A family escape to Denver
DENVER – Now that the Front Rangers are done beating a path to the High Country – for the time being, at least – it’s time to return the favor. While some Eagle County residents are escaping to points south or west, those with less cash on hand or families with kids in school might just look down the hill at Denver for a quick escape.The snow-capped Rockies looked a bit more appealing from the 11th floor of the JW Marriott in Cherry Creek. After all, we knew all too well the decrepit shape of the snow up close, and were happy to view the mountains from the concierge lounge at the Marriott.
The JW Marriott is a nice choice for a trip to Denver for a number of reasons. It’s close to just about everything and has plenty of restaurants and shopping within easy walking distance. That can mean anything from the swanky boutiques, bars and cafes in the neighborhood to hitting the mall at Cherry Creek or grabbing the hotel’s complimentary Mercedes shuttle to downtown.In case you’re wondering, the “JW” appellation means hotel is a step up from a typical Marriott. It’s got nicer sheets, cooler furniture and nicer bathrooms with separate showers and baths – and 32-inch flat screen TVs, for starters. It’s a nice hotel, no doubt, but it’s family friendly and not at all stuffy. Built only a couple of years ago, it has that fresh feel that only a new facility can offer.With our large family, though, the best thing about the JW was the extremely friendly staff. Our 4-year-old popped out of bed in the morning and made a statement about it being the best hotel in the world, because everyone was so nice. Granted, this was in large part due to the fact that Andrew Hall, the bell captain, gave him a stuffed animal, but it held true nevertheless.
Now is a good time to give the JW a spin. Through May, the hotel is offering a spring deal with rooms starting at $189 a night. That includes free valet parking and a $25 dining credit at the hotel’s Mirepoix Restaurant. If you’re calling to reserve a room, use rate code “XXYA.”Another attraction for dog-loving Vail Valley residents is that the JW is a luxury hotel that not only allows pets, but welcomes them with a sheepskin bed, stainless steel dog bowl and a custom-baked biscuit inscribed with the dog’s name. There’s no extra fee, no breed restriction and no deposit required to bring along the hound. The concierge also has a list of good places to take the dog for a walk.
Despite living with a two-hour drive of Denver for many years, I don’t know a whole lot about the city. It was fun to go down and treat it like an unknown capital we’d never before visited (although the older kids resisted this artifice). From where the JW Marriott sits on Clayton St. right across from the Cherry Creek Shopping Center, it’s easy to get to many of the town’s hot spots. The hotel provides a complimentary Mercedes to shuttle guest about, and it’s only minutes to places like the Denver Center, Mile High Stadium, the aquarium or Elitch’s. Golfers can walk across the street to the Denver Country Club.
Other places to reach by foot include – at my kids’ urging – the Macaroni Grill across the street. Swanky hotel or not, sometimes nothing satisfies like a mozzarella stick.Springtime is a great time to get over to Elitch’s, which opened last Saturday. The crowds are relatively small and the weather isn’t too hot yet for high-altitude dwellers. This year, the park is big on super heroes, with Batman and Rober, Wonder Woman, The Flash and others joining the likes of Scooby Doo, Bugs Bunny, Taz and other costumed characters making their way around the park. There’s also more entertainment going on at Elitch’s this year, including “The Amazing Acrobats of China” and “Carnaval de Fuego.”
More to the point are the rides, which are pretty good for a small amusement park. The Mind Eraser is one of those roller coasters that makes you feel like you’ve had your stomach removed and reinserted upside-down. More conventional coasters may wish to try the old wooden Twister, which gets the job done just fine (although someone barfed on it Saturday and it was closed for cleaning when we were ready to ride).For little ones, Elitch’s has a very nice selection of preschool rides (better than DisneyLand’s, actually). As at all amusement parks, there’s plenty of good people-watching opportunities. For Vailites, it may be hard to believe we share the same state with these people, who pack on the pounds then pour themselves into skin-tight jeans and teeny, gut-revealing tops. It’s quite amazing, really.I wanted to complain more about the $15 to park on top of the $35 ticket, but then I remembered the $16 to park to ski in Vail and decided to shut up. Besides, if you think you might hit the park a few more times over the course of the season, they’ve got a good deal on a season pass ($55) if you buy it in the next few weeks. You can also pre-buy lunch for $6 at the guest services window. It’s good for a couple slices of pizza or a hot dog plus a drink. No feast, but you won’t be as upset if you toss it on the Twister.
So for those who can’t make it to Cabo this spring, remember the Queen City of the Plains for Mud Season. On the way home, you can even combine business with pleasure and hit Sam’s to stock up on the essentials.
Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14625, or email@example.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado