Help me have a great Denver Vacation
December 3, 2007 7:43 AM   Subscribe

Non-Food Things to do in Denver?

My girlfriend and I are taking a long weekend vacation to Denver in the middle of December, and need a few more ideas of things to do while we're there.

So far we plan on the Art Museum, and Natural History Museum, and the 16th Street Mall. There have to be some gems in there that we're missing.

We'll have a car to get around, so anything cool in the surrounding area would be great.

I checked the older questions, but I found food recommendations mainly, and ideas we've already gone over.
posted by cschneid to Travel & Transportation around Denver, CO (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
They have a zoo there.
posted by konolia at 7:51 AM on December 3, 2007

I'm not big on the art museum here, but the Colorado History Museum, which is close by is kind of cool. We also have the Denver branch of the U.S. mint downtown in the same area. A quick trip out to Red Rocks might be nice its about 30 minutes out of town.
posted by kookywon at 8:04 AM on December 3, 2007

Sorry. Just thought of a couple more things. So, like I said, I'm not down on the art museum because the old part is just full of pottery and rugs, which I'm not into so much. The new part is pretty decent though so it might be worth a trip. We also have the denver contemporary art museum, which I believe is on 20th and California. I haven't been there but they seem to have decent exhibitions from time to time.

A good place to check out for like a half day trip might be a trip to Golden. They're pretty much all about their history, you can ban for gold. A visit to the Coors brewery is always recommended. You may not like Coors products, but the beer fresh off the line is awesome.

A lot of people like to go to Boulder. That's always an option.

Check out the westword. It's our local version of a liberal fishwrap, but it has a lot of events in it. The online 'things to do' has more than just concerts and bars. There's cultural events and activities like the alpine slides in there too.
posted by kookywon at 8:16 AM on December 3, 2007

Also: The girlfriend (me) is under 21, so we're coming up with some problems finding things to do at night that aren't bars/comedy clubs/etc.
posted by lilac girl at 8:26 AM on December 3, 2007

Head to the Colorado Railroad Museum, in Golden.
Get a brewery tour from Coors, also in Golden.
Tour the Denver Mint.
Visit the State Capital building, and wander around the
historic neighborhoods there.
posted by the Real Dan at 8:27 AM on December 3, 2007

See the Nuggets play basketball
Hike Hanging Lake (a few hours southwest of Denver)
posted by unreasonable at 8:32 AM on December 3, 2007

I'd skip the zoo (unless you're really into animals), which never much impressed me, and hit the Botanical Gardens instead, which is right next to it and will have the blossom of lights festival going on. It's pretty near Cherry Creek, which has a mall (not too spectacular, so I'd avoid it) and lots of little cutesy shops in the blocks around it (which *are* worth browsing in), plus The Tattered Cover, which you must not miss. There's a nice, albeit a bit expensive, restaurant on the fourth floor that would make a nice lunch spot.

Ice skating on Larimer Square was a perennial favorite of mine during the holidays, especially later in the afternoon when all the lights come on. As I recall, there's lots of little galleries and shops right around there, along with coffee places for hot cocoa or cider, so you can make a whole afternoon of it. If a small rink is not enough for ice skating awesomeness, you could drive about half-hour up I-70 and do ice skating on Evergreen Lake, which is ENORMOUS and lets you build up enough speed to really start whipping around fast. However, if you do that, make sure to call ahead--it's on an actual lake, so it has to be cold enough for a few days in a row to actually allow skating.

Other Denver-specific stuff to do in December--I always loved seeing the Colorado Ballet's Nutcracker. That troupe is really much much better than almost anything you'll see until you hit the coasts, so if you (or your girlfriend) are into dance, it's well worth the price of a ticket. (They are so far superior to the Washington Ballet it makes me weep.)

(Note: The advice above is based on the assumption that you're from Fort Collins, as your profile says, so I'm avoiding the "go take a hike in the beautiful mountains!" stuff because I'm assuming you have access to all that already. Plus, it's cold in December!)
posted by iminurmefi at 8:34 AM on December 3, 2007

Oh, should have previewed--yes, as the Real Dan suggests, the Colorado Railroad museum is actually fairly awesome, especially if you're at all nerdy. (That's the only place I've ever seen the snowplow train they use to clear ice and snow off tracks.) Also, the State Capital building is very pretty inside, and you should be able to request a free tour from the aides or interns working in your local senator/representative's office. There's some cool history there.

