Big City Tales

Flying High in the Rocky Mountain Sky

February 17, 2012
Leave a Comment

The home of the "wild" Denver Broncos and their fans.

The late country singer John Denver was definitely onto something when he composed his hit song “Rocky Mountain High.”  As the melody soars in support of his soul-searching lyrics, you can just sense the vastness and beauty of the Rocky Mountain range.  Surrounded by an unending sea of blue sky, jagged white peaks of sparkling snow, and a golden blanket of rolling foothills, it is little wonder that the song’s weary traveler forgets all his cares.  He has found peace and rebirth, like the relief that comes with arriving home after a hard day’s work.  While some would argue that “Rocky Mountain High” speaks to the landscape of Colorado away from the confines of its state capital, Denverites might have something to say to counter that notion.  Indeed, there is vastness and beauty to be found as well in Denver.  And, after just one quick visit to the “Mile High” city, you too could be feeling at home and flying high in the Rocky Mountain sky!

 

After the tailgate parties end, the big game begins!

Seeing the Sights NFL Style

One of the best vantage points to take in the expansive Denver skyline and the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains is from Sports Authority Field, home of the Denver Broncos.  When you’re sitting in the upper bowl high above sea level, breathing in the clean mountain air and admiring the panoramic scenery, it’s easy to cast your troubles away.  It’s also easy to forget there’s a football game going on below.   That is, until the Broncos score and the fans erupt like a symphony crescendo.   While an ear-shattering chorus of cheers that can be heard clear to the state borders may not make you calm, it is an experience that will shake you to your core and make you come alive.  As opposing teams can attest, “home-field advantage” takes on a meaning of its own in Denver.   When the tried and true members of “Bronco Nation” are riled up and fervently sending out their prayers to the football gods, it’s enough to leave even the heftiest linemen begging for mercy.  Renowned for their fan support, the Broncos have a multi-year streak of home game sell-outs going and keeping it going is a matter of extreme pride.  As one diehard fan that has been driving all the way from South Dakota for twenty years to support his beloved Broncos put it, “I wouldn’t miss a home game for anything!”

 

Some outside fun for the kids to burn off their pent-up energy while their parents get geared up to cheer at nearby tailgate parties.

One last charge to bring home a win for the Broncos.

16th Street Mall and the Downtown Corridor

For those who prefer seeing the sights from ground level minus the din of a screaming crowd, the 16th Street Mall is the place to go.  Designed by famed architect I.M. Pei, the wide pedestrian pathway is just over 1 mile in length and is paved in warm hues of pinkish-red and gray.  On closer inspection, you’ll notice a pattern that resembles the native diamondback rattlesnake.  Whether you meander along the smooth snake-like surface on foot or choose to ride the transit shuttle system, take your time and enjoy the sights and sounds.  The corridor is lined with trees and is accentuated with row upon row of fragrant flowers.  Nature is nicely juxtaposed against sleek skyscrapers offering a reprieve from the concrete giants.  Department stores and trendy boutiques will appeal to the shopping hounds eager to sniff out a deal.  For the architecture buffs, there are also historical buildings to view such as Union Station and the Paramount Theater.  Street performers add to the colorful ambience providing ample entertainment with singing, dancing or acting.  When you need to refuel, grab a java or bite to eat from one of 28 cafes and restaurants along the way to prepare yourself for more of what Denver has to offer.

 

Modern sculpture outside of the Denver Museum of Art.

The Colorado State Capitol building stands tall in the Rocky Mountain sky.

Arts and Culture Galore

Interested in viewing a new gallery exhibit?  How about a comedy act, or maybe the symphony or a Broadway play? Whatever your favorite pastime is, chances are good that you’ll find something going on around town that appeals to you.

The Denver Art Museum is a mix of classical and modern architecture/sculpture.   Comprised of two buildings – one low to the ground and sturdy like a fortress, the other soaring high in the sky and delicate with shards jutting out to resemble a titanium crystal – even before patrons enter they are treated to an eclectic visual experience.  Inside, the museum boasts the world’s largest collection of Native American art, impressive holdings of European and Old West classics, and also hosts major traveling shows throughout the year.

