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Denver’s boom provides a lot of tourism sights

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In the last seven years, Denver’s population has grown by more than 100,000, a boom many new residents credit to the sunny weather, proximity to the Rocky Mountains and density of cultural attractions. With that growth has come construction cranes and improved transit systems, including a convenient light-rail line linking the airport to downtown over 23 miles away. Visitors using the train alight at the renovated Union Station in the heart of a city filled with new breweries, expanded museums, a burgeoning street art movement and an explosive culinary scene producing thematic food halls and destination meals from brunch through dinner. There’s always the chance to walk, cycle, run or ski it off over hundreds of miles of recreational trails. And if your flight is delayed, there’s a free ice-skating rink at Denver International Airport until Jan. 6.

Friday3 p.m. Cultural campus

The Denver Art Museum, with its distinctively angular Daniel Libeskind-designed wing, anchors what has turned into the city’s museum quarter now that the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art moved in two blocks away. The quirky Kirkland museum (admission $10 U.S.), which doubled its exhibition capacity, preserves the original studio of Vance Kirkland, who often painted suspended on straps above his canvases. Before reaching it, visitors pass through the encyclopedic collection of decorative pieces from art nouveau tapestries to postmodern sofas that crowd the walls and floors, salon-style. A moving union of art and architecture lies between the Denver Art Museum and the Kirkland in the Clyfford Still Museum (admission $10). Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture designed the minimalist, textured concrete building, with naturally lit galleries to house the nearly complete collection and archives of Still, the abstract expressionist painter.

6:30 p.m. Destination dinner

Denver’s culinary mania is evident in brunch queues and difficult-to-make dinner reservations. Make one of those reservations well in advance for Tavernetta, a new, sophisticated Italian magnet from the group behind Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder. To get to the tables, diners walk through the kitchen, a scenic appetizer to chef Ian Wortham’s regional and seasonal dishes, which recently included homemade garganelli pasta with mushrooms and asparagus ($32) and roast quail with farro, chickpea and prosciutto ($28). No reservation? Try Tavernetta anyway. There’s a spacious lounge with fireside tables as well as numerous stools around the bar.

9 p.m. Nightcap madness

Denver has a plethora of breweries, but beer isn’t the only drink in town. From the hidden to the see-and-be-seen, the selection of cocktail lounges warrants a nightcap or two. In Lower Downtown, a.k.a. LoDo, hit the rejuvenated Union Station and find the mezzanine to reach Cooper Lounge, where sofas offer great perches for admiring the grand 1914 station. In the polished Cherry Creek neighbourhood, look for a gold doorbell in an alley behind the Halcyon Hotel to find B& GC, a stylish subterranean lounge with carefully made drinks such as the bourbon-maple Distant Lover ($15). In the River North Art District, known as RiNo, New York’s cult mixologists Death & Co are newly spiking the cocktail scene in a clubby room with grand chandeliers and a menu the size of a novel.

Saturday9 a.m. Bike (or ski) the creek

Backed by the Rocky Mountains to the west, the Mile High City tends to draw outdoorsy types. Cycling the Cherry Creek Bike Path, a 40-mile path along the tributary, is one of the easiest ways to join the athletic crowds here. It links up with the nearly 30-mile Greenway Trail along the South Platte for more ambitious riding. Rent a Denver B-cycle from the citywide bike share system from more than 85 stations around town (from $9 for a 24-hour pass). Biking is a year-round sport in Denver, which tends to be dry, but on snow days the cross-country skis come out.

11 a.m. Brunch bunch

Perhaps because of all that early-morning exercise, brunch is a popular meal. In the LoHi, or Lower Highlands, area alone, choices include the butchery- and seafood-centric Old Major, the fried-chicken star Low Country Kitchen and the Latin American cantina Señor Bear. An atmospheric choice, Linger occupies the former Olinger mortuary, a vast space with multiple levels offering good views of downtown. Global brunch dishes include breakfast dosa ($16) and “hangover ramen” ($17), accompanied by bottomless mimosas ($15).

