Hurray! A non-driving day! After three days and over a thousand miles of conquering the mid-west, we woke up in Denver having nothing to do but explore Denver. Well, not quite non-driving entirely – since our hotel is pretty much on the outskirts of Denver, and not near any of the local light rail lines, we had to brave downtown rush hour traffic and get into the centre first.
As it turns out, this was no problem at all. Denver traffic is pretty light compared to a lot of places, and finding a parking lot is really easy. As I mentioned in a previous post, driving in America is less stressful than driving in the UK. Nobody seems in a rush, everyone obeys the speed limits and people seem way less quick to anger. About the only thing that takes some getting used to is the constant changing of lanes in heavy traffic, and avoiding getting stuck in an exit only lane. But otherwise it’s okay.
Our first port of call was the Denver Mint, which offers a free tour of the coin making facility. Michelle wanted to see what the Jimmy Eat World song “Lucky Denver Mint” was all about, and I liked the “free tour” aspect of it – but also it crops up on virtually every “20 things to do in Denver” list. So it seemed worth a look.
Since it is a government facility, the Mint has pretty strict regulations about what you can and can’t do on a visit. They require you to register for a tour in advance on the website, they don’t allow you to bring any bags or handguns in with you and they subject you to airport-style x-ray scans as you enter. You also need to turn up half an hour in advance of your tour slot and if you’re a few minutes late, you’re out of luck. So we spent a fair amount of time hovering around the Mint, Ingressing some portals and making sure we didn’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity!
It may sound dull, but the Mint tour was actually really cool. The tour guide was extremely jovial, in a way that defies explanation given that he must repeat the same shtick about ten times in any given day and we were allowed to look at $1.4 million in gold bars. I was expecting a room full of gold stacked high on pallets like in films, but it turned out to be only three bars! We also found out that the Mint produces collections of themed quarters (one for the states, one for famous landmarks) and we both had our Pokemon-brains coaxed into wanting to collect all of them. We’re so weak.
After the Mint, we headed a few streets over to a park that was having a festival of food trucks. Lots of fancy burger vans with names like “The Pig Rig” and “Fire Truck Crepes” (literally a pancake stand in a fire truck) and every cuisine you can imagine. I could have eaten there every day for a month. I settled on some Korean beef in a chipolte sauce rice bowl, with a cucumber and mint limeade. It was awesome, but by far the most hipster meal I’ve ever eaten. Michelle got similarly adventurous and had a raspberry slushy – though she turned down the opportunity to “mix it up” a bit with three flavours of slushy in one tub by insisting on having “blue, blue and blue flavour”!
Next port of call was “Fancy Tiger Crafts”, a nearby yarn shop. I have nothing really to write about this, but given that Michelle was rubbing wool on her face and squealing all afternoon, I am given to believe it was a good yarn shop and visit.
Final stop of the day was the Downtown Aquarium. I have a penchant for a good aquarium, so visiting this was a given. Everything I’d read about the place was positive and it didn’t disappoint. Lots of well maintained tanks with some really enourmous fish from all over the world, and an inexplicable tiger. The highlight was definitely the shark tank, which was jam packed with loads of different types of shark, including a terrifying looking “saw fish” – I swear, at one point, the saw fish was deliberately banging on the glass with its goreblade nose, looking for a weak spot. Very “Deep Blue Sea”.
The very final part of the exhibit was an open pool full of rays (stingrays and cownose rays), where you were actually encouraged to reach in and stroke the fish. The rays, presumably expecting food, would swim up to the side of the tank and obligingly hang around to be stroked for a few seconds before swimming off. Now, I found this to be an awesome opportunity and spent the best part of thirty minutes tickling the little fellas. Michelle, on the other hand, had to confront some personal demons, having apparently been set upon by a ray as a little girl. But, to her credit, she eventually faced her fears and touched one – briefly, with one finger, before jumping back ten feet shouting “I don’t like it! I don’t like it!” Baby steps, baby steps.
Anyway, it was a great place to visit, well worth the money.
After the aquarium, the skies were beginning to look ominous so we decided to head back to the hotel and spend some time in the pool.
We’ll be leaving Denver tomorrow, which I’m a little sad about. Denver is a really fantastic city with a very good feeling about it. It would definitely be a great place to come for a longer stay. Maybe next time!
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