Denver is the cultural mecca of the Rocky Mountain region and there are plenty of show venues to choose from.   The modern Denver Performing Arts Complex, which is comparable in size and scope of entertainment offered to New York’s Lincoln Center, is the main hub of activity.  Located downtown, the Arts Complex is the home of the Colorado Ballet, Opera Colorado, the Colorado Symphony, and the Denver Center for Performing Arts.

 

The historical Paramount Theatre in downtown Denver.

A Green, Clean Park Machine

If you are most at home in the great outdoors, there are over 200 parks within the city limits and even more on the outskirts that are easily accessible and widely used. This makes for luscious green spaces that are especially inviting when the city is not in the grips of old man winter, but are nonetheless available year-round for those who aren’t afraid of a little snow and cold.

One of the most popular gathering places is Confluence Park, where the city of Denver was first established back in 1858.  From its humble beginnings as a gold mine camp, the river setting was an ideal spot to stake a claim. The gold is long gone, but it has been replaced by a swath of green.  Denver’s 850-mile long bike trail network runs through the heart of Confluence Park and will take you along scenic routes to most major attractions around the city.

Fans of flora and fauna will want to visit the Denver Botanic Gardens and the Denver Zoo.  With 45 gardens to choose from and an incredible array of 33,000 plants to marvel over, the Botanic Gardens are like a piece of paradise to unwind in.  For its part, the Denver Zoo ranks as the fourth most popular zoo in the United States.  Experience the dry and open plains of Africa, the lush tropical rain forests of South America, or the northern frigid shores of the Arctic as you interact with wildlife from these regions.

 

A local downtown hotel brings nature into the city in its inner courtyard.

Taking the Airport Experience to New Heights

Not only is Denver International Airport a spectacle for the eyes from the outside, it also has spectacular delights within.

The most striking facet of the exterior is the white Teflon-coated roof that appears to be a long stretch of snow-capped mountains, similar to the Rocky Mountains that are a short drive away. The airport’s design is both aesthetic and functional.  It provides striking scenery from the air and ground, and the sloping non-stick canvas prevents snow from piling up on the roof in the winter months.

 

Is it an airport or a snow-capped mountain range?

Emulating the fine form and function of its roof, the airport’s interior is decorated with a series of educational murals paying tribute to the deep history and rich diversity of this part of the American heartland.  Feel your heartbeat rise as you stand in awe at the edge of wide and deep cavernous canyons with explorers from the past looking for adventure of your own, or mop the sweat dripping from your brow as you follow along dusty trails with the pioneers who settled the land in search of gold and a place to call home.  It was intrepid spirits and weary travelers like these who found what they were looking for and laid the foundation for future generations of John Denver “wannabes.”  For those seeking a Rocky Mountain high of their own, Denver is the perfect city to launch a quest of personal rediscovery from, so fly on in to start your journey!

 

The Denver Airport is as pretty on the inside as it is visually interesting on the outside.

Just one of the many murals inside the Denver Airport that is both decorative and educational.

Advertisements

It’s a Peachy-Keen Scene in Atlanta

February 6, 2012
Leave a Comment

The headquarters of Delta Airlines in downtown Atlanta glows in the night sky.

Gateway to the US Deep South

There is truly something special about southern cities in the United States that casts a spell over visitors, and Atlanta is chief among these magical, mysterious and memorable places.   Yes, even the mere act of taking a stroll in the deep south is like stepping back in time and being transformed in mind, body and spirit.  In no time at all, you’ll be fresh and glowing as a classic Georgia peach and soaking up the goodness of the warmth and sun that permeates the city’s air more often than not.  Granted, Atlanta has evolved into an ultra-modern city complete with its fair share of crime, congestion and chaos, but — make no mistake about it — the city is teeming with history and whimsy, and is home of some of the most important political, cultural, business, sports and entertainment figures (both past and present) who have played a significant role in shaping America’s destiny.  Yes, it’s a downright peachy-keen scene in Atlanta and here are some juicy tidbits to sink your teeth into…

Centennial Olympic Park

By day Centennial Olympic Park is a gorgeous green space and by night it is a luminous light show, offering up quite a view for many patrons staying in the hotels located around its perimeter.  It is a safe and serene place, smack dab in the heart of the downtown district, where you can pass the time away at your leisure and soak up some of the infectious Atlanta ambience.

