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Need help for our 5 night vacation in DENVER

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Jan 20th, 2013, 09:04 AM
  #1
DAX
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Need help for our 5 night vacation in DENVER

It will be our first family trip to the Denver area (in place of going to New York City) during this coming springbreak. We'll be landing on Friday at different times and terminals so we have to stay close to the airport for the first night and drive out on Saturday to BOULDER for 2 nights and then drive to downtown Denver on Monday to stay at the Grand Hyatt for 2 nights before flying back to San Francisco on the following Wednesday.at noon.

IS DOWNTOWN worth 2 nights?
Our family appreciates good foodie restaurants, some shopping and urban sightseeing, I would appreciate any good suggestions/tips. Is downtown more enjoyable on weekdays or over a weekend? Do we need a car to enjoy downtown? Is it worth driving out/taking a taxi to the Cherry Creek neighborhood? My wife and college age daughter love shopping.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS vs COLORADO SPRINGS?
If there's not a whole lot to enjoy in downtown, we would consider one night in Glenwood Springs or Colorado Springs instead (we don't do extensive nature hikes). I would appreciate any feedback, thank you.
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Jan 20th, 2013, 09:22 AM
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Are you wanting to stay in urban areas? Because compared to SF, most cities don't rate, IMHO. We live in Denver, and it's a great city, but I wouldn't say it's a great downtown really.

Cherry Creek JW Marriott would be a better choice. Shopping in that area is the best in town. The CC mall has the big stores, but CC North has wonderful boutiques and restaurants. Easy to walk all over it.

Are you visiting Boulder for prospective students to see CU? It is a beautiful campus. One of our favorites for its architecture and setting.

What about one night near the airport, one night in Boulder, two nights in Glenwood Springs or (better yet) Aspen, then a final night in Cherry Creek.. Or, if you can, drive to Boulder for the first night. It is about 35 minutes from the airport.

Spring break will be very busy at the ski resorts, and hotels will be pricey, though. However, Aspen also has awesome shopping (if you are rolling in $$$).

If you don't want to drive to Aspen, stay in Boulder and Cherry Creek. Then do day-trips from there to see the sites, like Red Rocks.
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Jan 20th, 2013, 10:03 AM
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DAX
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Thank you Peaceout, we tend to like urban surroundings like Manhattan where we often go for short vacations. What would you compare downtown Denver to? We only know Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Wasington DC, Chicago and Houston. It seems that you would recommend spending one night in Cherry Creek instead of downtown Denver. What can my son & I do in the CC area when my wife & daughter shop? I believe it's close to the high tech area.

Aspen seems even further than Glenwood Springs and I would imagine that we would need snow tires/chain to get there in the last week of March.
Can you suggest what we to do in Glenwood Springs for 2 nights if we're not into nature hikes? We don't have any specific plan on what to od in Boulder either other than to enjoy the student town atmosphere and maybe some easy hikes. Any great easy hike suggestion?

I'll check out what Red Rocks is all about. Thanks again for your helpful input.
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Jan 20th, 2013, 11:13 AM
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I love Denver and visit a couple of times a year with our kids there.
The art museum is just wonderful, and the restaurant there, Pallettes, is truly excellent.
LOTS of great food in Denver. Lots of fun places to shop and explore--the Highlands area has one of the best cheese shops I have ever enjoyed. It also has Little Man ice cream, and some really fun and interesting restaurants and cute shops--becoming very gentrified.
Pearl Street in Denver is a lot of fun--one of my favorite shops is Five Green Boxes (there are actually 2 of them). Good food there also.
Broadway has a lot of antique shops.
The Museum of Natural History is good. There might be basketball or hockey.
In Boulder go see the Celestial Seasonings "factory"--fun tour for sure. Two nights in Boulder? One night and two partial days might be enough. There is a really nice butterfly pavilion in Westminster, on the way to Boulder.
I am not a huge fan of the Springs--I would go up into the mountains, but it will be high ski season and probably (hopefully) a lot of snow, and expensive at ski areas. Glenwood might not be so pricey. Colorado does a great job of keeping their roads open unless it is just completely dumping. If the chain law is in effect for cars, you shouldn't be on the road anyway.
YOu could actually just go as far as Breckenridge for a cute little ski town.
You mention that Cherry Creek is near the tech center--that would probably be Park Meadows, a shopping center on steroids for sure.
I think the downtown area of Denver is interesting--LoDo, and that area.
Top Denver restaurants for us--Fruition, Restaurant Kevin Taylor, Barolo Grill, Luce, Mizuna, and for economical French La Centrale. There's Ollie's at Cherry Creek.
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Jan 20th, 2013, 05:31 PM
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DAX - you asked about other things to do in Glenwood Springs if not in Denver or Boulder - the hot springs pool and spa is a great way to spend a day.

