It's no secret that Denver is in a constant state of transition, with some changes for the better, some for the worse. But as my city continues to figure itself out, I think 2015 is the year to celebrate what's great about it right now. From day trips to small towns in the summer to cruising city neighborhoods that are troves of great architecture, the coming year, for me, is all about Colorado as it is, in the moment.
1. Spend an entire day at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science
I grew up in a family that had what seemed like a permanent membership to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (or the Natural History Museum, as it was called then), but as an adult, I haven't given this Colorado institution a fair shot. I'd like to spend a whole day at the museum, checking out the badass planetarium's laser shows or a film at the IMAX Theater, wandering the floors of life-sized wild-animal dioramas and interactive exhibits like Expedition Health -- and, of course, revisiting the only collection of Vasily Konovalenko gem carvings outside of Moscow.
2. See a live comedy show every night for one week Whether it's big-time national comedians coming through to do secret sets at Deer Pile or local big names like Adam Cayton-Holland and Ben Kronberg ruling the stage, Denver's comedy scene is amazing. I'd like to spend seven nights in a row hitting the open mikes at the Squire Lounge and Syntax Physic Opera, seeing regular shows like Epilogue Comedy and Arguments & Grievances, and checking out the improv at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse and Bovine Metropolis Theater. Maybe I'll top it off with a show at Comedy Works -- or catch an edition of Too Much Fun, the Fine Gentleman's Club's free, all-ages weekly comedy night that's been going strong for years. 3. Take a self-guided public-art bike tour Sure, we've got those notorious big blue animals, but what about all the other sculptures, murals and public installations around the city? I'm going to plan a bike route that takes me from John McEnroe's "National Velvet" to Emmanuel Martinez's "Confluent People" and all the way to the sculptures at Burns Park. Between Denver's devotion to public art and our fantastic trails and bike-friendly neighborhood streets, this bucket-list entry could actually span a whole week. 4. Drink hot chocolate under the stars at Blossoms of Light Winter in Colorado is just as gorgeous as the warmer seasons, and you don't have to go all the way to the mountains to experience it. That said, I'm not good at getting out when the temperature dips below 60, so this will be the year that I brave the elements and go to the Botanic Gardens' Blossoms of Light display. I'd love to layer up, grab my boo and some hot chocolate, and take a stroll around the illuminated gardens set right in the heart of the city. 5. Rent a cabin in Estes Park for Fourth of July weekend I've lived in Colorado my whole life, but it wasn't until last year that I actually took a trip to Estes Park. Less than two hours out of the city, this quaint little town gets hopping on July 4. With family-friendly outdoor events happening over several days and an epic fireworks display over Lake Estes, the celebration is worth some planning ahead: Rent a cabin or a hotel room early, as everything fills up quickly. 6. Spend a date night on Colfax I will never get tired of the Colfax experience. The 26-mile strip tells the story of Denver's history while providing endless entertainment 24 hours a day. I'd like to plan an all-Colfax evening. I'd start with dinner at Bastien's (the sugar steak is a must), then head to the Bluebird for a show, stopping by the P.S. Lounge afterward for a Shirley Temple and a rose, then grabbing a late-night slice at the Atomic Cowboy walk-up window. The only thing missing is dessert -- and if I could bring the Shoppe back to life for one last cupcake, I would. 7. Go to a movie outdoors Colorado summer evenings are the best, yet I have never stepped out to one of the many outdoor movie nights hosted all over the city. From the Civic Center Bike-In Movies to Monday Movie Madness at Infinity Park, there is no shortage of outdoor picnic-and-film options in the warmer months. And, of course, you can't talk about movies under the stars without mentioning Film on the Rocks, which offers live music, comedy and a classic flick at Red Rocks, Colorado's premier outdoor venue. 8. Go on a Denver residential-architecture sightseeing tour Though it's a fairly young city, Denver is home to some beautiful architecture, Victorian-era to present-day. I'm personally a fan of midcentury-modern structures, and neighborhoods like Arapahoe Acres and Mayfair have some of the most well-preserved residences done in that style. But we also have Bonnie Brae's deco gems, Whittier's turn-of-the-century homes with their intricate exterior woodwork, and, of course, Shangri-La Drive, which features '80s excess in the form of Cableland and the Harry Huffman Mansion, which is modeled after the epic home in the 1937 film Lost Horizon. 9. Hit the summer's culture and art festivals Summer is a great time to get to know the many people and cultures that make Denver great. There are the bigger gatherings, like the Capitol Hill People's Fair, Denver Pride Fest and the Five Points Jazz Festival, but we also host the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, the Colorado Black Arts Festival, the Denver Salsa and Bachata Congress and more. From food to art to music, there's something for everyone to celebrate in every part of the city -- and that includes me. 10. Stay a night at the Brown Palace The Brown Palace is an integral part of Denver's downtown history, but I've never so much as walked through the lobby of this landmark. I'd love to spend one night at the Brown, taking in its details and history while enjoying breakfast at Ellyngton's, a traditional afternoon tea in the lobby, a massage at the Palace spa and, finally, dinner and a non-alcoholic nightcap at the Churchill. Oh, and maybe I'd make this in-the-city trek in October, to take advantage of the hotel's popular ghost tours.
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