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Westin Family Weekends: Our Fun Denver Staycation

One of the many little slivers of wisdom I share with my kids is how lucky they are to grow up close to a major city. There are countless ways to explore cultural offerings and we are a family that loves to take advantage of all Denver has to offer. But there’s a downside. We never get the chance to play tourist in our own city. Recently, we had the opportunity to see Denver through a fresh lens.

When kids enter a hotel room, the best thing to do is stand back and watch their reactions. It’s a BED! And another?! It’s a window! Look at these little SOAPS! They like to christen the bathroom, try on the robes, stake a claim on a bed, and determine what to order from the room service menu, if presented with such a magical opportunity. I still feel this way when I travel, sometimes. There is something restorative about switching up home base, even for a single night. I guarantee, however, there wasn’t a game of cornhole waiting for us to play, or a teepee set up to hide inside at hotels when I was a kid. Westin_Denver_Downtown_Cornhole

Our very own Westin Denver Downtown offers an innovative way for families to forge memories. If you travelled with your family as a child, no doubt some of the most vivid memories you treasure are those spent exploring new places with people you loved. Westin Family Weekend Escapes provides a great jumping-off place to all downtown Denver has to offer. They focus not only on the cozy comfort of all their guests, but on vibrantly delicious foods, thoughtful touches like in-room games and play, their gorgeous roof-top pool, and the chance to sink into that pampered feeling you get when you stay in a hotel.

Sometimes, parents hesitate to take their kids to a hotel for a weekend, especially when they have a perfectly good house thirty miles away. Westin Family Weekend Escapes were created by people who know how kids are in love with the hotel experience. They take it to a new level of fun. Families are greeted in their rooms with thoughtful gifts and snacks. Colorado-oriented books (that are yours to keep!) are poised to become bedtime stories. How about a milk and cookies delivery to send everyone off to dreamland while snuggled in for a movie night? They aim to please.

Westin_Denver_Downtown_WelcomeThe Westin Downtown Denver is located in the perfect spot, surrounded by some of the city’s most beloved attractions, museums, and people watching opportunities. There are excursions to places like The Downtown Aquarium and The Denver Art Museum. Take a ride on the Platte Valley Trolley or cheer on the hometown boys at a Colorado Rockies game. On Sundays, the Westin offers late check-outs (with availability) so you don’t have to feel like you are getting the boot when there is still so much to see and do.

While you are out exploring downtown Denver, make sure to fill out the scavenger hunt booklet along the way. It encourages kids to use all their senses and keep their eyes peeled for new sights. There’s a list of missions to accomplish, like to try a new food, challenge yourself to a screen-free day, and jot down special memories.

What about feeding all those little hungry people? Kids twelve and under eat for free at the Westin’s gorgeous restaurant, Augusta, with every adult entree. The food was truly delicious, colorful, and appealing to kids while emphasizing nutrition. John Everett, the general manager of the Westin Denver Downtown, summed up the heart behind the program, “We want all of the Westin kids to experience our pillars just as our adult guests do: sleep well, play well, move well, eat well and be well. Through the careful construction of special menus for kids, they can try new things and fuel their bodies with the nutrients needed for a day full of adventure.”

What if you have a larger family or need space to stretch out? Westin Family Weekend offers a 25% discount on a second room and will do their best to make sure they are connecting rooms, when available. That way, it’s double the robes and little soaps!

For more information, or to book your own highly memorable family weekend, visit The Westin Denver Downtown.

(The Westin Denver Downtown hosted our family so we could experience the Westin Family Weekend Escapes and share with our readers.)

History Colorado’s new exhibit is all about food

The History Colorado Center is pulling back the tablecloth this summer on a topic close to most everyone’s heart.

And stomach.

“You can’t talk about human history without talking about food,” said environmental educator Liz Cook.

” Food: Our Global Kitchen” opens May 31 and runs through Sept. 1, coming to Colorado from the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

The exhibit, the Denver museum’s first major traveling show, is a full-sensory experience, tracing food’s journey from seed to market, kitchen to table, from early man to even Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.

