Denver, CO (August 7, 2014) - What better way to kick off Labor Day Weekend than driving up the highest paved road in North America? The scenic highway to the summit of Mount Evans is just 60 miles from Denver, but it twists and turns through five different climate zones before reaching the summit at 14,260 feet above sea level. From the top, you can see five states, all of metro Denver and hundreds of snowcapped peaks. It's not unusual for it to snow at the summit - even in July and August. The road is frequently closed for the year by weather as early as mid-September, so Labor Day is traditionally the last guaranteed weekend to make the trek. Along the way enjoy herds of big horn sheep, Rocky Mountain goats, lakes, tundra, hiking trails and dozens of varieties of colorful wildflowers.
And Mount Evans is just the beginning. Spread out below the mountain are an assortment of urban adventures. Here are 10 ways to enjoy Labor Day Weekend 2014 in the Mile High City, while taking advantage of some great deals at Denver's best hotels.
1. CHIHULY AT DENVER BOTANIC GARDENS
WHEN: Through November 30
WHERE: Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York St.
Denver Botanic Gardens presents Chihuly, the Rocky Mountain Region's first major outdoor exhibition of artwork by celebrated American artist, Dale Chihuly. Chihuly's sculptures - ranging from unique water features to a 30-foot neon tower - add bold colors and dramatic beauty to the Gardens' 24-acre urban oasis. For more than 40 years, Chihuly has led the avant-garde in the development of glass as fine art. There's truly nothing else quite like seeing Colorado's soft southwestern sunlight bursting through Chihuly's amazingly colorful work.
One of the best ways to enjoy Chihuly is to take an hour-long, guided tour of the impressive, site-specific artworks as expert docents lead guests through the exhibition to learn more about the artist and his sculptures. There are also tours designed specifically for families! Dates and times for tours are: Friday - Sunday, 8:30 a.m. & 6 p.m. Learn more and register.
Book a room at a top Denver hotel and get two exclusive VIP tickets to Chihuly at the Denver Botanic Gardens. With VIP tickets attendees receive "front of the line" access to the Gardens, 10% off in the gift shop and free docent tours on Fridays-Sundays. Learn more.
2. DENVER'S UNION STATION
All aboard! Denver's gorgeous 1914 Beau Arts Union Station celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014 with a massive restoration and redevelopment, making it the "must-see" spot of the city. The transportation hub has added 8 new tracks for AMTRAK and light rail, is the starting point for two electric free downtown shuttles, and has added 8 new restaurants, as well as new retail and two new bars.
Must-try restaurants: Top Chef Jen Jasinski's multi-coastal seafood spot, Stoic & Genuine; The Kitchen Next Door, a wallet-friendly, but-still-gourmet community pub; Mercantile Dining & Provision, a new venture from the culinary minds behind longtime foodie favorite Fruition; and a new location of Snooze, The Mile High City's wildly popular breakfast joint.
For dessert, head to Milkbox Creamery, located in the station's classic former barber shop, to choose from 16 flavors of hand-churned Little Man Ice Cream, frozen yogurt, cones and milkshakes.
Enjoy handcrafted cocktails and an extensive wine and spirits list at the swanky Cooper Lounge, located on the second floor balcony, or sample two or three of the more than 30 Colorado beers on tap at the Terminal Bar.
Cool off in Wynkoop Plaza, a refreshing outdoor space with 300 water jets to frolic in.
3. BIKE AND BEER YOUR WAY ACROSS DOWNTOWN DENVER
Denver excels in many things, but two for which it is nationally famous are beer and bikes. Denver brews more beer than any other city with 36 breweries in city limits and more than 100 breweries in the metro area. Some 200 different beers are brewed in Denver every day, from sours to stouts, pilsners to pale ales. And Denver is a biking capital with 85 miles of paved, off-street bike trails. Denver's B-cycle, the first bike sharing program in the nation, offers more than 800 bikes available at 80+ stations across the city. Swipe a credit card and it's just $9 a day for unlimited 30 minute rides. Breweries located on or near bike trails include Prost, Denver Beer Company, River North, Great Divide, Wynkoop, Rock Bottom, Chop House, Hogs Head, Breckenridge, and many more - just be safe and stick to tasters. USA Today declared Denver's Cherry Creek Bike Trail to be one of the Top 10 bike routes in the nation.
4. ROCKY MOUNTAIN SHOWDOWN
WHEN: August 29 (kickoff at 7 p.m.)
WHERE: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, 1701 Bryant St.
One of the longest football rivalries in the country dating back to 1893 comes to clash when the University of Colorado Boulder Buffaloes take on the Colorado State Rams at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. At stake? Bragging rights for Colorado. There's a new wrinkle this year: for the first time ever, the Showdown will take place on a Friday evening. Whether you're a Buff, a Ram, or just love the game, experience the passion and excitement of the Rocky Mountain Showdown - college football at its Mile High finest!
Individual tickets range from $25-125, and a fan-four pack is just $99.
