March is madness if you’re focused on basketball, but it’s a month full of “marvelous” if you’re headed to the Mile High City – Denver, Colorado. With a full menu of professional sports and concerts, some of America’s best shopping and cuisine and six great ski areas less than 90 miles away, we suggest that you bring in Denver to break the spring beach habit.
Throughout the month of March, you’ll find Colorado Avalanche professional hockey games and Denver Nuggets pro basketball games to take in at the Pepsi Center, right in the middle of downtown. If sports aren’t your thing, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra season is in full swing, giving their best to composers like Beethoven, Rachmaninoff and Vivaldi in 14 March performances at Boettcher Concert Hall. Toward the end of the month, the Colorado Ballet puts on four stunning Director’s Choice performances in the Newman Center near the University of Denver campus. If you’d like to keep learning while on Spring Break, there are free days at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Denver Art Museum and the Botanic Gardens.
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS) has intriguing natural history exhibits, amping up its wow factor with interactive human physiology exhibits, IMAX films, a planetarium and immense skeletons of prehistoric dinosaurs. In close proximity to the DMNS is the Denver Zoo, so combining the two in the same visit might make for a fun-filled, educational day. If you’ll be visiting more than one of these hot spots, take advantage of the money-saving Mile High Culture Pass, good at seven museums and attractions over a five-day period.
If you’re up for a little hike into the hills, you can catch the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships, just 90 minutes up the I-70 corridor in Vail. From March 3 to March 8, catch some of the premier stars of slopestyle and halfpipe as they compete for US titles. You could make a day of it if you’d like to get some of your own runs in. There are shuttles to Vail offered by several companies, but Powderhound runs on your schedule with a fleet of comfy vans.
If you’d rather prep and polish your own mountain skills, shuttles can also whisk you off for a day at Copper Mountain, Keystone, Winter Park, Breckenridge or to the city of Boulder’s favorite runs at Eldora. If you’ve got your own wheels, you could drive, but it’s much more spring break-ish to relax while someone else navigates the après-ski crush hour, getting you back to the city relaxed and refreshed.
When you’re in Colorado in the spring, you should expect variable weather conditions. It can snow one day, followed by a 60 degree day the next. If warmer weather makes snow sports seem so last season, pick up a racket and head to Gates Tennis Center in Cherry Creek, just a couple miles down Speer Boulevard. With 20 courts, lights and just $6 per court/$8 for doubles, Gates is one of the country’s best tennis bargains. A popular, well-maintained facility, it happens to be snuggled right up next to the Cherry Creek Shopping District and a fabulous shopping mall.
Yes, we said shopping. Even when you’re on spring break, there’s always time for a little retail therapy, especially when it is as plentiful, diverse and interesting as this. Cherry Creek Shopping District is a collection of neighborhood blocks devoted to 300 retail businesses. Just across 1st Avenue at University Blvd. sits the Cherry Creek Shopping Center’s 160 stores with anchors in Macy’s, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and a stunning mix of high-end specialty and brand-name shops. Another cool shopping stop, especially if you love outdoor sports, is the REI flagship store near downtown on the Platte River, with its own indoor climbing wall and outdoor mountain bike trail.
For a great indoor swimming experience, head up to the northern suburb of Westminster for a dip in one of their three indoor pools. The complex, owned by the City of Westminster, boasts water slides, rope swing, aquatic climbing wall, current channel, hot tub, sauna and steam room. They also have a natural stone rock climbing wall, racquetball, handball and basketball courts all of which are very affordably priced as a community supported rec center.
You will have to take time out of this busy spring break schedule to eat, and that’s a good thing, because Denver does food as well as anywhere in the country. First meals of the day are reliably good at The Egg Shell in Cherry Creek. For more than 30 years, they’ve been serving up omelets and stacks to hungry diners. It’s not fancy, and there is no alcohol, but it is delicious and affordable. The Market on Larimer is another option downtown. For a good bloody mary with your scrambles, try Lucille’s. And if you’d like a little more luxury, head to The Brown.
The Brown Palace Hotel has epitomized the best of everything in Denver since 1892, and that includes brunch. Ellyngton’s at The Brown is formal and fabulous, as are the rooms and the spa. The Brown’s downtown location makes it convenient to everything. If The Brown isn’t really your style, hotel options are plenty, both in downtown Denver and the Cherry Creek area with a broad range of prices and amenities. A few are scattered out around the airport, but it’s quite a hike from town, so choose accordingly.
Two final pieces of advice for your Denver vacation: don’t forget the sunglasses and give yourself time to adjust to the altitude. In addition to all the fun, there is also lots of sun, so protect your eyes. And at a mile high the air is a little thin, so take it easy your first day, then let ‘er rip!