East Highland, Denver
Credit: Hyoung Chang / The Denver Post / Getty Images

Denver has long struggled with a cow town inferiority complex. Upscale restaurants feel out of place alongside taquerias, and it's tough to tell if neon beer signs signify dive-bar irony or square-state interior design. But in East Highland, Colorado's capital Brooklyn, Mission District, Silver Lake, Wicker Park, or what have you. Overlooking the downtown skyline, E-Hi's brick brownstones, row houses, and modern condominium complexes are bringing in single professionals who party like grown-ups, couples who aren't quite ready to settle down, and young families who are looking for a little more color than they might find in the increasingly beige neighborhoods of Cherry Creek or Washington Park.

Up the 15th Street hill is the neighborhood's core, where unique restaurants and bars are multiplying at such a clip that the area has already established itself as the destination district for the rest of the city. While Mexican grocery stores and cheap, tasty taquerias flourish – Pinche Taqueria is a must – Vita's rooftop terrace is usually packed with the city's smart set (but without the attitude), and high-end Mexican place Lola offers up a new twist on tacos, with an excellent view of the downtown skyline. Locals know oddly shaped Little Man Ice Cream as "the giant milk can," and Root Down, one of the city's most interesting restaurant, is a rehabbed gas station with a mod-retro vibe.

Some would argue that it has taken Denver this long to find its city sensibility because the Rockies are all about Eddie Bauer and not Tom Ford; but even if you ask the city's outdoor obsessives where they'd most like to spend their downtime, they'll say it doesn't get much more convenient than this neighborhood notched between I-25 and I-70. A-Basin is about 90 minutes away, door-to-door, and the South Platte River Greenway, a five-minute downhill spin from the center of East Highland, offers the best urban biking in town. For a midweek fix, check out the 45-foot-high climbing wall at REI's massive flagship store, housed in an impressive century-old brick building.

More information: For those who prefer escaping farther into the city, a new pedestrian footbridge handily links East Highland to LoDo (Lower Downtown) high-rises and nightclubs, along with Coors Field, the city’s beautiful retro ballpark.