Category Archives: Denver

Chihuly After Dark: Magic in the Gardens

Denver Botanic Gardens’ blockbuster dazzles at night.

010Glass artist Dale Chihuly first entered by consciousness during a visit to Tacoma, Washington, were the Museum of Glass had recently opened. I can’t recall the year, but my fascination with art glass in general and with Dale Chihuly in particular stems from that visit. I was awestruck fantastic forest of brilliant blown glass stalagmites by Chihuly in one large, dazzling gallery. Since then, I’ve seen his works in museums, lobbies of hotels and performing arts venues and at Pismo Glass, the Colorado galleries that carry his work. I went to the opening of the “Chihuly in the Gardens” exhibition at the Denver Botanic Gardens last June. It was, of course, wonderful, as I wrote here. Now that days are shorter and nights are longer, “Chihuly Nights” is on view beginning at 5:30 p.m. we were there until nearly 8:30 p.m., and no one was yet hustling us out.

Hard to believe, but the glass is even more stunning and magical during the day. In summer daylight, the glass is counterpointed with the floral. After dark, nothing really competes. This exhibition continues through November 30. Don’t miss it. Click here for tickets, but hurry. They are selling fast. Here are a few after-dark dazzlers (captions not needed):

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Is the Stanley Colorado’s ‘Coolest Hotel’?

Website tags “coolest hotels” in all 50 states pus DC.

Thrillist-logoWhen I clicked on Thrillist.com’s post listing of the coolest hotels in each of the 50 states plus Washington, DC, I expected the Colorado choice to be something like The Crawford atop Denver’s fabulously repurposed Union Station or Aspen’s ultra-hip Sky Hotel.  I was surprised by the site’s pick of the spooky Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. Not that I don’t like the Stanley for a whole bunch of reasons, but the coolest in the state? Here’s what thrillist.com wrote about the Stanley:

The Stanley Hotel

Estes Park, CO
Colorado’s got plenty of luxurious mountain resorts, but there’s only one so awesome it inspired Stephen King to write 200,000 words about it. This spot (named for the same guy who founded Stanley Steamer) is the hotel from The Shining, and while you might not run into a bartender who tells you to kill your family, there are enough rumored ghost stories in this place to make it a bonafide haunted landmark.

Halloween at Heritage Square

Golden fun park adds a little spookiness called BooTown.

AmazeNMazes-logoHeritage Square on the outskirts of Golden, Colo., is a beguiling place for a family excursion on the western fringes of the Denver area and easily reached from I-70. There are scenic rides, thrilling rides and kiddie rides and seasonal attractions too. The Amaze’n Miner’s Maze Adventureland is a 5,000-square-foot, a two-level labyrinth that at Halloween time is transformed into BooTown.

This slightly spooky (but not too scary) attraction is open on Saturdays and Sundays in October and through Sunday, November 2 from 11 a.m. to p.m. . This friendly haunted house is tricked out in with spooky decorations. 3D glasses bring Halloween scenes to life inside the maze. The cost is $8 per person, but buy through Goldstar and pay just $6.

With or without 3D glass in place, kids have a blast exploring BooTown, a gently spooky seasonal attraction located at Heritage Square.
With or without 3D glass in place, kids have a blast exploring BooTown, a gently spooky seasonal attraction located at Heritage Square.

Similarly, the Rio Golden Train that loops through the park becomes the Haunted Scarecrow Express, decorated with scarecrows designed and constructed by local organizations that represent their companies, groups or teams. Ride it for an additional $5.

An all-day, unlimited combination pass for all the attractions in the Adventureland is $22 and includes the human maze, Water Walkerz, Silver Spring Bungee, Magic Mountain Climbing Wall, Jewel Jump ‘n Bouncy, shooting gallery and the Adventureland’s hottest attraction, the high ropes course perched directly on top of the human maze. Bring a canned food item to Heritage Square this October and get $1 off any Halloween attraction or combo deal (limit 5 cans per person). Food will be donated to the Belmar Food Bank.

18301 West Colfax Avenue, Golden, 303-278-4FUN.

Landmark Denver Bank Becomes New Hotel

Colorado National Bank building now Denver’s downtown Renaissance Hotel.

009First, let’s let one thing straight. The recently opened (May 15 to be exact) Renaissance Downtown City Center is not the same hotel as the Renaissance Denver Hotel near Stapleton. The new one — the one with the longer name — incorporates the former Colorado National Bank Building (1915), constructed when banks looked like places where money (and gold) would be safe. The original, opulent bank is now the hotel lobby — and it’s a looker filled with art and imaginative yet classy, classically inspired furniture.

On one wall just off the lobby is a collection of historic photos ad memorabilia, one of which bears the slogan, “A bank that looks like a bank.” And so it still does, with the new paying tribute to the original — which earned it a listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Behind the imposing colonnade is the large, lavish dome-ceilinged hotel lobby that was once the main banking floor. Marble from Colorado’s storied Yule Quarry predominates.

