While the mountains are a choice summer retreat for Denver-dwellers, Colorado’s capitol offers an experience all its own — well worth the hour and a half drive down from the hills.
Two days of downtown exploration may not seem like enough, but the culture-savvy and family-friendly Mile High City is perfect for a trip for two or a family excursion.
“On one end of downtown, you can let your kids creatively run wild at the Denver Art Museum and the brand-new, interactive History Colorado Center,” said Deborah Park, associate director of communications at Visit Denver. “And on the other end, they will be thrilled by Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park, the Downtown Aquarium and the Children’s Museum.”
What’s exciting in this city is equally accessible, with enjoyable walking routes, pedicab rides and Denver’s B-Cycle bike-sharing program to make the journeys just as fun as the destinations.
“All of these family-friendly attractions are connected by the safe and walk-able 16th Street Mall, lined with 42 outdoor cafes, eclectic shopping and even a bowling alley and movie theater,” Park said.
Start your trip with a hotel that’s unique in more ways than just boutique — The Curtis is a pop culture paradise, and it’s right in the middle of all the magic.
Check in to The Curtis upon a late-morning arrival in Denver. Valet your car, and walk into a lobby filled with contemporary and retro flavors, along with an oven-fresh welcome cookie. The Curtis features 13 themed guest room floors, including the “One Hit Wonder” fifth floor, the pet-friendly and “Sci-Fi” themed eighth floor and the top-level, “Pedal to the Metal” 16th floor.
Borrow a board game or two from the lobby for your room, which will offer sweeping views of downtown and the surrounding Rocky Mountains. Enjoy the hotel’s 24-hour fitness center, as well as its urban dining options — The Corner Office for food and the Martini Bar for a cocktail.
The stylish and cozy space makes it easy to settle right in, but dive into Denver before you break open a game of Boggle.
Art in the city
Just a 15-minute walk from The Curtis is the Denver Art Museum, so take a stroll to see some staple collections, as well as this season’s featured exhibits.
On your jaunt down 14th Street, you’ll walk past the Colorado Convention Center, which was expanded in 2005. Be sure to spot the oversized “Big Blue Bear” public art statue peering in the window.
Make your way to Civic Center Park, just north of the art museum and right on the way. If your visit falls on a Tuesday or Thursday this summer, definitely check out Civic Center EATS Outdoor Cafe. In its eighth year, the food truck fest is a delicious way to experience a variety of cuisine and a good dose of fresh air. (The food trucks wrap up at 2 p.m. The event runs Tuesdays and Thursdays through Sept. 26, excluding Aug. 29 and Sept. 3). For more information, visit www.civiccenterconservancy.org.
After lunch, explore the Denver Art Museum’s galleries, showcasing a world-famous American Indian Art Collection, as well as art from around the world and an abundance of kid-friendly activities. This summer, don’t miss “Nick Cave: Sojourn,” a temporary exhibit that runs through Sept. 22. This impressive and intriguing body of work features a combination of multimedia elements and performances, along with a selection of figurative installations and sculptures.
Other temporary exhibits include “Spun: Adventures in Textiles” — which takes a wide-ranging look at textiles from pre-Columbian weavings to modern fiber art and Navajo blankets to an examination of clothing in art and photography — and “Figure to Field: Mark Rothko in the 1940s,” which highlights the artistic evolution of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
After a few hours inside, you’ll be ready to get back out in the sun. As soon as you exit the Denver Art Museum’s Hamilton Building, rent a B-Cycle bike for a ride around town.
Hit the Cherry Creek Trail bike path that runs through Denver by riding from the art museum west to Speer Boulevard, where you can access the path from the road. Take a right turn to head toward Confluence Park, a site of Denver heritage and man-made river rapids in the South Platte River. Nearby is the REI flagship store, Elitch Gardens Theme Park, the Downtown Aquarium, the Children’s Museum and Sports Authority Field at Mile High — all along The Greenway Trail bike path. For more information on Denver B-Cycle, visit http://denver.bcycle.com.
Sip and savor
To quench your afternoon thirst, visit the historic My Brother’s Bar or the Denver Beer Co., both located on Platte Street near Confluence Park. Have a beer, and then get back in the saddle (a B-Cycle station is located between the two watering holes). Pedal your way back to The Curtis for a shower before dinner, or head straight across the bridge perpendicular to Platte Street to explore hip-and-happening Highlands.
Dinner at Linger will undoubtedly be a meal to remember. Views of downtown Denver can be seen from every seat, and the varied cuisine is both unique and delectable. Try the South Asian-inspired roasted beet salad, have a taste of Europe with the seated diver scallops, and savor America’s flavor with the chili rellenos. Linger a little longer as the sun sets softly over the city, and then jump back on your bike (fashioned with front and rear lights) for a happy ride home.
After a refreshing sleep, hit the Snooze button for breakfast. Snooze, an A.M. Eatery, is located at 2262 Larimer St. Another B-Cycle station is located less than a block from The Curtis, so take one last ride. Snooze is popular for a reason, so be willing to wait. Put your name on the list, and grab a cup of coffee or a signature Bloody Mary while your hunger for pancakes and benedicts begins to grow (www.snoozeeatery.com).
Play at the park
Head back to pack, check out and grab the car before your final Denver adventure. Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park offers all kinds of fun for everyone, so get there before noon to make the most of your visit.
Try some thrill rides to get your heart pumping. Ride the Mind Eraser and the Boomerang, and don’t miss out on the park’s classic coaster, Twister II. KiddieLand is perfect for younger guests, and the Water Park is a great way to cool off on a hot summer day. Try the steep slides of Cannonball Falls or the Castaway Creek action river.
Top off your visit with ice cream and a funnel cake to share. After all, what’s a day at Elitch if your stomach doesn’t do some somersaults?