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Blossoms of Light at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo courtesy of the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Winter in the City

We've come up with 65 ways to stir up your body, mind, and palate (not to mention your cabin-fever-mad kids)—so you don't go stir-crazy this season.

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Stir Up Your Body

Ins & Outs

Denver winter weather might be park-day perfect one morning and frostbite frigid the next. Never fear: These unconventional exercise spots will stimulate your sleepy muscles no matter the temperature.

Legs

Outside: Spot bison, white-tailed deer, and bald eagles during a snowshoe hike on the 1.8-mile Lake Ladora Trail Loop in Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.

Inside: If you’re early for a flight, kill some time productively by gliding around DIA’s ice rink. Admission, skate rental, and even touchscreen gloves (though browsing Facebook while skating is a good way to crack your coccyx) are all free. The 38-by-60-foot rink is open from November 24 to January 7.

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Denver International Airtport
The ice rink at DIA. Courtesy of Denver International Airport.

Arms

Outside: Since 2010, Kevin Capps and his crew at Denver Mountain Guiding have taken beginner to intermediate climbers to Golden’s Clear Creek Canyon for ice climbing sessions ($170 per person for a private half day and $350 for a full day; group rates are lower). The 50- to 300-foot ice floes have you worried? Don’t fret. Capps literally wrote the book on climbing in the canyon. The latest edition of his Rock Climbing Clear Creek Canyon will be released this month and now includes instructions for ice climbing.

Inside: Lakewood’s Bristlecone Shooting, Training & Retail Center hosts introductory classes, women’s-only social leagues, and competitions like bowling pin tournaments, during which shooters of all skill levels try to knock pins off a table 10 yards away. And holding that two- to five-pound pistol (rent one for $15) in front of you targets arm muscles you don’t typically work.

Full Body

Aurora
Aurora’s Spider Monkey Extreme Air Sports. Photo courtesy of Tommy Gioia and Ronnie Reed.

Outside: Winter Park Resort brings snowmaking machines and groomers down the mountain to turn Overland’s Ruby Hill Rail Yard into a terrain park that feels authentic enough to be on the slopes—and it’s free. Depending on the weather, you can typically shred from January through March. (Not a boarder? Trudging up the park’s sledding hill counts as a workout too.) 

Inside: You’ll have so much fun at five-month-old Spider Monkey Extreme Air Sports—an indoor facility (starting at $16) in Aurora boasting more than 60 trampolines, plus slacklines, trapezes, foam pits, and even an American Ninja Warrior–esque obstacle course—that you won’t even realize how many calories you’re burning.


Home Gym
All those leg-heavy days on the slopes leave your arms looking like ski poles? Lauren Howe, fitness director at Movement Climbing & Fitness, recommends two body-weight exercises to help keep your guns loaded this winter.

» Plank Press Pushup with a Plank Jack: Do a pushup by moving from a high plank down to your forearms and back up. Then kick your legs out to the sides, jumping-jack-style, and back in. 
» Triceps Dip Kick: Start in a crab walk position. Lower yourself toward the floor and come back up, then lift your left leg and stretch your right hand to touch your ankle (or as far as you can reach). Repeat on the
other side.

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High-End Hibernation

Phew! After all that activity, your body deserves downtime. Here are three ways to enjoy some essential TLC this winter.

1: Comfort In A Crowd

Min’s Foot Spa and Reflexology, an unassuming massage parlor in Athmar Park, provides a 30-minute foot soak (during which staffers massage your head, neck, and feet) and a 30-minute deep-tissue back massage in one sitting. Yes, you’ll be in a room with other people—but at only $25 for the hourlong appointment, you can afford to buy earplugs.

2. Weight, Lifted

If floating in a soundless, lightless, salt-water-filled tank sounds bizarre, well, that’s because it is. But the strange treatment also expedites muscle healing by increasing blood circulation. Sensory deprivation, meanwhile, relieves anxiety. Samana Float Center, which opened in a sleek RiNo space in 2016, offers 90-minute treatments for $65. The unique experience brings a whole new meaning to “quiet time.”

