What we learned about friendship, RiNo and last minute plans in Denver

Everyone loves Denver. Everyone talks about Denver. And everyone’s friend seems to be moving to Denver. There are lots of great things about Colorado, from the Rocky Mountains to bluebird skies, to fun outdoor activities. Our decision to visit Denver was a no-brainer. If there’s one thing to know about traveling, it’s that you should always take advantage of whatever resources you can to get the most out of your trip. Denver is the perfect example of that, for us.

For one, we have a probably a dozen friends and acquaintances that live out there, which made couch surfing easier than ever. To make this whole thing even sweeter, all of these friends happen to have great taste in things to do around town. We barely had to spend time researching and creating an itinerary. This was crucial since we basically decided to take this trip 24 hours before boarding a flight, which brings us to the third reason for our trip to Denver … we were given a golden opportunity. I was asked to write a feature about an organization out in Oakland, California and was allowed to bring along my own photographer. So Jake and I were headed out west. Here’s the trick, we realized that if we got ourselves a one way to Denver, we could have the flight to and from California covered. Therefore, we got two cities for the price of one. Aren’t we brilliant?!

On our first full day in Denver, we decided to check out the River North Art District, better known as RiNo. Jake’s friend from college, Caroline, moved out to Denver a couple of years ago from Atlanta and had way too many recommendations for our time in town. Wandering around RiNo, going to the Denver Central Market, along with a number of bars and restaurants was high up on the list, and seemed like a cool area to check out. As the name suggests, RiNo (not SoHo) is an artsy area in Denver. On the day we went, there was an annual art festival called Crush Walls underway. Artists were painting murals across 30 blocks. Unfortunately, we really only caught the end of it, but we still got to see some artists at work. There was some really large pieces, some smaller sections, but all in all, it was a great way to spend some time without breaking the bank. Had we known this was going on, we could have made the better part of the festival – word to the wise, plan ahead. 


Of course, after arriving in RiNo we were on a mission to find coffee (we weren’t quite ready for adult libations at that point). We stumbled into Denver Central Market because it was the biggest building right in the heart of the festival and we assumed there would be coffee and we were right! Denver Central Market is a food hall with lots of different options. We followed the smell of fresh grounds to Crema Coffee. The coffee was great and fueled us to carry on and see what RiNo had to offer. Apparently, there’s a larger shop nearby, but we never made it over to check it out, although we heard great things.


Later, we met up with our friends Matt and Joey for drinks. Lustre Pearl’s open patio and live music drew us in. It was a beautiful, surprisingly warm fall day, so sitting on the patio with a cold, local beer was the perfect way to round out our day. Matt and Joey were also our hosts for part of our time in Denver, so we decided to swing by the store for some simple ingredients, went back to the house and cooked up some scrummy, yellow curry for dinner. The curry also made for great leftovers.


I think the lesson here is — not that there has to be a lesson to every day of your life, not every experience has this underlying, storybook conclusion to be made — but if there has to be a lesson it is to never take your friends for granted. Our trip to Denver could not have been more impromptu. We had basically nothing planned once we stepped off the plane 24 hours after booking the flight. Our friends were able to put us up and show us a good time, and that’s truly invaluable. This isn’t some platitude that goes floating by and turns into nothing. While we rely on our friends to be there for us when we need them, our friends always have a place to stay in Atlanta, or wherever life takes us.

What goes around comes around, and when you give, well, you get that much more back. So pay it forward y’all. Put up your friends, send them playlists with your favorite songs, and mail them postcards when they go abroad. That’s the type of world we should all live in.

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