Friday, September 14, 2007

WCHA Roadtrip Town No. 2 – Denver

About two months ago, the WCHA Blog kicked off its list of which WCHA towns make for the best roadtrips. For my list, I’m basing this off five criteria (Access, Bars, City Experience, Hotels, and Ticket Cost / Availability). For a detailed list of what these five items mean to me, click here.

Here is a list of the cities the preview has previously covered up until today:

10. Houghton
9. Grand Forks
8. Mankato
7. St. Cloud
6. Madison
5. Anchorage
4. Minneapolis
3. Colorado Springs

This week, its city No. 2: Denver, Colo., which is home to the University of Denver Pioneers.


Despite the fact that Denver is pretty far away from a vast majority of the other WCHA cities, it’s not too tough to get to. There are many daily flights from the Twin Cities International airport via carriers such as Northwest, United, and Frontier. You should never have to spend over $300 to fly from the Twin Cities to Denver, and often you can find flights for under $250, which isn’t too bad.

The schedule is also very flexible if you’re flying from the Twin Cities, as there are flights starting from about 7 a.m. each day all the way through the night. I’ve noticed that, over time, it seems like there are a limited number of flights leaving between 3 and 5 p.m., which is an ideal time for some people because it allows them to work a full day on a Thursday (for example) and still get out to Denver a day early.

Most flights from Grand Forks to Denver connect through Minneapolis, while flights from the Madison area can often connect through Chicago or Milwaukee.


Unfortunately, there aren’t very many bars in the area of the DU campus or Magness Arena. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of fun to be had in the city of Denver.

One of the best places to pregame near Magness Arena and the DU campus is Spanky's Roadhouse Bar and Grill. They have great burgers and because it’s one of the only places to pregame at, it’s always packed with hockey fans. It’s one of the better bars / restaurants to hit before a game in the WCHA.

Downtown Denver is maybe my favorite place in any WCHA city, as the city offers so many great bars and restaurants to choose from. The two main areas in downtown Denver – the 16th Street Mall and the LoDo area – connect to form a great stretch of establishments.

The area is laced with bars and restaurants on nearly every corner. Standbys such as an ESPN Zone, Hard Rock Café, and a Cheesecake Factory can be found on the 16th Street Mall. Once you get down to the LoDo area (which, by the way, is short for “lower downtown”), there are more bars than restaurants.

Braun's Bar & Grill, which is adjacent to the Pepsi Center (which is a little southwest of the LoDo area), is a great sports bar that was home to Minnesota’s fanbase during the 2006 NCAA West Regional.

My favorite restaurant that I’ve found in my travels to the Denver area is called The Delectable Egg, which is a great breakfast joint that features phenomenal food at very reasonable prices. The menu is very eclectic and the atmosphere is very cool. There are a handful of locations in the Denver area, including one just off the 16th Street Mall.

Another must-stop for our group in Denver is Woody’s Woodfire Pizza, which isn’t too far from the DU campus. They offer a lunch buffet for about $10 that features salad and pizza. Best of all, you can talk with the cooks about what type of pizza you’d like, and they have everything under the sun in terms of choices. Definitely worth a try.

City Experience

This is an area where a city like Denver really shines, as there are countless things to do aside from watching your team take on the Pioneers.

The 16th Street Mall makes for a great time-killer and is good for those who like to “people watch” as they say. The Pepsi Center – which is home to many events – is worth a visit as well, as the building (both inside and out) is pretty cool for a sports arena. If you’re lucky, you can catch an Avalanche game on the Thursday before or Sunday after your team’s games against DU.

Last spring, I took a tour of Coors Field and would highly recommend doing that if you need to pass some time. I’d image a tour of Invesco Field would be equally entertaining. The Coors Brewery isn’t really anything special, but the town of Golden is pretty cool to see. Plus, it’s only about 15 miles from the heart of downtown.

I also hear there’s some mountain range near the area, which of course makes for some great sight-seeing and picture-taking opportunities.

With a city this big, I’m sure there are many cool things I’m not even aware of, so feel free to visit the city of Denver’s official tourism guide.


The city of Denver has many lodging options, as one would expect. There aren’t many hotels near Magness Arena, but with a city like Denver, it’s not as important to be staying near the campus / arena because there are so many more things to do in the city as opposed to a city like Madison, for example.

The Four Points by Sheraton Denver Southeast is a pretty close to campus and gets the seal of approval from the hardcore UMD fans who have made the trip to Denver. I’ve also stayed at this hotel and highly recommend it. The rates can get spendy, but you can also find times when you can pay less than $100 per night. The hotel has a solid bar in it and is right on the interstate, so it’s easy to get to and from.

Ticket Cost / Availability

The University of Denver uses TicketMaster, which means you can expect and additional $5 - 8 to be tacked onto your ticket price, which ranges from $18 to $25. It’s unfortunate, but there’s not much you can do about it.

Tickets are pretty easy to get for the games if you’re on top of things when single game tickets go on sale, which is usually early September. Tickets for the high-profile games (Colorado College, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin) tend to go quicker than others, so make you’re online or calling when the go on sale, but you shouldn’t’ have any issues.


The city of Denver is probably the one WCHA city that I’d go out of my to visit for a non-hockey based trip. There are so many fun things to do just in the downtown area, you could spend a weekend there and not feel like you missed out on anything. Throw in the picturesque scenery and some good hockey, and you’ve got all the makings of a great roadtrip.

Overall Grade: A