Denver Restaurant Week 2017

The 2017 Denver Restaurant Week is almost here!

For years, many restaurants around Denver offered a special menu during Restaurant Week that both showed off each restaurant’s specialties, plus offered a great deal. Originally, over a decade ago, the deal was $52.80 for a couple, usually including a drink. The price was a symbol of Denver itself, and it’s 5280 feet (one mile) elevation.

But, times change, and inflation marches on, and restaurant’s had a harder and harder time coming up with the kind of menus they wanted for that price. So, cool symbolism has been abandoned. Instead, restaurants are now slated to offer meals on a price schedule reminiscent of the old 59, 79, 99 cent menus at Taco Bell. (If you remember those days, you might be a 40-something ūüôā

denver restaurant week 2017 menus

The 2017 Denver Restaurant Week menus will come in three varieties, $25, $35, or $45. Some restaurants may offer all three menus, while others may stick to the top of the range. These will be per person prices, instead of the old couples pricing.

The dates for 2017 Denver Restaurant Week have been announced as February 24 through March 5th.

The first menu postings are scheduled for January 25th, so just one more week until you can start drooling over your favorite menus. Although a look at individual restaurants may give you a sneak peak. For example, I found a Coohills Restaurant Week 2017 menu. Looks like they have targeted the $35 price point, with several optional “supplements” if you are looking to go all out.

Super savvy diners who already know which restaurants they want to hit may want to start making reservations now. Many Denver area restaurants take reservations online via OpenTable, so start there.

Several restaurants have traditionally pulled out all the stops for Denver Restaurant Week in the past. I’m looking forward to checking out menus from Guard and Grace, Mizuna, Tag (fingers crossed for meatloaf and duck fat fries) among others.

What restaurants are you looking forward to checking out?

Mount Evans Road Elevation Sign

How To See the Mountains From Denver

The Rocky Mountains are one of the best places to visit in Denver for anyone planning a trip to Denver, even though, technically, the mountains aren’t really in Denver.

Denver does sit at an elevation of 5,280 feet, and yet, it technically sits in a valley in an area gently sloping away from the foothills, a 20+ minute drive to the west. And, the mountains, are behind THOSE.

Seeing the Mountains While In Denver

To see¬†the mountains from Denver, Boulder, or any of the cities along the length of I-25, seeing the mountains is as easy as looking west. There they are (if you don’t see them, then they’re behind that building) rising up out of the plains into a purple / blue / gray / white (depending upon the day) ridge¬†in the sky. But, that isn’t what people really mean when they say they want to see the mountains. What Colorado travelers, and Denver visitors, mean when they ask to see the mountains is to be in the mountains.

This, is slightly trickier than it sounds, because being in the mountains actually makes it kind of hard to see the mountains. First, off, that little ridge you see in the front of the mountains is actually what we call the foothills. The real mountains are behind those. Second, when you are in the mountains, there will be what appear to be hills blocking your view of the mountains. Those “hills,” of course, ARE the mountains, but they can block that majestic feeling of vast mountain-ness you are going for. Fortunately, there are some great places to really see the mountains and experience the big, wide, huge, TALL mountain feeling you are looking for.

Mount Evans

Mount Evans Road Elevation Sign

 

Mount Evans is, among other things, the highest paved road in North America. It is also one of Colorado’s 14ers (mountains over 14,000 feet high). It’s also a really great way to get friends and family up into the mountains, while satisfying that “I want to see the mountains,” wish. The road goes all the way to the top (there’s a little hill left to climb if you want to go to the tippy-top), and since it is the tallest mountain around, you get magnificent views of mountains in every direction.

mount-evans-view-denverIf you’re lucky, you may even see wildlife on the road up. Look for mountain goats and deer. Also, around the parking lot, it is common to see, and hear, marmots, which look a lot like beavers, without the special tail. They make a squeaking sound a little bit higher and squeakier than you would expect for their size.

baby mountain goat mt evans

The drive from Denver takes between 90 minutes and 2 hours depending upon traffic and weather. As you might expect, at 14,000 feet, the road closes in the winter once the snow buries it too much to bother plowing out. It usually reopens near the beginning of July. Check the CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) road conditions webpage to make sure the road is open if you plan to go in early summer.

