Family friendly cities: Denver for outdoor paradise
There are few better ways to entice the family outdoors and away from all those screens—that means you, too, mom and dad—than to head to the mountains. But don't worry, you won't need to drag out the tent from your garage or take out a loan because, in the Denver area, free and low-cost outdoor fun can be enjoyed by day while nights are spent in a comfy family-suite hotel.
The Mile High City is not that many miles from an abundance of mountain parklands. Dozens of trails surround the outdoor mecca of Boulder, 40 minutes from Denver, with the most popular paths heading straight toward the dramatic rock formations called the Flatirons from the Chautauqua Park trailhead. The trailhead is only blocks from the University of Colorado campus. Multiple trails for all fitness levels also branch out from Echo Lake Park, one hour from Denver on the road to 14,260-foot Mt. Evans, highest paved road in America.
While Echo Lake Park is one of 22 Denver Mountain Parks located outside the city, families intimidated by the idea of high-altitude hikes can be content picnicking or enjoying recreational activities at one of Denver's city parks. Bike paths, boat rentals, horseshoe pits and massive Frisbee fields are among the options at sprawling Washington Park. Waterskiing in Denver's largest lake is popular at Sloan's Lake Park. And at City Park, there's a huge playground for younger kids, tennis courts and a public golf course for everyone else.
If encountering mountain lions and bears in the Rockies sounds a little too real for your family vacation, City Park is where you'll find the Denver Zoo ($17/adults, $12/kids). There you'll see not only lions, tigers and bears, but also elephants, emus and eagles—and an adorable red panda—among the 4,300 resident animals. This was America's first zoo to replace cages with natural enclosures, including the 10-acre Toyota Elephant Passage (giving new meaning to the idea of “trunk space" in a Yaris). Just for fun, mixed in with the real animals through Halloween are “Dinos!"—19 life-size animatronic dinosaurs.
Elitch Gardens, America's only downtown theme and water park, isn't cheap ($40/adults, $35/children purchased online). But if you account for the number of hours you'll spend there with the family—probably all day—the math works out nicely. Daring kids and adults will get a rush from 13 thrill rides (the newest is a 17-story-high swing ride), little ones can choose among 13 pint-sized rides, plus there are dozens more family rides and water rides, four live-entertainment shows, and weekly free concerts and movies throughout the summer.
The great indoors
When families need a break from the Great Outdoors, Denver delivers. The Denver Mint has been punching out coins since 1906 and remains the world's most prolific coin-maker; free tours are offered Mondays through Thursdays. The Denver Museum of Nature & Science ($17/adults, $12/kids), a Smithsonian-affiliated gem with an IMAX 3D theater and planetarium, was massively expanded in 2014 and features hands-on exhibits focused on everything from dinosaurs to outer space. Smaller children may prefer the Children's Museum of Denver ($13), where they can enjoy pint-sized zip-lining and boulder climbing; create masterpieces in the art studio and chef-supervised teaching kitchen, and pretend to be firefighters or veterinarians.
If you go
United Airlines offers flights to city of Denver from dozens of cities and MileagePlus Rewards can help pay for your car rental and a family-friendly hotel once you arrive. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your vacation.
If you can't get to Mars, what's the next best thing? Apparently Iceland. A team of renowned explorers and researchers recently journeyed to Iceland to test a Mars analog suit in a Martian-like environment.
The United sponsored expedition, led by The Explorers Club — an internationally recognized organization that promotes the scientific exploration of land, sea, air and space — and in partnership with Iceland Space Agency, involved the team venturing inside the Grímsvötn volcano and across the Vatnajökull ice cap. The group traveled to the remote location and lived for six days in the Grímsvötn Mountain Huts and endured harsh weather conditions and unstable terrain.
Helga Kristin Torfadöttir, Geologist and glacier guide, using the LiDAR system to map the ground and test the suit's capabilities on the glacier.
The objective of the mission was to explore the potential of concept operations at the Grímsvötn location while testing the suit in an arctic environment similar to what would be found on the surface of Mars. "This mission was an important test of the design of the MS1 suit, but it was also incredibly helpful to understand the how to conduct these sorts of studies in Iceland," said Michael Lye, MS1 designer and NASA consultant and RISD professor. "No matter how thoroughly something is tested in a controlled environment like a lab, studying it in a setting that accurately represents the environment where it will be used is absolutely essential to fully understand the design."
The suit was designed and constructed by faculty and students at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) with input and guidance from members of the HI-SEAS IV crew and NASA's Johnson Space Center Space Suit Engineering team. At 50-60 lbs, the suit is similar to what a planetary exploration suit would weigh in Martian gravity. The suit was originally designed to be used in the warm climate of Hawaii, however the martian climate is much closer to what would be found on top of the glaciers in Iceland. The data collected will inform the future of habitat and spacesuit design that can be used to train astronauts on Earth.
Today, we remember the colleagues, customers and every single victim of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
I know each of us in the United family marks this difficult moment in our own way. Still, we all share a common commitment to honor how our brothers and sisters left us and also celebrate what they gave to us during their lives. We remember their professionalism and heroism. We cherish their camaraderie and friendship. We carry with us the examples they set forth, especially in the heroism and bravery displayed by so many on that terrible day. Above all, we understand a simple truth: While thousands of our fellow human beings lost their lives in New York City, Arlington and Shanksville, the attacks of September 11th were aimed at all people of peace and good will, everywhere. They were attacks on the values that make life worth living, as well as the shared purpose that make us proud of what we do as members of the United family: connecting people and uniting the world.
We may live in times scarred by discord and disagreement, and we know there are those around the world who seek to divide us against one another. But, on this day – above all – we come together, as one. We affirm our core belief that far, far more unites us as citizens and fellow human beings than can ever divide us.
Let us embody that belief as we go about serving our customers and one another – on this day and every day – as we continue to help building a world that's more united. Let that be our memorial to the sisters and brothers we lost, eighteen Septembers ago.