In 1996, Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics marking the 100th year of the games being held.  Medals were given out at Centennial Olympic Park and there was plenty of other “town square” type activity to keep the crowds entertained.  It is unfortunate that this site will forever be marred by the bombing that took place in the closing days of what was otherwise a very safe and very successful Olympics; however, over 15 years later, the site is still a central gathering point that plays host to many city festivals.  For example, in early May the Taste of Marietta helps kick-off Cinco de Mayo celebrations with local food vendors, artists and musicians all eager to share their time and talents.

Centennial Olympic Park is bright and green by day...

...and luminous by night looking toward the circular design of the Westin Hotel.

 

Turner Field

Home of the much-heralded and much-maligned Atlanta Braves (a.k.a. the proverbial bridesmaids of Major League Baseball whose many divisional and pennant titles over the years just can’t seem to overshadow the fact they haven’t won the really big one of late), Turner Field is the quintessential American ballpark.  It doesn’t get any better than taking in a game from the “cheap seats”, catching some afternoon sun, joining in the chorus of the infamous “War Chant” and its corresponding tomahawk chop, and chowing down on some pretty decent concession food that offers a gourmet flare a la Georgia style.  Take the time to walk around the exterior and interior corridors and celebrate the great tradition of this team that is generally in the mix of things come September/October when the race for the pennant/World Series title is on.

Take me out to the ball game...

Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack...

A proud, winning tradition - the Atlanta Braves just need some more World Series titles!

 

CNN / Headline News

Welcome to the land that Ted Turner built — big, bold, bustling — you would expect nothing less from the man who set the world standard in the delivery of cable news and “superstation” entertainment.   Sure it’s been many years since Mr. Media Mogul ventured into the land of retirement and philanthropic pursuits, but he certainly left a lasting influence and CNN headquarters is a fitting legacy to this TV legend.  The place basically runs like a well-oiled machine, but every now and then some “Breaking News” causes a stir and everyone is on their toes as they scrap their carefully prepared scripts and “wing it” on a hope and a prayer as new details become available.  Case in point, in early May 2011 what started out as a pretty routine and basic news days on Sunday the 1st, allowing for full studio tours to be conducted without interruption during the day, was quite a different story later in the evening after the news broke out of Washington, DC regarding Osama Bin Laden’s death following the raid by US Special Forces on his compound in Pakistan.   Oh to have been a fly on the wall when that news came across the wire…as it stands, we were left to our imaginations of what a mad panic frenzy it likely was behind the scenes as the various anchors and reporters did their utmost to appear calm, cool and collected as they delivered one of the biggest news stories of the year!

Welcome to CNN: the house of news and entertainment that Ted Turner built.

It's all quiet on the news front, but just wait until the BIG story breaks...

 

Georgia Aquarium / World of Coca-Cola

Located on the same parcel of land in Pemberton Place and just minutes from Centennial Olympic Park, these popular tourist attractions draw large crowds and cheers of delight from young and old alike.

The Georgia Aquarium is the world’s largest aquarium with over 10 million gallons of water and more marine life than any other on the planet, including beluga whales, otters, penguins, manta rays, hammerhead sharks and many other species from the biggest of the big to the smallest of the small.  There are over 60 exhibits to venture through and a unique feature is that the Aquarium offers a true world view of what aquatic animals encounter and experience in their native environments.  The Aquarium was a gift to the city of Atlanta bestowed by another iconic local businessman — Bernie Marcus, founder of The Home Depot — and it was his vision to provide a venue that would not only give back to the city’s residents, but would also entice visitors to the city through a world-class venue.   Mission accomplished –the gigantic Ocean Voyager tank that has whale sharks swimming amongst manta rays and a host of other ocean creatures is a feast for the eyes; while the gentle spirit of the beluga whales at play with each other and friendly seals in the Cold Water Quest tank is pure fun for the soul!

Can you imagine trying to find Nemo in this tank!

All Things Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola is another Atlanta success story and the World of Coca-Cola is a mammoth 60,000 square foot facility that tells the story of the most recognized brand of pop in the world.  There are plenty of artifacts on display from old billboard signs to a fully operational old-fashioned bottling line, but the creme de la creme of this attraction is the Taste It! center where you can sample flavored versions of Coke and its associated products from around the world.  Ever wondered what Sparberry from Zimbabwe tastes like, or how about Bibo from Turkey and South Africa?  Well, wonder no more and sample for yourself over 60 refreshing drinks, but watch out for the sugar buzz that is sure to follow!   Before leaving the hallowed halls of Coca-Cola, be sure to check out the Pop Culture Gallery and linger in the lobby for a bit to admire some of the life-size bottle statues created as part of a worldwide competition leading up to the 1996 Summer Olympics.