In the summer, afternoon thunderstorms are common. Such storms can be dangerous and the clouds will restrict your views, so a morning start is best for this trip.

A similar view and experience can be had from Trail Ridge Road, which is further away up in Rocky Mountain National Park.

 

Georgetown Railroad Loop

Another great way to see the mountains is a ride on the Georgetown Loop Railroad. Back during the gold rush days, they built a railroad connecting the towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume. This is a lot easier said than done thanks to steep mountainsides. To make the track work, engineers used narrow gauge track and plenty of switchbacks. Also, lucky for us tourists in Colorado today, they built a spectacular bridge over Clear Creek called the Devil’s Gate High Bridge that the train still crosses today.

georgetown loop railroad

 

Getting to Georgetown is easy. It sits directly off of I-70 about an hour west of Denver (traffic and weather dependent). There are signs to direct you up to the railroad. The train itself is just a loop from Georgetown to Silver Plume and back. But, on the way, you’ll spiral up the mountains without having to take a long hike, and get plenty of great views along the way.

Before or after, stop into Georgetown, a little mountain town with a few shops, and a nice lake just east of town if you want to see a cold, snow fed lake. In Winter, when the ice gets thick enough, they race Jeeps out on the frozen lake.

In town, find the candy shop where they make plenty of homemade sweets including multiple flavors of fudge. Sometimes, they even have Dreamscicle fudge, which tastes exactly like those orange ice cream treats (but not much at all like fudge, so get a chocolaty one too.)

Estes Park

Further away, and up a smaller, curvier, mountain road, than I-70, you’ll find Estes Park which is the town that sits on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. They have a few great streets of various mountain tourist shops, as well as two year-round Christmas stores. Get off the main drag to follow the river behind town for more mountain views and a rushing river as well. (Extra rushing available in springtime when the snow melts.)

I-70 Scenic Views

If all this sounds like too much, the easiest way to visit the Rocky Mountains is to drive up I-70. Keep going until you find a scenic overlook that looks promising. Roll down your window, and you can get amazing scenic mountain vista shots without even getting out of your car.

 

Denver Botanic Gardens

The Denver Botanic Gardens is a typical botanic gardens located in the center of Denver. The Botanic Gardens is located just a few miles from downtown Denver, near Cheesman Park, on Josephine Street. Admission costs $12.50 for adults and $9 for kids. Kids 2 and under are free. The Botanic Gardens, of course, has acres of flowers, plants, and trees.

denver botanic gardens flowers

One of the most interesting thing about the Botanic Gardens in Denver is its Tropical Conservatory. One of Denver’s first wealthy families was the Boettchers. You have seen their name on things if you have been sightseeing in Denver at all. In fact, today’s Governor’s residence is in, you guessed it, Boettcher Mansion. The Boettchers made their money in cement, supplying the building materials during Denver’s boom. So, when the time came to build something to house tropical plants, the Boettchers donated it, and cast the whole thing out of cement.

denver botanic gardens tropical conservatory

Inside, the tropical forest has live, towering jungle trees, flowers, coffee trees, and more. There are also some ducks. Stairs in the center take you up three stories to the top of the jungle canopy. It’s worth the price of admission on it’s own.

