Charlie's Ice Cream Social hearkens back to a bygone era, when entire families would gather around the radio with their frozen treats and when the Rocky Mountains were still freshly planted pebbles. The aesthetic of 1940s America pervades the throwback parlor: inside, black-and-white portraits hang above red stools and countertops, and outside, a chalkboard colorfully broadcasts daily specials and staff picks. Visitors seeking sweet reprieve step up to a sprawling white menu, where they'll devise their own glacial creations with many flavors of syrups and ice cream that serve as the landing pad for more than 40 different toppings. Custom Twister shakes swirl together ice cream, candies, and cookies into pucker-inducing potions.
Hammond's Candies' history dates back to 1920, when Carl Hammond Sr., armed with the experience of apprenticing at a candy factory during high school, founded Hammond's Candy Company. He helped to develop the company's signature item, a caramel-wrapped marshmallow called the Mitchell Sweet. Today, after generations of expansion, the company stays old school by crafting candies by hand in small batches, just like old-school storks do with artisanal newborns. Hammond's populates celebrations of all kinds with a rainbow of handmade sweets such as lollipops, chocolate bars, candy canes, taffy, caramel corn, and hard and ribbon candy.
The Hammond's Candies factory opens its doors to the public for 30-minute tours that fill mouths with the free candy of the day and brains with sugarcoated science. Guests outfitted in retro-inspired factory hats stroll past steaming vats of caramel and great belts conveying candy canes in the making, catching glimpses of the action through big windows or taking a seat for more focused demonstrations. The factory also hosts parties and special events, complete with decorations, pizza, ice cream, and goody bags.
Voted 5280 magazine Readers' Choice for Top Gelato, The Red Trolley was founded by Julie and Patrick Shaw, who wanted to take their kids out for ice cream that didn't give off an unnatural glow. Ice creams and sorbettos at The Red Trolley are made in-house without the deal-breaking lineup of high fructose corn syrup, trans fat, and artificial colors and flavors. Denver Magazine named the banana chocolate peanut butter gelato one of the 100 must eats in Denver ($3.50 for a single scoop), and the charming counter stools are well-suited for sealing truces with root beer floats ($4.99). Mix and match flavors such as the cupcake junky without neglecting a favorite such as the sea-salt chocolate-covered caramel gelato.
Paris on the Platte, a coffeehouse with a rich 25-year history, doubles as a café and bar with specialty cocktails, brunch fare, pizzas, and delicate desserts. Visitors can wake up in an Austrian concert hall with the Café Viennese’s trio of espresso, steamed milk, and whipped cream ($3.50 for an 8 oz.) or hit a Big Easy speakeasy with the Café Marquis—a cappuccino with french roast, chicory, foamed milk, and a pinch of cinnamon and cocoa ($2.95 for a single). Brunch eats—including crepes ($5.95), omelettes ($5.95), and four types of eggs benedict ($6.95–$7.95)—start the day, and lunch, dinner, or linner guests can enjoy edibles such as the french dip sandwich ($7.95), bacon- and cheddar-bedecked Paris pizza ($11.95), and the Waldo salad with fresh spinach, strawberries, blue cheese, and candied bobble hats ($7.95).