Colorado State University Tailgate Party: Join CAM the Ram, the CSU Marching Band and the Spirit Squad for a fun, public tailgating event to gear up for the big showdown.
University of Colorado Tailgate Party: CU Buffs fans can party in Lot C at a family-friendly tailgate party with music, entertainment, games, Ralphie, the marching band, Chip, cheerleaders and plenty of giveaways for CU fans.
5. BMW CHAMPIONSHIP 2014
WHEN: September 2-7
WHERE: Cherry Hills Country Club, 4125 S. University Blvd., Englewood
Here's a winning combination: some of the world's best golfers will be at one of Colorado's most beautiful golf courses, the Cherry Hills Country Club designed by the famed William Flynn, for the BMW Championship 2014! This nationally televised game provides spectators with a wonderful outing on the course, watching their favorite pro golf athletes. At this altitude, a golf ball travels 10 percent farther, which should add some dramatic tension to the game. Fore!
6. PHISH AT DICK'S
WHEN: Aug. 29-31
WHERE: Dick's Sporting Goods Park, 8000 Victory Way, Commerce City
For the second year in a row, Denver's Dick's Sporting Goods Park has got one of the most popular jam bands in the world for three nights this summer. Phish have earned a wildly devoted following over the past 20 years, thanks to the guitar heroics of Trey Anastasio, an always-unpredictable live show and unparalleled instrumental interplay.
7. CONCERTS AT RED ROCKS
WHEN: August 30-31
WHERE: Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre, 18300 W. Alameda Pkwy., Morrison, CO
No summer is complete without at least one trip to Red Rocks (selected by Rolling Stone magazine as the best outdoor amphitheatre in the U.S.). Sitting under a star-studded sky listening to the sound of the world's best musicians echoing off the towering red sandstone monoliths is unforgettable. Over Labor Day Weekend, groove to the sounds of indie rap superstars Atmosphere (Aug. 29) and get the blues (the good kind) with guitar hero Joe Bonamassa (Aug. 31).
8. A TASTE OF COLORADO
WHEN: August 29 - September 1
WHERE: Civic Center Park, Broadway and Colfax Ave.
More than 500,000 people make the free A Taste of Colorado the focus of their Labor Day Weekend.
Fifty of Coloradans' favorite restaurants and food establishments offer everything from small plates to full meals at this smorgasbord of Denver dining. Don't miss The Culinary Showcase, located in the Fine Dining Area, featuring local and nationally-renowned chefs offering tips and techniques you can take home to your own kitchen.
Work up an appetite dancing to hot regional and national performers. From smooth jazz to feisty rock-n-roll, five outdoor stages offer free music all weekend. Highlights include the R&B superstars En Vogue (Aug. 29), Christian rockers For King and Country (Aug. 30), American Idol's David Cook (Aug. 31), Motown legends The Commodores (Aug. 31) and breakthrough Country artist Jana Kramer (Sept. 1).
There will be plenty of music, magic, clowns and puppets on the KidzStage, and the KidZone has play equipment and a great variety of free, hands-on craft activities. KidZone hours are 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Fri., Aug. 29; and 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sat., Aug. 30 through Mon., Sept. 1.
Find unique arts and crafts, home and gift items, furniture, jewelry, imports, and more, at 280 booths in the Arts & Crafts Marketplace.
Journey back to the roots of Colorado and have fun learning about the state's pioneer past in the Festival of Mountain and Plain area. Featured artisans will demonstrate Navajo weaving and culture, spinning, rug braiding, lace crocheting, felting, and quilting, along with popular blacksmith demonstrations.
The Raptor Education Foundation (REF) uses non-releasable eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls to educate children and adults about the natural world. At the Festival, you'll be able to view live raptors and enjoy informative and entertaining presentations about these fascinating birds.
9. COLORADO ROCKIES VS. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
WHEN: September 1
WHERE: Coors Field, 2001 Blake St.
Enjoy exciting major league baseball and come out to this Labor Day Colorado Rockies matinee game at downtown Denver's classic ballpark, Coors Field.
In 2014, Coors Field got even better, with the addition of The Rooftop. The gigantic new deck (the largest outdoor deck at any sports stadium in America) offers the best views in the stadium, with a long terrace overlooking the ballpark, as well as downtown Denver and the majestic, snowcapped Rocky Mountains. The centerpiece of the Rooftop is the Tavern Ballpark, offering 52 beers on tap at a bar that is 52 feet 80 inches long and exactly 5,280 feet above sea level - one a mile high!
10. UNTITLED AT DENVER ART MUSEUM
WHEN: August 29
WHERE: Denver Art Museum
Birdwatching in the Denver Art Museum? That's just part of the unexpected happenings taking place at Untitled, the museum's final Friday series of out-of-the-ordinary evenings. These are witty, irreverent events, each one radically different from the last. Get an offbeat art fix, pick up a creative skill, and mix and mingle with local movers and makers. Top it off with a cash bar, munchies, and a dose of pure whimsy and you've got a great night out.