The signature red and white trademark of the Coca-Cola brand has stood the test of time.

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site

The man who “had a dream” is forever enshrined in honor and glory deep in the heart of the city where he was born, raised and trained to be a Baptist minister.  A bold and colourful mural depicting him surrounded by throngs of supporters during one of his many protest marches located outside of the Visitor Center is a perfect representation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the man, the civil rights advocate, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, the legendary orator in action, bravely leading the masses in  search of an end to racial segregation and discrimination, and the beginning of a new American values system that embraced equality for all and the notion of a “color blind” society.  He was fiercely proud of his southern roots and showed staunch support for African-Americans under attack in neighboring states.  In the “Courage to Dream” exhibit inside of the Visitor Center, a full history of Dr. King’s significant accomplishments are on display, including his involvement in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and, of course, the infamous March on Washington where Dr. King delivered the iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.  Some other attractions at this site are the crypts of Dr. King and Coretta Scott King, Jr. on display outside of The King Center and the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame where the footprints of civil rights pioneers from days gone by are permanently etched in granite, along with a statue of Gandhi that pays homage to the man who was an inspirational force in Dr. King’s work and laid the groundwork for his philosophy of carrying out civil disobedience via non-violent methods.

Peaceful protest makes for powerful results!

Jimmy Carter Library & Museum

The 39th President of the United States and a Nobel Peace Prize winner in his own right, Jimmy Carter is Georgia born and bred, and is a man who knows how to reinvent himself.  After enjoying a successful career as an US Naval Officer, he became a peanut farmer before turning his attention to public service; first as State Senator, then Governor of Georgia, ultimately becoming President in 1977.

While President Carter only served one term in office, the four years between 1977-1981 were eventful — particularly on the international front — and it was during this time that Camp David became synonymous with US efforts to garner a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.  President Carter played host to a series of “peace talks” between Menachem Begin and Anwar El Sadat, ultimately resulting in the signing of the Camp David Accords that eventually led to the official formation of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty in 1979.  Other successes on the international front during his tenure included the Panama Canal Treaties and US participation in the second round of Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT II).

A legacy of President Carter's time in office was the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.

Unfortunately for President Carter, his successes were overshadowed by dire economic conditions in the US, the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster, the US boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Iran hostage crisis.  All of this to say that his administration lost the confidence of the US electorate and he was ousted in favour of Republican Ronald Reagan.

Finding himself out of office, President Carter reinvented himself once again and, along with wife Rosalynn, founded the Atlanta-based Carter Center in 1982, a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization focused on human rights advocacy.   In this capacity, President Carter has continued his work as a peace negotiator, has overseen international elections in the interest of fair voting, and has endeavored to prevent and eradicate disease in developing nations.

Situated on the same plot of land as the Carter Center is the Jimmy Carter Library & Museum that includes a replica of the Oval Office and exhibits highlighting his work with the Middle East Peace Process and the Panama Canal Treaties.   A peaceful and picturesque Japanese garden in the back overlooks downtown Atlanta and is symbolic of President Carter’s efforts to broker peace around the world and is his own backyard.

The Oval Office as it was during President Carter's four-year term in the White House.

Buckhead

If you’re looking for the hottest, most happening spot in Atlanta, look no further than the trendy Buckhead area where foodies converge to shop at Whole Foods or dine at the city’s best eateries, where visitors flock to see the Atlanta History Center and the impressive Governor’s Mansion, and where diehard shoppers descend to drop their hard-earned cash on everything from designer to local artisan goods.  It’s the “it place” to be and, if you look long and hard enough, you may just find a parking spot to stop and do some window shopping and people watching.  While in this part of town, hop on over to the High Museum of Art, known as the “Louvre” of North America, located along Peachtree Street to take in the best collection of art in the US deep south.

The downtown skyline of Atlanta beckons from the peaceful gardens outside of the Carter Center.