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These Ruff Times Need ‘Dogs! A Science Tail’ at the DMNS

Few places on the planet are more obsessed with dogs than Colorado. Everywhere we walk, run, shop, eat, dogs abound — and bound. If you live near a dog park and a regular playground, which is more packed on a sunny Saturday morning? The one where you hear, “Bella, drop that! Drop that! Bella, come!” Never mind, that’s both. 

In Colorado, we love our kids and our dogs, which is why you should check out Dogs! A Science Tail at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. This traveling exhibit explores the who, where, when, how, and why of dogs. Why are they the way they are? Why do they do that? If you have ever known or loved a dog, you have questions.

Dogs! A Science Tail is a joyful ode to dogs’ earliest wild wolf origins and today’s roles as floofiest friends. This sweet and accessible educational tribute to dogs will help you understand their role in nature and in your own family. Even if you are a cat person, you can’t deny the important role dogs have played in human history. Through interactive stations, you can learn how the special bond between dogs and people developed over the past 10,000 years. You’ll learn about dog anatomy, like their incredible noses that know you have a cookie crumb in your purse. How do dogs see the world? Hear the world? Are you faster than a chihuahua?

You can battle your companions in a game of “Jeopawdy,” hosted by Alex Trebek. Test your knowledge of dogs in pop culture and history. Most importantly, Dogs! A Science Tail educates visitors about how to care for and understand the dogs in our lives. Visitors can share their own dog stories on video. Plus, you can upload a photo of your own special dog friend at the end of the exhibit. Be proud of your pup! 

COVID precautions are enforced. The various stations in this and all museum exhibits are sanitized very regularly, particularly high-touch surfaces. We saw several employees devoted to cleaning in the exhibit space and they were working hard. Masks are required. To encourage and maintain social distancing, entry to Dog! A Science Tail requires a separate timed ticket in addition to your museum ticket.

To plan your visit, check hours, prices, and ticket availability, visit the DMNS

Contest: Shiki Dreams Pop-up Art Experience is the Diversion You Need Right Now

We had no idea what to expect when we entered Prismajic’s Shiki Dreams pop-up art experience. Armed with Prismajic’s Shiki Dreams app downloaded onto our phones and headphones perched over our ears, we took our first steps into an astonishing dreamscape. Kids, we aren’t in 2020 Denver any more! 

You may have been one of the lucky people who experienced Natura Obscura, Prismajic’s 2019 collaboration with the Museum of Outdoor Arts. Shiki Dreams builds on that surreal world by imagining what Shiki, a forest-dwelling Yeti, dreams at night. Your group of no more than six people can explore multiple rooms brimming with sensory experiences — from music that enhances the mood to visuals that delight (and may induce a shiver or two).

The half-hour-long dive into Shiki’s dreamworld provides ample time to journey through every thoughtfully constructed space. Japanese aesthetics and folklore are heavily featured, from origami landscapes to the music that was composed for Shiki Dreams. 25 local artists pooled their time and talents for six weeks, filling the 1500 square foot space with elements that guide you through a story while encouraging visitors to make the experience personal. There is no wrong way to go once inside. 

As an active participant in the exhibit, the app on your phone allows you to see animated scenes which hint at what Shiki is seeing and feeling. You can take screenshots of your favorite visuals while the app is running, so there is no need to switch back and forth from the app to your camera. In fact, this would detract from the experience. The music changes based on location as well. Additionally, everyone is given a small UV flashlight to sweep around the floor, walls, and anywhere you suspect there could be an invisible message left behind by Shiki. Look up, down, and all around.

Prismajic has worked hard to create a special space to explore. They have also worked hard to ensure safety and cleanliness for visitors. By limiting group sizes to six people (lower than the required legal threshold) guests have space to distance. They disinfect the flashlights, headphones, and borrowed phones (if you do not wish to use yours) between each group. Reduced hours mean they can clean and sanitize surfaces more effectively. 

To plan your visit, purchase tickets ($14), and read about Prismajic’s COVID-19 response, please visit Prismajic. The pop-up installation is located near City Park, just west of the Denver Zoo and DMNS. Your family could easily craft a fun day of exploration in the city with Shiki Dreams as a great way to round out a day immersed in culture and creativity.