And, yes, that means you get to eat in a museum, courtesy of daily food samplings from Whole Foods Market, the exhibit’s local presenting sponsor.

Not having food was not an option. “It’s like if you went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and didn’t hear music,” said Sharon Wilkinson, community relations team leader for Whole Foods Market in Cherry Creek. “Food is such a cultural experience and such a sensory experience.”

Jelly Belly taste experiment

Jelly Belly taste experiment

In the Taste Kitchen, the beating heart of the exhibit, Colorado brands and products will take center stage in a rotating schedule of themed samplings — crackers and spreads, pickles, spices, sauces, sweets, jams and jellies, juice and milk will all get their turn.

Budding chefs will also be able to use their noses at “smell boxes” throughout the exhibit to sniff out ingredients common to world cuisines, as well as explore the tables of historic figures such as Kublai Khan, Jane Austen and Mahatma Gandhi; and “make” African groundnut stew and other dishes at an interactive cooking table.

To celebrate the exhibit opening, the museum on May 31 is offering free admission to children 12 and under, cooking demonstrations and crafts.

Food-related special events are planned throughout the exhibit’s run, including garden tours, a local food marketplace and a June 3 lecture by Adrian Miller, winner of the James Beard Award this year for his book “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time.”

-Emilie Rusch

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foodhistoryFood: Our Global Kitchen

When: May 31-Sept. 1 (Museum hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 12-5 p.m. Sunday)

Where: History Colorado Center, 1200 Broadway

Cost: $5 with purchase of general museum admission ($12 adults, $10 students, seniors; $8 children ages 6-12); $2 off with receipt from any Whole Foods Market in Colorado

Elitch Gardens Announces New 7-Story Thrill Ride: The Brain Drain

If I didn’t already lose my marbles last summer when I rode Elitch Gardens’ monster coaster Mind Eraser for the first time, I have another chance. The amusement and water park announced yesterday their new thrill ride for the 2014 season: the Brain Drain.

Does anyone else find it worrisome their ride names are dedicated unto the loss of brain power?

Sure to deliver heart-pounding thrills, this new 7-story ride does wild, thunderous loops that send riders forwards, backwards and head-over-heels in an adrenaline-packed 360° revolution. Riders must be 48-inches tall. Go here to watch a simulation of the ride on YouTube.

Brain Drain at Elitch Gardens

Brain Drain at Elitch Gardens

“As we celebrate our 124th birthday, we are extremely excited to add the first thrill ride in a decade to the theme park,” said Tracy Durham, Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park’s director of marketing. Guests can let their hair fly as they shuttle back and forth with suspense before wildly looping seven stories in the air. With back to back seats facing either direction, each ride on Brain Drain is a unique experience with great views of the Denver skyline and the Rocky Mountains.”

 If adrenaline- and dopamine-packed rides aren’t your style, Elitch Gardens has plenty reasons to visit, including more days, more hours and more fun. For the first time, they will be offering a family-friendly “Dive-in” movie night on select Friday nights in the wave pool featuring favorites “Frozen,” “Despicable Me 2” or “Finding Nemo.”

Elitch disbanded concerts last year as they worked through capacity problems and have since opened up more space. Their concerts are back and free with daily admission or a Season Pass.  Watch for performances by Disney superstars Zendaya and Bridgit Mendler, plus Christian rock group Newsboys and Hispanic music favorite Conjunto Atardecer.

 The Mind Eraser is the only thing going up this year. Elitch Gardens also announced that season passes have been rolled back $10, paying for itself in less than two visits. The park is open May 3rd through November 2nd with 54 rides, live entertainment, thrilling roller coasters, and an entire water park. Visit ElitchGardens.com for more information and to purchase discount tickets.

Here’s for a loss of brain power this summer. Literally.

Weekly Event Round-up: Schoolhouse Rock Live, a Sock Hop and More!

