Traveler: Danielle Gervalis
When: June 2017
Overall Experience: Denver sets the stage for you right out of the gate, since once you leave baggage claim you are confronted with the stunning Rocky Mountains! During the summer, the city was booming with outdoor activities, as it has a remarkable amount of green space set aside for public parks. Enjoy your time exploring the city, especially the great outdoors! There was so much to see in this city we created an entire post for food and a day trip outside the city!
Logistics: Transportation from the airport to downtown will cost about $40 for a cab. I stayed in the downtown area, also known by its moniker, LoDo, which made getting around easy. I was able to walk or take public transportation to pretty much everything. There are several public transportation options including the light rail, free city buses (16th Street and 19th street loops), as well as Lyft and Uber.
Things to Do:
I implore you to visit this beautiful complex if you are in Denver. I was truly overwhelmed by the sprawling gardens, the variety of magnificent flowers, and how elegantly everything was presented, including the sculptures from Alexander Calder. I took the #10 bus to the 12th and York Street stop and walked about a quarter mile the rest of the way to get there. The gardens cost $12.50 to tour but they offer discounts for students and military members.
As noted, this place is a must see. It’s incredible to walk around on a nice day. There is lots of shade to be found as well as many quiet benches if you want to take a break and read a book. I saw a few people having mini picnics throughout the gardens. There is also a restaurant and a café if you don’t feel like hauling your own basket.
While all of the flowers were gorgeous, my favorite was the alpine rock garden. If you are pressed for time, I would suggest skipping the tiny cactus and succulent house as it’s more of a little room than an entire house of these plants.
If you enjoy music, hiking or biking, then you will adore Red Rocks. Getting there from downtown took about 30 minutes with Uber and cost $36 to get there and $20 to get back. There are always people in and out of the stadium and grounds so it took less than three minutes to get an Uber on the return trip (you get picked up at the Old Trading Post). Driving there is also a treat as you go through the beautiful foothills.
Unfortunately, the food options aren’t great. They have a concession stand where the best meal selection was a hot dog. They also have a full restaurant that looked nice but I was eager to hit the trails and did not want to take the time for a sit down meal.
I didn’t get to actually tour the amphitheater because a band was rehearsing. If you check the schedule you can plan your visit to ensure you have time to walk around it. However, you can hear the music bouncing around when you are hiking! I went on a weekend and expected it to be crowded but I had many moments on the trails alone and was able to enjoy the solitude. I hiked the red rock trail (perfect for those not wanting an arduous hike), geologic over look trail (hard – uphill sections were difficult with altitude), and funicular trail, which is not fun at all and basically is a short cut UPSTAIRS to get to the stadium entrance. On the trails I saw a bunny, birds, butterflies and beautiful mountain flowers. Totally peaceful. Totally perfect.
Union Station reminded me of a hip Mad Men lounge more than a train station. It’s a nice throwback to the romantic era of train travel. The architecture and interior are stunning. It’s a nice place to stop for a cup of coffee or a cocktail, or check out the few shops before hopping on your train.
Denver Museum of Art
Near Civic Park, the Denver Museum of Art is $13 well spent. The interior of the building is divided into two sections and has lots of kid friendly areas. Additionally, they have tiny folding seats you can carry with you if you are needing a break from walking/standing. They have a huge section devoted to Pre-Colombian art as well as a funky area with a loft for modern art.
In the modern art section, they have a unique barometer to measure how visitors feel about certain pieces. They allow viewers to indicate their emotions about the artwork with corresponding colored rocks, so for example if an exhibit made you feel happy you would input a pink rock into the test tube near the piece, and so on. I’ve never seen an art museum do this before, but I thought it was an excellent idea to get guests more involved with what they were seeing and really engaging with the work.
Located next to the Botanical Gardens, this 81 acre public park has tons of open grassy areas to relax and hang out with friends. There is so much activity throughout the area, people running and biking, walking their dogs, and playing Frisbee. You will also see gorgeous view of the Rocky Mountains in the distance. Additionally, check out the Walter Scott Cheesman Pavilion, an elevated marble column structure in the park with a fountain in front perfect for photo ops! You may even be able to join one of the free events scheduled, while I was snapping away there was a free salsa class going on!
Another gigantic green space within the city but much quieter than Cheesman Park. I checked out a few of the running trails and was impressed with many beautiful fountains and monuments. Additionally, there is a small lake where you can rent boats.
The downtown stadium area is a festive atmosphere on game day. There are quite a few bars surrounding the stadium with roofdecks so you can watch the revelry. You can purchase cheap tickets for what is affectionately referred to as the “Rock Pile” for $6 at the gate. If those are sold out, you can still get nose bleed seats for cheap and then head over to the rooftop bar to enjoy the game and the mountain views as the sunsets. Finally, it’s not a true baseball experience unless you try one of the gourmet hot dogs.
This 42 mile long paved trail runs through downtown and has two sides straddling the creek: one for bikes and one for pedestrians and makes an excellent running route! There are murals throughout and bridges overhead. If you head north on the trail, the creek runs into the South Platte River where on a hot summer day you will see people inter-tubing in the river. I was shocked to see a city river so clean people would swim in it (Crossing my fingers for the Potomac). I ended up getting off the trail at Confluence Park to take a running break and snap some photos of the pedestrian bridges over the river.
- Pack for all weather. I checked the temps religiously and packed for 90 degree heat. Later in the week it turned out to be 50 degrees and rainy
- Check out the Yonder App! It’s an outdoor centric social network that allows users to share and find off the beaten path adventures!
- If you get disoriented walking around downtown, remember the mountains are always to the west