Before you go, download the app Shiki Dreams onto your iPhone or Android device. Also, if you have your own earbuds or headphones, take them. They have some you may borrow if you have kids who don’t have their own devices yet. 

CONTEST

Prismajic is giving away six tickets for a 30-minute time slot. You may enter as many as five times below. 

Candle Making with Your Kids Made Easy Thanks to Rosy Rings Studio’s DIY Kits

You might be surprised to learn your double boiler has a use beyond busting it out near the holidays to make a batch of iffy fudge. 

It has a crafty side, too! Rosie Rings Studio wants to put your double boiler to use again by teaching you and your kids how to make gorgeously fragrant candles. Thankfully, they make the process beautifully simple with their DIY kits. With summer upended for so many Colorado kids, having a candle making kit or two up your sleeves is a perfect way to have creative fun in your kitchen that does not involve sugar and butter.

Candle making might sound like an intimidating process. If it were easy, we’d do it frequently instead of standing around in stores smelling 35 candles before starting all over again because they blend together. Rosy Rings Studio’s DIY kits offer a way to learn how candles are made while personalizing the experience with your own creative flourishes. There are four different kids kits that will appeal to your candle fragrance preferences.  

My kids and I spent a couple of hours in the kitchen making three unique candles. They made Blue Mountain and Orange Beach candles, while I made a stunning Blue Koi candle. We are proud of the final results. The kits were fun to unpack. Each was well-organized with step-by-step instructions. Of course, adult supervision is critically important. But what if you are the adult and you feel like you need an adultier adult to supervise you as you make candles? 

I admit, I was intimidated by what seemed like a throwback art. I put candle making in the same category as milking cows and weaving tapestries. But, I promise that even 21st-century parents can guide their kids through this innovative home-based candle making experience. 

Before you get your own kits for your kids, here are some tips: 

~ Watch the short Youtube video tutorial together

~ Don’t overfill your candles

~ Use the vinegar and water method outlined to clean your double boiler. It was simple and it worked! 

~ Let your candles cool overnight before putting the stickers on the tins

Are you looking for a way to gather your kid’s friends for a virtual gathering this summer and beyond? Rosy Rings Studio offers a Virtual Kids DIY Candle Making Party. An instructor will guide participants through the process of making their own candles. They will learn about fragrances and show off their art skills.

Rosy Rings Studio also has in-person candle workshops for adults. This is a great option for a date night or reunion with friends. Visit Rosy Rings Studio for more information on ordering Kids DIY kits or to schedule your own grown-up candle making experience. 

“The Art of the Brick” Clicks with LEGO Lovers at the DMNS

The next time you howl into the night because you stepped on a LEGO brick in your child’s bedroom, consider this: That small plastic cube that tried to murder your foot is like a sculptor’s clay or a painter’s oils, in the right hands. 

Nathan Sawaya is one of the world’s best-known artists employing the medium of LEGO. Mile High Mamas met Mr. Sawaya at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Their newest exhibit exclusively features dozens of Sawaya’s pieces. “The Art of the Brick” is a colorfully compelling and broadly appealing collection of artistry and yes, science. Since age five, when many of our own kids discover the joy of clicking those colorful pieces together, Sawaya was obsessed. Who needs marble when you have an artist who once built a full-sized dog as a child because his family didn’t have a dog?

As we snaked our way around the gallery, Sawaya shared his story. He never abandoned playing with LEGO. Laughing, he noted that he didn’t know he could go to art school, so instead, he became a lawyer, landing in New York City. From the outside, people might think he was living a dream life, but Sawaya’s craving for a creative outlet was more alive than ever. LEGO filled his apartment as he built interpretations of famous works of art and his own deeply personal pieces that reflected his desire to leave law to pursue LEGO art full time. 

We are thankful he did just that. It wasn’t easy. He didn’t have a lot of support, but he persisted. Years ago, during one of his early gallery exhibitions, a woman had a very emotional reaction to one of his pieces. Sawaya said that moment has stayed with him because it showed him that what he was doing with LEGO was art. When you take in “The Art of the Brick” many of the pieces will stir not only your sense of whimsy but your heart and soul, too. Sawaya isn’t afraid to explore challenging subjects like depression, fear, and anxiety. The use of LEGO to express these hard subjects is an interesting juxtaposition between what is traditionally a child’s toy and grown-up battles.

