Things are already looking good.
When we called in 2021 we had a new perspective of what a new year means. Now we know (literally) everything to expect. And while we continue to mask and socially distance ourselves, we know that the January 1st calendar doesn’t mean things will be “normal” again anytime soon. But this year has to be better than the last, right? Some big changes are coming to town at Mile High, and we deserve more than the right to look forward to what we have to look forward to. So let’s move into the future where big projects like Meow Wolf and the renovated Cog Railroad will debut and where we’ll (hopefully) be back in the stands cheering on our home teams and watching our favorite bands record on stage. 2021 is here and we’re older, wiser and finally learned to wash our hands regularly, so let’s do that, Denver.
Meow wolfIf you’ve ever gone through the washing machine to another dimension at Meow Wolf’s OG Santa Fe site, you know that when the Denver outpost opens in late 2021, you should expect the unexpected. At 90,000 square meters, this is Meow Wolf’s largest installation to date, with plenty of space for surprising surprises. The project was first announced in January 2018 and this will (hopefully) be the year we all finally get a glimpse into the experiences of over 110 local artists.
This huge new complex next to Coors Field will transform the Ballpark neighborhood in 2021. So when we personally compete for the home team this year, things will be different. In addition to luxury condos, hotel rooms, new restaurants, shops, and more, the development features a 30,000-square-foot public space where you can expect year-round activations like an ice rink in winter and outdoor movie screenings in summer. The construction work is currently in the final phase. So it shouldn’t be long before we explore the Foodhall restaurants and check out the new Rockies Hall of Fame, which is inside the hotel. Summer shows at this iconic venue are synonymous with Colorado summer … through 2020 that is. While the reality of getting back on the rocks for live music in 2021 remains to be seen, the venue has a tentative schedule with a number of shows from artists like Die Antwoord, Lord Huron, Glass Animals, Iron & Wine, and many more. To stay positive, let’s imagine walking up the stairs together while returning to our seats with a beer in hand as the sun goes down and our favorite band plays … and in the meantime, staying masked to make it happen can be a reality.
Concerts in small music venues
While Red Rocks is the mecca for big events, what makes Denver’s music scene special is all of our smaller venues. This is where local acts can share their craft as the sweaty and smiling crowds gather, and we can’t wait to get them back. In the meantime, many venues have other ways in which you can show your support, like the Lion’s Lair Lounge, Denver’s oldest continuously functioning independent music venue that currently has a GoFundMe to cover costs from 2020, the Oriental Theater, its friend a friend of the O fundraiser with donation options and Hi-Dives Merch Store where you can collect t-shirts, masks and more to show some love for this South Broadway classic.Elitch GardensIn 2018, Denver took quite a shock when it was announced that a massive redevelopment, The River Mile, was planned for the location that is currently Elitch Gardens amusement park. The roller coasters, the Ferris wheel, and the spinning water slides are an integral part of the downtown skyline. So it’s strange to imagine a Denver without this one. And although yes it will be gone in the future, it’s still a few years away from development so we all relaxed a little knowing we could get a Mind Eraser fix for a while longer. Then came 2020 and the park could never open for the summer season. 2021 will be the 130th anniversary of Elitch Gardens and they are working hard to plan a summer long celebration. So, plan a lot of classic amusement park adventures soon.
Pikes Peak rack railwayDown in Colorado Springs, this main attraction is slated to make a comeback in 2021 after the closure was unrelated to COVID since 2017. The gears have been in operation since 1891, but this final maintenance shutdown took much longer than initially expected. Now the railway is to (finally) reopen in May 2021, so that you can experience a train journey like no other again. The trails rise to an altitude of 14,115 feet for a nine-mile drive and offer breathtaking 360-degree views the entire way to the summit. Add this to your summer plans ASAP.
This major renovation project was originally scheduled to debut in 2020, but then … we all know what happened there. The good news? The comeback is still in the works and will give us another reason to visit this cultural institution in 2021. In addition to the expanded gallery space, a spiral staircase and other elements that improve the functionality of the building, the highlight, the unveiling of the building, will be its new outdoor area on the roof on the seventh floor, which promises a breathtaking view of the city center from a completely new perspective.
Fill the booth at sports facilities
We all discovered together that COVID was really real when entire seasons of sporting events were canceled in March. And in Denver, a city of five major professional sports teams, the prospect of a year without cheering fans sparked some long sadness in 2020. And sure, while the games were returning, fans mostly didn’t. There was no passion for the Rockies’ opening day. Broncos games had very limited seating. And when the Nuggets played their season opener at the Ball Arena (formerly The Pepsi Center) at the end of December, the seats were empty. Whether 2021 offers the chance to dress up our favorite team colors and cheer in person as we used to do is unknown, but fans will be sure to be there once it’s safe because COVID couldn’t stop our Mile High pride. Biker Jim’s gourmet dogs
The reopening of restaurants and bars at rest
In 2020 we permanently lost many food and drink favorites, from the legendary jazz bar El Chapultepec to long-time favorites like Tony’s Diner and The Market. Others, however, have taken a different approach and temporarily closed as the cold winter temperatures coupled with the current restrictions made it more profitable to turn off the lights for a while and wait. As 2021 kicks in, we can hope to hear soon reopening plans from the long list of hibernating restaurants and bars, everything from the famous Casa Bonita in South Park and the oldest restaurant in Denver, The Buckhorn Exchange, to Weiner Mecca Biker Jim’s and the classic dive includes bar favorites like The Squire Lounge.
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Molly Martin is a Denver-based freelance writer who can’t wait to take a Colfax pub crawl in 2021. Follow her @mollydbu on Instagram and Twitter for more information on food, fun and life on Mile High.