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.

Cherry Creek North Shopping District

Cherry Creek North is the name for the shopping district just to the north of the Cherry Creek Mall. Next to Downtown Denver’s 16th Street Mall, Cherry Creek is the best known shopping spot in town.

Unlike many shopping districts, Cherry Creek North, or CCN to some, sprang up organically after the mall opened and brought an increase of shopping traffic to the area. Small boutique shops in line with the lineup of upscale shops located in the Cherry Creek Mall developed across 1st Avenue into a loose collection of stores, art galleries, and salons. The resulting business district proved popular with locals and those traveling to Denver. Eventually, the area was organized under the Cherry Creek North Business Improvement District.

Until recently, Cherry Creek North was anchored by long-term staples like The Tattered Cover and Mel’s restaurant. However, escalating rents and renovation projects pushed by miscalculating landlords and developers right before the economy took a down turn in 2008 forced out several of these popular businesses. The Tattered Cover relocated to the renovated Lowenstein Theatre several blocks north on Colfax Avenue across the street from East High School. Mel’s closed down, as did a popular cooking store, and numerous other shops and boutiques.

While some long-time Cherry Creek businesses like the Cherry Cricket, Little Ollies, and the Cherry Creek Grill weathered the storm, for a time, it seemed as if the magic of Cherry Creek had been lost and several commercial spaces sat empty. Luckily as the various construction projects finally were completed, some of the magic was recaptured, thanks to new local anchors like Whole Foods, Crate and Barrel, and the only J.W. Marriot Hotel in Denver.

Other newcomers are helping to redefine what Cherry Creek North is today and into the future. Argyle Bistro Pub is fast becoming a local favorite, and Houston’s Steakhouse is busy with diners most every evening. New fashion clothing stores and designer brands as well as big name artists have filled in many spaces.

Today, the Cherry Creek North Shopping District again sports an eclectic mix of shops, spas, salons, restaurants, and even a fitness club. In addition, the Denver Public Library in Cherry Creek, formally named Ross – Cherry Creek Branch, has reopened after a much needed renovation funded by Denver municipal bonds, bringing to a close most of the building oriented construction. While some summer improvements courtesy of the CCN BID are on tap, Cherry Creek North is once again a bustling shopping area.

Denver International Airport

dia-airport-graphicDenver International Airport, or DIA, as it is known serves Denver and the surrounding areas.

The most important thing to know about the airport, is that it is nowhere near Denver. Many locals joke that that airport is actually in Kansas. That is an exaggeration, of course, but it is not without merit.

DIA is technically in Denver, but only thanks to the kind of boundary gerrymandering that is unconstitutional if used for anything other than artificially including airports inside of city limits.

To find DIA on Google Maps, type in Denver, CO. Then, zoom out. Zoom out again. Zoom out again. Now scroll to the right.  Look for a big gray area to the Northeast of Denver.  That is Denver International Airport. You can’t even see the Rocky Mountains from there.

The airport is 40 minutes from downtown in good traffic, but can take significantly longer to reach during rush hour. If you are not going toward downtown, Denver’s only toll road E-470 can get you to the northernmost or southernmost ends of the Denver metro area much faster.

Don’t bother with it for anything close to the center of the metro region. E-470 is a “loop” that doesn’t connect up on the West side that runs around the OUTER edge of the metro area. They say, that in Denver, the only thing further East than E-470 is DIA.

The good news is that parking is relatively easy at DIA compared to other airports at all times except the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. It is also cheaper than a lot of other metropolitan airports with close-in garage parking going for $18 a day and further out, but still walkable parking lots costing $10 for parking.

Unless you are going downtown and staying downtown the whole duration of your trip, rent a car. With the exception of a 15 block area downtown, this is not a walking city.

Every downtown Denver motel and hotel has parking of some sort, and while the locals will complain loudly about the rates, they are much lower than in other major cities. Valet parking at most hotels is about $30 a day with self-park costing $15 to $20 depending upon the hotel.

Taxis are not common except at hotels and a couple of other spots. Otherwise, you’ll have to make a phone call and then wait for one to show up. Cab fare from the airport will typically pay for a full-day of car rental, with a round trip costing you at least what a 2-day rental would cost.

Plan ahead and get a discount car reservation and you might be able to rent a car for the whole week for the same price as a rountrip taxi cab ride to the airport.

If you have ever driven in another metropolitan size city, you can handle driving in Denver.