Durango consistently makes it into America’s “Best Small Towns” lists, but I never believed that a rural town with fewer than 16,000 residents could have so much to offer, especially when it comes to nightlife options. One epic journey to this Southwestern Colorado town proved I was wrong.
Two years ago I put Durango on my bucket list, when I embarked on an epic road trip around the U.S. in search of a new town to set down roots. I wanted just one thing: for my future residence to have all of the best features of places I loved before. It needed the progressive feel of San Francisco, the earthy vibe of rural Humboldt County, California and the rugged, outdoorsy attitude of Burlington, Vermont. From Idaho to Virginia, the ideal place eluded me, until five thousand miles later when I pulled into Durango.
What Makes Durango Great
Like many small towns with a healthy college student population, Durango’s youthful attitude livens up the entire community. Take a morning run along the Animas River’s multi-use path and you’ll feel the exuberance of bike commuters of all ages as they pass you on their way to work. Walk among the pedestrian-friendly downtown business community and you’ll see a progressive attitude in Durango’s enthusiastic support of indie shops and restaurants. Go out on the town at night and you can’t help but get caught up in the revelry of Durango’s live music and entertainment scene, no matter what your age.
Unlike many small college towns that seem stuck in an adolescent time warp, Durango’s all-inclusive nightlife scene lays out the welcome mat for people of all ages. From dizzying martini menus to upscale wine bars and kid-friendly brew pubs, everyone can find something to do in Durango’s lively venues. Leave your car keys at home, however, since you can ride the free trolley service up and down the heart of the bar and entertainment community on Main Street.
Here are just a few places where you can begin exploring what Durango has to offer.
Kid-Friendly Durango Brew Pubs
Durango’s healthy microbrew scene offers a kid-friendly alternative to Durango’s adult-oriented bars and music venues. With nearly a dozen different brew pubs where you can sample home-grown Durango beer, you’ll have a hard time choosing a place to stop, but the Carver Brewing Company and Steamworks Brewing are two good choices when you have kids in tow. Each brew house offers a non-smoking environment with patio seating when the weather’s good.
Hungry morning diners of all ages will find the Carver Brewing Company serves up one of Durango’s best breakfasts with inexpensive options for less than $8 each, like the classic Miners Breakfast of eggs, ham, bacon or sausage, grilled potatoes and toast. In the evening, Steamworks Brewing offers kids of all ages sophisticated pub grub like Orange Poblano BBQ Pork Chops and Steamworks’ Original Cajun Boil with Alaskan Dungeness Crab, Texas Shrimp, Andouille Sausage, potatoes and sweet corn.
The Sophisticated Scene
When it’s time for an adults-only night on the town, Durango’s bar scene presents several sophisticated options, including the area’s first wine bar, Eno, and the cosmopolitan flair of the popular quitting hour meeting spot, the Office Spiritorium in the Strater Hotel.
Eno was founded by local celebrity restaurateur Alison Dance, proprietor of one of Durango’s most popular restaurants, the Mediterranean-themed Cypress Cafe. Eno’s quiet sophistication celebrates the finer delicacies of life in a small, intimate setting.
The menu includes fine wines, coffees, teas and locally grown food presented as tapas-style small plate meals. Each morning Eno presents freshly roasted coffee starting at 8:00 am, and is open for wine and food parings until 10 pm, except Sundays.
Nearby, the historic Strater Hotel’s Office Spiritorium offers a friendly place to get a drink, in a refined but unpretentious environment reminiscent of days gone by.
As a cornerstone of downtown Durango, the Strater Hotel’s 125-year history comes alive in the dark and elegant wood-trimmed décor, plush seating and warm hearth, while local musicians provide a lively soundtrack for an evening with friends or a date with your sweetheart. If you’re on a budget, head to the Office Spiritorium for happy hour, when all appetizers are half-off.
As the song goes, sometimes you just want to go where everybody knows your name. When you do, Durango’s no-frills bars give you plenty of places to go for a good, cheap, stiff drink at a fair price.
The casual ambiance of Moe’s Starlight Lounge (photo at top) is geared toward a college audience, but even if your college days are long gone, don’t let this keep you away. Their 90 item martini menu isn’t to be missed by any cocktail aficionado, especially the infamous “bacontini.” Most of their martini selections are in the $5 range.
While you’re working your way down the menu, stay to enjoy Moe’s live music nights and hot bar snacks from the kitchen served every night until 1:00 am.
A variety of other local watering holes with reasonable drink and food prices present good options for a casual night with friends. The Derailed Saloon and Eatery is one that’s easy on the wallet, with half price appetizers between 4 – 7 pm every day, live music and Chicago-style pizza.
And finally, the Irish Embassy Pub presents an authentic Irish experience. You’ll find they offer over a dozen different imported and domestic brews on tap as well as some of the classic Irish pub food you’d expect from an old world bar, like Shepherd’s Pie, Fish and Chips and Bangers and Mash. Both bars open at 4:30 pm, every day.
If You Go
The Steamworks Brewing is located at 801 E 2nd Ave in Durango. You can find them online at http://steamworksbrewing.com or call 970-259-9200 for more details. They are open every day at 11:00 am.
Learn more about the Carver Brewing Company at www.carverbrewing.com or by calling 970-259-2545. This brewpub is located at 1022 Main Ave in Durango, and opens every day at 6:30 am.
Visit the Office Spiritorium at http://www.strater.com/index.cfm/dining-and-entertainment-at-the-strater-hotel/office-spiritorium/ or in person at 699 Main Ave. The spiritorium opens at 4 pm every day. Call 970-375-7260 for questions or for more information.
Eno is located at 723 E 2nd Ave. Durango, CO 81301. Call 970-385-0105 or visit their website at http://www.enodurango.com/ for more information. Eno opens at 8:00 am, Monday through Saturday.
Moe’s Starlight Lounge is at 937 Main Ave. Durango, CO 81301. To find out more about the lounge, call (970) 259-9018.
The menu for the Derailed Saloon can be found online at http://www.derailedsaloon.com/cms/menu/, or you can check them out in person at 725 Main Street. To find out more, call 970-247-5440.
The Irish Embassy is online at http://www.theirishembassypub.com or you can visit them in person at 900 Main Ave, Durango, CO 81301. For more information, call (970) 403-1200.
Rene Agredano enjoys sharing travel tips about Colorado – her favorite state in the U.S. – when she’s not at her mountaintop cabin retreat in Red Feather Lakes, she’s RVing around America writing from the road.
Steamworks Brewing photo courtesy of The Quest for the Holy Grain.
Carver Brewing Company photo courtesy of Carver Brewing Company.
Photo of Eno: Courtesy of Eno.
Header photo of Moe’s courtesy of Moe’s Starlight Lounge.
Irish Embassy Pub photo courtesy of Durango Magazine.com.