. Its loud jukebox and R&B music and strict 21 and up policy give it more of a club vibe—without dancing—than an arcade or bar vibe.
Don’t come to 1-Up expecting five-star service of attentive wait staff. Come for the company and atmosphere. The bar offers modestly priced beer and alcohol, although nothing beyond the usual drinks, such as Coors and Blue Moon, or a rum and Coke. The bar also has a strict policy against mixed drinks with more than four ingredients. However, the company and atmosphere are first-rate.
The outdoor patio holds several giant Jenga towers, and on any given night plays hosts to lively Jenga based drinking games. This is the place to let loose with your friends or significant other, or to just find good company. Head to the Falling Rock next door for any food besides appetizers, or move on to the Wynkoop Brewery.
Wynkoop Brewery, the first brewpub in Colorado, offers a more down to earth atmosphere. Its slightly dim lighting, hard wood floors and timber pillars create a true tavern atmosphere. If you want your basic Coors Light or Corona, look elsewhere, because Wynkoop doesn’t have a beer on tap that is not unique. One sip of Belgorado (Belgian-style, Colorado hops) or Patty’s Chile Beer and you’ll be a Wynkoop devotee. The brewery tips its hat to its neighbor across the street, the Denver Union Station, with its Light Rail Ale and Rail Yard Ale. Avoid a tough choice by getting the sample platter of these beers. You will delight in each unique taste, especially when paired with Wynkoop’s creative home-style bar food, such as the quinoa crusted shepherds pie.
The Brewery boasts one of Denver’s largest pool halls upstairs, and most of the 20-plus pool tables are crowded long into the night. Join an animated game of pool, try your hand at darts, or mingle with other brewpub and cycling enthusiasts. Or venture downstairs to Wynkoop’s lower level to the interactive Impulse Theater.
Mix it up with a chai bender at Leela’s European Café, which successfully and sexily fuses its identity as both bar and coffee shop. It is sparsely decorated with classic French style furniture and a contrasting collection of local urban art litters the walls.
Loud, sometimes live, music pumps through the one-room establishment at all hours of the night. Regulars, from daytime business execs to late night students writing papers, know Leela’s offers as good a latte as it does a beer. Political junkies mull over news and debate late into the night over a plate of pastries.
You can make a run on a multitude of Denver’s vibrant bars, or spend your whole night at one of them. When you’re ready to call it a night, take advantage of 16th Street, the prime spot to find a cab or board the light rail until 4 a.m.