The first time I visited Denver, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’m not a huge fan of cold weather, and, since I typically have my two young daughters in tow, it’s difficult for me to participate in outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking and mountain biking. What was there for me to do? As it turned out: plenty. This family friendly city is filled with wonderful attractions, restaurants, hotels and art to make you want to stay a while.
FRIDAY: After you fly into the Denver International Airport, take a taxi to the Brown Palace, a historic Denver hotel with a gorgeous atrium and a famed high tea. After you check into your well appointed guest room, linger in the lobby and listen to the piano player or harpist showing of his or her skills. This centrally located hotel with a storied history in Denver. It opened in 1892 and has hosted every president since Theodore Roosevelt (with the exception of Calvin Coolidge), the Beatles and soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division, who tried rappelling from the balconies during their World War II-era visit. It's rumored a tunnel once connected the hotel to a gambling and prostitution house across the street. You can learn about the history of the hotel during tours at 3 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays (free for guests; $10 for visitors, which is donated to local charities). After you’re settled in, take a stroll down the 16th Street Mall, which is filled with all the chain stores you could imagine. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, stop for a pint at Falling Rock Taphouse. Located near the Coors stadium, this impressive restaurant bar has a wide selection of draft beer and tasty food.
SATURDAY: Wake early and head to Red Rocks Park for a hike. Marvel at the beautiful natural formations, windswept canyons and natural vegetation. Also check out the famed amphitheater, which regularly courts major acts such as Dave Matthews. Done with your hike? Grab a late breakfast a Snooze, a Denver institution known for incredible pancakes, French toast and breakfast burritos. There are frequently waitlists at Snooze, but the free coffee, water and the selection of games make sure that even the wait is fun. After breakfast, check out the Denver Botanic Gardens, which is one of the most impressive botanical gardens I’ve ever been to. Roll down the grassy lawn, take in exotic plants in the greenhouse or dig for dinosaur bones in the kids’ area. You’ll love it. For dinner, head to Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant, where the margaritas are flavorful (and strong) and the food is authentic Tex-Mex.
SUNDAY: Grab breakfast at the hotel and head out to explore the city’s art scene, from the public sculptures (such as a bear peeking into the convention center and a broom and dustpan in front of the Denver Art Museum). Then head into the Denver Art Museum to check out the wonderful exhibits, which currently include a look into the timeless fashions of Yves Saint Laurent. Got your fill of fashion? Go under the sea at the Denver Downtown Aquarium. From leopard sharks to jellyfish to Sumatran tigers, the offerings at the Denver Downtown Aquarium are impressive and varied. Special events, such as a swimming with the fish program and a daily mermaid show, also keep it exciting. Before you catch your flight home, catch a flight of a different kind at SkyVenture Colorado, where you can go skydiving indoors in a vertical wind tunnel. One- and two-minute indoor skydiving sessions are available, starting at $48.