We headed to Denver for a fun day of visiting the Downtown Aquarium. It turned out to be a very hot day so being inside felt really good. The aquarium is well done and had lots of exhibits related to not only water creatures but also critters nearby water areas (such as spiders, snakes, and tigers). On the day we were there it was a bit crowded, but not so bad that we couldn’t move around easily – some areas were more narrow and so we felt the press of the crowds more.
One of the more fun shows of the aquarium was the mermaid show where ‘mermaids’ talked to the crowd from underwater. References to Disney’s “Little Mermaid” movie made it fun for little children (and adults too). It was fascinating to see how long these ladies could remain underwater without coming up for air! See my video for a peek at this show.
In some places in the aquarium you had the feeling of being in the water with the high glass walls filled with water and fish. Sharks, sea turtles, jellyfish, and more all live peacefully amidst the many people that come to look and learn.
Admission is $18/adults and $12/children ages 3-12 (2013 prices) with children under 3 free. They are open seven days a week. The aquarium has a nice gift shop and a restaurant for those who get hungry. Parking was easy and only cost $5 for the day in the aquarium lot.
I’d like to go back again when my grandson is a little older. While at two years old he really enjoyed himself, the Downtown Aquarium is the kind of place where kids will learn more each time they go.
We visited the Wildlife Experience with my two-year-old grandson. Having a small child with you definitely made this place more fun, although I think that the design and features of the museum would be a great experience for kids of all ages (including grandparents without the kids!). The most attractive part of the museum for children is the winding path that takes you through various areas across the planet and you can experience animated animals looking around, making noises, and doing everyday things like eating. The animals are pretty realistic – my grandson was rather frightened by the alligator when he opened his mouth. There are also some animatronic human guides that look almost real and talk to you as you ask them questions through a special board.
There are live fish in tanks that young and old can watch. For those who like the Disney movie Finding Nemo, one of the tanks has both Nemo and Dori together.
For older visitors there is an art gallery with some spectacular paintings and sculptures of animals that can be found in Colorado and the Midwest. And next to the bookstore is a play area for little ones that had puppets and other hands-on experiences.
The museum was $10/per person, but little ones get in for a reduced price or free (check out their website for details.
The Wildlife Experience is located between Castle Rock and Denver in Parker, Colorado, right off of the I-25. There is a large free parking lot just outside.
Tour an old fashioned candy factory. The tour itself is really just looking through a window, but was still interesting. The best part was the samples and the really cheap candy in the gift shop. We were there on the weekend when not a lot of people are working - try to do a weekday tour so you can see more going on.
Just a few blocks from Coors Field where the Rockies play is the Great Divide Brewery. They are one of the oldest of the modern wave of microbreweries in Denver, starting back in 1994. Their current brewery is located in an old dairy processing plant. They offer a number of different beers in their Tap Room; I recommend ordering tasters to sample the widest possible range during your trip.
And don't miss the free tour of the brewery. It only takes about 15 minutes and gives you some insight into the history of the beer you're enjoying.
One of the things Denver does best is beer - I'd suggest checking out some of the local brewpubs, breweries and taphouses.
Breweries: Great Divide, River North, Renegade, Denver Beer Co, Strange, Wynkoop. Avoid the chains like Chophouse and Rock Bottom.
Taphouses: Star Bar, Amato's (best rooftop patio in town), Rackhouse Pub (at the Stranahan's distillery), Freshcraft, Euclid Hall. Falling Rock has the best selection but the service can be very rude so I avoid it. Stay away from Yard House, it's a chain with a lot of taps but little of interest.
When I researched it for our trip last summer the only halfway decent whitewater trip I found near Denver was on Clear Creek out of Idaho Springs which isn't to far west of the city on I70.
We were looking for an awesome day trip with some serious rapids tho and Clear Creek seemed a bit tame. We found what we wanted on the Arkansas River. It's quite a bit further from the Denver/Boulder area but so worth it. We went on the Numbers run one amazing day in July.
We had to drive to Buena Vista tho and that's about 3 hrs out of Denver so we drove down the previous day so we wouldn't have to get up at 4am. We plan on doing in again in the next year or two.
We visited this museum in 1964. The only way I know this is that I took a photo of my daughter at the sculpture outside the museum called "The Grizzlies Last Stand" by Louis Paul Jones. Inside, there are more than 90 wildlife and habitat scenes which always interested my children.
Hours: The Museum is open daily, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. We are closed on December 25.