The art museum is only two or three blocks from there, and I think it's pretty nice. The main branch of the Denver Libraries is right next to that, and it's worth a quick look-see just for the architecture. The Colorado History museum is in the same complex, and if you grew up in Colorado, it's a bit meh--nothing terribly compelling that would particularly recommend it, unless you're a Colorado history or museum buff.

All in all, the coolest part of Denver in December is all the lights after dark. They really light everything up, and it's awesome to just grab a coffee or hot beverage of your choice and walk / drive around to see it all. You could end the night at Paris on the Platte (1553 Platte St downtown), which was *the* place to sit until the wee hours and drink coffee & smoke cloves when I was in high school and home on breaks from college.
posted by iminurmefi at 8:45 AM on December 3, 2007

While obvious, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts always has a host of different things going on.

If you do head up to Boulder for a day, you can hoof it around Pearl St. Mall, which has lots variety of little shops and tasty food. While it may not sound interesting, the free tours that Celestial Seasonings gives are actually pretty cool. And you won't forget the smell of the mint room, I promise.
posted by Nelsormensch at 8:50 AM on December 3, 2007

Another vote for Boulder. I like it.

Best thing in Denver is the LoDo Tattered Cover: I am not entirely impressed by the new Colfax location.
posted by yesno at 8:54 AM on December 3, 2007

You'll hopefully be able to go skiiing around Denver by mid December. If you're going to the botanical gardens, I live right next to there and have a membership, so I can get you in free. Email me if you're interested.
posted by scottreynen at 9:42 AM on December 3, 2007

I grew up in Denver, and can tell you that the Tattered Cover is a thousand kinds of awesome. (I've never been to the new location, though.)

If you like records, Wax Trax is your place -- I cut my music-geek teeth at that place.
posted by scody at 10:32 AM on December 3, 2007

Okay, so they serve food at Casa Bonita, but it's enough of a cultural landmark that it has its own South Park episode, so I think you'd better stop by.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:35 AM on December 3, 2007

Nthing Tattered Cover and Boulder Pearl Street Mall. If girlfriend likes to outlet shop, there's a nice outlet mall about 30 minutes straight south on I-25 at Castle Rock.

And OMG, Casa Bonita! Yes! But I wouldn't plan on eating there unless the food has improved drastically in the past twenty years or so.
posted by fuse theorem at 11:42 AM on December 3, 2007

I drove past an indoor skydiving place that looked cool.
Check out The Church, a nightclub in an old church. 18+, buy tickets early.
posted by idiotfactory at 11:47 AM on December 3, 2007

You could always explore the mysterious airport.
posted by muscat at 11:51 AM on December 3, 2007

My wife grew up in Denver, and the last time we went back with the kids we did two touristy things she always wanted to do but never did: the mint and the Molly Brown House. Both were quite enjoyable, particularly the tour of the "unsinkable" Molly Brown place. She had a most fascinating life.
posted by dchase at 2:22 PM on December 3, 2007

My Coloradan friend would suggest staying away from Denver. Which isn't very helpful, but there you are.
posted by oxford blue at 4:11 PM on December 3, 2007

The Tattered Cover on Colfax is in a converted theatre. I think it's cool. It's also next to right next to Twist & Shout Records, which is great. By the way, the Natural History museum is now the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
posted by lukemeister at 7:06 PM on December 3, 2007

um, 'right next to', not 'next to right next to'....
posted by lukemeister at 7:07 PM on December 3, 2007

The man at the mint who led the tour I took with my father twelve years ago was rather sexist...{a procedure is} "like when you ladies make cookies" "Women don't work here, it's too tough a job"---when we could clearly see a female worker lugging things around in one of the sections. Some months later I read in a Denver paper about how women who worked there were charging the mint with being a hostile workplace. I left the city before the outcome.
posted by brujita at 11:38 PM on December 3, 2007

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