3. Pamper Party

Every month, 15-year-old Moondance Botanicals, which specializes in small-batch products made on-site, hosts a Public Botanical Spa Party. During an eight-step group facial, attendees (register online) indulge in the Speer neighborhood shop’s natural, potions—such as a wintertime mask made with skin-soothing ingredients like cranberry, white clay, and honey—for just $14. Did we mention there’s bubbly and chocolate too?

Moondance Botanicals
A Moondance Botanicals mask with cranberries and honey. Photo by Sarah Boyum.
Modern Mall-Walking
Stop circling Cinnabon. Instead, try one of these more interesting outdoor jaunts on your way to 10,000 steps.

Stanley MarketplaceAurora
Laps to 10,000: 11.5 (first and second floors equal one lap)
This former aviation manufacturing plant offers different pathways to keep your walk interesting. And although the smells coming out of Glazed & Confuzed Donuts might be a distraction, it’s a heck of a lot better than passing the Gap again and again.

Colorado State Capitol, Downtown Denver
Laps to 10,000: Six (using the distance of the standard tour)
Sure, the 123-year-old building’s gold-plated dome gets plenty of attention, but the inside is just as stunning. Its walls are gilded with rare Colorado rose onyx; white Yule marble graces the floors; and stained-glass windows abound. (Free public tours are offered hourly on weekdays, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

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IN CASE OF EMERGENCY:

The Voodoo Comedy Playhouse downtown offers drop-in improv classes (for a suggested donation of $5) at 6 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday nights, meaning you can spontaneously decide to go learn how to be more, uh, spontaneous.


Stir Up Your Mind

Winter Is Coming!

Now that Game of Thrones is on hiatus, a dragon-size hole has likely appeared in your cultural calendar. Yet Denver’s vibrant art scene still offers plenty of entertainment–so much, in fact, that we felt the need to prioritize the season’s exhibits. (Warning: Spoilers ahead.)

Degas
Photo courtesy of the Denver Art Museum

Degas: A Passion for Perfection 
February 11—May 20 The Denver Art Museum is the only American institution that will show this exhibit of more than 100 works from French master Edgar Degas, a pioneer of impressionism. 

Ice: Portraits of Vanishing Glaciers
Through December 23 Boulder photographer James Balog brings his glacier and iceberg images—which have captured the effects of climate change from Antarctica to the Rocky Mountains over the past decade—to the McNichols Civic Center Building.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver’s Winter Opening Celebration
February 2 If any local museum knows how to throw a boozy, DJ-fueled party, it’s MCA Denver. Although details on this extravaganza were short as of press time, we’re expecting plenty of antics to accompany the unveiling of chaotic paintings from Los Angeles–based Cleon Peterson and Nicaraguan Diego Rodriguez-Warner.

Echo: Response in Movement
January 11 Two of the best purveyors of local art, the Clyfford Still Museum and the Wonderbound dance group, are teaming up—twice. On November 16, Wonderbound’s artistic director, Garrett Ammon, will choreograph a duet on-site inspired by the museum’s latest exhibit, Still & Art, which displays more than 80 of Clyfford Still’s works alongside pieces by other artists. Then, on January 11, Wonderbound dancers will perform a fleshed-out version of the routine at the company’s Five Points studio.

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Bill Cunningham
January 12–February 24 The work of this legendary New York Times fashion photographer will finally be displayed on walls instead of newsprint at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center. Before he died in June 2016, the prolific shutterbug shot everyone from socialites such as actress Greta Garbo to street performers, often from the seat of the bicycle he rode around Manhattan.

Ted Moore
Las (H)adas. Photo courtesy of Ted Moore.

Las (H)adas 
Through January 14 Five local Chicana and Latina artists—Judy Miranda, Ana María Hernando, Jessica Luna, Meggan De Anza, and Arlette Lucero—take over Museo de las Americas with installations that explore issues facing women of color today. Don’t miss the butterfly display, created in collaboration with the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence: Attendees write their own stories of struggle and perseverance on the paper insects’ wings.

Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads
Through October 2018 In an examination of theft and replication, Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei sculpted 12 bronze animal heads to represent his country’s zodiac calendar. The exhibit’s been making the rounds for the past seven years (the Los Angeles Times called it “sweet and silly”), and it’s finally Civic Center Park’s turn.


