Donkey Kong in Denver: A Different Way to do Black Friday

November 29, 2015 • Destinations • Views: 5118

There are two reasons that we put so much emphasis on walking. The first is obvious: it’s good for you. Really good for you. A number of recent studies show that it might just be better for weight loss and heart health than any other exercise. Take that, running.

But the other reason we stress walking is that it is the best way to interact with your environment, especially when traveling. You meet people and discover places that you’ll only find with your feet on the ground. Walking is the gateway drug to adventure.

Which is how we ended up in a hotel room in downtown Denver playing Donkey Kong at 1:00am on a full-size vintage arcade machine. (Donkey Kong, by the way, is its own kind of drug: highly addictive, with short spikes of euphoria followed by deep despair and fits of rage.)

It all started with walking.

Tamara had spent a day exploring downtown Denver on foot while the boys and I were hanging out with extended family in the mountain town of Estes Park. After enjoying a flight of pancakes at Snooze in Union Square, Tamara was walking around the 16th Street Mall area and found The Curtis Hotel, a fun, hip boutique hotel that guarantees travellers a “completely humorous and modern experience.”

She loved The Curtis so much that she booked a night for us on the day after Thanksgiving and planned out a surprise fit family version of Black Friday. Here’s how it went down:

Like everyone else on Black Friday, we started at the mall—the Cherry Creek Mall south of downtown. But our plan was to skip the doorbusters and rent bikes at the B-cycle station and ride 4 miles along the river to The Curtis. (B-cycle is Denver’s bike share program with 87 stations and 700 bikes throughout Denver.) However, the unseasonably warm weather took a turn, laying down a fresh blanket of snow that thwarted the bike plans. We had to drive into downtown.

We’d stayed in downtown a year earlier on a trip to participate in the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Walk, so I was expecting the typical hotel experience. That expectation changed as soon as we walked into the lobby of the Curtis.

Cool. Chic. Modern. Hip. You could describe it with all the boutique-y words. But basically it has a vibe that says fun; you know right away you’re going to have a good time. It’s sort of rock-n-roll meets Saturday morning cartoons meets Austin Powers.

Each floor of the hotel has its own theme, and when we arrived at ours—The Fun and Games Floor—the voice of an overly-caffeinated game-show host greeted us with, “Come on down…”

By now we were prepped to see a pretty cool theme room—maybe some Vanna White throw pillows and rolls of toilet paper printed with Monopoly Money—but this was waaaay better. The door swung open and there it was: the Donkey Kong of my youth, standing in the corner in all its pixelated ‘80s-arcade glory.

I adamantly deny pushing either of my two sons out of the way, but I don’t dispute that I got to it first. “Watch and learn boys,” I said. “I’m taking you back to the old school.”

A couple hours later Tamara peeled us off the machine so we could get going on the rest of our family adventure, which included: the illumination of Union Square; randomly meeting Mr. & Mrs. Clause; free hot chocolate; great food; perusing a local book store (one of our favorite family pastimes); late-night outdoor ice skating; family board games; and more Donkey Kong. And it ended the next day filming a free family workout in the funky Curtis hotel gym. (Full itinerary below gallery).

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From the Curtis, many of downtown’s best attractions are within easy walking distance, making it a perfect fit for our family (and yours, so steal from this itinerary at will):

– Starting point at Cherry Creek Shopping Center. If weather permits, rent bikes at B-Cycle station. Ride the bike path to downtown and drop off bikes at any B-Cycle station (there is a station right next to the Curtis at about 15th Street and Curtis).

Checked into The Curtis Hotel early to make the most of our one night stay. If you stay there, be sure to check out the other floors. It’s fun to ride the elevators just to hear the greetings on each floor. (Arriving at the 13th floor you get the famous “Here’s Johnny!” from The Shining.

