By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – The Denver Botanic Gardens saw visitors quickly fill up all available spots to enter over a four-day period including the holiday weekend. They reopened Friday for the first time in two months. Both members and the general public are required to reserve tickets in advance online.

Since the opening, 5,000 people got their tickets, and all available slots have sold out for the next week.

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“We didn’t know what to expect and it has been a steady stream, we have sold out at this lower capacity, everyday,” said Jennifer Riley with the Denver Botanic Gardens. “Nothing surprises us anymore because there is no more normal or routine when it comes to this.”

The first available spot is a week from Tuesday as everyone has to seek out reservations from the same allotment, including the 46,000 households that are members. The capacity remains at only 25% of what they could typically handle on a regular summer day.

“It was gorgeous, like super nice weather, and really peaceful, just kind of nice to be outside and relax and kind of feel a little bit of normal,” Maggie Masciarelli said about her visit on Tuesday with her significant other. “It is my birthday today so we came for my birthday.”

Guests are required to wear a mask at all times and maintain social distancing. Families, couples, and friends all found time to spend time in the gardens on Tuesday. Some guests even enjoyed a meal from the outdoor restaurants, eating food in open spots across the property.

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“It’s been very pleasant to see people are very cooperative, very positive, thrilled to be here,” Riley told CBS4 on Tuesday. “People are grateful that we are open, they are very appreciative that we’re being cautious and definitely creating a structure where people feel safe and feel welcome.”

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Even though the gardens have been closed for two months, workers have been busy maintaining the grounds. Staff say this is the first chance for visitors to see the progress all at once made while the state was closed. Guests said it wasn’t difficult to keep their space from others and did not mind wearing a mask.

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The model of timed entry limited throughout the day is working for the gardens and could determine if they can invite more people each hour, depending on its success. The approach may be beneficial for other Denver institutions still waiting to open as parks are one of the few other outdoor options available during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our ability to remain open comes down to people following these rules,” Riley added. “Everyday that we’re open, is a little more money coming into the gardens to help run this place, which is critical.”

Whether it was a special occasion or part of their usual time outside for the day, visitors said it meant a lot to them to get some time outside of their new routine inside and under quarantine.

“I was just excited to go do something today and this is kind of like the perfect thing, now the weather is nice and summer is starting,” Masciarelli told CBS4. “I was just really happy to be out here doing something a little normal.”

LINK: Denver Botanic Gardens Reservations

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Shawn Chitnis