1 p.m. Maker mart

Denver has some nice neighbourhoods for boutique shopping, including Highlands and Berkeley, but the opening of the Source Hotel and Market Hall in RiNo next to the Source food hall has given patrons a place to do some concentrated browsing of wares from local artisans. The hotel’s second story serves as a retail market hall, home to shops and kiosks from Winter Session, a Denver-based leather goods maker; Vinyl Me, Please, a record dealer; and the sunglasses and ski goggles brand Native Eyewear, based in nearby Longmont. You’ll find them alongside carefully curated out-of-towners, including the street-art-focused Station 16 Gallery from Montreal and the design goods shop Poketo from Los Angeles.

4 p.m. Craft beer crawl

The home of the sprawling Great American Beer Festival each fall, Denver has long been a champion of the microbrewing revolution. While the Denver Beer Trail has over 100 entries on its map, several are clustered in RiNo making a progressive tour a pedestrian affair. At Our Mutual Friend, a friendly taproom, state flags on the menu indicate Colorado-grown barley and hops, including Colorado Pale Ale and Dad’s Brown Ale (pints $6). Down the street, the industrial Ratio Beerworks, which sometimes serves a refreshing Handwritten wit ($6), rolls up garage-style doors on its popular patio. Nearby, the beloved Fort Collins brewery Odell Brewing Co., opened a cosy two-story taproom in view of a mural depicting hops covering the side of its brick building.

6:30 p.m. Hip-Hop kitchen

The RiNo district also teems with culinary intrigue, from the new Super Mega Bien serving Mexican tapas dim-sum style to the contemporary wood-fired grill Acorn. Because reservations are hard to come by, hit Hop Alley early. The chef Tommy Lee, who also runs Uncle, a ramen-specialist in LoHi, serves regional Chinese fare with a focus on fine ingredients and the use of a wood grill in a former soy sauce factory where hip-hop commonly rings out across the lively dining room. Most of the vegetable, protein, noodle and rice dishes seem designed to share, including savory kung pao cauliflower ($15), grilled octopus with spicy gochujang sauce ($27) and garlic shrimp noodles ($23). Several of the cocktails come in large-format shareable sizes too.

9 p.m. Catch the late set

There’s a warm, slightly retro vibe to the Nocturne jazz club where an intriguing artist-in-residence arrangement books musicians for multi-week runs, encouraging them to explore the music of a legend, concentrate on a genre or produce their own original compositions. Brick walls and high ceilings with exposed ductwork don’t interfere with the sound quality coming from the raised stage that is the focal point of the music venue, which also acts as a supper club serving a full menu. Reservations include a cover fee (varies) and the bar is as careful with its cocktails as the musicians are with their playlists.

Sunday10 a.m. Street art stroll

To the casual pedestrian, Denver doesn’t appear rich in street art. Trust Erin Spradlin and James Carlson to show you the significant treasures on the walls and in the alleys of the River North Art District on their Denver Graffiti Tour. Inspired by a mural tour they took in Bogotá, Colombia, the pair started their tour this spring (it runs year-round). The two-hour itinerary introduces memorable works by Jeremy Burns and Gamma. The guides distinguish street art or murals from more haphazard graffiti in their thoughtful discourse that covers artwork mining topics from political to comic. The tour ends in a hidden alley covered in murals and popular with selfie shooters.

12:30 p.m. Musical fare

Food halls seem to be popping up everywhere, including the new Denver Milk Market in LoDo, and in new iterations, such as the micro-distillery-centric Booz Hall in RiNo. The beauty of the collection of food stalls at the new Zeppelin Station is management’s effort to fill the vast shedlike development on a light-rail line with ethnic foods not easily found elsewhere. The local favourite Vinh Xuong Bakery opened a stall in Zeppelin offering its signature banh mi sandwich served with house-made chile sauce ($8.75). There’s Indian street food at Namkeen, fried chicken at Injoi Korean Kitchen and smoked meats at Au Feu. Finish with a scoop of velvety chocolate from Gelato Boy ($4.45) while listening to live music on Sundays and, during football season, watching the Denver Broncos on a big screen.

Lodging

An urban resort in the upscale Cherry Creek district, the 154-room Halcyon Hotel features a rooftop pool and the subterranean cocktail lounge B& GC. Rooms from $325; 245 Columbine St., halcyonhotelcherrycreek.com. The Ramble Hotel in RiNo looks like a warehouse rehab with a handsome red brick exterior and double-height lobby. In addition to its 50 cosy rooms, the Ramble houses a theatre, the Mexican restaurant Super Mega Bien and a coffee bar. Rooms from $249; 1280 25th St., theramblehotel.com. Rent a loft downtown or an apartment in the Highlands, to name two central areas with ample inventory on HomeAway.com. Lofts in LoDo, walking distance to Union Station and other attractions, start at $87. A one-bedroom apartment in LoHi, or Lower Highlands, a mile from downtown, costs $111.

