This weekend a record 22 Denver museums in and around town will be opening their doors for free as part of Denver’s Night at the Museums and Denver Arts Week. Complimentary admission, along with free shuttle rides to many museums that are not close by, will be offered from 5pm to 10pm on Saturday. But out of all of the great museums in Denver to choose from, where should you go? To help you decide, here’s a look at the Denver museums I’ve visited…
If you’re looking to see several museums in one night, I suggest starting at the home of two of the most famous families in Colorado history. Sure, most of the decorations in the home are not authentic, but considering the historical significance of the residence and its ties to other museums in the area, it is a good starting point for a night spent touring the other museums in the area. How so exactly? Because Anne Evans, the daughter of the second territorial governor of Colorado, was a leading member of the Denver Arts Society, which later became the Denver Art Museum. That museum now sits right next door to the family’s home.
Before heading to the Denver Art Museum, go across the street from the Byers-Evans House to the Clyfford Still Museum. Who? The greatest artist you’ve never heard of. Don’t believe me, then take it from Jackson Pollock: “Still makes the rest of us look academic.” Still, a contemporary of authors like Steinbeck and Kerouac, created some amazing works, the bulk of which are on display in this one museum according to his wishes. So if you want to get a good taste of one of the most influential modern artists – the guy who influenced all of the other artists of his time – this is a place not to be missed during such an opportunity as a free night.
The museum is of two wings, the newest and most famous of which was designed by famed architect Daniel Libeskind. It is here that a special exhibition, discounted but not included in the free weekend, just opened; Becoming Van Gogh will be on display until mid-January. I highly recommend going to see it, but to do it justice I suggest returning on a night when you may not be trying to squeeze so much in, especially if you plan to see the rest of the museum’s great collection, which includes very strong sections on American Indian and Western Art.
Only a block to the east of the Denver Art Museum is the newest museum in town, the History Colorado Center. If you’re out for the night with the family, this is one of three museums I strongly suggest visiting. There are a lot of hands-on educational activities for the kids, while remaining interesting for adults. So even though some exhibits are still being put together, it’s a great spot to spend a few hours learning about both the good and bad of our home state.
A few more blocks to the east from the history center is the home of one of the most interesting people in Colorado’s past – the Titanic’s Unsinkable Molly Brown. Special events will be going on during the free night, including a band’s performance, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. So if the Titanic or historical homes are your thing, this is a perfect opportunity to enjoy one of the most popular local attractions, one which I thoroughly enjoyed on my visit.
It seems like you either love or hate contemporary art, there’s rarely an in between. So if you love it, and want to see more of it what might be of comparable interest in the Clyfford Sill Museum, grab one of the free shuttles or hoof it to the free 16th Street Mall Shuttle, and go to the other side of downtown to see the MCA. Many of the works are temporary, so what I saw during my visit may be different now. But surely, if you like contemporary art, it’ll impress.
The fourth largest science museum in the United States is a sure hit for the family. There are Egyptian mummies, dinosaur fossils, and an hands-on space exhibit, enough dioramas to leave your head spinning, and much more. The highlight of the museum, though, at least for me, is the ever-changing temporary exhibit. A Day in Pompeii is not included in the free admission, but it is well worth your time to return to see, since it is easily the best exhibition that has come through town since King Tut did a few years earlier. And just like the MCA, it is on the free shuttle loop.
Kuzuna: West Meets East is a special exhibit that will be illuminated at night at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Like the rest of the gardens, it’ll be free and certainly set to impress, especially if you’re looking for a good romantic date spot to watch the sun set. Combine that with the beautifully kept gardens, secluded pathways, and illuminated fountains, it’s sure to be a top free shuttle drop off location.
Do you have kids who love cars, trains, bikes, or anything that moves? Or are you just that kid all grown up? Then this is the spot for you. The Forney Museum of Transportation has an impressive collection of both historical and modern vehicles of all kinds; from a huge train to bicycles to muscle cars to motorbikes, they’ve got it all. And as a bonus – although not included in the free museum night – the Denver Cutthroats hockey team of the Central Hockey League will be playing Fort Worth next door at the Denver Coliseum at 7pm.
There are several other museums in the metro area throwing open their doors for free, including the Black American West Museum, The CELL, the Children’s Museum of Denver, The Denver Firefighter Museum, the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art (photo at top), and much, much more throughout the metro area. Check out the Denver Arts Week website for full details on not just the free night, but information on the whole week.