I'm with PeaceOut that there is not a lot of great shopping in downtown - there is some, just not a lot of it. There are, however, a LOT of good local restaurants in downtown and very nearby: Zengo, Bistro Vendome, Osteria Marco, Linger are a few that come to mind. I'll add another vote to Gretchen's for La Centrale - local, reasonable French restaurant that is always good.

I believe you can tour the Rockies stadium, Coors field if your son and you have interests in sports and depending on when you are going to be here in March. You can walk the LoDo area of downtown for some small shops, plenty of restaurants and bars. There are some great old churches around downtown as well if you're into architecture. Plenty of museums large & small - Denver Art Museum, Firefighter's Museum, Molly Brown House and I'm sure others I'm not thinking of. Denver Mint offers free tours - sign up well in advance if you want to do that - they fill up fast.

I would suggest a night or two in the mountains - nothing like the Rockies in Colorado. Aspen is nice if you have the money and would hit your requests for shopping and foodies. Breckenridge is another nice ski town that is walkable and generally a little more affordable than Aspen.

Whatever you decide, hope you enjoy your stay in my adopted state!
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Jan 20th, 2013, 10:08 PM
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DAX, was traveling today. Will give more thoughts tomorrow. It's fun to introduce people to Denver and environs.

You can see there are lots of things to do here. Denver is more spread out, like your entire Bay Area, only it runs north and south, beween the mountains and plains. I don't know what city I'd compare it to, though. Colorado, in general, has a lot of affinity with California's lifestyle. That's a very good question. Maybe someone else has an answer.

We like Boulder a lot, having lived there a few years. If you decide not to stay in a mountain town, I think Boulder is a close second, and I do suggest two nights there if you are interested in what it offers.

Boulder sits below the gorgeous Flatirons mountains. Drives into the various canyons are interesting (especially Eldorado canyon). Chautauqua Park is a must see and has great hikes (except March is iffy for hiking) and a great restaurant. From there you can drive up Flagstaff to Lookout Mountain, so you can see a panoramiv view of the Continenal Divide. NCAR is there (where Woody Allen filmed some of Sleeper). Shopping is very good, and dining is outstanding. I will be there soon for lunch, so I have been investigating where to eat next, there are so many good places. The Kitchen, on the Pearl Street mall, is wonderful. So is the Teahouseww.

If you stay in Denver, definitely stay in Cherry Creek North. Not on Colorado Blvd, even though those hotels claim to be in Cherry Creek. CCN is very close to downtown. You can take Speer Blvd downtown, and ogle the Denver Country Club neighborhood and gorgeous homes. From CCN, you could easily take your son to any number of places in Denver. You will be fairly centrally located. The tech center is really nothing to see. Just a nice enough industrial park that could be in any city.

Red Rocks is a beautiful natural ampitheater in a slanting red rock formation, on I-70 west of town, near Morrison. Cool dinosaur fossils there. We would visit it in college geology classes, and take little ones on field trips there. Musicians love to perform in the venue there.

More later. I am sure fmpden will have ideas for you, too. Your biggest dcision is where to stay.

Gretchen and tarfan gave you more good ideas. There is a lot to do here. You only have 5 nights, though. Can you add more days?
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Jan 21st, 2013, 08:14 AM
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Colorado had a lot of good choices for a couple of days outside of Denver.

