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Denver Museums
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by Richard S. MacDonald

There are over 40 museums in the Denver area. This article will let you know a little about some of the larger ones, from the Denver Art Museum  to Buffalo Bill's Grave and Museum in Golden, Colorado. First of all, we'll do a tour of the downtown museums starting and ending at the main city bus terminal at Market and 16th Street. The city bus is by far the easiest way to get around the downtown area and the fares are reasonable, in fact for most of the downtown area you can ride the 16th Street shuttle for free.

Fire Wagon from Firehouse #1

Firehouse #1

If you go south on Tremont Place and, just past 14th Street, you will come to the Denver Firefighter's Museum in historic firehouse #1.  There you will find exhibits of fire fighting equipment used from 1863 to the 1940s, such as the steam pumper. The fire station is located at 1326 Tremont Place.  It is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday through Friday only. They also open for birthday parties at $6.00 per child and $2 per adult. Included in the child's price is a firefighter's hat. And if you

wish you can, go back to the south on Tremont to Colfax and cross the street. Turn left and you will come to the Denver Mint, where you can visit the museum as well as see coins being made and bills printed. The entrance is on the side.  The Mint is not far from the Capitol Building.

After you leave the Mint, you can walk south between the Mint and the City and County building then turn left and, in two blocks, you will come to the Denver Art Museum, located at 14th Avenue and Bannock St.. You can't miss it; it looks like a tall, narrow castle in shiny gray tiles. 

The entrance fee is $4 for adults. If you are a child under 12 or 65 or older you can get in for $2.50. And if you happen to be driving, there are a number of lots in the surrounding area. It is

The Denver Art Museum

Denver Art Museum

best to drive by the front of the Museum, (between it and the City Park), to the sign telling you where you can get validated parking.  (Ask at the museum front desk for a stamp on your parking ticket so that you donít have to pay for parking).

The Museum holds 7 floors of painting, sculpture and crafts ranging from pre-Columbian to modern with an emphasis on Western Hemisphere art. Each floor of the museum has a theme so that if you are interested in only one classification you need not search all over. Note that the building itself is a work of art designed by Italian Architect Gio Ponti.

The American West art collection on the 7th floor includes paintings by  Bierstadt, Russell, O'Keefe and others as well as photographs from Henry Jackson. There are a few examples of Native American artifacts here including some Native American beadwork.  The Native American art collection is one of the best in the country with pieces from over 100 tribes in the U.S. and Canada.  On the 3rd floor, you will find many American Indian art pieces.  That exhibit is continued on the 2nd floor with art from the Northwest Coast Indians.

The Denver Art Museum contains the only Asian art collection in the Rocky Mountain area with arts from Japan, China, Tibet, Nepal, Korea, India and other countries in Asia. 

The modern and classical art collections include works by Monet, Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rodin, Warhol, O'Keefe, Corot, Degas, diSuvero, Picasso, Modigliani, Dine, Grooms, Remington, Russell, Samaras and other local, regional, national and international painters and sculptors.  On the 2nd floor are the architecture and graphic arts collections as well as modern furniture.

The 4th floor contains outstanding examples of pre-Columbian and Spanish colonial pieces from South, Central and North America.  

On the first floor of the museum are galleries for temporary exhibits, the shop (where the prices are quite reasonable) and an excellent restaurant for your lunch. If you want something different, Smokin' Joe's Emporium is just up the street north of 14th Ave. There you can get a southwestern barbecued beef sandwich for less than $5. Add a beer or a coke and the tab is still less than $7. They also have other barbecue items, chili and at least one special dinner each day. The service is very good. Just a block West on 13th Ave. between Bannock and Cherokee is Pint's Pub that seems transplant from London. They have Sandwiches and English style lunch plates in the $5.95 to $7.95 range. Those include Fish and Chips and a Ploughman's lunch.

