1005 York St., Denver
HOURS: Sept. 16–Apr. 30 daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m.;
May 1– Sept. 15 Sat.–Tues. 9 a.m.–8 p.m., Wed.–Fri. 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
COST: $7.50–13 adult, $4–9 child, $4.50–10 senior
The Denver Botanic Gardens was designed with all types of weather in mind, making it enjoyable year-round regardless of snow or blazing sun. The 23-acre gardens sit at the backside of Cheesman Park and are on the outer edge of the Capitol Hill neighborhood.
When the original site in City Park  was repeatedly damaged, the city and local gardening enthusiasts agreed to transform an old cemetery into the new gardens. The 1960s addition of the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory, which houses tropical plants in a steamy hot dome, made the gardens more than a summer attraction.
While in recent years there has been a design emphasis and financial investment on making at least a portion of the gardens friendly to special events (such as weddings), the original mission to highlight thriving native plants remains obvious throughout the gardens.
The Rock Alpine Garden, Water-Smart Garden, and Dryland Mesa in particular are a reminder of the arid climate of the region, and they show off what grows so well with so little water. Also check out the “green” roof of the gift shop as a progressive idea for environmental design.
Throughout the gardens there are shaded benches and tables and chairs set up for enjoying a picnic (there is a small snack bar within the gardens) or taking a relaxing, pleasantly scented rest.
Across the street from the main gardens is a much smaller Sensory Garden, designed as “horticultural therapy” to appeal to all five senses. The sensory garden keeps separate hours from the main gardens and offers free admission.
During the summer, the Botanic Gardens host a summer concert series with big-name bands, and tickets can be hard to come by. Membership to the gardens has many advantages—including discounts on those concert tickets—and members-only hours when the gardens have the ambience of a lovely backyard party.
On Tuesdays mornings in the summer months, the Denver Botanic Gardens is open extra early at 7 a.m. for fitness walks and T’ai Chi classes. The mornings are sponsored by the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP). Entry is free for members of AARP, the Denver Botanic Gardens, and the T’ai Chi Project, and is $5 for non-members. After 9 a.m., standard admission fees to the Denver Botanic Gardens apply.
The T’ai Chi Project (www.taichidenver.com ) starts classes at 7:15 a.m. in the amphitheater. T’ai Chi is an ancient Chinese practice that is sort of like a meditation in motion and is a system of exercises done with very deliberate movements.