Washington Park author talks about Denver’s hidden gems

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Since 1976, Rich Grant has called Washington Park home. He’s traveled the world as a writer, but no matter where he goes, the park is still his favorite place. The quality of light in the area turns Smith Lake into a reflecting pool, creating stunning images of the sky on the water.

“It’s the one thing that hasn’t changed. The neighborhood is so fantastic,” Grant said. “It’s my favorite place on Earth.”

Before transitioning to working as a writer full-time, Grant worked as the director of communications at Visit Denver for 35 years. Working at Visit Denver helped Grant to learn the ins and outs of the city, as well as the location of its hidden gems.

Last month, the second edition of Grant’s book “100 Things to do in Denver Before You Die,” with co-author Irene Rawlings, came out. Instead of a guide book, Grant said to think of it more like a conversation with friends on where to go in Denver. With the growth of Denver over the years, Grant said even long-term residents will find the book useful.

“It’s amazing how many people brag `I haven’t been downtown in 20 years,’ ” he said. “They will be amazed. They will just be completely shattered by what’s happened downtown.”

The struggle with writing a book like this, Grant said, is that it can become “obsolete” the moment it’s written when businesses close down or move. The book’s first edition was published in 2016. Grant and Rawlings operate a Facebook page to go along with the book that gives up-to-date detail on suggestions within the book as well as hikes around the area.

The book is divided into categories: restaurants, nearby hikes, city festivals, cultural events and more. Instead of focusing on what could be considered the best of Denver, Grant said they focused on what makes it more unique, such as the Buckhorn Exchange restaurant that opened in 1893 in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. The restaurant’s walls are lined with nearly 600 mounted-animal heads and it was the first restaurant to be issued a liquor license in the state.

“There’s no shortage to find the 25 best new restaurants,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that if you’ve lived here for a while you take for granted, and there’s a lot of things that people who’ve lived here forever don’t know about.”

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