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On the Right Track

Denver’s New Hot Spot Also Where Town Started

The newest hot spot in Denver is also 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 (more of each to come) and a spanking new 112-room luxury hotel carved out of what once were offices, a drafty attic and, frankly, empty space. the project officially opened in mid-July.

Denver got its start because of the railroad, so it’s only fitting that some of the most forward-thinking minds in the city tapped into that past to create this new 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.
It’s almost unfathomable how well it turned out.”

Public Spaces

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.

Dining & Drinking

Surrounding the great hall are bars and restaurants. Down one hall are two new versions of iconic Denver favorites–Stoic & Genuine (fresh seafood) and the Kitchen Next Door, with its glowingly restored neon sign that once graced the train station’s only eatery. 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–and 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 (mostly Colorado) ingredients.

The place buzzes with activity, even on a weeknight. Hotel guests are advised to get reservations when possible, because locals are packing the place.

Mercantile Dining & Provisions will open by December, offering not only a dining room seating 75, but also a European-style gourmet market. It will have private dining in the Wine Library and a roomy patio overlooking downtown Denver.

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.

Shopping

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.

And even though the LoDo store is right across the street from the complex, the venerable Tattered Cover Book Store has a satellite shop here with periodicals, artsy greeting cards and best-selling books in many categories.

The Hotel

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 Victorian roots of the station’s architecture. On the fourth floor–once an attic, find the Loft rooms with vaulted ceilings and exposed beams. All have spacious, well-appointed bathrooms. Room rates start at $289 per night.

Other Amenities

Hotel guests have access to the nearby Oxford Hotel’s club and spa. They also may use the hotel’s complimentary Tesla car service to get to and from baseball games, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, other restaurants and shopping–anywhere within a two-mile radius.

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.

However you get there, enjoy Denver’s vibrant, bustling downtown from its newest hot spot. And also its oldest.