Just on the other side of the same block is the Denver History Museum, housed in the historic Byers-Evans house. It is open from 12 to 4 on Tuesday through Saturday.

In the immediate vicinity of the Art Museum are several galleries. If you like black and white photography, the Camera Obscura Gallery at 1309 Bannock Street is
well worth a visit. There you will find excellent prints from some of the best photographers of the last century or more. The first floor always contains a temporary exhibit, usually from one photographer. Around the corner from Camera Obscura is the Native American Art Gallery. They carry art and handicrafts.

Continuing on foot, go East for a couple of blocks to Broadway Avenue. Go south on Broadway for a block and you will find the Colorado Historical Society building on the left. It houses the Colorado History Museum. Just past it on the right side of the street if you happen to be driving is a parking lot. Otherwise the parking meters cost $1 per hour and you can expect to spend at least two and probably nearly 4 hours in the museum. If you want to view the exhibits in time sequence, start downstairs. The stairway is just around to the left of the ticket counter at the main entrance.

A conestoga covered wagon

Conestoga Wagon

Downstairs you will find items and dioramas showing the early Indians who lived in the Denver area and exhibits of items from the early mining days right up to fairly modern times, such things as replicas of settler's cabins, agricultural and mining tools and machinery and Victorian furniture. One exhibit includes items from the Tabor family including portraits of Mr. Horace Tabor, his first wife Augusta and Baby Doe. There is a diorama of Denver in 1860, a conestoga wagon from the settlement days, and a cowboy chuck wagon along with a plains Indian teepee.

Back up the stairs you will find several more dioramas as well as items and pictures of the modern era from 1900 to the present. These include videos of John F. Kennedy's inaugural address and Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. In short, this is a museum that you do not want to miss, no matter what else you might want to see in Denver. The museum is open from noon to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday and from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on other days. Admission is $3 for adults, $1.50 for children, and $2.50 for seniors. Children under 6 are free

Denver Public Library

The New Denver Public Library

Now if you return to the downtown area, head toward the Art Museum but stop as you get close to the Denver Public Library.  It is an impressive building with an excellent western history collection as well as a very good genealogical collection in addition to what you would expect in a large public library. Between the library and the Art Museum, notice the colorful modern sculpture.

You can return by going to Tremont Street and up to the 16th Street mall where you can stroll to the West or take the free shuttle back to the bus station.

Now that you are through with the main museum attractions in central downtown, you may want to drive West (or take bus number 10) to the Forney Transportation Museum at 15th and Water Streets where you will find a great collection of autos of all kinds as well as carriages, sleighs and trains. Just a few blocks south of there is the Denver Children's Museum. Go south on water street and turn left at  where the sign points you to the Children's Museum. There is free parking.

Grocery Store for Kids

Kid Sized Grocery Store

Hamster & Wheel


Kids building their own car

How to Build a Car

The Children's Museum of Denver, is a great place for kids from 2 to 12 years old. It is a hands-on museum with lots of fun things, most of which are also learning tools. Open from 10 to 5 every day except winter Mondays.  There is a special toddler's area is open from 9 to 10 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday.

Running from around the Forney Museum to beside the Children's museum is the Denver Rail Heritage Society's Trolley. A ride on the trolley is a real treat and (weekends only in the winter) is well worth the $2 per adult and $1 per child or senior citizen. Trips run every half hour from 11:15 to 1:45 then again at 3:15. A special long-distance trip runs at 2:15 and returns about 3.

You can also reach these two museums by car if you drive by going to  I-25 and just get off at the 23rd Avenue exit (right near Mile High Stadium) and to East. The street bears left and a few hundred feet along you should see the sign for the children's museum. When you leave the Children's museum, turn right on Water Street and you will shortly reach the Forney museum.

During the summer, a bus service called
"The Cultural Trolley" runs by all of the above museums as well as the Denver Zoo. It runs on a frequent schedule every day from Memorial Day (the last Monday in May) through Labor Day (the first Monday in September.)

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