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.

Celestial Seasonings Tour Near Boulder

Celestial Seasonings is one of the largest tea makers in North America. It was merged (bought out) into the Hain Celestial Group in 2000. However, all the Celestial Seasonings teas are still made in the original factory near Boulder, Colorado.

celestial seasonings tourThere are free tours of Celestial Seasonings every day except major holidays. Tours leave on the hour and are first-come first serve. If you go during the week, you can usually just walk up and get on the next tour. On weekends, that may not be the case. The best way to avoid having to wait too long for your Celestial Seasonings tour is to show up near the half hour. That is, if you want to take the 11:00 am tour, show up before 10:30 am. Also, the people who missed the previous tour builds up as the day goes on, so if you get there early, you’ll be less likely to have to wait.

Go past the Tea Shop (gift shop) and straight to the tour desk to put your name down on the list. The tour ends in the Tea Shop, so don’t worry, you won’t miss it.

Celestial Seasonings Sampling

Once you have signed up for the tour, they will give you a cup and you can sample their teas. The tour desk is in the sampling room. There are five or six teas already sitting there ready for tasting (plus usually two around the other end of the counter that are iced teas). However, those aren’t the only teas you can sample. To sample other teas, you simply ask the workers behind the counter. They’ll pour some hot water into your tea cup and put in a bag. That way you can sample almost all of the Celestial Seasonings tea varieties.

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Free Celestial Seasonings Tour

They’ll announce the tour in the Celestial Seasoning taste test area. The tour starts with a 10 minute video about the company and a little of its history. Then, they pass out the hair nets. Since the tour goes through the actual production facility, all visitors have to follow health code rules including full hair nets. For super fun, and ridiculous pictures, visitors with beards have to wear beard nets as well.

The tour guides are generally pretty knowledgeable, so feel free to answer questions. The first stop is a look through the window into the Milling Room where they actually sift and chop the various ingredients that go into the tea.

Next up is a look at the large bins those ingredients are stored in. Then, there is a look into the Tea Room. As it turns out, the three most popular Celestial Seasonings teas have no tea in them at all. They are Sleepytime, Chamomile, and Peppermint. They are called Herbal Teas mostly because the public didn’t understand earlier names like “infusions.”

However, many of the varieties do contain actual tea. And tea, is absorptive. That means that if they left it out on the main floor with other ingredients it would absorb those flavors and smells. The fun part for tour takers is that the tea room smells wonderful since it is a closed room with no ventilation.

Mint, it turns out, is the opposite. Mint is invasive, giving off its flavor and smell to other things.As the tour guide says, if they left the mint out in the main area, they would have 80 varieties of mint tea. It seems that some people can handle strong mint smell, and others can’t. If you can, be sure to stand in the mint room. Your nasal passages will never be clearer. (Mint pulls water out of your body, so you’ll also be thirsty when you are done with the tour.)

Finally, the tour goes to the packaging area. It’s everything you would hope for in a modern manufacturing facility. Automated machines, robot arms, and conveyor belts rushing boxes of tea by.

The tour ends in the Tea Shop, which is a great little shop with tons of great little gifts in addition to most (if not all) Celestial Seasonings teas.

Celestial Seasonings Fast Lane

While you are in the Tea Shop look for the Fast Lane tea. Currently, it has a picture of three flying superhero types on the box. Fast Lane has more caffeine than a cup of coffee. The company claims that it is a smoother, more natural caffeine than others as well.

If you can’t remember ever seeing it on the shelf, you aren’t wrong. Fast Lane is sold on the CU Boulder Campus, in nearby Boulder, Colorado. According to the tour guide, they’ve canceled that variety a few times, and every time, they call up and beg them to bring it back. A high-caffeine tea isn’t really what Celestial Seasonings is known for, so you can only get it on campus, or order it online. Of course, you can also get it straight from the manufacturer by buying it in the Tea Shop.

Getting There

The Celestial Seasonings manufacturing plant is just outside of Boulder, Colorado off of the Diagonal Highway (runs between Boulder and Longmont) and Jay Road. While you could theoretically get to there via public transportation, that would take a lot of time and effort. A cab ride from Denver (and maybe even Boulder) would be very expensive. So, this is a Denver day-trip that you’ll need a car to get to.

Don’t worry, there is plenty of free parking, and traffic is an non-issue unless it’s rush hour, or there is a major event like the Bolder Boulder or a CU football home game.

16th Street Mall – Downtown Denver Colorado

16th-street-mall One of the most visitor friendly features in Downtown Denver is the 16th Street Mall. This long pedestrian mall stretches across Downtown Denver from East to West and in place of 16th Street, which makes navigating downtown in a car slightly more complicated. However, the mall makes downtown very accessible for business travelers, conventioneers, families on vacation, or locals working downtown.

While a pedestrian mall is a nice way to make the downtown area more friendly for walking, the real benefit comes not from the banishment of cars, but rather the presence of free shuttle busses. The free 16th Street Mall shuttle busses are run by the Regional Transportation District, or RTD and are provided as a free service every day of the week. The 16th St. Mall shuttle runs from early morning until late at night, so it is equally useful for the commuting in the morning or going out to breakfast, as it is for making it home from a night out on the town at one of Denver’s nightclubs, LoDo’s bars, or any of downtown Denver’s restaurants.

16th-street-mall-shuttle-buses There is a bus stop on every corner, and riders can hop on or off at any stop without any transfers, tokens, or tickets, making the shuttle a great way to travel the full length of the mall for Denver siteseeing, or just a quick way to go a block or two for lunch or shopping.

The first floor of most buildings on the 16th Street Mall has some form of retail or consumer shopping entity. Stores range from tourist trap T-shirt shops, to banks, to coffee shops (half a dozen Starbucks alone), to full fledged department stores, and of course, a wide range of restaurants and fine-dining.

At the west end of the 16th Street Mall is Wynkoop Street and popular Denver attractions such as The Tattered Cover Bookstore, Wynkoop Restaurant, and just a few blocks north, Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies. A similar trek to the south deposits visitors at the Pepsi Center, home to the Colorado Avalanche and the Denver Nuggets. This end of the mall is also home to the main RTD bus terminal downtown (underneath the plaza at 16th and Market) and Union Station. Behind Union Station are the downtown Light Rail terminals for RTD’s C-Line and E-Line. (The D-Line, F-Line, and H-Line connect to the other end of the mall along California Street.)

On the eastern side of the 16th Street Mall is the Denver Pavilions an outdoor shopping center located right on the Denver mall and home to Barnes & Noble, Maggiano’s Italian Restaurant, and an United Artists Movie theatre among other things. Many visitors choose to park in the Denver Pavilions parking garage and then ride the shuttle bus to Denver events and downtown destinations.

The Denver Convention Center and numerous other downtown venues and sites occupy the areas just off of the mall to the north or the south.