“The Art of the Brick” also includes odes and interpretations of famous works of art that you and your kids probably know (I spotted a few they’ve seen in Animal Crossing for sure). “The Mona Lisa”, “Starry Night” and a dozen other works are rendered with bricks, creating a pixelated look from up close but a more seamless look from afar. “David” and “The Venus di Milo” are 3D sculptures using tens of thousands of bricks. Sawaya carefully studied every angle of these pieces to get their scale just right. The most eye-popping in the famous-works section are the 3D explorations of paintings. Gustaf Klimt’s “The Kiss” and Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” pop right out into the gallery space in a way you’ve never seen them before. Every work is accompanied by information about the art and the number of LEGO bricks Sawaya used to complete the piece. They’ll make your jaw drop. The 2947 pieces on your child’s floor are nothing compared to some of his work. 

Other surprises and a compelling collaboration with photographer Dean West round out the exhibit, propelling LEGO into a new league where mediums mix. Make sure to check out the winners of the youth contest held this past spring. They are so well done and will make you smile. 

“The Art of the Brick” has traveled around the world, seen in 22 countries in over 100 exhibitions. Now that it has finally landed in Denver, you might wonder if there is anything special in store that nobody else has experienced? Sawaya’s piece “Big Blue (Swimmer)” makes its debut right here in Denver. It’s his largest work to date, using precisely 110,730 LEGO. Denver also holds another special connection for Sawaya. The first time he visited a museum as a child was when he visited the Colorado Museum of Natural History with his grandparents. Today, you know it as the beloved DMNS. (Sawaya also did a fun bonus piece as an exclusive ode to one of the museum’s fixtures on the first floor. Hint: RawRRwwr!) 

How is the DMNS handling visits to the museum and special exhibits during this time of Covid-19? Before you go for any visit to the museum, you must purchase or use your membership for timed and dated tickets. To see “The Art of the Brick” specifically, you do not need to purchase an additional ticket. It is free through Labor Day 2020, but you do need an additional timed ticket to get into the gallery. That way, they can control the crowd size to maintain social distancing. The third-floor gallery is expansive, so with crowd limitations, it’s great to know you will be able to spread out and soak in the experience without being near others. 

You can do culture in the time of COVID. It involves a little planning, masking up, and spacing ourselves out, but it is worth the effort to see and experience “The Art of the Brick”. 

For more information about the DMNS, planning your visit, and “The Art of the Brick” click here

 

Solve Summer Boredom at Epic Escape Game

As Colorado opens more businesses, you might find yourself longing to escape your home in search of entertainment that doesn’t include streaming things or bringing in the packages of your online orders. You’ve done one hundred puzzles over the past three months. How about one more? This time, it’s not going to be of kittens and balls of yarn. It’s going to be a race against time to escape a curated, clean room in under sixty minutes as you solve themed puzzles. 

Epic Escape Games Denver and Greenwood Village are open for in-person adventures. Your family can band together in a new way that includes choosing one of eleven different escape experiences. Six themed rooms are located near downtown Denver and five are in Greenwood Village. Once you choose your room, based on interest in the storyline and confidence in your solving ability, the fun really begins!

For the uninitiated, escape room adventures are usually one hour. During that hour, you are locked in a room filled with creative clues that lead you to more creative clues, several surprises, and eventually freedom. The goal is to solve your chosen mystery before time runs out. A game master watches over your progress and is there to offer gentle hints if needed. 

Our family chose a game called “It’s a Holodeck, Sherlock”. We were aboard the Starship Epic playing a simulation of a Victorian murder mystery when things go awry. We had one hour before doom hit our ship. It was a fun mash-up of Sherlock and space, which spoke to our nerdy little hearts. Bonus: We escaped with three minutes to spare! 

Additionally, the beautiful historical-landmark Denver location includes game themes involving a wizard school, conspiracy theories, zombies, Camelot, and saving Christmas. What game matches your interests? 