Next door, a newer addition has a warm, moist area for a collection of orchids and other plants.

orchids at denver botanic gardens

Outside, wide open trails and a friendly attitude make it a great place for a stroll, with or without kids. Around the edges are “hidden” paths off of the main paved trails. There is also a science pyramid, a bonazi garden, lilly pad ponds, beautiful fountains and more. The Botanic Gardens had a very successful show of Chihuly¬†glass art in 2014. When the show left, the Gardens bought a beautiful, permanent, glass work to display. You’ll find it near the Gardens southeast corner.

permanent chihuly glass sculpture at denver botanic gardens

As an added treat, there is a Botanic Gardens Cafe near the entrance. The pastries and quiches here are very good, and definitely worth a stop. The cafe in the middle of the gardens near the Japanese ponds is more hit or miss, but if you need a burger, or slice of pizza, it’s your place.

botanic gardens lilly ponds

Across the street on top of the parking ¬†structure, is a Children’s Garden. It has fun paths, including a simulated hike up to 10,000 feet, and hearty plants. The main draw for most kids is the, go ahead and play in it, simulated stream in the center of the Children’s Garden.

Around Christmas time, the Denver Botanic Gardens does an extensive Christmas light show using the trees and plants in the Gardens. It can get cold at night in Colorado during December, so check the weather and bundle up.

Usually, the Botanic Gardens is not crowded and a great, relaxing experience. However, the Botanic Gardens offers free days that get very crowded, and they have big plant sales a few times each year which bring out the crowds as well. If you want the gardens to yourself, you’ll want to avoid those days.

The Denver Botanic Gardens hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m from Mother’s Day until Labor Day and 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. during the winter months. They are open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

If you want a less sculpted, more outdoorsy experience, there is another branch of the Botanic Gardens south of Denver at Chatfield Reservoir.

Money Museum Denver Federal Reserve Bank

The Denver Federal Reserve building is in downtown Denver on 16th Street between Curtis St. and Arapahoe St.. The free 16th Street mall shuttle bus passes directly in front of the Federal Reserve, a large gray stone building with a wrought iron fence surrounding it. Until a few years ago, the only way members of the public could see inside the Federal Reserve in Denver was as part of an official tour group. Now, the downtown Denver Fed bank offers a Denver tourist attraction called the Money Museum.

federal-reserve-bank-denverUnlike tours of the Denver Mint, or the main Federal Reserve building, no reservations are required for the Money Museum in the Denver Federal Reserve Bank. (Tours of the actual Federal Reserve building require reservations made at least two weeks in advance.) The Money Museum hours are open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, except for banking holidays.

Admission to the Money Museum is free. People older than 18 do have to provide a photo ID for admission.

Highlights of the Money Museum include a display of $30 million in cash, displays of historical U.S. currency, various interactive exhibits and a station where you can design your own money.  Visitors to the Money Museum also receive a bag of actual U.S. dollar bills that has been shredded by the bank because it is no longer fit for circulation.

With its location right downtown, the Denver Money Museum makes a great stop not only for travelers sightseeing in Denver, but also for people attending events at the Denver Convention Center, or just for people who work downtown on their lunch hour. There is no public parking for the Money Museum, so you’ll need to grab a parking meter or park in a parking lot or parking garage downtown.

If you think you might be hearing strange sounds from the sidewalk grates outside the Money Museum entrance, you aren’t crazy. An art installation beneath the sidewalk pumps up sounds to the street of things like waves on a beach, or the sound of a subway train. Different vents have different sounds. Take a second to stand over each one to hear all the sounds.

If you are trying to look up information about the Federal Reserve’s Denver Money Museum online, you might be confused by your search results. That’s because the Federal Reserve building in Denver, is actually a Federal Reserve Branch Bank. The word “Branch” is the key. The actual Federal Reserve Bank for the region is in Kansas City. While you’ll see a D mint mark on coins, you won’t see Denver or a D on any dollar bills, only Kansas City.

Although, it also has to do with money, the Denver Mint is a different organization and not directly connected with the Federal Reserve. You can find information about touring the Denver Mint at the the United States Mint website. Note that tours of the Denver Mint do require tickets which can be purchased in advanced. Standby tickets can be picked up starting at 7:30 a.m. at the mint.  Tours there are free as well, but you generally cannot just show up and walk in because the tours sell out in advance.

Be sure to hop on the free 16th Street Shuttle bus and have lunch or dinner at one of the many great restaurants in the downtown Denver.