Denver: Get More Glow at A Mile High
By Neil Wolkodoff
If you are a skier coming to Colorado in December and January and stopping off in Denver for a day of altitude acclimatization, these venues offer some great diversions while breathing the rarified air. Take an afternoon, then spend the night, then head to your ski area destination the next day. That enables short-term adaptations and gets you used to drinking more water and being in tune with appropriate levels of exertion.
One great thing about the holiday season is some public parks and venues dress up with dazzling lights. It is common for squares, gardens and zoos to add lights, so the family has something to do together.
The Botanical Gardens Blossoms of Light runs from just after Thanksgiving to January 2nd. The 2015 version features new elements, including the return of the illuminated O’Fallon Perennial Walk and the Romantic Gardens. Thousands of twinkling lights are spread throughout the Gardens. Need more zip to your tour? Use the even more dazzling “HoloSpex” glasses to gain additional visual effects. This event is more about taking the stunning gardens and using light treatments to highlight the unique plants, shrubs and trees. On select evenings, there is live entertainment.
In the Rocky Mountains, The Denver Zoo Lights is largest lighting event, covering over 70 acres. According to the staff, this is the Zoo’s most anticipated annual event. Included are more than 150 animated animal sculptures, Santa Claus meet-and-greets, choirs, ice carvers, live animal demonstrations and even electric animals that jump to life as you stroll. The Zoo is next door to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science; you can take in one of the 11 exhibits, then step over to the Zoo.
Most cities have special shopping/dining centers that jazz it up for Christmas. Larimer Square in downtown Denver has been a cozy, holiday center for over 50 years. A power-packed district comprised of 20 boutique shops, 25 restaurants, and 14 entertainment venues, there is always something going on that will spark your interest. The best way to describe Larimer Square is a vibrant small town in the middle of a big city. Don’t miss Paws & Claus on December 12th, and yes, there is a dispensary of that green stuff for dogs in the square if Fido needs some medical pain relief.
If a real party is appealing, then plan your trip around the 1940s White Christmas Ball. Held at the Wings Over The Rockies Air & Space Museum in early December, you get swing dancing, Marilynn Monroe, and Bing Crosby. The Glen Miller Orchestra plays as you get a heap of chestnuts roasting on that open fire. Each of the six years it has been a little different, and a little bigger with more acts. This started as a tribute to the Greatest Generation, those that fought in WWII, and now supports various military charities including the Wounded Warriors Project. Food, drink, merriment and dancing with no costume required, yet it does add to the fun.
Very few good restaurants are open Christmas or Christmas Eve, with the Fresh Fish Company one exception. With their extensive assortment, the whole family gets a very special Christmas Eve Dinner. Their festive menu includes chateaubriand; English-style roasted goose, rack of lamb, live Maine lobster, Alaskan king crab legs, salmon Oscar, prime rib, filet mignon and 20 varieties of fresh fish and other holiday favorites.
In the adult category, Mile High Spirits offers high-quality cocktails and a tasting experience unlike anywhere else in Denver. Mile High Spirits’ tasting room creates all of its offerings on site making its’ specialty cocktails and Moscow Mules extra zippy. Mile High Spirits is a short jaunt to many Denver restaurants and attractions.
After your well-lit excursions, you need a warmer on the south end of town, head over the Robusto Room just 15 minutes south of downtown. This establishment combines cigar humidor, cigar bar, and a nightclub into one. The cigar bar with a modern twist. A private Scotch & Cigar tasting is a great winter warmer. The owner, Peter Roth, teaches you about the varieties of Single Malt Scotch and discusses each of the offerings in detail. Even, if you are a seasoned cigar smoker, new information and concepts.
If your trip to Ski Country is by way of auto through the southern part of the state, then Colorado Springs also has some good re-charge diversions. The Airplane Restaurant is an intact Boeing KC-97, in which 42 “passengers” can dine. Each year the airplane is festively decorated for the holidays. The airplane flies 11-4 Christmas Eve and 11-4 on Christmas with a special Christmas Buffet.
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo offers two programs that for the winter season. Starlight Safaris let you and the juniors roast smores, listen to the wolves howl, feed the giraffe herd and discover what animals do at night on a private tour. The Electric Safari has 85 light sculptures on over 50 acres; it is sure to be memorable. The zoo provides warming fires throughout the Zoo, and select indoor animal exhibits remain open during the event. It is also an excellent venue to take in the lights of Colorado Springs.
If you get in late, and want to get part way to your destination, the Ameristar in Blackhawk is an idea overnight destination. At almost 8,000 feet you will get some acclimatization while staying in mountain comfy room. Gaming is a great diversion while you breath the mountain air. Causal relaxation and gentle exercise awaits in the roof-top pool. Get those muscles to relax and get the skin some moisture with their Rocky Mountain Ritual in the Ara Spa. Dining never closes, and their top notch Centennial buffet is open Christmas Eve and Day with special holiday dishes, as well as the Timberline Grill if hearty steak fare is more in order.