I lived in Denver years ago - (late 60's) - and it has really built up. Have visited numerous times since then - and do like both the Art Museum and the Natural History Museum - and the old classic - the wild west adorned Buckhorn Exchange - where I think they still serve a good steak.

http://www.buckhorn.com/

Hey - had a part time summer job while in Denver - delivering produce for the main/local fruit and vegetable company/distributor - and always loved the Buckhorn delivery, as well as to the Brown Palace in downtown Denver, etc. http://www.brownpalace.com/

It was a fun - but crazy place to work - as the three Italian brothers who owned it had big hearts - and they would give parolees jobs, as well as ex-marines, a guy who trained dogs at the track but lost all his money betting, a couple street tough Hispanics, and moi the college student.

Hey - we all carried knives to prepare the produce (learned how to tease the spring and it was essentially a six inch long switchblade - that you could open with a flick of the wrist but it was legal
- AND a couple of times I thought there was going to be a real brawl (lots of testosterone flowing/bragging going on - the Marines claiming they were tougher than cons, yada yada) - but cooler heads prevailed and everybody jumped into the trucks to deliver the produce. Thankfully - as I didn't even know which side I was going to wind up on had it "gone down".

A couple? of hours from Denver is "The Summit - where people have mentioned Breckinridge - a Victorian themed ski town - which is nice - but we prefer the little/nearby town of Frisco - and really liked the Frisco Lodge/B & B.
http://www.friscolodge.com/ You can also press on another hour? to Glenwood Springs but if you went that far - I would go the additional hour to beautiful (albeit pricey) Aspen.

Boulder is also a great place to visit (less than an hour from Denver) - and I also like Colorado Springs - (hour plus - assuming you dodge commute traffic) especially the cute town of Manitou Springs, the gateway to Pikes Peak - and near the Garden of the Gods - a fun place to drive/walk. http://manitousprings.org/

And another old "stomping grounds" - the AF Academy - is also worth a visit - especially the beautiful chapel. http://tinyurl.com/aropnfn
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Jan 21st, 2013, 01:36 PM
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DAX
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You are all so very helpful, thank you! I really appreciate all the great details. As it stands now we will do 2 nights in Boulder, 1 night in North CC and 1 night in Glenwood Springs (wheather permitting) or downtown Denver (not in that order). We'd need more details on what to do in Glenwood Springs besides the springs/spa considering hiking maybe iffy due to freezing wheather/black ice.

Our daughter will land at 9pm from LAX while we land at 4pm so for convenience we have to stay near the airport for the first night. I wished we could extend our time but our kids only allow us 5 nights. We're getting more excited about our trip now that we have all the fantastic info about each area. Please keep them coming!
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Jan 22nd, 2013, 09:15 AM
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That seems like a lot of hotel-hopping. Do you want to move around that much?

Glenwood Springs is ok, but I don't know if it's worth the drive for just one night. There are lots of great mountain towns that are closer than that.
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Jan 22nd, 2013, 09:41 PM
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OK in that case we are going back to doing 2 nights for Boulder and 2 nights for Denver. Our trip is more for having a nice time together rather than sightseeing per se.
I'm thinking that we should only keep the car for Boulder and use taxis for CCN & downtown (good idea?) so we don't have to find parking spaces/garages.

JW Marriott raised their room prices from $225 to $309 as we're trying to book our rooms online, a bit misleading and upsetting but I suppose they have no competition in Cherry Creek North?

