Denver Gifts: Unique Items from the Mile High City

Life is about experiences, not stuff. But sometimes you want stuff to remind you of the experience. There’s something to be said for thinking of others during your travels and getting that gift you just know no one else did—or could. It’s kind of like bringing home seashells from the beach: you want something that you had to be there to get.

Despite the age of online shopping, there are still a few things you can only buy when you are in the Mile High City.

Denver skyline at twilight
Bring home a piece of the Mile High City with these unique-to-Denver gifts. Photo © f11photo/iStock.

Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey is all about the small batches, but once year they go hyper-local with the coveted Snowflake batches, and folks line up to buy it. Seriously, hundreds of folks—sunny skies or snowy flurries—line up outside the Stranahan’s Distillery to pay about $100 per bottle of the custom-finish blend made by master distiller Rob Dietrich.

“People ask me if I’m ever going to make Snowflake available nationally and I always tell them no, because that’s what makes this release so special. It’s only available for sale at the distillery for one day a year. If you want to get a bottle, you have to come out to Denver and wait in line like everyone else,” Mr. Dietrich said. “Snowflake is my favorite project every year because I get to color outside of the lines, and nose and experiment different cask finishes to see how our original single malt whiskey captures all the nuances of the special barrels.”

The Snowflake single malt whiskey is different from year to year, and 2017’s will be named Quandary Peak (it’s the 20th batch of Snowflake). You can get Stranahan’s other whiskey—including the new Sherry Cask—online, and even request personalized engraving on the bottle, but you’ll have get in line for the limited-edition Snowflake on Dec. 2, 2017. Since you’re here, plan time to tour the distillery, sip some whiskey in their lounge, and shop for hats, t-shirts or blankets, which are also only available on-site.

bottle of snowflake whiskey from Stranahans by the fire
Once a year, people line up to get a coveted bottle of Stranahan’s Snowflake whiskey. Photo courtesy of Stranahan’s.

The I Heart Denver Store is your happy place for all things made locally that celebrate Denver and Colorado—t-shirts, hats, soaps, key chains, little blue bears (a miniature version of the city’s iconic sculpture), tea towels, and lots more. The concept is to support the makers, so proceeds of all in-store and online sales go to the designers and artists. When you shop at one of their two brick-and-mortar locations, the makers get 70%; online they get 60%. Additionally, not all of the products sold here are available online; for example, Vital Industries has an assortment of pint glasses printed with maps of local neighborhoods that can only be purchased in this store.

Even if you don’t get to do the free tour at the United States Mint in Denver, you can go to the on-site gift shop and buy a trinket or treasure only available here. There are gold layover Colorado quarters (not sold online), and for .51 cents a novelty machine will crank out a commemorative penny with your choice of Denver images, including one of the U.S. Mint building. These aren’t the only items for sale in this popular gift store—you can get piggy banks, t-shirts, a variety of coins, puzzles, satchels, and more—but these coins are unique to shopping in person.

It’s true, no one comes to Casa Bonita for the fine cuisine, but you must buy a meal to enter. You may have heard of this themed Mexican food restaurant with actual cliff divers from watching South Park. Once inside, watch the diving show, listen to the mariachi band, and buy a souvenir t-shirt only available on site at El Mercado.

If you need another shirt, make the drive to Red Rocks Amphitheatre’s Trading Post store for a “Red Rocks” t-shirt. The world-famous concert venue allows hiking when there aren’t bands playing, and this little shop is on a trail loop.

red t-shirt with black silhouette of rocks in Denver
Visit the Red Rocks Amphitheatre and buy a commemorative t-shirt. Photo courtesy of Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre.

Then there are the things you can buy only in Denver, but can’t take with you. These finds are so quintessentially Denver that you might want to check them out between shops:

Stop in at the Wynkoop Brewing Company for a sip of Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout on draft. Hint: do you have the balls to ask what a Rocky Mountain oyster is?

Definitely do not try to take recreational marijuana out of state. Instead, splurge on a cannabis experience with a local. Laws requiring use of this drug to be done in private led to a cottage industry of smoking (or ingesting) pot in a person’s home or business before embarking on a painting class, hike, cooking class, or cannabis-infused massage.

When people ask how you found that special something, just say, “You had to be there!”

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