Go West, Travel & Tourism, U.S. Destinations

Dating Yourself: An Afternoon in Denver feat. the York Street Botanical Gardens

This is Part 2 of a three-part Botanical Garden seriesfeaturing gardens that are members of the American Horticulture Society’s Reciprocal Admissions Program. A membership at one of these gardens includes eligibility for free or reduced admission at 300+ participating locations across North America. Always call ahead of your visit to verify what special admission privilege is offered by the Garden.

Dating yourself is one of the most important things you can do for your own well-being (in my opinion). You get time alone to think, or not think, and to explore the world around you. Dating yourself is a solo date that proclaims, “I am worthy of special things regardless of my partner status.”

Last September I had the fortune of taking a quick work trip to Denver. It was my first time in Colorado! When a meeting-free afternoon presented itself, I jumped at the chance to explore the city and took myself on a date.

I can’t recommend solo dates enough. To the movies, the coffee shop, a restaurant. Anywhere you want! It’s good to be alone with your thoughts and maybe a good book.

Speaking of books, does anyone else like to read books at the airport to pass the time? These were my trip purchases:

And it’s hard to read a good book without coffee!

My hotel, which was built onto an old press building, was conveniently located right next to Thump Genuine Coffee (Broadway location) where I got a deliciously refreshing cold brew.

On my last morning I also visited the laid-back but not to be outdone The Bardo Coffeehouse on South Broadway. This was the site of my first oat milk mocha! If you haven’t tried it, give it a go! I was hesitant (I’m partial to a whole milk mocha) but it was quite good.

Now – onto the solo date!

To begin the afternoon, I had a sushi and salad lunch at Hillstone – a chic locale with an elevated yet classic menu.

Hillstone’s “Nice Little House Salad”

It’s one of the most beautiful salads I’ve had the honor to consume.

After lunch I walked about three-quarters of a mile to the York Street location of the Denver Botanical Gardens. Coming from Texas, I found the weather to be heavenly and just right (read: sweat free) for an afternoon stroll.

I felt very safe walking alone here.

At the Gardens, my time was serene. There was set-up for a wedding going on and it didn’t interfere with seeing anything. Honestly I was a little jealous – what a beautiful spot for a wedding! I need to find a groom first…

With its 24 acres of gardens and collections, the York Street location also boasts the Helen Fowler Library and the Mordecai Children’s Garden.

The Gardens does a LOT of scientific work throughout the year, including specimen collection, outreach and engagement, and restoration. You can view their annual “accomplishments and endeavors” here.

The Denver Botanical Gardens inspired me to get a dahlia tattoo!

Want to spruce up your garden? They have partnered with Colorado State University Extension and Colorado Master Gardeners to provide expertise; one of their webpages is dedicated to Gardening Resources.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

After the gardens, I stopped by the Hermitage Antiquarian Bookshop and purchased a few books. I also bought The Book of Tea at the Botanical Gardens gift shop.

There is a lot to see and learn about when you visit the Denver Botanical Gardens (and all of Denver)!

I was unable to visit the Chatfield Farms location, but would love to bring my son there. “Facilities include the Earl J. Sinnamon Visitor Center, the historical Hildebrand Ranch, a restored 1918 dairy barn and silo, the 1874 Deer Creek Schoolhouse, 2.5 miles of nature trails, the Deer Creek Discovery children’s play area and numerous wildflower gardens.”

Hard not to smile at the botanical gardens!

Plus, the working farm contributes to food programs throughout the area and in the fall they have a corn maze and pumpkin patch.

Have you been convinced to take a solo date? It’s hard in the current situation but you can always get a coffee to go and read in your favorite park. A solo date can be as close or far away as you want it to be. You get to make the rules when you date yourself!

While you wait for your next trip or solo date, browse some of the photos I took below. I hope they bring to you what botanical gardens bring to me: a sense of peace, grounding, and stillness.

This post is not paid or sponsored. Views and opinions are my own and do not represent those of any of the Gardens or the American Horticulture Society.

About the Writer

The Ecocritic

Growing up in rural Wisconsin, I was blessed to be surrounded by trees, the sweet smell of hay, and some avid skiers. Thanks to my body’s sometimes-painful aversion to the cold, I didn’t quite take advantage of everything the outdoors had to offer, but the good news is there is much to be offered! Despite the extensive timber industry in its past, Wisconsin still has 17.1 million acres of forestlands1 and over 80 state park and recreation areas.2 Lots of wilderness to explore!

Crisp fall days call for crackling fires

Other than my blatant refusal to go ice fishing or sit in a deer stand for longer than 30 minutes, I find the Wisconsin outdoors to be very serene. So many pines, so many lakes, so many cows.

Fun fact: “At the federal level, the U.S. Geological Survey does not have an official definition of lakes, but it does lump together ponds and lakes as water body features. The USGS counts 124,522 water body features in Minnesota and 82,099 in Wisconsin.”3 You win this time, Minnesota.

One of the primary purposes of this blog is to explore the relationship between literature and nature, and there is a term for this: ecocriticism. So, am I an ecocritic? I am willing to say yes, because we can all be ecocritics when we explore with an ecocritical mindset. I am a novice just beginning to orient myself on this new path – and there are tools we can use to view our surroundings through the lens of ecocriticism.

What is ecocriticism? The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) notes the following definition: “ecocriticism is the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment.”4 This includes more than the pastoral-themed essays I had once thought encompassed all environmental literature. In fact, rural settings are not just a getaway for the stressed urbanite. The Purdue OWL presents the following specific tropes: pastoral, wilderness (something to be conquered), and ecofeminism (“interconnection of the oppression of women and nature”).4

Click on the Purdue OWL link in the references section to see a list of questions we can use when practicing ecocriticism – I’ll utilize some of those questions as I read the above books

My next TBR theme is environment-related. Are you, like me, a more consistent reader when you read books thematically? (More posts about that to come!)

Hope Jahren, geobiologist and author of Lab Girl, released a new book this year called The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here and I’m excited to add it to my repertoire.

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, has published multiple books out about the importance of nature. His bio states “His books have been translated and published in 24 countries, and helped launch an international movement to connect children, families and communities to nature.”5 Community access to recreation programs is one of the topics I want to explore in my upcoming Master’s program, so Louv’s books will be making their own TBR pile on my bookshelf very soon.

No books were harmed in the making of this photo

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading snippets of The Singing Wilderness to my son before bed. It’s very soothing and enjoyable. Tthe last one we read was “The Red Squirrel”. They’re so mischievous and playful! Who doesn’t enjoy squirrels? I don’t have a squirrel tattoo for no good reason.

This little buddy goes with me everywhere

When I lived in California for a year, I was surprised when we went to a restaurant, asked for a round of waters at our table, and the response was, “We actually aren’t allowed to do that, everyone has to ask for their own water.” Years later, I’m a little more conscious about my choices (I have some reusable straws that I need to use more), but I want it to be more than that. When we view through the ecocritical lens, we learn new ways to interact with the environment and those around us.

Now that I’m older and no longer live in the frozen tundra, I appreciate the Northwoods in a new light, and I recognize that the landscape has shaped the people who call it home. Yet to be surrounded by such natural beauty and mainly taught the importance of recycling when Earth Day rolled around, is a shame but not surprising. It was a regular part of the lifestyle in California, sowhy didn’t it seem to be in Wisconsin? To learn the answers to this and my many other questions, I’ll have to dig a little deeper and develop my practice as an ecocritic.