Featured Destination: Cherry Creek

By Kara WilliamsDenver’s LoHi (Lower Highlands) and RiNo (River North Art District) neighborhoods may be the current darlings of Denver, but upscale Cherry Creek, less than a 10-minute drive south of downtown, is a marvelous spot for visitors to spend the day—or even a weekend, especially if shopping or dining is high on your agenda.

Get fueled: My favorite breakfast joint is Syrup Breakfast & Lunch. The casual, below-street-level restaurant is surprisingly bright and its servers are friendly. Order an omelet or poached eggs with its signature, shredded corned beef hash, accompanied by a pancake with flavored syrup – I like blackberry and maple vanilla mixed together.

Get going: Borrow a bicycle ($9/day plus any usage fees) from the self-serve B-cycle station behind the Cherry Creek Shopping Center(or at 3rd Ave. and Milwaukee St. or Madison and Ellsworth streets) and cruise along the paved Cherry Creek Trail northwest toward downtown or southeast to Four Mile Historic Park and beyond.

Get pampered: Cherry Creek North – the 16-block retail and shopping area bordered by 1st and 3rd avenues and University and Steele streets – is home to more than 50 day spas and hair salons. I like Antoine du Chez, known for its haircuts and blow-outs in its sunny, second-floor location, but also has dimly lit treatment rooms for massage, body wraps and scrubs, facials, manicures, pedicures and waxing.

Shop, shop and shop some more: Need a kids’ gift or costume for a party? Pop into The Wizard’s Chest. Need new active wear? Check out prAna, Lucy or Title Nine. The Artisan Center has inspirational journals, funky home décor and pretty stationery and handmade jewelry. Also visit The Hermitage Bookshop for rare books, The Philadelphia Print Shop West for antique maps, and Two Pals and a Pup for organic doggie treats.Art galleries reign here; I like browsing the colorful creations at Pismo Fine Art Glass. And of course, there’s the upscale indoor mall—Cherry Creek Shopping Center—for your big-box shopping needs.

Eat healthy for lunch: The menu at True Food Kitchen is based on Dr. Andrew Weil’s holistic approach to eating (a.k.a. the “anti-inflammatory diet”): plenty of organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fish. Consider fresh salads topped with grilled steelhead salmon, spicy curry with brown rice and shrimp, and street tacos with grass-fed steak or sustainable sea bass. The popular restaurant is always packed, so you may end up sharing a community table with like-minded diners.

Indulge for dinner: Inside the red-brick-walled dining room of Harman’s Eat & Drink, you’ll find an approachable menu of filling foods that might include short rib tacos, smoked trout croquettes, grilled chicken quinoa salad and pan roasted Colorado striped bass. P.S. The restaurant is named for Edwin P. Harman who, in the late 1800s, founded the town of Harman that is today Cherry Creek North.

Where to stay: The AAA Four Diamond JW Marriott Denver at Cherry Creek is the place to stay in the neighborhood, thanks to its prime location in the heart of Cherry Creek North and its nice views of the mountains (ask for a west-facing room).Its Second Home Kitchen + Bar serves American favorites (consider chicken with cornbread and cheddar waffles topped with whiskey maple syrup), and its small bar and outdoor fire pit are hopping late night on weekends.

Kara Williams (karaswilliams.com) is an award-winning, Colorado-based freelance writer who has covered topics ranging from business and babies to skiing and spas. A member of the Society of American Travel Writers, Kara co-owns The Vacation Gals (thevacationgals.com), where she writes regularly about family vacations, wellness travel and girlfriend getaways.

Cherry Creek North SidewalkCherry Creek Mall

Cherry Creek Shopping

Cherry Creek North Dining

Cherry Creek Trail