Massive marble fireplace is the focal point of a lobby seating area.
Massive marble fireplace is the focal point of a lobby seating area.

Continue reading Landmark Denver Bank Becomes New Hotel

Frontier’s New ‘Unreward’ Policies

EarlyReturns getting more restrictive & expensive.

Old Frontier logo as a tribute to old policies.
Old Frontier logo as a tribute to old policies.

Frontier Airlines’ EarlyReturns “unrewards” members with booking fees and other restrictions. Most galling, IMO, customers will now be slammed with a booking fee for travel using their hard-accumulated frequent flyer miles unless they do so at least six months in advance. Six months!

It recently overhauled its elite status tiers, so the new fee is — as the saying goes — adding insult to injury. All award travel is assessed federal taxes and U.S. Transportation Security Administration fees, and Frontier becomes the latest  to impose an additional fee.

As the Denver Post noted, “Frontier is presenting the change as a new perk for elite members who will have the fee waived, while also pointing to its competitors at Denver International Airport — including United Airlines and ultra-low-cost Spirit Airlines — both of which already charge passengers similar fees.”

United has gotten ever unfriendlier. I am currently in Europe on miles. I redeemed 60,000 miles each way in steerage. Not long ago, friends traveled to southern Africa in business class for 65,000 each way, and Spirit’s policies are so appalling that I just warn everyone not even to consider them. Many locals have been flying Frontier to support this Denver-based airline over Dallas-based Southwest, but with such changes, I’m betting that fewer will bother.

Chihuly Glass Opening at Denver Botanic Gardens

Renowned glass artist’s 13th garden exhibition.

Denver-Botanic-Gardens-LogoEarlier this year, my husband and I saw a fantastic installation of Dale Chihuly’s brilliant glass at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, captivated, of course, and thrilled that the Denver Botanic Gardens would be the next stop in the glass-meister‘s “garden series.” Chihuly in Denver opens on Saturday, June 14, and it’s a must for anyone who lives in or is visiting the metro area or even is passing through en route to the mountains. I was fortunate to be invited to a preview or the exhibition, and thrilled that Dale Chihuly himself was there for the opening.

Glass installations sites are in place at 14 sites — some rising from plantscapes, some in water, some soaring to great heights, some in water features. Many of the pieces were specially made for this exhibition, while others are reused. Common elements between Phoenix and Denver (and presumably other gardens as well) are towers of glass, slender reeds, sinuous curlicues and more — all in brilliant colors.  The works dazzle in the bright Colorado sunlight, and look different but still spectacular after dark or on a gray day. Since the exhibition will be in place through November 30, we can expect gray days and even snowy ones.

Blue Icicle Towers with its 650 glass "icicles" greets visitors at the Gardens' entrance.
Blue Icicle Towers with its 650 glass “icicles” greets visitors at the Gardens’ entrance.
Glass reeds emerge from flower beds on both sides of the O'Fallon Perennial Walk.
Glass reeds emerge from flower beds on both sides of the O’Fallon Perennial Walk.

Continue reading Chihuly Glass Opening at Denver Botanic Gardens

Disorientation Station

Union Station’s current layout initially confusing.

RTD-logoI have been watching the remodeling of Denver’s Union Station into an intermodal transit hub, fancy food court and upmarket hotel, and I am very excited for its projected completion just a couple of months from now. Amtrak returned in late February, after being exiled to a cinderblock cube a few blocks away Part of the project involves replacing RTD’s troglodyte Market Street Station with a bright new bus station, also underground but featuring natural light and easy connections to Denver buses.

This afternoon, I had my maiden voyage via RTD‘s BMX bus to the new station, which opened just a few days ago. Signage is still unclear, so my first attempt ended in an unrecognizable area with plenty of vacant to build on.

Where am I?
Where am I? Union Station’s characteristic arched windows are over there. I know I’m somewhere behind the landmark terminal.
Hard to tell which way to go with all that chainlink fence.
Hard to tell which way to go with all that chainlink fence.

I went back downstairs and exited at the other end of the concourse. I followed “To Wynkoop Street” signs, winding through back corridors, a temporary Amtrak waiting area and construction fencing before emerging in familiar territory.

Union Station's familiar Wykoop Street side.
Union Station’s familiar Wynkoop Street side.

I know this will sort itself out in couple of months, and in the meantime, I know which end of the new bus station is up — that is, which end has the 16th Street Mall shuttle stop.

Denver Hyatt Gets Major Makeover

$23 million poured into hotel next to Colorado Convention Center.

HyattRegency-logoTime flies, and it seems as if the Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center was just recently a new downtown property. That’s my illusion, because it has been around long enough to have undertaken a $23 million redesign of all of its 1,100 lodging units. The designers selected a rich color palate that recalls the indigenous pine trees and mountain landscapes that capture the essence of Colorado, but given the toll that pine bark beetle has taken on these trees in recent years, I think of the hotel’s new interior takes on something of a commemorative aspect.

Clean-lined, contemporary guest rooms define the Hyatt Regency's sophisticated look.
Clean-lined, contemporary guest rooms define the Hyatt Regency’s sophisticated look.

