Thursday, May 23, 2024

Trans Mountaineer Erin Parisi’s Favorite Picks for Denver

In case you missed it, we sat down to chat with Erin Parisi, a transgender mountain climber who has embarked on an incredible journey to ascend the highest summits found on all seven continents! She talked to us about how her transition increased her passion to travel the world, and what it takes to prepare for an epic summit trek. She also revealed what travel with her wife and daughter looks like. You can check out the first part of our interview here!  

So, we wanted to share more about the well-traveled outdoors enthusiast, including a few of her favorite LGBTQ+ places, her recommendations for queer travelers visiting Denver for the first time, her favorite hiking treks in the area, and we have an open conversation about the nuances of traveling as LGBTQ+ folx.

Morrison, Colorado (Photo Credit: Pattie Gonia)
Morrison, Colorado (Photo Credit: Pattie Gonia)

Vacationer Magazine: You’ve traveled all around the world for the Seven Summit challenge. Is there a destination that you think most queer travelers wouldn’t think is necessarily safe, but you’ve visited and enjoyed it? 

Erin Parisi: It depends on how open you want to be, and that’s always the trade-off. On an individual level, often I find people are amazing, but you can’t be known for who you are, and I think that that’s the hardest thing. I think Mexico and Argentina – actually a lot of South America and Central America – aren’t known as necessarily LGBTQ-friendly places, but I think that there are pockets or places down there that are super amazing and super accepting, especially on the individual level. 

And in many of those countries now, I think Argentina is one of them, there are constitutional protections for gender identity and sexual orientation. There’s a lot of food, drink, beaches, and all those things as well as a great outdoors culture that we might not think of at first when we think of the queer community. 

But I don’t know, I feel like when travel is sold to me as a queer person, it’s always like you said, it’s Pride and always big parties. It’s Fire Island, Key West, or Provincetown. And we don’t talk about small mountain communities that might be queer, trans-friendly, or LGBTQ-friendly in general, where queer people can get into the outdoors. Where are those small towns and the outdoor destinations where a couple might go and not like a big party cruise? I feel like every time I see the [travel] industry talking about LGBTQ people and how we vacation, it’s always just a big party boat or something, you know? 

San Diego, California (Photo courtesy of Erin Parisi)
San Diego, California (Photo courtesy of Erin Parisi)

I get that. As the editor of Vacationer, I sometimes struggle with that. I know that there’s some privilege in being who I am that makes it easier for me to travel. I genuinely love to travel. So, I don’t necessarily stick to those LGBTQ+ places that are welcoming to us such as Provincetown or Miami Beach. For example, I’ve done gorilla trekking in Rwanda, where it’s probably not exactly the best place for anybody who identifies as LGBTQ+.
Right! Now, if you were with your partner and asked for a one-bed hotel room; I feel like you’d be asking for trouble. 

And I think the difference, as you mentioned, is if you’re traveling solo. Obviously, there are precautions that I take when I’m traveling to places that don’t feel necessarily safe. However, if you’re traveling with family or your partner, then it’s going to be a completely different experience. It’s just so unfortunate that people don’t get to experience that as their full selves. 

10 Mile Range in Breckenridge, Colorado (Photo courtesy of Erin Parisi)
10 Mile Range in Breckenridge, Colorado (Photo courtesy of Erin Parisi)

Switching gears a little and talking about Denver, where you currently live. What are three to four things that you would recommend people do, specifically for first-time LGBTQ+ visitors?
Everyone that comes to Denver has to go see a concert at Red Rocks for sure. Time your visit with a concert you want to see at Red Rocks. It’s an outdoor concert venue where you can see the beginning of the Rocky Mountains forming. It’s incredible. To me, it combines so many things that are Denver: it’s live music, it’s the mountains, you can get a view of the city from there, and you can see far out until the land hits the horizon. It’s flat land – and then boom – you’re in the like the first foothills.

 The food in Denver is just getting better and better and our art scene has really caught on. Rent a scooter and do a food tour of the Golden Triangle and Capitol Hill, and then make your way up towards lower downtown in RiNo (River North Art District). I would stop at the Denver Art Museum (DAM) and check out its architecture even if you don’t go in. You can walk around and check out the sculptures outside which are pretty cool.  

And then, I’d make my way into the city and just small plate my way across the city to try the new restaurants. We’ve got a couple of awesome clubs too. I think as a queer person I do love finding my community and dancing. I am into that side of our culture, but a little less so now that I’m married. However, Tracks has great party nights. They have great drag nights and a fun scene pretty much any night of the week. And Charlie’s is a classic cowboy bar turned gay cowboy club. 
So, we’ve got a couple of other queer-friendly bars around the city that are pretty amazing. We’ve got one lesbian bar that’s been around for a while called Blush & Blu. You don’t find that many of those in many cities anymore. 

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, Colorado (Photo courtesy of Erin Parisi)
Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, Colorado (Photo courtesy of Erin Parisi)

You don’t see many of those. They are few and far between, unfortunately.

Yeah, yeah. And this one’s been around. It made it through the pandemic, surviving and going strong. I always recommend it to my lesbian, bisexual, and or trans friends. It’s super trans-friendly and it’s a pretty great place with great people. 
If you want to go to the breweries, Denver’s loaded with breweries. There are a lot of breweries that have a social justice twist on them. I think one of them is Lady Justice. They do a great trivia night, and they have great beers on tap. They’ve got a gluten-free option which is great for my friends. It’s cool! You can tell who they celebrate based on the murals and artwork on their walls. And they’ve got some queer heroes up there. Very, very cool. 

Red Rocks in Morrison, Colorado (Photo Credit: Tahvory Bunting)
Red Rocks in Morrison, Colorado (Photo Credit: Tahvory Bunting)

So, our audience is probably beginners and not full-on mountain climbers like you. So, if they’re interested in doing some hiking in Denver, what are a couple of trails that you’d recommend?
I’d say if you don’t want to drive too far out of town because you’re here just for a couple of days, you go right around Red Rocks and check out the trail system there, whether it’s like the Red Rocks Trail or Matthews/Winters Loop, which is part of the Red Rocks Trail. You’re on the edge of the mountains there right by Red Rocks and you can look back and kind of see the city. 

If you want to get a little further out of Denver and go explore a different place, I will say Boulder has got great community, great food, and great culture, and it’s a gorgeous drive. You’d go up to Chautauqua and hike around the base of North Table Mesa or basically the foot of the Flatirons. The Flatirons are like… iconic! You can hike right at the base of them (without hiking up or down) and still get beautiful sunny views of the Flatirons, which are just the most gorgeous mountains. To me, it’s like looking at the Tetons in Wyoming or Fitz Roy Mountain in Patagonia. They might be a lot more accessible and a lot easier to climb, but they are just so iconic! 

Kwin Mosby

Kwin Mosby has 20+ years of editorial experience which has included working as the editor-in-chief for Vacationer Magazine, managing digital producer for Travel Channel, and content manager for Travel Leaders Group. He is also a freelance writer and his work has appeared in reputable print and digital publications, including Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, AFAR, Tripadvisor, and others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.