Ongoing. Journey to the Middle East in “Arabia,” the latest IMAX spectacle at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Opening Friday, the film explores the region’s long human history and often-harsh geography. From a Bedouin tent in the desert to the millions of Muslims on their pilgrimage to Mecca, “Arabia” shows the diverse ways people live in the Middle East. Expect to be wowed by “Arabia”’s stunning landscapes — and seascapes — on the giant IMAX screen. 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m. daily, with additional 7 p.m. shows on Fridays and Saturdays. Denver Museum of Nature and Science, 2001 Colorado Blvd.; 303-322-7009. IMAX-only tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for students and seniors. Museum members receive a discount. For more information and to buy advance tickets, visit dmns.org.

(photo credit: Arabia – DMNS)

Ongoing. Youngsters and their parents will each have their own reasons for enjoying “Schoolhouse Rock Live!,” opening at the Arvada Center on Thursday. Grownups will get a hit of nostalgia hearing songs from the 1970s kids’ TV show of the same name — songs like “Conjunction Junction,” “Just a Bill” and “Do the Circulation.” Meanwhile, the kids will just be enjoying a rockin’ good time while learning about music, history, math and more. The show runs through May 15. Noon Thursday. Future times and dates vary; all shows are matinees. The Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada; 720-898-7200. Weekday tickets are $8, weekend tickets are $10. Call or visit arvadacenter.org to buy tickets in advance.

Friday. Celebrate African-American History month with the Real African Music concert at Broomfield Auditorium. The RAM group performs traditional African music, dancing and drumming with a multimedia flair. The show is presented by the Kudzidza Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to send assistance to Africa, and promotes cultural exchanges between the U.S. and Zimbabwe. 7 p.m. Friday. Broomfield Auditorium, 3 Community Park Road; 303-464-5835. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and students. For more information, visit broomfieldauditorium.com or realafricanmusic.com

Saturday. It’s not too early to plan for summer at the Colorado Parent 2010 Summer Camp Fair and Expo. Watch demonstrations and seminars about different camps and summer activities, including sports-, science- and performing-arts-themed summer camps. More than 60 exhibitors are expected to be on-site. Kids can get an early taste of the camp life, too, with arts and crafts, a climbing wall, face painting and more. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. National Western Complex, 4655 Humboldt St.; 303-297-1166. Admission to the event is free; parking is $7 per car. For more information, visit colorado.parenthood.com.

Sunday. Bust out the poodle skirts and ponytails for the Sock Hop Band show at the Toad Tavern. This family-friendly concert features a 12-member band of local musicians playing hits from the 1950s and ‘60s. Slow-dance to songs by crooners like Dean Martin and Roy Orbison, and rock out to old-school jams from Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly. A couple of Blues Brothers numbers will inject some Chicago flavor, too. Guests are encouraged to dress up in their best ‘50s gear for that authentic sock-hop feeling. 6-8 p.m. Sunday. The Toad Tavern, 5302 S. Federal Circle, Littleton; 303-795-6877. Admission is $5. For more information, visit toadtavern.com.

-Kathleen St. John

Class acts for creative families: Fun Family Classes!

Theresa Nuber can’t sing. Fortunately, her duet partner hasn’t noticed.

Every Thursday morning, Nuber and her 18-month-old daughter, Eva, attend The Music Train, a family music class in their neighborhood.

From sign language to tumbling, family classes aren’t just for Type-A competitive parents. Some stay-at-home moms relish the social benefits of a scheduled group activity, and working parents appreciate outings that optimize precious time with their kids.

Nuber sought out The Music Train despite the indignity of being released by her own grade-school piano teacher for lack of “ear.”

“Honestly, I was thinking music class would be grueling, listening to baby music constantly,” says the Denver mom. “But I knew it would be good for Eva, so I found one I thought I could handle.”

Now she heartily recommends the program to friends. For Nuber, the 45-minute weekly class brings positive energy to the whole week at home.

“When we listen to the music,” she says, “(Eva) does the motions, sings along and makes me sing too.”

Parents like this are well-advised to manage expectations. Music class for a 6-month-old won’t guarantee a future Mozart, but the class will provide fun and stimulating quality time.

Local parents-in-the-know helped compile this list of parent/kid classes.