Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Week in Denver-- an Urbanist's Paradise

I attended a week-long seminar on time series econometrics and forecasting hosted by the National Association of Business Economists. The seminar was at the Denver branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, which is located right downtown on the 16th Street Mall. This location put me in the center of action and allowed me to enjoy how marvelous Denver was.



The Airport
The airport was nice, new, and still under construction. Best part of my experience was departing the TSA waved half of us into a line where we had to neither remove our shoes nor our laptops from our bags-- just like the old days.
Courtesy Palmalimousine.com

Transportation to/from the Airport
Denver is building a train that will run straight from the airport to downtown. Until then, SuperShuttle and other services offer flat $22 shared van ride to anywhere you want to go in Denver. This was quick and easy and dropped me off right at my lodging. 

Courtesy: www.supershuttle.com

Airbnb
This was my first experience with Airbnb. The way travel reimbursement works in my office, two different people/credit cards have to handle airline and hotel; you can't book both at once to receive a discounted rate (government inefficiency, you know). Since the up-front for the hotel was on me I was not excited about the cheapest hotel I could find close to the conference being $190.
Enter Airbnb, where I found a nice queen bed and a hostess who really cares about her guests for $60/night. One of the hens in her backyard layed me eggs for my breakfast, doesn't get much better than that! Here is where I stayed.


Transportation within the city:
Denver is a great walking city and not bad for bikes either. There are these bike rental stations all over town, for $8 you can rent a bike for the day and park it at the station that's nearest to your destination. 



The buses run regularly and are adequate; there is a non-stop stream of electric buses that run up and down 16th Street Mall, the main strip of downtown, for free.


There is also a service called Car2Go:
 "car2go vehicles can be accessed 'on-demand.' Unlike traditional carsharing programs, car2go allows its members to use the vehicle for as long as they like, without committing to a specific return time or location. They can finish the trip in any authorized parking space within the car2go Home Area. Attractive “by-the-minute” rates include costs for fuel, insurance, parking and maintenance.

These cars are allowed free parking in certain spots downtown. 

I walked everywhere and felt relatively safe. There are plenty of green spaces in Denver, it really is beautiful in the summer time. I took a jog in the main park, it was sort of like Central Park for Denver. There is a zoo, museum, and IMAX located there.

My seminars were at the Federal Reserve, which has a money museum that I didn't find all that interesting. I

Food and Drink
A wonderful vegetarian breakfast hash that included sweet potatoes and gluten-free muffin from WaterCourse.
Outside the airport, I never saw a McDonald's all week. Seriously. I saw a couple other chain restaurants including something called a Subway Cafe, and a million Starbucks, but no McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, etc. Most of the restaurants were local, and all of them served vegetarian and gluten free meals prominently. I had some unbelievably good food.

Every restaurant sells alcohol, including local beers on tap. It's a little odd to walk into a Panera-like place for breakfast and be greeted with several taps. Same things with places that advertised as coffee houses/bars. Denver folks love their beer, and there are plenty of breweries.

Marijuana
I did not try any of the legal retail marijuana, nor did I see any for sale, although the tourist centers offered info about it. I did see plenty of college-aged students walking around stoned and smelling of pot, though. Colorado's coffers are raking in more money from marijuana sales than even the highest forecast predicted.

Weather
I happened to be there when the Artic Vortex was in play, and that made temperatures wonderfully cool with highs in the 70s in mid-July. That was awesome.

Would I live here? Absolutely! "Prosperous" is the word I would use to describe the place. There are plenty of newly renovated or newly-constructed apartment buildings with fitness centers, close to groceries, etc.

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