Denver International Airport is an interesting place.
Not for any of the facilities or amenities or stuff like that. Rather, it seems that during construction, there were so many delays and problems and cost overruns that people started looking at the project with a gimlet eye. And as they squinted to see the details, they distorted the appearance of other things. Suddenly, all those underground tunnels took on a sinister appearance. The public art and murals decorating the place contained secret symbolism. And the layout of the runways? Don’t get me started (because if I told you, I’d have to kill you).
Yeah, the place became a hive of conspiracy theories.
Now that it’s being renovated (or expanded, or upgraded, or otherwise improved), Denver is having fun with the theories. Signs on the walls blocking off the areas under work joke about them. The one that tickled me the most featured a cat wearing a tin foil hat, and asked the question:
What are we creating?
A. More space for interesting artwork.
B. A better airport experience.
C. Zombie cat lairs.
Learn more about it here – if you can handle the truth!
Not helping much, and guarding the ground approach to the airport, is a giant blue horse rearing on its hind legs. A nice symbol appropriate to Denver (Home of the Broncos NFL team) and The West…. But did they have to put red lights in its eyes? Locals call him “Blucifer”….
Well, I made it out of the airport alive, and got to my hotel without incident. Though I could not help but notice all the dispensaries in the warehouse and industrial districts along the way. Colorado was the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, but it’s not really a tourist attraction. Especially since several states have done, or are considering doing, the same thing. If partaking is your thing, look for places with a green cross, and remember that they are cash only.
I stayed at the Crowne Plaza downtown. Close enough to pretty much everything you could want to see in the city proper. By the way, it turns out that the City of Denver is also the County of Denver. I have no idea why. The Crowne Plaza is your basic mid-level hotel. I got the sense that it catered to the casual business traveler (someone going to a conference or business event at the nearby Convention Center) or a group in town for an event. I’ve been at cheaper hotels, and more expensive ones – this fell pretty much right in the middle. I do want to give a shout out to the hotel bar. I actually enjoyed hanging out there, and I can strongly recommend the house special cocktails. Didn’t try their restaurant, though.
The hotel is a block and a half from the 16th Street Mall, which is the city’s main retail district. It’s about a mile long, and runs from the Civic Center bus terminal near the State Capitol all the way to Union Station. There is a special free shuttle bus that runs up and down the street / mall – which, other than emergency vehicles, is the only motorized traffic allowed. It’s a pretty decent way to link the area’s mass transit network – the buses at the Civic Center, Amtrak at Union Station, and local light rail on some of the streets in between.
If I can gripe about the local mass transit (and I can, because this is MY blog!), it’s not that easy for a visitor to figure out. The only map of the bus routes that I found was the official one, which is just an overlay of the routes on Google Maps – and almost impossible to interpret. No artistically presented map showing the available routes in specific neighborhoods, no maps on the poles marking the bus stops, etc. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough, but it should have been easier. The Free Mall Ride was great, though it officially shuts down by 1:30 in the morning. I could live with that, but it seemed like it stopped much earlier. I can only recall seeing one bus after 10 pm – the entire time I was there. Yes, I know it’s a weeknight and people aren’t likely to be out at the restaurants late, but seeing how it connects so much of your transit network, could you maybe at least run two buses along the route until midnight?
Like many cities these days, Denver also offers the option of bike (and scooter) sharing services. Not having ridden a bike in ages (and not caring to get the app for something I’d rarely use), I decided that somewhere I’ve never been before was not the ideal place to relearn that skill.
Okay, now that were here, we’ll check out the things to see and do next time – starting with Coors Field.