Our travel itinerary had our time in Denver for the most days compared to the other cities on our 3 week IVLP tour. None of us had ever visited the city, except for touching down at the airport enroute to somewhere else. The borders of this Midwest state are perfectly square, yet during the 5 days we were here, we found that they are pushing the boundaries with everything they do in this vibrant city.
If I were to pick one word to describe Denver, it would be ACTIVE. From the meetings, events, dinners in peoples homes, networking functions and even at the Women’s Film Festival, it appeared that every level Denver-ites were actively involved in their city.
Actively promoting their uniqueness
As if perfectly timed, we excited to learn that we arrived just in time to take in the last 2 days of Denver Restaurant Week. Over 300 restaurants across the city showcase a set multicourse menu of their signature dishes for a price of $58.20 per couple. A strange number for a marketing promotion, I thought.
It was later explained to me that 5820 refers to the number of feet above sea level that Denver is located….aka a mile high…up. This unique geographical position with the Colorado Rockies Mountain range in the not too far distance (less than 1 hour drive from the city centre) coupled with the fact that it is in a dry desert-like climate area boasting 300 days of sunshine, this city we found takes advantage of its unique altitude that no other city in the US can hold claim to.
We had delicious discoveries in downtown Denver at Restaurant 1515 and inmearby Boulder where we enjoyed lunch at Kitchen [next door]. We learned that there is a growing trend for chef/owners to start their restaurant in a small location amongst a neighbourhood such as Highlands providing lower overhead costs & rent than a downtown address. This is similar in concept to the business incubator spaces that we have visited in other cities as the location offers low overhead & operational costs as the restaurant grows its reputation and eventually moves downtown. We went to Corner House and Old Major (on its 15th day in business as they were still ironing out their kinks). Surprisingly, the restaurants were jam packed – even on Monday & Tuesday nights! Other restaurants we were tipped of as ‘must dos’ were: Squeaky Bean, Vesta’s Dipping Grill and Ace. All the more reasons to return to Denver!
Celebrating International Women’s Day
Our first day of activities in Denver could have taken place anywhere. Back to back events to celebrate International Woman’s Day where we were the guest of honour along with keynote motivational speaker Deedee Corradini, whose list of accomplishments is outstanding.
Inhale… Deedee began her career working on Capitol Hill (while being a single mom of two kids under the age of 8), first and only female mayor of Salt Lake City, UT (where she spearheaded the winning bid to host the Olympics), President of US Women’s Ski Jumping Team (leading the charge & recently winning a controversial law suit against Vancouver Olympic Games – with the Canadian women’s ski jumping team in tow) and now she’s President of International Women’s Foundation. Exhale…
I have one question – How does she do it ALL?
Both Jennifer & I wrote separate blogs about our experience during this single day as our Denver blog would be far too long. Click to read mine and Jennifer’s article: You can’t BE what you can’t SEE– that appeared in Prince George Citizen.
Time to unwind
By Saturday, we all desperately needed a break from our tightly scheduled itinerary. Waiting at airports & the times in between meetings or traveling on our bus was really the only time we had to catch up on work or call our friends and family back home. And even this time was peppered with questions about our meetings and sharing of ideas. When Denver began to brace itself for a ‘big’ snow storm, I have to admit that I was relieved to wake up to a cold rain-mixed-with-snow Saturday. While usually a perfect day to go to explore the city or visit a museum, I opted to relax & tackle my work to do list with a vengeance. Turns out that the others did exactly the same!
Denver’s active lifestyle
Sunday was carved out to be 100% ‘me time’. With new snow, and the Rocky Mountains just an hour away, what do you think I did? Absolutely! I treated myself by leaving my name badge and laptop behind to break away from our tightly knit group for a day of skiing on 13 inches of fresh powder at Breckenridge. As you could imagine, it seemed that every Denver-ite was doing the same thing!
