Home » Denver makes a comeback with free events, longer hours, more access
Denver makes a comeback with free events, longer hours, more access
May 6, 2021
Hope, and Denver’s warm-weather crop of arts and culture events, springs eternal.
Make no mistake: The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and strict rules will remain in place for indoor events and most outdoor ones in the coming months. Some long-delayed events, such as touring Broadway shows, won’t return until December, at the earliest.
But there are reasons to be optimistic. The Colorado Convention Center reopens this week. Denver’s vulnerable arts nonprofits mostly squeezed by during the pandemic, leaving plenty of options for our return to public activities. As some have already discovered, less-crowded spaces and faster admissions are huge perks (as long as they stick around, that is).
Again, the losses were staggering over the past 13 months, and independent venues and programmers in particular are desperate for revenue, and the much-needed assistance they’ve been promised by our state senators. But the resilience in Colorado’s cultural sphere also impresses, thanks in part to foundation, city and tax-assisted funding, and to the countless creatives who adapted to a brutal 2020 and early 2021.
Here are three encouraging signs, with samples of events that are already here (or coming soon), that Denver’s arts and culture scene may be able to safely move forward again this summer. (Hours, locations and ticketing information are available on their respective websites.)
Reasons to visit, and play
One of the best things about parks, museums, botanic gardens and zoos is exploring them at your own pace, which is a blessing for parents of young kids as much as adults. Thanks to variances granted by the city, some of Denver’s marquee nonprofits reopened earlier this year with modest capacity, such as Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Zoo, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Denver Art Museum and History Colorado Center. Longer hours and more capacity are likely on the way in the coming weeks, leaders have said.
Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus on May 5 began offering more flexible check-ins for reserved playtimes and activities — most of which are now open. (Sorry, no Adventure Forest yet.) mychildsmuseum.org/safer-play
Westminster’s nationally unique, 25-year-old Butterfly Pavilion remains open for reserved visits, but will also be bringing back its day and summer camps for kids ages 5-12. Also, its popular plant sale returns May 9. butterflies.org
Elitch Gardens reopened May 1 with nearly half of the theme park’s normal capacity, while the more affordable Lakeside Amusement Park encouraged sign-ups for its calendar updates (on a homepage that declares “Think Fun 2021”). Federal Heights’ massive Water World plans to open with limited hours later this month, weather allowing. All have instituted new procedures to keep visitors safe, according to press statements. Details are online. elitchgardens.com; lakesideamusementpark.com; waterworldcolorado.com
Virtual, streamed events took over for real ones during the pandemic, but many programmers are sticking by them to complement — and, in some cases, replace — upcoming shows. Why? Because reduced capacity, production costs, uneven comfort levels, and other factors will persist this year to depress in-person attendance. That’s caused some to postpone their usual dates far in advance (see Cherry Creek Arts Fest, which moved to Labor Day, or the recently renamed Denver Fan Expo, which likely won’t be held until 2022). And while there’s nothing like live experiences, virtual events can offer greater access to people with disabilities, as with the inaugural ReelAbilities Denver film fest, May 5-8 online (jccdenver.org/arts-culture), or bring in big names who may not otherwise visit Denver, as with Denver Public Library’s Saturday Matinee series. Also coming up:
Denver’s Cleo Parker Robinson Dance will present an in-person and live-streamed spring concert of dance and film called “ComePassion,” May 8-9 at CRPD Theatre (119 Park Ave. West) and online at cleoparkerdance.org. The program closes out the renowned company’s clipped, 50th anniversary season.
Denver Pride, the Juneteenth Music Festival and other reliable summer draws will this year offer a mix of in-person and virtual events, said organizer Norman Harris of Mile High Events this week. lgbtqcolorado.org; juneteenthmusicfestival.com
As part of its world-class orchestral and chamber series, June 24-Aug. 4, Bravo! Vail will offer simultaneous live-streams for select shows. bravovail.org
Last summer notwithstanding, Denver annually boasts dozens of free arts and culture events that would otherwise be worth paying for. Outdoor music series on patios and in parks provide anchors for social gatherings, attracting and sending people back out into neighborhoods to spend food and drink dollars. Theater, comedy, music, dance, opera and art festivals typically offer free programming to attract ticket-buyers, while free-admission days underwritten by the seven-country metro area’s Scientific & Cultural Facilities District are more important than ever, given the deep hits most of took last year. The full free-days calendar is forthcoming, SCFD officials have promised; see updates on scfd.org.
Five Points will celebrate Cinco de Mayo this weekend with free, outdoor music that mingles with the neighborhood’s newly minted First Friday Jazz Hop nights. Free salsa lessons will take place in Five Points Plaza, May 7-8 along Welton Street, with performances from Los Chicos Malos, Conjunto Colores, Los Mocochetes and others. milehighfestivals.com/first-friday-five-points
City Park Jazz, one of Denver’s best free, outdoor events, plans to return in person, but is teasing a “home edition” on its website, following virtual programming in 2020. And Levitt Pavilion, whose primary mission is to provide free, high-quality concerts at Ruby Hill Park, is already back on the horse with shows starting this month. cityparkjazz.org orlevittdenver.org
The Art District on Santa Fe and other creative districts are gearing up for First Friday art walks and free outdoor programming, which many expect to return starting in June (however limited in capacity). colorado.com/certified-creative-districts
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