In these COVID-19 times, your main concern is probably how they handle sanitizing and cleanliness. First, they maintain distance by requiring groups to stay apart as they are checked in one at a time. Secondly, all people entering Epic Escape Games must wear a mask in the public areas of the building. They also provide hand sanitizer and/or handwashing right away, so everyone goes into the room with clean hands. After each game, they thoroughly sanitize the props and clues in the rooms so they are ready to roll when your game begins. You do not need to wear a mask while you are locked in the room with your family. 

What if you aren’t comfortable with an in-person game? Epic Escape Games Denver offers Fantasy escape games that are video chat-based and guided by a game master. Your group can be far-flung around the world. Breathe new life into your video chats by introducing an adventurous element as you work together to solve one of three mysteries. You don’t have to be located in Denver or even Colorado to take advantage of this option. If you live in a place that doesn’t have physical escape rooms, this is a great way to get in on the fun.  

For more information on the games offered, hours, pricing, and policies, visit Epic Escape Game Denver.  Maybe you will find yourself in the Winner’s Gallery? 

Let’s Walk! A Place to Honor and a Place to Play

The Big Dry Creek Trail has taken us from Standley Lake’s scenic shores to eye-popping underpass art. We walked buzzy Butterfly Pavilion-skirting trails and feasted on more cool murals, all in the name of exploratory walking. The next sliver of the trail features an opportunity to honor. With Memorial Day in the rearview mirror and Independence Day on the horizon, consider visiting Westminster’s Armed Forces Tribute Garden as part of your family outside time. 

Six branches of the armed forces are honored in this contemplative space just off the Big Dry Creek Trail. Normally, there is a large fountain flowing. Striking statuary rests on top, depicting the bond between soldiers as they mourn their lost. Flags flap in the wind. It is a place to quietly honor those who have served. 

After paying your respects, continue on the trail to the north, toward the Westin Hotel. You’ll see a large silver fish spinning in the sun, reflecting the ecosystem of the creek and ponds in the area. Here, the trail forks. If you go to the left, you will find yourselves at the Promenade Terrace. This also features water, which is currently turned off until further notice. Even without water, the terrace is picturesque, with steps and rocks blending into the hillside. Plenty of trees provide ample shade on hot days. The Promenade Terrace has that lovely hidden feeling that makes you forget you are in a city. 

Onward! This particular walk finally kicks into high gear once you return to the trail. You have a few options. Return to the fish, or merge onto a trail at the top of the terrace. Either way, journey east toward Westminster’s massive City Park. It boasts over 200 acres of fields, 18-hole disc golf, a playground, pond, more trails, an amazing sledding hill (bookmark in your brain for this winter!) and more. The Trail snakes along the northern edge, taking you toward Sheridan Blvd. 

Once the City Park Recreation Center is open to the public, it could be a fun day to walk The Big Dry Creek Trail with swimsuits and towels in your backpacks. On top of the hill and up about 4000 stairs, visit the indoor swimming pool and terrace, either to cool down or warm-up. 

This walk wraps up at Sheridan Blvd. At this time, there is no mural art on this underpass, mostly because of the rocky nature of the surroundings. This is where we turned around and headed back to the Armed Forces Garden and our car. The distance of the walk isn’t long — about 2 miles, but it is long on meaning, variety, and opportunity to have spontaneous fun on the wide lawns of the massive field. 

Parking: Christopher Fields Baseball/Softball fields have plenty of parking near the Armed Forces Memorial Garden. Access off 104th Avenue. The Garden is easily spotted from the street. 

Nearby: Restaurants, shopping, a movie theater, Butterfly Pavilion (check for status on opening)

Let’s Walk! An Adventure for Busy Bees Near the Butterfly Pavilion

That buzz in the air might have something to do with the end of school and the approach of hot summer days. Or, maybe you are nearing Westminster’s popular Butterfly Pavilion? That buzz could be actual bees flying out of their building situated right on The Big Dry Creek Trail. This week’s stretch of trail skips over some of the more residential portions, landing in the parking lot just south of the Pavilion’s building. Signage will let you know you are in the right place.