Going from 5820 feet to 13,000 feet in a matter of a few hours took my breath away – literally. It was perfect conditions with not-a-cloud-in-the-blue-sky day, no wind, ‘fresh pow’ and the ultimate – ‘fat skis’ made my ‘me day’ absolutely heavenly in the above the treeline playground. It certainly revitalized me for the last week of our trip ahead.
This day was a turning point for me, and perhaps for the other 5 women with whom I have become fast friends. We all did our own thing on this day – not spending every waking minute with each other, which is completely different from the past 2 weeks. While I was in my element on the ski slopes, I was looking forward to seeing them to share my adventures and to hear about their day too. The 6 of us have grown an incredible bond. We have started planning our ‘reunion’ and figuring out when we will be visiting each other’s city. One thing is for certain, I have a new board of advisors for my business as they know more about Savvy Company from our meetings and discussions. I am very grateful for this unexpected connection through participating in IVLP.
‘ACTIVE-ating’ the downtown core
Since we arrived, we all commented on the positive energy and great vibe in Denver. The Denver International Airport is growing into an Airport City, there were loads of funky looking housing developments & old brownstone warehouses cleaned up transformed into offices or loft living. Construction and cranes seemed to be everywhere. There was a blend of modern, historic buildings and some that were revitalized similar to what we saw in Kansas City. Ken Schroeppel was once an urban planner, now Instructor of Planning and Design at University of Colorado Denver and highly regarded blogger on Denver’s development Urban Infill – gave us a walk through of the development plans for the city’s Union Station revitalization. He explained that residents are active in the decision making process of major developments in City Hall.
We couldn’t believe it when he explained that residents vote on all aspects of developments of their city. Yes, vote! “Denver is civic minded. They haven’t met a tax increase they didn’t like”, quips Ken with a smile. Actively engaging Joe Public in the decision making process of improvements and changes in their city was impressive. And Ken explained that the City immediately undertakes the approved change/project with a timeline to have it completed within 4 years. Mind boggling when I think how long City of Ottawa has debated the pros and cons of installing Light Rail Transit. In Denver, the Union Station revitalization and development project is already breaking ground and Francisco Alonzo – Director of Innovation at the Airport proudly reported that the first train running from downtown to the airport will be in 2016 along with a network of other lines, hotels, office buildings, active spaces for fountains, farmers markets, restaurant, retail and rental apartments.
We stayed at Brown Palace Hotel – Denver’s historic hotel. In contrast, a few blocks away was the 16th Street Mall – a pedestrianized street with free modern shuttle service that is directly connected to the city’s main bus lines providing a quick way to jump on and off at each street corner in order to make it easy to shop & dine at the various retail & restaurants lining this street. In the summer, 16th street is the heart of the city where on World Music Day, anyone with an instrument are welcome to perform on stages that the City of Denver has built. Beyond this one day activity, the Keys of the City is an innovative way to keep 16th Street Mall active with pianos of all kinds colourfully painted by local artists throughout the spring & summer months. “It started several years ago with a couple of pianos, and this summer, we figure that we will have 30+ pianos donated and painted for anyone to sit down and play or simply tinker on”, proudly commented Brittany Morris Saunders, VP Public Affairs of Downtown Denver Partnerships.
Oh, there is so much more to tell you about Denver that I will leave you with this for now
& be back with part 2 of the blog – stay tuned!
Since we had Sunday ‘off’, while I was skiing, the others did some ‘retail damage’ in Denver. Amina bought another suitcase, all the while the others bought new outfits (we were getting bored with our packed luggage) and new shoes & boots! At our Monday meetings, we had a whole new and refreshed look!
Here’s the latest count…
Total number of luggage: 11 pieces that we checked in…don’t even ask how many we carried on!
Total number of shoes & boots between the 6 of us: 42 pairs (up from last count of 38)
We are women after all! 🙂
Follow us on Twitter
For in the moment tweets about our tour, follow our group on #IVLP and
- @savvydebbie (Debbie Trenholm)
- @Halifax_Gateway (Nancy Phillips)
- @JenniferBrandle (Jennifer Brandle)
- @PillPak (Fiona Webster Mourant)
- @amigerba (Amina Gerba)