The long Labor Day weekend is a breather to many. What a difference an extra day off makes!
If you haven’t planned anything, do not despair. One of the many possibilities to get out of town and explore what this country has to offer is to go to the Rocky Mountains. Get a rental car in Denver and start your trip from the Mile High City.
You can take a stroll through downtown Denver and absorb the spirit of this former mining town, established in 1858. One of the most impressive buildings you can come across is the Denver Art Museum. The beginnings of the museum can be traced back to the end of the 19th century. It boasts a great collection of American Indian Art along with close to 70,000 other artifacts crossing through time and countries around the world.
In 2006, two new museums opened to the utmost delight of both Denverites and visitors. A true architectural gem, the Frederic C. Hamilton building holds the Modern and Contemporary art collection in addition to Ocean Art. Designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, the construction consists of 20 sloping planes covered in titanium shingles. None of those planes is parallel or perpendicular to another. The titanium nicely reflects the brightness of the ever-shining Colorado sun and is a beautiful sight.
The Molly Brown House
This historic house is one of the most visited landmarks in Denver. It tells the story of one Margaret “Molly” Tobin Brown whose educated mind and brave heart became a legend across the nation. Born to Irish immigrants in Hannibal, Missouri, as a young woman Margaret moved to Leadville, Colorado, where she arrived with her brother in search of a better life. After a short courtship, she married a mining engineer with great ideas, but no fortune. As fate would have it, though, her husband soon made a gold discovery in the mine where he worked as a superintendent. The owners of the mine rewarded the Browns with significant shares of their company and the family soon accumulated great wealth. They purchased the house on Pennsylvania Avenue in 1894. Enabled by her fortune, Margaret engaged in philanthropy, especially helping poor, homeless children. She was strongly committed to social reforms and worked tirelessly for the establishment of a national juvenile court system.
Molly Brown is also famous for surviving the Titanic catastrophe in 1912 and for all the comfort she selflessly provided to other survivors in its aftermath.
The family house today is turned into a museum that welcomes about 50,000 visitors every year. Back in its day, it was equipped with many quite advanced – for the time – features such as electricity, indoor plumbing, telephone lines and steam heat. Its lavish decoration reflects the fashionable European tastes of the time. Visitors can also see the variety of art objects Molly brought home from her travels.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
There are many great small ski towns and national parks whose peace and quiet you can enjoy in Colorado. But if you want to see something unique, head for the Great Sand Dunes. The view is not only spectacular, it is magical. The dunes have that outlandish quality, looking like a sand sea, surrounded by towering peaks. The park is located in the Saint Luis Valley. Scientists have determined that the formation of the dunes started around 440,000 years ago. Rising about 750 feet above the floor of the valley, the dunes are the tallest in North America. You can do some hiking or dune sledding. The park, however, is not a desert, even though it looks like one. Favorite tourist wet places are the Medano Creek and Zapata Falls, which can be accessed only through a hike in a small cave.
Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde, which means “green table” in Spanish, is an exciting archaeological site. It offers a peek into the life of the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived there between 600 and 1300 AD. The 600 cliff dwellings are very well preserved, so you can explore them further by getting inside. Since there are no doors, the only access you have is through the roof where you can use a ladder to enter. The small windows filter little light but, despite that, there is an overwhelming feeling of guarded security and safety. Perhaps the Pueblo people were trying to ward off belligerent tribes and intruders. Take a look at the masterfully crafted pottery and other objects of historical and archaeological value. Mesa Verde is among the most preserved sites of its kind in America.