Bucket List: Rich Grant on "100 Things to Do in Denver Before You Die"

Irene Rawlings and Rich Grant's 100 Things to Do in Denver Before You Die taps into its authors' deep knowledge of the city. The book has plenty to offer both longtime residents and newcomers.
Few people have watched the evolution of Denver as closely as Rich Grant.

Grant recently retired from Visit Denver as director of communications, showing people the ins and outs of Denver, after 35 years. He immediately leveraged his knowledge of the city by teaming with local travel writer Irene Rawlings to pen 100 Things to Do in Denver Before You Die, recently published by Reedy Press.

"The challenge wasn't coming up with 100," Grant quips. "The challenge was narrowing it down to 100. There are actually 200 or 300 things we write about in the book."

Grant says the 160-page tome is good for longtime residents and newly minted Denverites alike. "Someone who's been here for 20 years might enjoy it to see all the things they've done in the book," he says. "It's a good stocking stuffer for someone who just moved here. It's painless to read and it will give them an idea of something to do."

It's a guide to some of the things that make Denver a unique and memorable city. "Some of the old-school things that have been here for a long time and are authentic. Things that kind of get lost when you open a restaurant every other day," Grant says. "The kind of places I don't think the Millennials have discovered."

For example, the book includes standby eateries like Casa Bonita and the Buckhorn Exchange. "People move here and they've never heard of the Buckhorn," says Grant. "What a classic thing for the city."

There are some difficulties with creating such a guide, too. "One of the things we had in the book is Caboose Hobbies." Since the book went to press, the world's largest model train announced it would close. "Things change," Grant shrugs. "We started a Facebook page where we can update the book and add new things."

But as much as things change, some things stay the same. "I was here in 1971 with long hair, smoking pot on -- it wasn't the mall then -- it was just 16th Street," says Grant. "Back then we were annoying the greatest generation, the guys that won World War II." He compares that with people smoking pot on the mall 45 years later. "Today they're annoying us," he laughs. "We haven't done anything."

The book doesn't have a heavy focus on marijuana or craft breweries, but it includes history about the importance of brewing to Denver as well as discussing some of longtime stalwarts like Wynkoop Brewing Company, according to Grant, who also maintains a travel blog, WalkingandDrinkingBeer.com. "The city is exciting," he says. "There's a brewery opening up every day. I can't keep up with them."

A city that lives outdoorsFew people have watched the evolution of Denver as closely as Rich Grant.

With roughly 1,000 people moving to the Denver area every week, according to Grant, and new buildings breaking ground every day, it's no wonder he can't keep up with all that's going on in Denver. But he still enjoys the city.

"The thing that sets Denver apart from any other city is that we are truly a city that lives outdoors," says Grant. "The people that live here are happiest when they're outdoors . . . at cafes or a beer garden or biking, or in the mountains."

Denver also has a continuity that other cities lack, he adds. "You can start at Prost or Root Down and you can walk almost three to four miles down South Broadway and never be out of sight of cool bars and cafes and restaurants and breweries. You can't even do that much in Brooklyn or Manhattan. You'll hit districts where there's nothing. If you go from Battery Park to Times Square, you'll hit a lot of areas where there's nothing. In Denver, we really have an incredible pedestrian corridor now."

Grant thinks some places in and around Denver aren't appreciated enough, places like Highline Canal and Waterton Canyon, explaining, "I think the majority of people have no idea that there is a 70-mile trail right through Denver that is all tree-lined and beautiful, and Waterton Canyon, I can get there from my house in Washington Park. Every time I've been there, I've seen bighorn sheep. It's incredible to live in an area where there are 20 breakfast restaurants, and I can get on a bike and see wild animals."

He adds, "I think the state parks are underrated. If Eldorado was anyplace else, it would be a national monument. It's the only canyon along the Front Range without a road and the train goes through it."

Some projects are making the city more vital, like the changes coming to the National Western Complex. "I'd go to the stock show [in 2017] because the stock show is changing," he advises. "It's going to become fantastic. But anyone who's been there is going to miss walking under I-70 and going outside to another hall and getting a pork chop on a stick."

Grant is also looking forward to changes at the Colorado Convention Center and the Denver Performing Arts Complex. "The convention center is going to have an all-glass ballroom on the top with 360 degree views in all directions," he explains. "It will be the ultimate meeting spot in the city."Grant is also looking forward to changes at the Colorado Convention Center and the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

When completed, it will also showcase just how different Denver is from that forgettable 1995 movie Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead. "We start the book with that movie. It's one of the worst movies made," Grant opines. "You can't cast Denver as a film-noir town, not with all the flowers and the blue skies, with people out bicycling and cafes filled. It just doesn't not seem like a film-noir place."

Grant notes the vibrancy of redeveloped neighborhoods like LoHi and Uptown. "RiNo is totally incredible. You put all those together with the core and it's incredible. I don't know any other city with that many entertainment places in one district."

Still, one thing that Denver needs to do in Grant's opinion is connecting its prime retail districts. "I'd build a monorail or something connecting Cherry Creek and downtown -- then Denver would be completely incredible," he says. "If you connected the shopping in Cherry Creek with downtown, you'd really have a New York situation."

It would be just one more thing to do in Denver before you die: Take the monorail to Cherry Creek.

Photos by Kara Pearson Gwinn.

Read more articles by Chris Meehan.

Chris is a Denver-based freelance writer, editor and communications specialist. He covers sustainability, social issues and other topics.
Signup for Email Alerts