It's been a while since yours truly hit the road -- working full time and raising two kids will cramp your wanderlust -- but last month some friends and I did just that and headed west. We ventured to the capital of the Rocky Mountain region, the Mile High City, better known as Denver, Colorado.
Despite traveling a lot in my younger days, including living in the Midwest for college and going to the West Coast several times in my teens and twenties, I'd never been to the Central Time Zone region of these United States. We settled on Denver because most of us had either never been there or hadn't gone for a long time. Denver reminded me of two other cities I've blogged about on here: the hipster-ish Portland, OR and the industrial Kansas City, MO. Like those cities, Denver is a repository for a certain kind of person, someone with ambition but someone who also values beauty and fun. People from all over the country settle in Denver. At one point, someone overhead me speaking and asked if I was from the East Coast. When I confirmed that I was, he said he was a transplant from Boston -- so there you go.
On our first night, we went to the Fillmore Auditorium and saw a great, rocking Irish band called Flogging Molly. This was one of the most crazy, out of control shows I've ever seen. Just as impressive was the Fillmore itself. It's a massive concert venue like the Bowery Ballroom or Irving Plaza but even bigger. The only word to describe it is cavernous. There are maybe half a dozen bars (or more) inside the hall and there are big chandeliers that hang from the ceiling. If you ever get to Denver, I strongly suggest seeing a show there -- it's quite a scene.
Next day, after beating jet lag, we saw a baseball game at Coors Field in downtown Denver. There's nothing particularly special or distinct about this stadium but, when you're used to seeing baseball games either in the Bronx or Flushing, there's something very cool about seeing the Rocky Mountains right beyond the bleachers. After the game, we strolled along the main street (I believe it was called Market) and went to Union Station. Unlike train stations in other cities (the Union Station in DC comes to mind) this one is very small. However, if you sneak upstairs, there's an almost secret bar area where you can get some amazingly good cocktails. If you're ever in Denver, and want to find a nice quiet spot to hang, this one is perfect. More strolling followed, where went walked around Confluence Park. It's a not a particularly beautiful park but there are two small rivers that merge here -- hence the "confluence." This area is where, if the signs are to be believed, the city of Denver was founded.
The next day consisted mostly of strolling. Denver is the capital of the state of Colorado so we walked around the impressive capitol building. The seat of Colorado government borders the main downtown area and another neighborhood that can only be called "funky" -- lots of bars, restaurants, bookstores, and people walking around with long hair, ripped jeans, and tattoos. The capitol is right across the street from city hall, the two buildings almost in a face off, as these two photos taken from each vantage point will attest. Nearby are some contemporary art museums and the massive public library. On the streets are some quite interesting public art displays.
A few blocks away is the American Museum of Western Art. From the outside, it looks quite small, basically a converted townhouse. But inside it's a multiple story museum with an incredible array of paintings by Western artists both past and present. Western art is true genre unto itself and, not surprisingly, it's highly influenced by the Renaissance and Hudson River styles. There are paintings of cowboys, Native Americans, settlers, land wars, even people making movies in the desert. Again, this is a place I highly recommend if you ever get to Denver.
We spent most of our final full day out of town in Rocky Mountain National Park. I'm not much of an outdoors/hiking/nature type but, I must say, venturing around this gorgeous preserve was a religious experience pour moi. The mountains and valleys, the glaciers, the lakes and forests combine to create an milieu and experience where you see and feel the true beauty of this world, God's handiwork (if you believe in God), the veil between heaven and earth worn thin. I've never felt more at peace, more mellow, than seeing this place. I hope these photos due it some justice. One day I hope to go back.
Finally, on our way to the airport, we checked out the Molly Brown Museum. If you ever saw Titanic or The Unsinkable Molly Brown, you know the story of this woman who married money and made something of it. Unlike the vulgarian in the aforementioned movie or the singing/dancing lady in the latter, Molly Brown was a woman ahead of her time: a feminist, a humanitarian, a passionate believer in education and civil rights; she was a pioneer woman with a pioneer spirit. Her house, located in a residential downtown neighborhood, is a tasteful and elegantly preserved home. It was one of the first historic houses that I've seen that had "modern" features i.e. a telephone, electricity, refrigeration. Like its namesake, the Molly Brown house is a link from the past that stretches into our present and future.
One more thing about Denver that some of you might be curious about: I can confirm that, as one of our cab drivers said, people in this town "Love dat weed!" Colorado is one of a small handful of states in the union where recreational marijuana is legal and, as you might imagine, it's quite popular. There are dispensaries all over and the smell of "dat weed" is all over the city. Go to Denver and, if you wish, go get yourself some legal pot -- and realize why it's so dumb that it's still illegal in most of the rest of the country, including here in NY.
I enjoyed Denver and hope to return one day. We ate in lots of great restaurants and did lots of walking. If you're a New Yorker, that makes it an especially great town to visit.