The Big Dry Creek Exploration Trail is a handy sliver where you can get fresh air, exercise, and learn a little about local ecosystems. This trail within the trail system is dotted with informational signs about the animals, plants, and other ecological features of the area. At publishing time, the Butterfly Pavilion is closed to visitors, but it would be a lovely place to visit if you walk the trail when it is open again. 

This offshoot of the Big Dry Creek Trail is connected by a sidewalk that runs along the western edge of the property to the north. Then, you can take the sidewalk east along Church Ranch Blvd. until you get to the trail that will take you down to a mural-covered underpass featuring fishy friends waiting for your photo op. (We saved the northbound portion of the trail for another day.)

Head south, away from the fish. The trail swings to the east, making a letter “C” as it curves back to the west. Prairie dogs are everywhere, yipping and yapping at your every move. We saw a blue heron and hawks during our walk, too. The Butterfly Pavilion will be on your right. There is little shade on this walk, so make sure you have your hats, sunscreen, and water bottles. Keep walking through this prairie environment. You’ll go under Westminster Blvd, which is marked by a huge field of rocks lining the sides. Just beyond that is another example of Westminster’s Mural Program along the trail. 

Take the tunnel under Highway 36. On both ends, enjoy the incredible mural artwork done by local artists. This is a perfect spot for photos and stopping for a little break before you backtrack on the trail to the parking lot. You can opt to take the sidewalk along Westminster Blvd. as well, making a circle.

While this particular Big Dry Creek Trail walk isn’t terribly long, there is a lot to see and do. Once the Butterfly Pavilion is open again, you could make a day out of it with indoor and outdoor adventure. 

In case you missed them:

Let’s Walk! The Big Dry Creek Trail’s Whimsical Murals are Picture-Perfect

Let’s Walk! One Family Gives the Scoop on Embarking on The Big Dry Creek Trail

Let’s Walk! The Big Dry Creek Trail’s Whimsical Murals are Picture-Perfect

Small local getaways can inspire big memories. You don’t have to pack up half your house to go on a local walking adventure. Last week, we kicked off our Big Dry Creek Trail adventure at Standley Lake Regional Park’s many miles of lakeside trails. You could easily spend a day or an hour here. There is something restorative about being along the shore of a large body of wavy water as bald eagles nest nearby. 

But now it’s time to move to the east, just a bit. Away from the water, there is plenty to see and do as you stretch your legs, get the wiggles out of your kids, and perhaps, maybe if everyone is super-duper good (including you!) a treat is in store.

A good place to park is at Westbrook Park, behind Lucas Elementary School. This park has a playground and sheltered picnic area, but as of now remains closed due to Safer at Home. Regardless, the Big Dry Creek Trail picks up just south of the tennis courts. This portion of the trail is entirely paved, which is helpful for unsteady bike riders and strollers. The distance is about a mile and a half from the parking lot to the fourth set of murals and back again. 

You’ll cross a bridge over Big Dry Creek. Look for birds and animals nearby, especially ducks. The trail snakes along the creek as you head east toward Wadsworth Parkway. As you walk, the trail loses its wilder side and becomes more citified. The City of Westminster features the work of Colorado artists on several underpasses. Fanciful murals span the concrete sections. The artwork is large, colorful, and worth the walk to see up close. 

Walk through the tunnel under Wadsworth, taking time to admire the murals on both ends of the underpass. On the east side, just up the hill to the north, is a Lamar’s Donuts. They have curbside delivery of their amazing goodies. Grab a bag to go and return to your adventure. Or, pretend it does not exist, nope, no way and keep walking east toward raised railroad tracks. Another gorgeous, very photograph-friendly mural awaits, taking you under the tracks to yet another highly whimsical and beautifully done mural.

Whether you are into nature’s artistry or artistic creations, this short, kid-friendly snippet of The Big Dry Creek Trail has a little something for everyone.

Let’s Walk! One Family Gives the Scoop on Embarking on The Big Dry Creek Trail

One of the bright spots of Colorado’s Safe at Home mandate is the easy access to abundant, inspiring outdoor spaces. In fact, everyone is encouraged to get outside for sunshine, exercise, and even a little adventure — a long as the safest practices are followed. 

