This article originally appeared on the now shuttered MapQuest travel blog.
The secret’s officially out: Denver is an awesome place to visit. With its unlimited supply of golden sunshine, local IPAs, and ridiculously cute pups, it’s no surprise why so many people are booking flights to the Mile High City.
But before you pack your bags and head to the holy mountainous mecca, don’t you want to know what you’re getting yourself into?
To prepare yourself for one of the greatest trips of your life, here are 10 things everyone should know before heading to Denver:
1. It’s not quite as big as you thought.
Most people come to Denver thinking they’ll never have to see anyone they know again. Sadly, every person who thinks this is wrong. The professor whose class you’re skipping tonight? He might be on the ski lift behind you. That Bumble date you ghosted last month? She could be eyeing you from across the bar at Avanti. The best way to manage these inevitably awkward encounters is to just escape them as fast as humanly possible.
2. Traffic sucks.
Unless you hail from LA, traffic in Denver is going to suck for you. I-70 can get so bad during ski season that you’re probably better off walking, biking, or even paragliding to the slopes. And while we’re on the topic of winter, you should probably avoid driving in the snow at all costs. It’s not you, it’s them.
3. Staying in shape will be a breeze.
To make up for drinking so much gluten by way of craft beer, Denverites adore exercise. Especially the organized kind. CrossFit, CorePower, Orangetheory, Scientology: we’ve got it all. Even the less athletic types will become more fit simply by virtue of being here for a few days. Sprinting to catch the Light Rail, jaywalking across Colfax, and pretending to pedal on the pedal hopper are all great ways to stay in shape on your vacation.
4. The altitude will get to you.
Need to walk up a flight of stairs? Want to take out the trash? Prepare to feel very inadequate as you find yourself gasping for air at even the slightest exertion of energy. The added perk of coming to Denver is that you’ll also become an instant lightweight. These side-effects could also be a sign that you’re getting old, but when it doubt, blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-altitude.
5. You can’t trust the weather.
They say that in San Francisco, all you need is a light jacket. If that’s the case, folks in Denver might as well carry their entire wardrobe everywhere. The problem gets much worse the closer you get to the mountains. If you’re at Red Rocks, for example, prepare to be doused in a stew of lightning, freezing rain, and wind at any given moment.
6. Meeting new people is always an adventure.
Visiting Denver is the perfect time to get creative in your singledom and meet an extremely diverse range of people from all walks of life. Simply open up Tinder and swipe through your selections: people skiing down mountains, people hiking up mountains, and people standing on top of mountains holding old pizza boxes scribbled with said mountain’s elevation.
7. DIA is creepy AF.
According to legend, the Denver airport is hiding a doomsday shelter created to protect the rich and famous. But let’s for a moment imagine such folks—people like Hillary Clinton, Lionel Richie, and Jerry Seinfeld—huddled in a bunker beneath the shadow of a devil-eyed Bronco in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Realistic? Maybe.
8. Dogs are more important than people.
Whoever created the term “menver” must have had one too many shots of Stranahan’s. Denver is not the land of men, but it is the land of dogs. For optimal dog watching, head to Wash Park on a Sunday and stake out a spot for watching those elegant beasts roll by. You can also find some of these elusive creatures on a brewery patio (they’re not really allowed there anymore, but no one’s looking).
9. Farmers markets are an all-day smorgasbord.
Far from the gleaming white aisles of Costco lies the South Pearl Street Farmer’s Market. A sampler’s dream come true. One stroll down this lovely lane and you’ll be steeped in sips of chai tea concentrate, curds of Wisconsin cheese, cups of hot sauce named after dogs, hot sauce for dogs, and many more uniquely artisan creations. And while you probably won’t leave with any vegetables or fruit; you will take three bags of frozen pierogies back to the Airbnb. And that’s what really matters.
10. Your friends will be insanely jealous.
After you’ve posted 5 new Instas of gorgeous mountain scenery and delicious beer and burger combos, you may start to elicit a bit of FOMO from your peers. You know, the east coast friends left crouching into the artificial light of their Vitamin D lamps as they cyberstalk you. They might even get so jealous that they decide to come to Denver too. And that is fine by us (as long as they read this list).