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Mile High Pride: 72 (Gayish) Hours in Denver

by Matthew Wexler
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Apr 30, 2018

Maybe it's the lack of oxygen at 5,280 feet above sea level. Or the Rocky Mountain views. Perhaps it's the marijuana. (Technically, pot is illegal to consume in public, but hey, who's looking?) Whatever the reason, Denver is on the fast track to becoming the United State's most desirable place to live.

U.S. News & World Report's second annual "100 Best Places to Live" ranked Denver number two, based on affordability, job prospects and quality of life. Denver also received a perfect score last year on the Human Rights Campaign's annual Municipal Equality Index, positioning it as a premier destination for the LGBTQ community.

For those looking for a quick fix of Denver's rainbow realness, Denver PrideFest returns June 16-17, 2018, for a celebration of community, heritage, family and culture. More than 250,000 people are expected to attend the festivities, which include an early morning parade that kicks off at 9:30 a.m. to avoid the high elevation rays (Denver gets 300 days of sunshine a year), as well as an entertainment-packed festival at Civic Center Park.

Denver PrideFest and the GLBT Community Center of Colorado recently announced the parade's grand marshals, David Mullins and Charlie Craig. With the help of the ACLU of Colorado, the couple famously filed a lawsuit against Masterpiece Cakeshop after its owner refused to make a cake form them, citing religious beliefs. Now before the U.S. Supreme Court, a final ruling is expected in June.

Other PrideFest happenings include a 5K run, transgender resource area, live entertainment on three stages (last year Jennifer Holliday raised the roof along with a slew of RuPaul vets including Cher impersonator Chad Michaels), and nearly 20 DJs.

Sweet Dreams

Putting its collection front and center, the ART, a hotel offers guests intimate access to smartly curated works that adorn public spaces and create unique environments on each floor as well as within guest rooms.

Inquire about a guided tour upon check-in, or explore on your own and discover Instagram-worthy sculptures by Deborah Butterfield, Kiki Smith and Mary Ehrin, among others, as well as eye-popping paintings from luminaries such as Odili Donald Odita and Sol Lewitt.

The ART is more than meets the eye, though. Head to FIRE for an innovative take on New American cuisine with dishes such as pan-seared Alamosa bass and braised beef short ribs. With 300 days of sunshine, you'll likely be able to enjoy the FIRE Terrace with a specialty cocktail in hand.

The ART is also proudly LGBTQ-friendly and TAG approved, which reflects the hotel's certification of non-discriminatory employment policies as well its customer service commitment.

Dine & Drink

Most Denverites take advantage of the sun-filled days and abundance of outdoor activities, which include 85 miles of paved bike trails (visitors can use B-cycle, the city's bike sharing program), city parks, or day trips to Dinosaur Ridge or Rocky Mountain National Park - all the better for calorie-burning to indulge in the city's burgeoning culinary scene.

Here are some favorites to add to your must-eat list:

Rioja -- James Beard Award-winning chef Jennifer Jasinski along with co-owner and general manager Beth Gruitch helm this Mediterranean-inspired hot spot, which features handblown glass fixtures and an open kitchen. Stand out dishes include grilled lamb loin with a decadent pomegranate-black truffle risotto, Georges Bank scallops with carrot sabayon, and Petaluma chicken. Or go all-in and ask your server about the bespoke tasting menu.

Mister Tuna -- Restaurateur Troy Guard's eighth concept arrives in Denver's River North Arts District (RiNo). Be sure to allow enough time to explore the eye-popping public murals and graffiti art before settling in for a Hawaiian-inspired "neighborhood sanctuary." The focus is on shareable plates with dishes such as oak-grilled shitake mushrooms, bison tongue toast with sambal pickled radish, and hearth roasted meatballs with whipped tofu.

The Cruise Room -- The pink-hued, wine bottle-shaped room resides discretely off the lobby of Denver's Oxford hotel and boasts the title of the city's first post-Prohibition bar. Craft cocktails riff on classics, such as the White Manhattan (Hudson corn whiskey, Lillet Blanc and apple bitters) and the Pineapple Julep (St. George gin, Luxardo liqueur, Chambord and prosecco).

Snooze -- After a mile-high night on the town, refuel with serious comfort food. Now more than a decade old, Snooze has established itself as Denver's ultimate breakfast spot and has since expanded to more than 30 locations throughout the west coast. Each location partners with its local community for charitable endeavors, which makes those sweet potato pancakes even sweeter. Other delectable bites include corned beef hash, breakfast potpie, and the vibrant Goin' Green Bloody Mary, made with jalapeno and habanero-infused vodka.

Catch a glimpse of Denver's gorgeous architecture at the pristine (and surprisingly calm) Union Station location, housed within the 1914 Beaux-Arts train station.

LGBTQ From Day to Night

Get your queer fix with a free LGBTQ audio tour around town. Highlights include Charlie's (home of the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association) and Smiley's Laundromat, a community landmark. This November, the Denver Art Museum showcases the work of iconic fashion designer Christian Dior.

When the sun sets there are plenty of options to explore, from the smaller clubs in the South Broadway neighborhood like Boyztown where you can get your fill of scantily clad mountain men to the supersized Tracks, a sprawling warehouse space with multiple venues. Theme nights include Roll (monthly skating party), Drag Nation, The Twerk Team, College Night, and more.

Special Events

In addition to Denver PrideFest, there are plenty of queer-centric anchor events to lure you to the Mile High City.

Rocky Mountain Regional Gay Rodeo (July 7-8, 2018) - Two full days of riding and roping (and that's before you meet the cowboy of your dreams).

Red Rocks -- The ultimate outdoor performance venue, Red Rocks is a must-visit for any trip to Denver. This summer promises some favorites that you won't want to miss, including a screening of cult favorite "Heathers" (June 18) and Queen tribute band Killer Queen (July 25).

HRC's Mile High Gala -- Pack your formalwear and head to one of Denver's most anticipated events of the year where you can rub elbows with movers and shakers at Centennial State's 27th annual Human Rights Campaign dinner.

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's National Senior Editor of Travel, Lifestyle, Health & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.


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