Chances are you’ve walked around your own neighborhood many, many times. No matter where you live, you and your kids might be craving a change of scenery. With a little research and planning, you can take your daily walks to a whole new level without traveling beyond the recommended 15-mile radius of your home. For example, JeffCo has 244 miles of trails. The City of Westminster, alone, has 150 miles of trails, featuring wide open spaces, urban experiences, opportunities to spot animals, and sweeping views of the Rocky Mountains. To compare, famously outdoorsy Boulder County has 110 miles of trails. This isn’t a competition, of course, but it’s good to know you don’t have to go far for beautiful, challenging, and quirky walks with your kids. 

A good place to start is Westminster’s Big Dry Creek Trail. Designated as a National Recreation Trail, Big Dry Creek winds through over 1000 acres of open space and parks. It’s 12-mile length snakes from the eastern edge of Standley Lake Regional Park to Thornton, beyond I-25. The trail includes a mix of paved and unpaved stretches.

Many of our walking adventures have featured different sections of the Big Dry Creek Trail. Our family is going to eventually visit the entire length of the trail over the coming weeks. Here is a snapshot that might inspire you to branch out and explore what other neighborhoods in the metro area have to offer. We began at Standley Lake Regional Park, which is technically just west of the trailhead. It’s a great landmark to kick off getting to know the area.

This large body of water is home to numerous recreational activities, including camping, paddling, kayaking, hiking, picnicking, and fishing. There is also a bald eagle viewing area (and live eagle cam!) At this time, many of these activities are on hold, but as restrictions begin to loosen this will change. For now, everyone is welcome to walk the 14 miles of trails around Standley Lake, including sections of the Rocky Mountain Greenway Trail. There are three miles of shoreline to explore, too. 

Step up your family walking (or biking) game with sandy shores, soaring eagles, wildflower-bordered paths, and relatively uncrowded conditions. It’s easy to social distance, get some sun, hear waves lapping on the sand, and see a magnificent view at Standley Lake Regional Park. As usual, bring water and snacks, hats and sunscreen, and give yourself time to explore the wide-open wonders right in your own backyard. 

Next week: As we head east on the trail, things get more urban with quirky, Instagrammable murals and a donut break! 

 

Movie Review: Fairy Tales Come True in Pixar’s Onward

Unicorns are dirty pests that get into trash. Elves live in suburban homes with toasters and TVs. Cops are minotaurs and cyclops. A Manticore runs a family restaurant. Pixies rob convenience stores. Magic? It is nowhere to be found. 

Onward opens in a realm that has forgotten its wild and magical roots. Technology, invention, and even pure laziness have replaced the wonder of adventuring through challenges. A few haven’t forgotten the old ways, however. Exuberantly nerdy Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt) is using his gap year to careen around in a custom van named Guinevere. He is obsessed with a role-playing game akin to Dungeons and Dragons, convinced it is more than a fun hobby. It is real. When his shy, socially awkward younger brother, Ian (Tom Holland) turns 16, their mom Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) presents them with a gift from the boys’ deceased father. 

The father died before Ian was born. Barley has only a handful of memories of his late dad. When the mysterious gift offers an opportunity to spend one day with their dad, they follow the instructions. Things go very comically awry and must be fixed. The only way? To go on a quest, of course, like days of yore. Will Barley’s deep knowledge of the old days save the day? Or will Ian’s skepticism and self-doubt steer them in a new direction? 

Along the way, they meet The Manticore, voiced by Octavia Spencer. She is a fierce beast who has abandoned her legendary ways in favor of running a loud and garish family restaurant. They collide with a gang of Pixies who have forgotten how to fly (and act in public). Meanwhile, they have half a dad to lead around. These are some of the funniest movie moments Pixar has ever produced. 

Between the many laughs lies the heart of the story. Two fatherless brothers find themselves asked to redefine who they are to each other. Barley and Ian each sacrifice something of great value in order to save what they haplessly set into motion. This is a grand theme, and Pixar does very well with grand themes. Onward is not afraid to explore great loss, mourning, regret, and redemption — yet it has laugh-out-loud funny moments and delightful details. It’s the type of film you will want to see again to catch the incredible detail and whimsical touches that fill the screen. 

Pixar’s Onward is rated PG.