Lunch: Not only do we try to walk everywhere, we also try to talk to people along the way. We ask questions to the locals about what to see, do and eat. After 3 people in a row told us to eat at ModMarket, we couldn’t pass it up. Just a few blocks from the Curtis on the 16th Street Mall. Organic and farm-fresh options. Wonderful food and they print a complete nutritional breakdown of your meal (protein, carbs, calories, etc) right on your receipt.

– There is free shuttle bus service along downtown Denver’s 16th Street Mall, a 1.42 mile-long transit and pedestrian mall. You can walk anywhere along this street for food and shopping. When your little dudes get tired of hoofing it, you simply jump on the shuttle bus to your next destination or back to the hotel.

– We experienced the Illumination of Union Square, an annual event held the weekend after Thanksgiving. We randomly bumped into Mr. and Mrs. Claus walking around and got a quick pic. Our boys enjoyed free hot chocolate and the fun entertainment before the “flipping of the light switch.” There was a gorgeous Christmas tree inside Union Square, great for a family photo. There was also a much larger illumination event happening at the Capitol building. However, Union Square was close by the other activities we wanted to do, so it was the best fit for us.

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– Dinner: Ordered a quick bite at Acme Burger (not a healthy option, but a tasty one) and ate while sitting on the many comfortable couches, chairs and benches inside Union Station’s main square.

Favorite past time: We love independent bookstores and found the Tattered Cover Bookstore & Cafe kiddie corner from Union Station. We arrived around 7pm. Blake read an entire 200 page book, finishing the last page as the friendly staff made their final round to inform us it was was 9pm, closing time. Tamara left with a a favorite find: a very special, unabridged pop-up book version of The Little Prince.

Snow Walk: The walk from Union Square to our hotel was magical. Snow falling lightly, Christmas lights everywhere, virtually no traffic. Beautiful.

Ice Skating: On the way back to the Curtis we stopped at Skyline Park. The ice rink had recently opened for the season and only cost $2 to rent skates. I thought the boys may be too tired and cold, but they jumped at the chance to experience ice skating for the first time.

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Grand Piano: After skating, Blake spied a grand piano in a hotel lobby as we were walking. He played for about an hour, much to the enjoyment of the hotel staff, who told him he could come back anytime.


Family Games: We finally made it back to the Curtis and broke out some of the board games supplied in the room. Of course we logged a few more rounds of Donkey Kong then crashed about 1:00am.

Breakfast: We slept in then quickly threw on our sweats and made our way to Sam’s No. 3 Diner (right outside the hotel).

Family Workout FREE video: Many hotels we have stayed at have tired old “fitness centers” that lack any inspiration or ambience. Not the case at the Curtis. The funky, fun gym was a perfect place for our family workout. We have a short 6-minute video with clips detailing our 40-minute Back & Biceps workout. Click here for the FREE video.

Fit Family Robinson | Denver, CO

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Below the photo galleries is a step-by-step breakdown of the entire workout.

Fit Family Robinson Workout

Location: The Curtis Hotel Gym in Denver, CO

Muscle Groups: Back and Biceps

Approximately 30 to 40 minutes

10 min  – Warm up on cardio machine


2 min  – Pick a fun song for functional warm up together

Step Touch

Cross Knees

Side Runs

Jumpin Jacks


5 min  – Dynamic Stretch (approximately 2 songs of your choice)

Spine Roll Up

Lunge Right

Lunge Left


4 min  – Biceps

10 curl out R (repeat L)

10 curl across (repeat L)

10 slow curl with both arms

10 curls change wrist position


4 min  – Back

10 Lat Pulls R

10 Lat Pulls L

10 Rear Delt Fly


2 min  – Cardio Boost to one song

Box it out!


5 min  – Back

Incline Cable Row

10 with R Leg lunge front

10 with L Leg lunge front

Hinge at waist for LTW

20 pulse – L position arms

20 pulse – T position arms

20 pulse – W position arms


2 min  – Cardio Boost to one song

We ended with “Eye of the Tiger”


3 min  – Final floor Ab Work

Sit ups

Leg Kick


Plank Rock

Pike Stretch and roll up


2 min  – DANCE PARTY!!


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