What We’re Looking Forward to in Denver in 2021
Things are looking up already.
As we rang in 2021, it was with a new perspective on what a new year means. Now we know to expect (literally) anything. And as we continue to mask up and socially distance, we know that the calendar turning to January 1 doesn’t mean things are going back to “normal” anytime soon. But this year’s gotta be better than the last, right? In the Mile High, some big changes are coming to the city, and we’ve more than earned the right to get excited about what we’ve got to look forward to. So let’s step into the future, where big projects like Meow Wolf and the renovated Cog Railroad are set to make their debut, and where we’ll (hopefully) be back in the stands cheering on our home teams and watching our favorite bands take the stage. 2021 is here and we’re older, wiser, and finally learned to wash our hands regularly, so let’s do this, Denver.
If you’ve ever walked through the washing machine into another dimension at Meow Wolf’s OG Santa Fe location, you know you should expect the unexpected when the Denver outpost opens in late 2021. At 90,000 square feet, this will be Meow Wolf’s biggest installation yet, with plenty of space for mind bending surprises. The project was first announced in January 2018, and this is (hopefully) going to be the year we all finally get a firsthand glimpse of the experience being created by over 110 local artists.
This massive new complex next to Coors Field is poised to transform the Ballpark neighborhood in 2021, which means if we get to root for the home team in person this year, things are gonna look different. Along with luxury condos, hotel rooms, new restaurants, shops, and more, the development features a 30,000 square foot public plaza where you can expect to see activations all year long like a winter time ice rink and outdoor movie screenings in the summer. Construction is in its final phases now, so it shouldn’t be long before we’re scoping out the foodhall eats and checking out the new Rockies Hall of Fame that’ll be located in the hotel.
Summer shows at this iconic venue are synonymous with Colorado summers… until 2020 that is. While the reality of getting back on the rocks for live music in 2021 remains to be seen, the venue does have a tentative schedule listed featuring a packed lineup of shows from artists like Die Antwoord, Lord Huron, Glass Animals, Iron & Wine, and much more. So in the spirit of staying positive, let’s all collectively envision climbing the stairs as we head back to our seats with a beer in hand as the sun sets and our favorite band is playing… and stay masked up in the meantime so we can make that a reality.
Concerts at small music venues
While Red Rocks is the mecca for large scale events, what really makes Denver’s music scene special is all our smaller venues. This is where local acts get to share their craft as crowds gather, sweaty and smiling, and we can’t wait to get them back. In the meantime many venues have other ways you can show your support like Lion’s Lair Lounge
, Denver’s oldest consistently operating independent music venue, which currently has a GoFundMe
to help cover back expenses from 2020, The Oriental Theatre
which has their Become a Friend of the O
fundraiser with options for donating, and Hi-Dive’s merch store
where you can score tees, masks, and more to show this South Broadway classic some love.
In 2018, Denver got quite a shock when it was announced that a massive new development, The River Mile, is planned for the site where Elitch Gardens Amusement Park currently sits. The roller coasters, Ferris wheel, and twisting water slides are a fixture in the downtown skyline, so it’s strange to imagine a Denver without it. And while yes, it will be going away in the future, the development is still a few years off, so we all relaxed a little knowing we could still get a Mind Eraser fix for a while longer. Then 2020 came around, and the park was never able to open for their summer season. 2021 marks Elitch Gardens’ 130th anniversary, and they’re hard at work planning a summer-long celebration, so plan on plenty of classic amusement park adventures coming soon.
Down in Colorado Springs, this major attraction has a 2021 comeback planned after a non-COVID-related closure that’s lasted since 2017. The Cog’s been operating since 1891, but this latest closure for maintenance has lasted much longer than first expected. Now, the railway is (finally) slated to reopen in May 2021 so you’ll once again be able to experience a train ride like no other. The tracks climb 14,115 feet in altitude over a nine mile ride with breathtaking 360 degree views the whole way as you climb toward the summit. Add this to your summer plans ASAP.
This major renovation project was originally slated to make its debut in 2020 but then… we all know what happened there. The good news? It’s comeback is still in the works and will give us one more reason to visit this cultural institution in 2021. Along with expanded gallery space, a spiral staircase, and other elements that will improve the building’s functionality, the highlight will be the unveiling of the new outdoor space on the seventh floor rooftop which promises sweeping views of downtown from a whole new perspective.
Filling the stand at sports venues
We all collectively realized that COVID was for really real when entire seasons of sporting events were cancelled in March. And in Denver, a city with five major professional sports teams, the prospect of a year with no cheering fans made for some long stretches of sadness in 2020. And sure, while games returned, fans, for the most part, did not. There was no Rockies opening day fervor. Broncos games offered super limited seating only. And when the Nuggets played their season opener at Ball Arena (formerly The Pepsi Center) in late December, the seats were empty. Whether 2021 will bring the chance to don our favorite team colors and cheer in person like we used to remains unknown, but fans are sure to be there as soon as it's safe to, ‘cause COVID couldn’t stop our Mile High pride.
The reopening of restaurants and bars in hibernation mode
In 2020, we permanently lost a lot of favorites for food and drinks, from the iconic jazz bar El Chapultepec to longtime favorites like Tony’s Diner and The Market. But others have taken a different approach, closing temporarily as winter’s cold temperatures combined with current restrictions made it more profitable to turn off the lights for a while and wait it out. As 2021 gets rolling, here’s to hoping we hear reopening plans soon from the long list of hibernating restaurants and bars which includes everything from the South Park-famous Casa Bonita
and Denver’s oldest restaurant, The Buckhorn Exchange
to weiner-mecca Biker Jim’s
and classic dive bar faves like The Squire Lounge
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Molly Martin is a Denver-based freelance writer who cannot wait to go on a Colfax dive bar crawl in 2021. Follow her @mollydbu on Instagram and Twitter for more updates on food, fun, and life in the Mile High.