By Allison Tibaldi, Taking the Kids Correspondent
I recently visited Denver with a small group of extended family. We were a mixed-age group with diverse interests and not much time to explore the Mile High City. The sun was shining and the air crisp, so we agreed on an activity that would keep us in the great outdoors. We settled on the Denver Botanic Gardens and were unanimously pleased with our choice. Located just outside of downtown, we pedaled there on our B-cycle bikes. Denver is one America’s most bike-friendly cities and B-cycle is its bike share program. It’s easy to navigate user-friendly B-cycle, so in no time we were pedaling away on our shiny red bikes. The only thing missing were helmets, so plan to bring your own. We stayed on flat, designated bike lanes and were impressed with how peacefully motorists and cyclists co-existed. In about 20 minutes we arrived at the Denver Botanic Gardens. A B-cycle kiosk is located just outside the front entrance, so it was easy to park our bikes and go.
The gardens are a labyrinth of paved paths that lead to photo-worthy floral landscapes. Plants from every corner of the globe are represented. If you’re interested in exploring regional flora, the Laura Smith Porter Plains Garden is graced with native grasses and wildflowers. We loved the collection of aquatic plants with water lilies so gorgeous, we felt like we were strolling in a Monet painting. The Children’s Garden, open March-November, is a 3-acre oasis for families. It offers daily drop-in programs for young visitors. If your travels will bring you to Denver before November 30, 2014, you’ll be able to see the magical Dale Chihuly exhibit. These whimsical glass sculptures are loaded with colorful kid-appeal.
We had lunch at garden’s casual café, the Hive, enjoying a scenic view of a flower-filled lake. All salads and sandwiches are prepared to order, using local produce. The freshly squeezed lemonade was an excellent thirst-quencher.
After our visit to the gardens, we pedaled back to our hotel. The Hampton Inn & Suites Denver Downtown-Convention Center was the base for our Denver explorations. We liked the warm welcome we received, spacious rooms, free Wi-Fi and the bountiful complimentary breakfast buffet. In fact, we had the option of two breakfast buffets. The 13-story building is also home to a Homewood Suites, and the lenient staff lets you dine at whichever buffet appeals to you. If you’ve ever traveled with ravenous teens with insatiable appetites, you will appreciate the chance for them to a.m. double-dip at no extra charge. The fresh fruit, eggs, cereal and baked goods gave us plenty of energy to pedal around Denver all day.
The hotel is located in the heart of town, so we were able to easily explore the shops and restaurants on the 16th Street Mall. Our group of bibliophiles had a ball browsing the Tattered Cover, Denver’s beloved independent bookstore. The children’s section is a dream and the adults enjoyed the selection of Western literature.
We ended our day with an inexpensive family meal at Sam’s No. 3, an old-school diner with a giant menu of everything from juicy burgers to a hearty breakfast fare served all day. Our time in Denver was brief, but we left eager to return.