We can't think of a cooler part of Denver than Lower Highland and the Central Platte Valley for beating the midwinter doldrums with a shot of cosmopolitan buzz.
Think happening restaurants, a new contemporary art museum, and an architecturally forward-thinking bridge. The neighborhoods are easier than ever to visit in tandem, thanks to the bicycle-and-pedestrian Highland Bridge connecting them across Interstate 25.
The Lower Highland and Central Platte Valley neighborhoods flank I-25 northwest of the central business district and Lower Downtown (LoDo). To reach the area, take I-25 north to the 23rd Ave. exit and head right, toward Water St., or take I-25 south to the 20th St. exit.
Sushi Sasa Kick back at the blond-wood sushi bar. INFO: $$$$; 2401 15th St., Ste. 80; 303/433-7272.
Vita Settle into black curved booths for savory Mediterranean offerings like mushroom gnocchi with manchego cheese, clever cocktails like the basil gimlet, and live jazz Thursdays through Saturdays. INFO: $$; 1575 Boulder St.; 303/477-4600.
Paris Wine Bar Pair a great selection of wines by the glass with one of the "boards" (cheese, antipasto, etc.). INFO: $; 1549 Platte St.; 303/217-5805.
Forest Room 5 Chic restaurant and lounge features cushy couches, film screenings, eclectic music from resident DJs, and a tapas menu. INFO: $$; closed Sun; 2532 15th St.; 303/433-7001.
Red Door Swingin' Modern boutique offers funky furnishings, fashionable handbags, groovy jewelry, and bold art designed by locals. INFO: 2556 15th St.; 303/433-6900.
Phoebe's Past & Presents Everything from retro wall clocks to world music CDs and artistic greeting cards. INFO: 1535 Platte St.; 303/458-5544.
Commons Park Hugging the South Platte River, the 25-acre park is nice for sledding and making snow angels, but the best reason to linger is the view of Denver's cityscape and the Rocky Mountains beyond. INFO: Little Raven St. between 15th and 19th Streets; denvergov.org or 720/913-0642.NEARBY
Check out the modern galleries of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (closed Mon; $10; 1485 Delgany St.; 303/298-7554), stroll its rooftop garden planted with native foliage, or drive by at
dusk, when the light-saturated, box-shaped building literally glows in the dark.