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Travel & Escape

Dealing with baggage on your trip

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(NC)Nothing is more embarrassing than having to unpack your baggage at the airport. It’s common to overpack because you want to make sure you have everything you need for your trip – the right shoes, a jacket in case it’s cold, a bathing suit in case there’s a pool. But you must be mindful of the baggage restrictions. So, how can you be smart with your baggage when travelling?

The first thing to do is talk to your TICO-certified travel agent about the weight restrictions and number of bags you are allowed to take. Some airlines charge per bag, while others may offer one bag for free depending on weight.

You’ll also need to know if there are security requirements for carry-on and checked baggage. For example, there may be prohibited items such as gels and liquids. These limitations vary from airline to airline and depends on if your flight is international or domestic, so you’ll need to check the policy of the airline you’re travelling with.

Naturally, you want to avoid incurring baggage fees, so talk to your travel agent, or contact the airline directly. You can also visit their website to review the luggage policy.

Here are a few more tips to help you manage your baggage when travelling:

  • Clearly label all baggage with your name, home address, and contact information
  • Place an identification tag inside the baggage in case the outside tag is torn off
  • Lock bags with CATSA/ACTSA travel locks
  • Put a colourful ribbon or other identifying marks on your bags so they are easily recognizable
  • Carry valuables in your hand luggage; jewelry, money, medications, important documents, etc.

You can’t carry everything with you, so be smart when you pack. Take only necessary items and focus on your trip.

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Travel & Escape

What travellers need to know if a destination wedding is cancelled

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(NC) It’s two weeks before you’re scheduled to attend a destination wedding and then you get the call. The wedding has been called off.

Sure, you’re upset for the couple, but now you’re faced with plane tickets and hotel reservations. So, what can you do?

There’s no reason why you can’t go and enjoy the trip, but bear in mind you may face a price increase, especially if this was part of a group booking. Group bookings often include a minimum number of travellers to get the discounted price, as well as terms and conditions regarding changes or cancellations.

You could ask other travellers to come along to keep the group discount. But name changes often count as cancellations based on the terms of the vacation package and premium charges may apply. If you booked with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour company, it’s better to contact them and ask about options before making any decisions.

While it’s devastating for the couple who planned the destination wedding, the fact is that the cancellation affects all the confirmed guests. So, it’s important to know your options so you can salvage an unfortunate situation. Always book with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour operator so you can circle back and find out what they can do for you.

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Travel & Escape

Be safe not sorry when booking travel online

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(NC) With so many travel websites available these days, many people are choosing to book their vacations from the comfort of their own home. Many travel websites are easy to navigate, and offer great vacation packages, so it seems to make sense.

But before you hit “submit”, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Here are a few tips that can make you more aware when booking travel online:

  • Look for the TICO registration number or logo. All Ontario travel agencies and websites must be registered with TICO, the provincial travel regulator that provides consumers with protections if they don’t receive travel services. The registration number or logo is usually found in the About Us or Contact sections of the website.
  • Know where your credit card payment is going. Some websites are only search engines or booking agents for other providers.
  • Review the terms and conditions, particularly those that relate to cancellation, changes to bookings and refunds. Know what the travel agent or tour operator’s responsibilities are.
  • Keep a paper copy of your transactions, correspondence and confirmations.
  • Double check which currency the prices are quoted in. You could be paying in Euros instead of Canadian dollars.
  • Keep in mind that tax amounts can vary in travel advertisements. Ontario travel agencies and websites can display their taxes in four different ways:
    • A total price
    • A base price plus total taxes, fees and additional charges
    • A base price with a detailed breakdown
    • All taxes, fees and additional charges.
  • Research your destination to find out if there are any travel advisories, which can be found on the Government of Canada website.
  • Check the online travel agency’s website for a live-chat feature, email address or toll-free number to talk to a travel agent. Travel agents are a great resource to answer any questions you may have to ensure you are making an informed travel purchase.

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