Guest rooms feature modern clean lines and sparkling, granite-touched baths, soft white linens piled atop each room’s Hyatt Grand Bed, efficient work stations and the LCD Smart 46-inch televisions.  Upgraded Wi-Fi with increased bandwidth adds speed to access, and the only thing that would make it better would be if there were no “small surcharge” for access. Charging for WiFi happens to be one of my hot buttons, but for convention-going guests, paying for Internet access is arguably a small trade-off for convenience to the convention center and also to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, to the Denver Art Museum, which keeps bringing in blockbuster shows (to which the hotel usually offers lodging/admissions packages) and to city and state offices.

Since it opened, the hotel has won numerous awards,  including a number from meetings and conventions trade publications. In addition to the requisite meeting space (more than 60,000 square feet, including two ballrooms), the hotel’s literal and figurative crowning glory is the splendid Peaks Lounge on the 27th floor.  The Altitude Restaurant (breakfast, lunch dinner) has an open kitchen and a patio that will sure be popular come spring. In the lobby, there’s the Strata Bar and Perks Coffee and More, which is open 24 hours a day.  A 6,700-square-foot health club overlooking downtown Denver features a lap pool, outdoor sundeck and whirlpool enhanced by Spa Universaire.  

The hotel is at 650 15th Street, Denver; 800-916-4339 (reservations). 

‘The Moderns’ at the DAM & ‘1959’ Next Door

Masterful 20th artworks on display in Denver.

ModernMasters-logoModern Masters: 20th Century Icons” opens today at the Denver Art Museum, but I was fortunate to see it at a recent media preview. Even more fortunately, the guide was Dean Sobel, exhibition curator and director of the neighboring Clyfford Still Museum. This is the third consecutive blockbuster at the DAM, coming as it does on the elegant heels of “Passport to Paris: Three Centuries of French Art,” which was mounted right on the heels of the DAM’s exclusive “Becoming Van Gogh. Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery, one of the country’s best but least famous modern art museums, organized “Modern Masters” and sent it on the road.

This new exhibit, which is up through June 8, comes to the DAM and is on concurrently with the Clyfford Still’s 1959: The Albright-Knox Art Gallery Exhibition Recreated, a correlative exhibition on view through June 15. Also curated by Sobel, 1959 recreates Still’s landmark exhibition at the Albright-Knox in the fall of 1959  in the museum bearing his name. With more than 3,000 works, Denver’s Clyfford Still Museum is by far the largest repository of the abstract artist’s works. The Albright-Knox loaned one of its 33 Stills for “Modern Masters.”

"Modern Masters" features works by pioneering modernists from the very end of the 19th century onward.
Visitors passing one of the paintings that is part of the DAM’s new “Modern Masters” exhibition that features works by modernists from the very end of the 19th century onward.
"Modern Masters" is hung with readable captions a distance away from the works, so that people look at the art and then read, not simply read.
“Modern Masters” is hung with readable captions off to the side and slightly away from the works, so that people look at the art and not simply read. This is a Frida Kalho self-portrait with her pet monkey on her back.

 

The engaging and erudite Dean Sobel, director of the Clyfford Still Museum, explaining that "1959" was hung in the closest approximation of the way the painter himself curated what was his largest solo show ever at the Albright-Knox Gallery.
The engaging and erudite Dean Sobel, director of the Clyfford Still Museum, explaining that “1959” was hung in the closest approximation of the way the painter himself curated what was his largest solo show ever at the Albright-Knox Gallery.
Dean Sobel noted that this Still was done in Broncos colors. And so it was.
Dean Sobel noted that this Still was done in Broncos colors. And so it was.

 

“Modern Masters” is the first show which includes admission to both the DAM and Still with one ticket. It is $20 for non-member adults, $10 for members and reductions for seniors, college students, military and youth. Click here for ticket details.

Denver’s Union Station: Amtrak is Back

Landmark station still a work in progress as California Zephyr returns.

Amtrak-logoAfter being shunted to the cinderblock ignominy of a temporary station in Denver for three long years as Denver’s historic Union Station is remade into an multi-modal transportation hub, restaurant cluster and hotel, Amtrak’s California Zephyr is returning to Union Station with the first eastbound departure this evening, Friday, February 28 at 7:10 p.m. — if it is not delayed. And, of course, during the 133-year-old’s station reconstruction, it is moving to yet another temporary location.

East- and west-bound California Zephyr trains passing in Glenwood Canyon in winter. Photo: WikiMedia
East- and west-bound California Zephyr trains passing in Glenwood Canyon in winter. Photo: WikiMedia

The first westbound departure is scheduled for 8:05 a.m. Part of me wants to take a train trip from Denver to San Francisco someday, but the train doesn’t really go to San Francisco but rather to Oakland — and the trip takes 51 hours even without delays. So maybe not for me after all.

Still, I celebrate the return of Amtrak even as I doubt I will bother. I’ll save my train lust for Europe and visit Union Station to eat.