by Jeanne Brei
An only-in-Denver experience, Casa Bonita is the absolute mecca of theme restaurants with 52,000 square feet, seating for more than 1,000, more than 30 attractions, private dining rooms and large banquet areas. Built in 1974, generations of families have enjoyed the extraordinary Casa Bonita’s entertainment and ambience. The layout of the multi-level Spanish paradise allows children to explore more than 10,000 square feet of arcades and different themed rooms. The waterfall, designed to resemble the cliffs of Acapulco, is 30 feet high and the pool is 14 feet deep. Their famous pink tower facade is 85 feet tall and the dome, covered with 22-karat gold leaf, features a statue of Quahuatomec, the last Aztec emperor.
Although the cafeteria-style food lines might not boast the best food, it’s the entertainment that happens every 15 minutes, the 30-foot waterfall, indoor cliff divers, pirate skits, arcades, mariachi band, puppet shows, fire jugglers, magicians, purple dragons, vintage photo booths, Black Bart’s secret hideout, and El Mercado gift shop that more than make up for the food (the unlimited sopapillas are delicious). Casa Bonita was featured on the hit show South Park (episode 76 from 2004) with an episode written from the writers’ childhood memories.
Another neighborhood secret gem is the The Bull & Bush Pub and Brewery, which converted a Glendale dairy into a pub featuring live Dixieland bands (including Your Father’s Moustache band pictured right) on Sunday nights. Twin brothers Dean and Dale Peterson opened it in 1971, modeling it after a British pub located in Hampstead Heath near London that dates back to 1645. They spared no expense bringing back original artifacts to give it an authentic feel—including the copper top bar. They’ve added an outdoor dining patio, and, in 1997, an award-winning brewery to go with their great food. In addition to “Best Beer in a Brewpub” in Westword’s Best of Denver and multiple awards at the Great American Beer Festival, their “MAN BEER” was given a Gold award at the World Beer Cup.
Must also recommend Williams and Graham “bookstore” with a hidden door in a bookcase that transports you to a 1920s speakeasy. Upstairs they have a game called “Decipher The Code,” an interactive puzzle game that once won, allows you access to the key to leave the room which is locked upon the start of the game.
And another not-to-miss hot spot is El Chapultepec, a popular jazz club that opened in 1933 with great Mexican food, cool drinks and hot jazz. Many famous musicians have played here including the Marsalis brothers, Count Basie, Artie Shaw and local jazz bands just about every night of the week.
Casa Bonita, 6715 West Colfax Avenue, Lakewood, 80214; (303) 232-5115; casabonitadenver.com
Bull & Bush Brewery, 4700 Cherry Creek Drive South, Glendale, 80246; (303) 759-0092; bullandbush.com
Williams and Graham, 3160 Tejon Street, Denver, 80211; (303) 997-8886 williamsandgraham.com
El Chapultepec, 1962 Market St. Denver, 80202; (303) 295-9126; www.thepeclodo.com