Tickets may be purchased at the admissions desk on Level 1 or from ticket kiosks located outside the Museum, in the Planetarium lobby and near IMAX lobby.
Ticket Type Museum
Junior (3-18) or Student w/ID $6.00
Senior (65+) $8.00
There are separate tickets for the IMAX and Planetarium, plus combination tickets
Once a manufacturing facility for mustard gas, pesticides, and other nasty stuff, this 12,500-acre piece of land in northeast Denver has been transformed into a shortgrass prairie full of indigenous wildlife. The preserve is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday free of charge. Some of the roads are open to the public, but to see everything you need to either do some hiking or take one of the free "wild rides" buses that gives tours to visitors (advance reservations strongly recommended). Unfortunately bicycles are not allowed.
Today the preserve has a bison herd, over 500 deer (mule deer and whitetail deer), prairie dogs, bald eagles, coyotes, foxes, American Kestrel, and all kinds of other mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
A state of the art visitors center opened on May 21, 2011 and features interesting and informative exhibits, a hands-on discovery center for kids, a museum, helpful "rangers," and a gift shop.
The last thing people tend to think of when they talk about a big city like Denver is nature, but one of the great things about Denver is that there are so many great parks, open spaces, and natural areas. Bluff Lake Nature Center, in the northeast part of the city, is a great one. Although fairly small, you're sure to see a variety of wild animals there, from mule deer and racoons to bald eagles and red-tailed hawks.
Bluff Lake Nature Center is open daily from dawn to dusk and is free. No bikes or dogs allowed.
Catholic religion came late to Denver, beginning with the first mass 1860. Nevertheless, northern Colorado is now home to many catholics, and the cathedral is the seat of the archdiocese. Located in the general area between the Capitol Dome and the Capitol Hill Neighborhood, on the corner of East Colfax and Logan Street, is the impressive (1912) Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. There is a statue of Pope John Paul II, commemorated after he celebrated Mass at the Cathedral as part of the World Youth Day celebration held in Denver in 1993. The website for the church, notes that in 1997, the east spire of the Cathedral was struck by lightning, the repairs for which took nine months to complete. Visiting the interior is worth the time also.
In the vicinity of the "unsinkable" Molly Brown House are a number of other mansions and homes of interest within this neighborhood quite near downtown. A number of these places are listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings, and are part of a special Denver history tour.
Within the Capitol Hill neighborhood, which is filled with old historic residences, is the Molly Brown House. This residence has been preserved like a museum and has docent tours, and was the home of the "unsinkable" Molly Brown. I wasn't able to take the tour at the time I wandered by, but I highly recommend it. The home is just south of downtown, and the whole neighborhood is worth the walk around. See the link below for more details.
Named after Walter Cheesman, who also built the Governor's Mansion, this urban park is itself on the National Registere of Historic Places. Originally, this was partly a cemetery, but in 1907, it was converted to a park as it was also adjacent to one of Denver's most exclusive new neighborhoods at the time. The Botanical Gardens are located on one corner of the park, and there are trails and landscaped areas that drift away from the park, making the park's boundaries vague. But, where High Street meanders around a peanut shaped open lawn area, the park is very impressive. I was there to see some flowers in bloom, although the skies were unforgiving for photography, being mostly cloudy. The park name is derived in part from the stone memorial and fountain complex built by Cheesman. The park is a great place to walk the dog or have a family picnic as these photos show. This isn't Denver's largest park, but it's one of the most scenic, in my view.
The Governor's Mansion is often a place of fundraiser musical concerts and such, as well as the executive residence (on the 2nd and 3rd floors). Ironically, the home was originally built by the Cheesman family, and then later sold to the Boettcher family, both wealthy merchant families in Colorado's earlier period, and is thus also known as the Cheesman-Boettcher Mansion. The home sits on a knoll, and has views of the Colorado mountains. When the home was gifted to the state, it was already expanded and filled with antiques from Europe. Actually too, the state had bee reluctant to accept the property as the governor's residence, but one of the former governors had lived in the neighborhood as a boy and took up the offer. Tours of the residence are possible (see phone number below), although I had arrived to late in the day for interior shots. See the web link below for images and more expanded history of this impressive home.
South of I-25 on Broadway, between about Colorado and Arizona Streets, is the antique store, Persian rug, artsy fartsy design furniture, and other stuff interior designers might like. Broadway at this point is hardly different than an expressway, so don't expect to get across the street on foot without risking your life. Yet, this area does have a few decent restaurants and curio shops worth visiting.
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