If you think you know Denver’s Union Station, it’s time to get reacquainted.
What used to be a beautiful, historical train hub is now one of the most bustling places in downtown — so thrilling, in fact, that you can spend an entire weekend inside the station without having to leave. No downtown parking. No chilly winter walks. Everything you need for a perfect Colorado mini-getaway is right under this dramatic domed roof.
The 1914 Beaux-Arts Union Station building reopened July 2014, after a mega $54-million renovation.
Today, it boasts an eclectic mix of more than a dozen local restaurants and retailers, including projects of some of the state’s most renowned chefs, several nightlife options and the totally quirky Crawford Hotel, ideally located in the heart of it all.
Oh, and amid the action, this still remains an Amtrak train stop, surely one of the coolest ones for a layover.
Here’s how to spend a weekend staycation all within the bounds of the new Union Station — making it an amazingly unique destination in the state.
Stay at the Crawford Hotel
There’s nowhere quite like this independent hotel. The Crawford Hotel echoes Union Station’s history, with the 112 different, unique rooms reflecting a different era. You’ll see Victorian influences with a modern twist, or loft-style rooms in the station’s former attic, or Art Deco touches on Pullman-style rooms, reminiscent of a train’s private sleeping car.
The Crawford’s decor is luxe yet funky. Imagine a full wall of jackalope “heads” and chunky exposed beams throughout a two-level room, and hundreds of pieces of rare art, including vintage post card collages or fun memorabilia from the building’s past.
Guests get access to free transportation within a few miles around the station and free access to the Oxford Club, Spa & Salon across the street.
The Crawford boasts a list of awards, including one of the Top Hotels in the West by Conde’ Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Award and a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
Grab a Drink at the Cooper Lounge
The Cooper Lounge, an open-air cocktail lounge with a sweeping, bird’s eye view of the main lobby, has a sultry, old-Hollywood feel. It’s one of Denver’s most glam bars, and although there’s no dress code, you’ll feel right at home in a LBD and pearls here. Cooper specializes in high-end, expertly prepared cocktails, like the Coloradier, made with Breckenridge Bourbon, bitters, Sweet Vermouth and an orange twist.
Or just tell the bartender what you’re in the mood for and have something custom whipped up. Tip: Ask about the lavender gin martini, not on the menu.
Snooze in Bed
One of the coolest things about staying in Union Station is the easy access to some of Denver’s top restaurants, including one of the Snooze branches. Snooze is one of Denver’s favorite spots for breakfast, and when you stay at the Crawford, you can have it delivered straight to your room. The large assortment of benedicts with hollandaise are a hit, and so are the pancakes of the day. Banana pancakes in bed while you watch HGTV in your cozy hotel bed? All of the yes.
Treat Yourself at the Oxford
While Union Station itself is not home to a spa, it partners with the historical Oxford Hotel just a few steps across the street. Guests have free access to the Oxford’s fitness facility and can utilize the full-service Oxford Day Spa and salon, too.
For something special, try a signature service, like the 80-minute Milk and Honey Bath, exclusive to the Oxford Spa. Your therapist will cover your skin with a nourishing body mask (especially wonderful in Colorado’s dry air), followed by a natural exfoliating scrub. Then, relax in a clawfoot tub filled with warm goat’s milk, as you receive a face and scalp massage.
The otherworldly treatment wraps up with a body massage and application of milk and honey body butter, which will leave your skin feeling soft and fresh. It’s the perfect way to rejuvenate your entire body, head to toe, in a luxurious, peaceful oasis.
Browse the Shops
Don’t leave Union Station without visiting its unique shops, including the Tattered Cover Bookstore, 5 Green Boxes (the best place to score unusual gifts and funny cards) and Mercantile Dining and Provision.
Although Mercantile is also a restaurant — and the best place to get coffee in the station (though service won’t be quick) — it’s also stocked with cool food stuffs, spices, pastries, truffles and drinks to bring back home. Bacon peanut brittle, rose lemonade and carefully selected artisan goodies fill this Euro-style market.
You can also get coffee at Pigtrain Coffee Co.
Fill up on Seafood
Seafood might not be the first plate you think about in landlocked Colorado, but try the oysters at Stoic and Genuine and you’ll be converted. Stoic flies in fresh seafood daily, sometimes twice daily.
Pick from a nice selection of oysters and the Hamachi Sashimi to start. For an adventurous (but delicious) appetizer, try the Octopus Mortadella with a candied lemon vinaigrette.
The drinks here are nearly as fun as the menu. Stoic’s specialty is its granitas in different flavors, from cucumber tarragon to fresno chile citrus. Try them with your oysters for an unexpected burst of flavor or in a specialty granita cocktail.
High on the list of awesomes: The Mind if I do a J cocktail (blackberry allspice granita with Old Forester, chai syrup, lemon and mint), the Jackie Treehorn (De Lord Napoleon armagnac, sherry, St. George pear brandy and pear ginger shrub) or Stoic’s version of the spicy margarita, The Stranger, made with the fresno chile citrus granita. It's up there with the best spicy margs around.
Ocean or not, Stoic has already swept up a long list of awards, including Gayot’s Top 10 Seafood Restaurants in the U.S., Zagat’s Hottest Restaurants list in 2014 and many Colorado-wide awards.
Add this to the list. It's one of our favorite seafood scores in the state.
Eat, Eat, Eat
There's no reason to go hungry when staying at Union Station. In addition to seafood and coffee and banana pancakes, you can get casual fare (like burgers and brats) at Acme or farm-fresh, locally inspired food at Next Door Community Pub. This food is 100 percent sourced from American farmers.
Grab dessert at Milkbox Ice Creamery, which offers 16 different flavors you can have as shakes, cones or even alcoholic shakes.