Ten things to do on a Denver stay-cation
See Chihuly this summer at the Denver Botanic Gardens.
There's a reason why tourists crowd Denver's city streets each summer: It's a happening town and sports valhalla, with pro teams, adventurous and ethnic eateries, a downtown mall, urban neighborhoods, a gallery scene, great museums, miles of greenway trails and all the promise of that blue mountainscape on the horizon. And that's just a taste. But how many of Denver's charms have you truly experienced, living right here in their midst?
Our Summer Guide, which hits the streets today inside the regular issue of Westword has information on hundreds of events, as well as this list of ten things to do on a Denver stay-cation. Keep reading for our picks.
OhHeckYeah, one of this summer's most exciting attractions, opens June 7 in the Denver Theatre District. Through a combination of social-media cues and interactive commands, the street-arcade gaming experience uses the district's giant LED screens to offer original video games on a grand scale, thanks to an all-Colorado tech team. Additional cultural programming will accompany the spectacle nightly, and it's all free.
Denver Arts & Venues
Denver Public Art Tours 720-865-4307
Beyond knowledge of a few famous pieces, like the Colorado Convention Center's big blue bear and DIA's raging blue Mustang -- how many of Denver's myriad public-art works can you name? Because public art flourishes here, Denver Arts & Venues offers a variety of tailored, guided tours throughout the summer, including a couple of bike tours and even one for tourists on scooters. They're free, and they're a great introduction to Denver's public art in all its sizes, shapes and mediums. Reservations required.
You can visit the Denver Botanic Gardens any time of year for a few hours' natural respite that's easy on the eyes and good for the soul. But in the summertime, the gates are open longer and the gardens are at their lush best, bursting with blooms, intimate concerts, evening Unwind parties, early-morning and -evening yoga sessions, summer camps and other activities for kids. The high point of the season, though, is this year's blockbuster show, Chihuly, featuring stunning outdoor installations by the renowned glass artist, placed right among the flower beds and lily ponds. The not-to-miss exhibit opens June 14; for an added shot of Chihuly, head to the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center for Chihuly Rediscovered, on view through September 28. Buy a full-priced ticket at either show and get a $5 discount at the other venue.
Our Journey Through September 1 800-825-0208
Usually, we head for the hills to escape the city, but what Colorado's rural plains towns lack in Rocky Mountain vistas, they make up for in historical significance. Our Journey is designed to be driven in a day's time and showcases thirteen destinations in Cheyenne, Elbert, Kit Carson and Lincoln counties, from the creepy memorabilia of Grampa Jerry's Clown Museum to the beautiful, hand-carved Kit Carson County Carousel in Burlington. A card granting free admission at the attractions can be had for the asking online, as part of a free travel kit that comes with information, plains lore, a map and a CD. Bonus: Secret geocaching sites for the tech-savvy.
At the end of June, the streets of RiNo around the Infinite Monkey Theorem winery will transform into taco heaven for two days of eating, drinking and some other crazy stuff, like lucha libre wrestling, chihuahua races, salsa wars and an exclusive, ticketed tequila expo. Can't you already smell the chiles and charred meats?
In just three years, the Denver County Fair has more than fulfilled its quest to lend an urban tang to the county fair experience while preserving all of the pastoral tradition's best and most classic aspects: blue ribbons, fair food, prize-winning animals, freak shows and, this year, a carnival midway in the expanded Kids Pavilion. Geeks, crafty hipsters, drag queens, pie bakers, tie-dyers and the tattooed will all be celebrated alongside the haute hens, handmade quilts and canned jellies of old at the fair, but overall, it's just one long three-day canoodle of love for all things Denver. Have your pie-on-a-stick and eat it, too.
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is a treasure in our midst, and natives have grown up with it, as the building and exhibit spaces have expanded over the years. We went there on school field trips as kids, and now we take our own kids to observe its dinosaur bones and artful dioramas. But the DMNS is for adults, too. Among its many programs for grownups is the Summer Nights series, which lends a party atmosphere to after-hours museum-going with food, drink and a slate of changing themes under a light glaze of scientific thinking.
Jonathon Stalls knows a bit about walking. He traversed the United States in an eight-month, 3,030-mile hike, and later took a 500-mile stroll across northern Spain. But for the moment, he's spreading the word about putting one foot in front of the other right here in Denver as the founder and "lead itinerant" of Walk2Connect, an organization dedicated to providing walking adventures, some of them themed, right here in our own back yard. From urban explorations of street art to free treks exploring walkways around new light-rail stations, Walk2Connect's programs blend a sense of camaraderie with the stress-relieving qualities of walking.
Rockmount Ranch Wear 303-629-7777
When rock stars pass through Denver, they pass through Rockmount rockmount.com, too. But you don't have to be famous or from out of state to make a day trip here. This three-generation Weil family Western-wear empire makes the sweetest shirts ever, with signature diamond snaps and sawtooth pockets, some with the classic fancy embroidery broadcasting that you're ready for a night on the town. Be a proper tourist in your own town and dress to impress the West.
Since jalopies first sputtered into the Rockies on road trips more than 75 years ago, they've headed for Lookout Mountain and the Lariat Loop, forty miles of landmarks and cabins in the woods roughly encompassing the boundaries of Morrison, Golden and Evergreen. Though the route's been modernized, visitors to Denver still take variations of the drive, stopping off at must-sees like Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the Buffalo Bill Museum on Lookout Mountain, Coors Brewery and the Colorado Railroad Museum.
See Westword's Summer Guide listings for more ways to live it up in Denver and Colorado this summer.
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