The Scrogue's Guide to Denver and the DNC: the Platte River Neighborhood

by Janet Manley

Though Denver began as a strip of saloons and brothels blown together on the Platte River, today the area has achieved the atmosphere of a whimsical English seaside town, with an accompanying innocence and frivolity.

On weekends, expect to see the Bobsy Twins floating on inner tubes below the man-made rapids in front of REI, with dogs leaping in and out of the water, and action men navigating the kayak course with ease. It’s not a beach, but it’s the nearest thing to when you are 900 miles inland, and gingham attire will certainly help the illusion along. Confluence Park, frequented by new mom clubs and cyclists alike is serviced by an ice cream vendor on the hotter of days, and offers rare shade for those traipsing the Platte River Cycleway.

Beyond, to the south, vast playground Elitch Gardens amplifies a chorus of cheers from 10 a.m. to late, with an abundance of rollercoasters and a bevy of icy-cold waterslides looping their way down in the cracking heat, delighting small children, remedial teens and eager dads alike. Carnies are a special breed, and here they tread the line between offering a consciously themed Disney-like offering, and something a little more sideshow, reminiscent of the old Coney Island or Ocean City, as they operate the Turn of the Century.

Opposite, the old trolley runs on weekends along the river, giving picturesque views of the thrill-seeking and splashing going on at the theme park. The trolley departs from REI, housed in an old factory building, and boasting novelty all of its own.

Inside, try climbing the spectacular Delicate Arch replica, test-riding a mountain bike on the outside trail, or, if you’re feeling brave, sampling a kayak on the river. For the wholesome scroggin head, the vastness of outdoor specialty gear will distract for hours, and a Starbucks and complete inventory of Clif Bars will suffice for sustenance.

Across the road on Platte Street, nestled amongst the cafes, is charmer House of Commons Tea Room, a Wedgewood offering which serves up scones with jam and cream on darling crockery tiers, and dresses up your morning cuppa with white chandeliers overhead. Snack like an aristocrat, and imagine your children better behaved as they sip a pink Lady Ascroft iced tea from a straw. Yes, Madison and Jackson could be little lords and ladies did they sip more English tea, and less Crystal Light.

A quick stroll over the Highlands bridge takes you up 16th Street to The Little Man Ice Cream, a conical delight under the cheery silhouette of the Olinger Mortuary sign. This old-time gem in fact only opened this year, and operates out of what looks like the Tin Man’s hat, a nostalgic throwback to a 1920’s milk can, set off with a vintage cartoon soundtrack. Homemade never tasted so good, and reminiscing the past in the present never was so gay.

Once your ice cream and hot dog quota is met, skip back down the hill, or have the babysitter meet you and continue on to Lola’s, an upscale Mexican restaurant featuring fresh seafood flown in daily. Let’s face it, the English may know how to enjoy pebbly beaches and hot, blazing summers, but the dinners are a little doggish. Trust our friends south of the border to recreate heatwave appeasers like cerviche or pork and shrimp albondigas. While you’re at it, send out for a timely delivered margarita as you dine up on the hill, above the corporate hubbub in Downtown.

Must-haves for the Platte River Olde Time Towne: A nice large pair of Grace Kelly sunglasses, gingham, suspenders, handkerchiefs (to mop away the heat), parasols and sunscreen (let’s face it, the Anglos sure do sizzle when the sun gets up).

Janet Manley’s developmental journey terminates before the flat, low, far end of the bell curve, somewhere in the upper-mid recesses. A mesomorph middle child with a recovering vocabulary – stunted by an overuse of ‘therefore’ and ‘henceforth’ in college essays – she pedals the average, and teases out the insides of all things, being always near the center.

An accomplished journalist and editor, Janet believes much of the misinformation out in the world proper is the result of reductionism, and so strives to complicate things back up; she is the milky cloud in your tea, the humid haze you see looking off a mountain.

Consequently, sesquipedalian dalliances certify finally that limbic semantics override reductionistic rhetoric – it’s simply more poetic that way.