Being the oddball non-skiing member of my family, I have often been the object of some friendly challenges to just "give skiing another try". Well, I did it once, not gonna do it again, end of story. Perhaps my severely sprained ankle (Not that I am clumsy - those ski poles just acted with a mind of their own!) may have had something to do with it, but suffice it to say that I am not so much into trying it again. The whole family planned our yearly get together in Denver this time, and I will admit I had my concerns about finding something to amuse myself while everybody else was on the slopes all day. My challenge for this trip: Find enough fun and interesting things to do in Denver to keep a non-skiier busy. My excellent excuse to turn down any skiing excursions: I am a travel columnist, and I need to check out the Denver attractions for my readers! I managed to avoid the slopes (and, knowing myself, likely a number of broken bones) and have a fantastic time in this beautiful city. These are the gems I found in Denver.
Having heard from a number of Denver locals that the Denver Art Museum was a must see attraction, I set off in mid-morning to check it out. The recently constructed Hamilton Wing museum addition has to be seen to be believed. This addition, which doubled the size of the museum, is as remarkable as the works of art inside it. Architect Daniel Libeskind has created a modern, almost space age looking structure that is full of odd angles. Somehow, it manages to be beautiful - in fact the most unique museum building I have ever been in. The collections of art here are impressive, especially the Native American Indian art collection, the Asian collection, and the Western art collection. I spotted some really neat interactive exhibits where you can create your own works of art, but I was only able to spend a little time there. Tons of kids were having a blast designing away. One of the more kid-friendly museums I've seen, but adults have just as much fun. I was extremely pleased with the lunch I had at Palettes, inside the DAR. Charming casual atmosphere, and the food was really a notch above what you'd expect from a museum restaurant. I enjoyed a great salad/sandwich combo for a pretty reasonable price (under $20). I spent about six hours touring the DAR, and I had to finally accept the fact I was not going to see everything in detail in one day. If you have the stamina, this is a great all day trip for art lovers.
The Denver Botanic Gardens was my favorite spot of the trip. I was absolutely in awe of the precisely but creatively manicured gardens and the huge profusion of plants and flowers. I was there in late spring, which I would highly recommend as a great time to visit. I spoke to a local family as they enjoyed a slightly chilly picnic on the patio in the center of the gardens, and they told me that as lovely as it is now, summer will be even more beautiful. The sculptures and flowers combine to give this atmosphere of true serenity. I spent a couple of hours here, but it is really one of those places you can spend an hour or a day, as you like. Lots to see and even a couple of fun plant-based interactive exhibits.
Shopping was on my mind, as usual, because I can't visit a new city without bringing home a few souvenirs. I visited a couple of places that really stood out. First, the Tattered Cover Bookstore, located in the 16th Street open air mall area downtown. Now, I usually don't single out a single shop as a must go-to kind of place, but this is it. I read about this place in a local newspaper, and thought it might be a pleasant little used bookstore. Actually, it is a new bookstore (there are three Denver locations) that is one of the best bookstores I have ever been to. Two stories of books, cozily inviting furniture everywhere...and a fireplace! Even a non-bibliophile might fall in love here. This is a bookstore with its own personality, an excellent staff and a very welcoming feel. It was hard to tear myself away from the place, in fact, but I had to get on with the rest of my shopping trip, and there was quite a lot to see here. This is definitely unique as malls go: It is an open air shopping center so large enough that you will probably find yourself using the free shuttle bus that runs through every few minutes. The stores are the usual mall offerings, but there is lots more here: Plenty of dining options like the Hard Rock Denver, several hotels, a movie theater, and a few eclectic local businesses. A shopper could get lost in here for days!
My trip to Denver was full of fun. I feel as if I got to see a side of this wonderful city that many people miss because they are busy on the slopes. If you visit Denver, just think about taking an extra day or two to enjoy some of the cultural and entertainment options in the city. I am so glad I got to see the city from the non-skiier's side.
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