Denver keeps its community of over 500,000 busy with activities year-round, with festivities for each of the four seasons. From holiday parades throughout Downtown Denver, marathon races throughout the streets, hundreds of community festivals, farmer’s markets, independent neighborhood gatherings, not to mention the constant playground outdoors. The following are some of the local favorites for time spent with your family and your city.
Would you like to stir up the excitement with an adventure that’s like hunting for a treasure? Are you new to Denver and would like to get to know your neighborhood in an interesting way? Would you like to happen upon some of Denver’s best tourist sites while looking for clues? A scavenger hunt might be just the thing for you and your loved ones. There are two organizations worthy to mention for the Denver area, both necessitate some savvy and desire to dabble with technological resources. Each November, Denver Arts Week has you choose from a list of artsy hot spots around Denver, take a picture of yourself at the location, and post it to Facebook with a chance to win a prize! You can visit Denver.org for general information, or go straight to the source at “Visit Denver” on Facebook, and follow the guide on how to participate. You’ll find yourself posing with things like the herding buffalo statues along 16th Street Mall, or mimicking the big, blue tourist bear peering inside the Colorado Convention Center — all with a chance to win anything from Southwest Airline tickets to gift certificates to local restaurants! Another way to participate in a scavenger hunt is to link up with Geocaching, an international treasure-hunt game, has you join with an initial free membership. The goal is to find hidden items throughout your selected neighborhood or travel destination, all while using your GPS device to locate the surrounding coordinates. It’s a great way to stumble upon areas in your neighborhood or across your state you didn’t know existed!
Ceramics in the City
1912 Pearl St.
Denver, CO 80203
Bring out the creative side in your family by taking a pottery design class at Ceramics in the City, located at Uptown Square, at 19th and Pennsylvania, just minutes from downtown Denver. You’ll start off choosing your favorite blank pottery piece, then paint it to your desire, or even selecting a blank piece of thick glass to fuse with colors. Both run from around $10-$65, depending on the pieces you select, and the designing takes about an hour. The staff will add the finishing fire and glaze touches and have it ready for you in about a week. They also have projects in working with silver to create jewelry pendants, or fingerprints pendants, which is great to have for your baby! These run a little higher in cost, but are worth it. No experience is needed for any of the activities, grab your group party, even your own snacks and beverages, and reserve your family art adventure.
Santa Fe Art District
Gather the group and head down to the art district of Santa Fe Drive, any first Friday of the month year-round. Your eyes will be filled with as much stimuli as you can take, from diverse works from artists all over Colorado, amazing nature photos, colorful Hispanic culture displays at the Museo de Las Americas, funky live music, thrilling street performers, leaping capoeira dancers, even just people-watching for those who express themselves for the event. The area is one of Denver’s most sacred reserved locations for displaying art, with 13 blocks of over 60 galleries, from Alameda to 13th Avenue. The festivities run from 6pm to 9pm, and generally promote walking the blocks, popping in and out of all the diverse galleries. You can also take the light rail to the 10th and Osage station, where a shuttle will pick you between 5:30pm and 9:30pm to guide you around the event. It can be a better activity for the older people in your crowd, as many galleries serve alcohol as an option, and as an evening event, the streets can get lively. Typically it’s pretty quiet and appropriately social inside the galleries. Be sure to also refer to the Denver Arts Week in November, as one of their activities is opening the doors in all the art galleries and museums around Denver and its surrounding neighborhoods.
Lowenstein “Indie” Complex
You and your family can enjoy all things music, film, and literature, at the restored vintage Lowenstein theater Cultureplex, which includes: Twist & Shout, Tattered Cover, and the newly opened Denver FilmCenter, a one-block, all-in-one entertainment hub, located on East Colfax Avenue, about 10 minutes from downtown Denver. You can fish through thousands of CDs, DVDs and records, hip T-shirts, purses and hats, and odd knick knacks, in Twist & Shout’s colorful location at Colfax. Next, wind down next door at the Tattered Cover, covering all your literary curiosities, while sipping a cappuccino from their café. Then save some of your senses for the Denver FilmCenter movie theater a step away, for an afternoon independent flick. All businesses are independent, as with being unique to Denver, as well as their taste in entertainment. It’s perfect for all ages in your family — you’ll feel good you spent the day here.
Denver Botanic Gardens
1007 York Street
Denver, CO 80206
It may seem hard at first to convince your family to go gaze at foliage for a few hours, but trust that once everyone is there, they will be amazed how entertained they can be by the Gardens’ display of nature. The Denver Botanic Gardens spreads over 23 acres of over 3,200 plants and flowers, in between Congress and Cheeseman Park, near East 8th Avenue and York Street. During the summer days, you can stroll around the gardens, bending down to examine the details of all the different varieties. You come upon a medicinal garden of plants and herbs, and find out where your aspirin or tarragon came from! You’ll stroll through a romantic and lush rose garden, of giant roses and sparkling ponds. The Japanese themed area is a favorite, with serene statues, coy ponds and bonsai trees. Be sure to also venture inside where you can look in awe at the infamous orchid tree, displaying more varieties of exotic orchids than you knew existed. There are outdoor concerts and art exhibitions set along the gardens in the summer. And don’t worry for the winter season for visiting, for they host a Blossoms of Lights display, where you’ll see over a million lights illuminating all the trees, fountains, and plants, mimicking the colors of spring and summer.
15th Street & Little Raven Street
Denver, CO 80202
If you and your family are undecided what to do for your day of Denver adventure, try starting at Riverfront Park to get the ideas flowing. Riverfront Park itself is a block of high-rise residences, restaurants, and businesses, including part of the pedestrian Bridge Trilogy Point. But as a meeting spot, with a little map guidance, you can choose from many different activities within about a 4 mile circle radius, between North Speer Boulevard, Platte Street, 20th Street and Little Raven Street. Take the teens over to the Denver Skate Park at 20th, to surf the rails and ramps. Perhaps spend the day at the grand Elitch Gardens Amusement and Water Park along Speer. Enjoy the many indoor-outdoor activities at REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated) at Platte, such as the climbing wall inside, or watching kayakers challenge the Platte River below. The Denver Aquarium and Colorado Adventure Segway Tours are exciting options along Water Street. Or simply enjoy the wide open grass of Commons and Confluence Parks, having a family picnic or throwing the frisbee around. There’s so much to do in this area, you are bound to find something for everyone!
– Sarah Carpenter lives in Littleton, where she was born and raised. She spent a decade in Downtown Denver, and its surrounding neighborhoods, going to school for writing, working in the service industry, and getting to know Denver’s diverse culture. She has a passion for travel writing, local and afar, focusing the story on its people, culture and region.