I really like your Barolo Grill recommendation for Piemontese food, is there any other authentic regional restaurant? We prefer excellent specific cooking (french/italian/thai) rather than mixed bag/east west fusion/steakhouses. We don't eat Japanese so Mizuna is not for us. I can't find Luce's website at all (any link?). If there is no other recommendation, which one should we lean towards for our second dinner? Kevin Taylor (Denver's top chef?),Bistrò Vendome (how good is their franco-italian cooking?), Le Centrale (good quality/value ratio?), or Osteria Marco (for salumi & pizza?). I notice that most of these places are not in CCN, is it a good idea to walk one way to downtown? One website suggests that downtown is just a $5 taxi ride from CCN (sounds walkable).
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 04:35 AM
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If you have a yen for the best pizza go to Marco's Coal Fired Pizza on Larimer (maybe--near Coors Field). It is plain delicious, and he did go to Italy to learn the techniques. He also serves limoncello marinated wings that are TDF.
Fruition isn't a specific "cuisine" but truly excellent. And again, don't overlook Pallettes--it is also a Kevin Taylor restaurant. The Barolo Grill owners take their staff to italy every year for a "refresher" course.
Try the little restaurants in the Highlands for lunch. Vendue is one, I think.
Bid for your hotel on Priceline or Hotwire. The Oxford Hotel downtown--or the Molly Brown are beautiful. Good value hotels are at the Tech Center and you could ride the light rail from there to midtown. GOOD light rail.
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 09:28 AM
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Dax, yes there is an alternative to JW Marriott. The Cherry Creek Inn is a small boutique hotel. You'll find the rooms smaller but also less expensive. It's smack dab in the center of Cherry Creek and has a small restaurant. I'll try to find the website for you.

Downtown is not walkable from C.C.N. and I'm sure it'll cost more than $5.00 for a taxi.
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 09:34 AM
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I live in CCN and still couldn't get the name right. It's The Inn at Cherry Creek on Clayton. The website is www.innatcherrycreek.com

I really don't know how much a taxi would cost, but it's about 15 minutes from downtown to Cherry Creek North. There is also excellent bus service, but I know some people would never consider taking a bus.
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 09:57 AM
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Here are the websites for Luca d'Italia and Mizuna (not a Japanese restaurant--as you can see) http://mizunadenver.com/ http://lucadenver.com/
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 10:51 AM
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Thanks Marty. I meant to look that up. And yes, NOT Japanese! Their cookbook is excellent.
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 02:22 PM
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DAX
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Thanks for your good input Gretchen, history traveller and Marty. I will check out Mizuna and your other recs. I'll take a second look at Pallette for lunch, I believe people whined a lot about service at Pallette if the food is that good. I tried to check the Inn at CC room prices/availability but the website is not letting me check March at all. I'll try it again later after work.
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 03:10 PM
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BTW, there are some good restaurants in Cherry Creek North just not any excellent ones. That said, there are several I prefer over Luca's which IMO used to be great but now is a bit stuffy and over-priced.

Mizuna, Luca's, Fruition and Barolo Grill are about half way between CCN and downtown with Fruition and Barolo Grill being closer to CCN. Both are on 6th Street. Fruition and Barolo are my favorities. Fruition for originality and Barolo for great regional cooking which is not easy to find in Denver.
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 03:44 PM
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I don't know if you'd consider these "fine dining", but they are in Cherry Creek North and are quite good:

Piatti
http://www.piatti.com/denver/#

North
http://www.foxrc.com/frcwp/wp-conten...inner_Menu.pdf'

For lunch, the Cherry Creek Grill is good:
http://www.viewmenu.com/cherry-creek...enu?ref=google

Then again, there are lots of good restaurants in CCN. Kona Grill, Brio, etc.

And I agree that Barolo Grill is a special place.
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 04:19 PM
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Also in CCN and one of the best IMO is La Merise on 2nd Street. Typical French Bistro ambience and similar menu. This is one of our favorites in CCN. New to CCN is True Food Kitchen. I've only eaten there once and was not particularly impressed. They're concept is healty food. That may be the problem I had. It was almost good. For hamburgers and such the Cherry Cricket is v. good.
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 04:46 PM
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Correction, La Merise is on 3rd Street and the Cherry Creek Grill, Piatti's, True Food Kitchen, North and the Cherry Cricket are on 2nd Street. IMO any of these would be a better choice than Kona Grill or Brio. K.G and Brio aren't bad just not as good.
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