When I moved to Denver, I was impressed by how active people are and how much of the culture here revolves around drinking. No way could I go out on a Friday and wake up for a run on Saturday—what is your secret, people of Wash Park? There are over 200 breweries in Denver. The Rocky Mountain water has blessed beer itself. And while Denver is a great place for brewery tours and beer tastings, it’s also a great place to be sober.
I took a step back from drinking a few years ago because I was tired of the bar scene and waking up on a Saturday with a small panic attack after checking my bank account or throbbing headache from shots and poor decisions (because let’s be honest, what good comes after three tequila shots?) I don’t have a drinking problem, nor do I avoid alcohol all together, I just avoid it as much as I can. Alcohol isn’t bad; it can bring people from all walks of life together. We’re all part of this crazy, quirky city we call home, and we can have fun at a local brewery or hike a fourteener, be sober or happily intoxicated. But, there are so many things to see and do than just drink in Denver. After all, Colorado isn’t Colorful because of neon lights.
Go to a Bar with More Than Booze
You need a social life even if you’re not drinking. Check out bars that have more to offer than just drink specials. Both Rhein Haus and Punch Bowl Social have ton of activities, as well as several bars for your drinking friends. Bowl a game, play a round of bocce or even take your shot at some pool. 1-Up is another great place to be active and occupied while others can drink. Play retro-arcade games, Skee-ball, and even giant Jenga while your friends can drink any of the 14 beers on tap. If you don’t need liquid encouragement to sing in front of a crowd, try Armida’s for some light-hearted karaoke. Order drinks or food between sets and prepare to people watch.
Check Out a Nightlife Event Not Focused on Drinking
If you want to avoid bars altogether, Denver still has plenty of events to check out. Keep your active routine with a nighttime 5k like the Blacklight Run or Foam Glow. Skate the night away at Roll Denver for a funky and fun adult skate night at EXDO from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. If you’ve got groove (or if you don’t), try swing, tango or blue’s dancing at the Mercury Café. For an even spicier adventure, try pole-dancing lessons at Tease Studio.
Diverge From Day Drinking
It’s Denver, and drinking doesn’t just happen past 10 p.m. Instead of a Sunday brunch with bottomless mimosas, try an easy hike (use our 101 Most Beautiful Colorado Hikes guide to find one your whole group can do) and bring along a picnic—views without brews. Sometimes, a beer festival in unavoidable, but Sesh Fest is a beer fest that only features beers under 5 percent ABV. Get out on the town and get a workout. Ride around town to pubs or book clubs with B-Cycle. A bike is $9 a day or $15 for a monthly pass.
Explore Denver’s Music Scene
One advantage of not drinking, is the extra money in your bank account. Instead of spending $60 or more in one night of drinking, spend that on some concert tickets for memories and music you’ll never forget. And, since we’re living in one of the coolest spots for live music, ehem, Red Rocks (check out their summer line-up here), this is a great way to socialize and be sober. If you’re wanting an intimate night of music, Denver had some great venues. Check out Hi-Dive, La Cour, Swallow Hill or staples like the Ogden Theatre, the Gothic and the Bluebird.
Find Like-Minded People
Find people who have similar hobbies to you, and that are interested in more than just drinking. If you’re the active and outdoorsy type, Gociety is the friend version of Tinder If books, coffee and writing are more your style, get creative with other writers at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop (they have Lit Fest once a year) or get carried away in a book at Tattered Cover Bookstore. Yogies can unite at yoga festivals like Yoga Rocks the Park or Yoga on the Rocks. And if you’re just not sure what group you fit into, meetup.com has a meetup for every lifestyle, from volunteering to gaming or even ghost hunting.