Budget Travel by Bill Malcolm
It’s easy to do a long weekend in Denver from Indy.
Fares are reasonable and no less than three airlines offer non-stop flights (United, Frontier and Southwest). I took Southwest. My flight home was delayed 5½ hours since the equipment was diverted to Amarillo due to afternoon thunderstorms. I took a later flight and made it home eventually.
The new RTD “University of Colorado A Line” commuter rail now goes from the airport (DIA) to downtown’s Union Station. (The campus is nowhere near the rail line, but whatever.) It takes 40 minutes and makes just six stops. The light rail replaces an hour-plus, $11 bus ride from the airport.
Your $9 fare is also a 24-hour transit pass, good throughout the system. I used it the next day to go to Boulder on the new Flatirons Express Bus.
You can find the hood on Capitol Hill (16th Avenue) just east of downtown. Fluid Coffee Bar on 19th Avenue is a great way to start your day and mingle with the urban hipsters. Don’t miss the Sunday beer bust at The Wrangler (17 Ave at Logan, although it is moving in August one mile north to Downing Street). It starts at 4 p.m.
The shared B Cycle bike is a great way to sight-see, so bring your helmet. There is a great hiking/biking trail through downtown and along the Platte River. You can also head over to Cheesman Park and just east to the Denver Botanical Gardens. Return the bike every half-hour to your next stop, and you only pay $9 per day. You can stop at the Art Museum, REI Co-op, Union Station, and more.
The newly renovated Union Station downtown is not only a transit hub but features great bars and restaurants and a Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.
The Highlands neighborhood, just west of downtown, is a great trendy neighborhood, which also has a lot of great bars and restaurants. Brewpubs and microbreweries are everywhere.
There’s a free bus that goes up and down 16th Street Mall (Union Station to near the State Capitol), so getting around is easy.
I like The Warwick Hotel on Grant Avenue – free bicycles, huge rooms and great service. It’s handy to Capitol Hill and downtown. Tell them to remove the snack tray, though; the 7-11 is a block away.
I also like The Residence Inn and the Hampton Inn. The Sheraton is good too. Get a room in The Tower facing west on a high floor for a great view of the Rocky Mountains. Downtown has a plethora of other hotel choices. Check tripadvisor.com for more details. However, Denver is expensive for hotels.
Boulder makes a great day-trip. It also has a great farmer’s market on Saturdays. You can hike the Flatirons or drive up to nearby Nederland for a hike around Mud Lake in the Rocky Mountains. The nearby Rocky Mountain National Park is another must. You can drive up to the summit on the highest road in the country. The CU campus in Boulder is beautiful.
Drink lots of water to avoid altitude sickness and go easy on the alcohol. You can only buy 3.2 percent alcohol beer in grocery stores (no wine or liquor) but marijuana dispensaries are all around. Go figure – it’s a new tax windfall for the state. Did I forget to mention the Governor, John Hickenlooper, once ran a microbrewery?
Denver has a tennis club, a Frontrunners, a Lambda Car Club, and a swim club, so you may want to check out their schedules. I went on an outing with the car club to the Lakeside Amusement Park. If you like old cars (though I drive a 2003 Saturn) you will like this group. Indy has a chapter.
Rents are soaring, so when they ask you why you live in Indianapolis or Indiana, tell them it is affordable, friendly and we are allowed to travel. (Plus we have great bicycling trails.) – One person asked me if Indiana was a redneck state. Perish the thought. – Everyone can’t live in Colorado, but more than 2,400 people a month are moving there.
In other travel news:
Indiana outsourced its train to Chicago to Iowa Pacific, which promptly added cook-to-order meals, free wifi, a dome car, and more. The public-private partnership includes the local communities along the route, the state, Amtrak, and Iowa Pacific (the new operator of the 4-day-a-week train). Ridership and on-time arrivals are both up. The partnership is the envy of the nation. The other three days, the train is operated by Amtrak.
Either way, you leave Chicago at 5:45 p.m. from convenient Union Station in Chicago, just west of downtown on Canal Street. Leave from Indy at 6 a.m. from Union Station bus/rail station, 350 S. Illinois (arriving Chicago around 10 a.m.).
In Chicago, you can connect with other trains or head out into the city. The train features seats bigger than a first-class airline, plus no TSA. That’s right, no two-hour waits to clear security with just 3 oz. of toothpaste and removing clothing and shoe hassles. The train is a trip. Try it.
Get tickets at HoosierStateTrain.com or Amtrak.com. Be sure and try the salmon on the dinner train. Upgrade to first class and enjoy free cocktails in the dome car. And don’t forget: kids ride free all summer. Everyone enjoys the Bicentennial 15 percent discount: booking code V431 at www.hoosierstatetrain.com.
Bill Malcolm also writes the Round the Ripple column in The Broad Ripple Gazette as well as for All Aboard Indiana, the official newsletter of the Indiana Passenger Rail Association. He also does media and government relations for the latter group. Find them on www.indianahighspeedrail.com or Hoosiers for Passenger Rail on Facebook.