Denver Offers Fantastic Family Fun in 2012
posted by: Mile High Mamas
This is the year Denver tourism goes big. Spurred by solid gains in the past two tough years, the city is busting out in 2012, with celebrations of art, history, animals, presidential contenders, cyclists and collegiate athletes joining the city’s perennial exaltation of beer, snow and sports.
At least a quarter-billion dollars of tourism-friendly projects are unfurling in 2012, led by the $110 million History Colorado Center, the $29 million Clyfford Still Museum and the $50 million Toyota Elephant Passage at the Denver Zoo.
Take the tour. Visit the area’s newest attractions, some brand-new and others improved.
History Colorado Center
Leading the charge this year is the $110 million History Colorado Center, scheduled to open in late April. The 200,000-square-foot experiential museum at 1200 Broadway in Denver’s Golden Triangle will feature interactive attractions like bouncing across the Eastern Plains in a Model T, descending into an 1880 hard-rock mine and bartering at a old-time general store.
Toyota Elephant Passage
The $50 million Toyota Elephant Passage — formerly Asian Tropics — opens in June at the Denver Zoo, with about 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor pachyderm habitat, including 1.1 million gallons of water features. The 10-acre attraction will be home to bull elephants, rhinos and tapirs and establishes the Denver Zoo as an international leader in elephant breeding and conservation.
Clyfford Still Museum
The $29 million, 31,500-square-foot Clyfford Still Museum, home to 2,400 of the influential contemporary artist’s paintings, drawings and prints — virtually all of the late Still’s work — is an architectural marvel worthy of the priceless collection. Built to accommodate daily traffic, meetings and even sit-down dinners, the museum, which opened in November, has already established itself as a jewel in the city’s cultural crown.
Denver Art Museum
The Denver Art Museum is the only U.S. venue this year for the largest-ever retrospective of Yves Saint Laurent fashion-influencing work, which will include not only more than 200 of the designer’s haute couture outfits but also his sketches, film, photos and even a replica of his workspace. “Yves Saint Laurent: A Retrospective” opens March 25. On Oct. 21, the museum becomes the world’s only venue for “Becoming Van Gogh,” an exhibition that traces the life and artistic development of the post-Impressionist through 70 paintings and drawings borrowed from more than 60 public and private worldwide collections.”We do expect big crowds,” said museum spokeswoman April Pritchard. “I think fashion fans will travel near and far to see the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition.”
Molly Brown House Museum
The Molly Brown House Museum plans a nearly year-long event to acknowledge the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, with the “Heroine of the Titanic” exhibit opening Feb. 15 and running through December. Likely to generate strong international and national press, the museum will offer artifacts and photographs of the Titanic’s fateful April 1912 voyage, which Brown survived.
“They are already taking reservations and getting calls from all over the world,” said museum spokeswoman Danielle Dascalos.
Wild Animal Sanctuary
The 31-year-old, 720-acre Wild Animal Sanctuary near Keenesburg this spring unveils even more of its “Mile Into the Wild” elevated walkway and observation decks, which wind through 21 habitats and offer intimate views of the sanctuary’s collection of 300 tigers, wolves, grizzly bears and lions. Last year, the sanctuary — the oldest and largest carnivore sanctuary in the Western Hemisphere — welcomed 25 lions rescued from Bolivia and developed a Lion House facility that saw visitation double to 100,000.
“The ‘Mile Into the Wild Walkway’ will be a giant hit in 2012, and we expect to see a major increase in people coming to enjoy the unprecedented views that it offers,” said sanctuary founder Pat Craig.
Women’s Final Four
Adding to Denver’s already jam-packed sports schedule are two events that promise to elevate Denver onto the international sporting stage. The April 1-3 Women’s Final Four at the Pepsi Center marks the 31st year of the collegiate basketball contest and the 40th anniversary of the federal Title IX legislation that advanced women’s opportunities in college sports. Denver’s bids to host the prestigious contest in 2008, 2009 and 2010 fell short. The city hopes the three-day showdown accounts for 8,000 room nights and about $15 million in economic impact. Beyond that, the event will be televised in 177 countries, reaching an estimated 23 million viewers.
USA Pro Cycling Challenge
The Aug. 20-26 Pro Cycling Challenge will end in Denver with a climactic individual time trial, which could determine overall victory. The race’s debut last August drew close to 1 million fans — including 250,000 in downtown Denver — and stirred $83.5 million in economic impact. Last year’s 518-mile stage race across Colorado drew spectators from at least 17 countries and was televised worldwide.
Icelandair service at DIA
Further fueling international interest in Denver is Icelandair’s direct flights beginning May 11. With connection to 20 destinations in Europe, the new service is expected to bring $19 million in tourism spending to Colorado.
On Oct. 3, Denver gets to relive its 2008 Democratic National Convention moment as the center of the country’s political focus with the first of three 2012 presidential debates, at Magness Arena on the University of Denver campus. The debate will be the first presidential debate ever for Colorado and the nation’s only debate west of the Mississippi River in 2012.