Game Plans

Sudoku is so 2016. Denver offers plenty of on-trend, game-based diversions to keep your noggin sharp this winter, whether you prefer single- or multiplayer mode.

Players: One
Place: Hyperspace ArcadeLakewood
Setting: This 1980s-themed spot expanded this year to become the largest arcade in the Centennial State, with more than 170 video games—and you can play all of them the entire day for a measly $12.
Must-Play Games: The OG all-stars: Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Donkey Kong, and Frogger

Players: One (but you’re looking for friends)
Place: Board Game RepublicBaker
Setting: A $5 cover grants you access to more than 700 board games, and don’t worry about showing up solo. The roving game masters (the people who know the rules to every game—and also serve you local beers and pub-style grub) encourage visitors to saddle up next to strangers to see a game of Settlers of Catan all the way through.
Must-Play Games: Everythign from the common (Risk, Trivial Pursuit, Battleship) to the crazy (Quoridor, Exploding Kittens, Zombie Kidz)

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Players: Two to six
Place: Solutions Lounge and RestaurantFive Points
Setting: Newly opened, this mystery spot refreshes the escape room genre, thanks not only to some pretty sweet (cagey) puzzles, but also its cheesiness. No, that’s not a knock: Solutions’ on-site restaurant specializes in melted cheese plates.
Must-Play Games: The Cuban Crisis setup, in which you must find a way to infiltrate Fidel Castro’s palace—without the situation going all Bay of Pigs on you

Solutions Lounge & Restaurant
Solutions Lounge and Restaurant. Photo courtesy of Cori Anderson.

Get Your Om On

Studies show regular meditation reduces stress, increases focus, and boosts creativity. Kelsang Pagma, a Buddhist nun at Denver’s Kadampa Meditation Center Colorado, provides tips for achieving mindfulness.

1. Don’t Force It: Even just two minutes can help reprogram your mind to healthier and happier patterns.

2. Find Your Happy Place: You can’t declutter your mind in a cluttered space. Take a seat in a tidy, tucked-away room.

3. There Is An Echo In Here: Repeat a mantra or positive affirmation. Here’s one you can borrow from Pagma: The nature of my mind is peaceful. The nature of my mind is happiness. Say the phrase again and again until your mind slips into a meditative state in which the distractions of the day disappear and your mind is calm.


Classroom Cinema

The Denver Film Festival, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this month, offers plenty of thought-provoking fodder. These two documentaries in particular are sure to turn your mental gears.
Bill Nye
Bill Nye: SCIENCE GUY. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Mann/Structure Films.

Home Truth tells the heart-wrenching story of Coloradan Jessica Gonzales Lenahan, whose three daughters were kidnapped and killed by their abusive father in 1999. Lenahan sued the Castle Rock Police Department for not enforcing the restraining order on her estranged spouse the night before the killings, and the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Bill Nye: SCIENCE GUY examines the complex evolution that took Nye from innocuous kids’ program character to champion for rational thought in the age of anti-science sentiment. Plus: those bow ties!


IN CASE OF EMERGENCY: Former Vice President Joe Biden will deliver memorable sound bites during a stop at the Paramount Theatre on December 2, when he’ll discuss his new memoir and why he chose not to run for the top office. Tickets start at $90.


Stir Up Your Palate

Stoking The Flames

Whether at cozy restaurants or trendy bars, these fire features and accompanying beverages will leave your taste buds (and your S.O.’s heart) tingling.

If you’re looking for… Casual Sophistication 
Try… the Study at Hotel Teatro, where leather chairs and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves surround an imposing sandstone fireplace

Paired with… Call to Arms Brewing Company’s citrus saison, created to complement the Brewtography Project, a photo series by Denver’s Dustin Hall featuring local brewers that runs through December 1 at the hotel

Hotel Teatro
The Study at Hotel Teatro. Photo by Aaron Colussi.

If you’re looking for… A Romantic Culinary Extravaganza

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Try… the six-course truffle-themed tasting menu at Barolo Grill, ordered from the four-person table in front of the large, elegant hearth

Paired with… a bottle of Piemonte Riesling from the Barolo region of northern Italy

If you’re looking for… Modern Flair

TryFire Terrace’s fire pits (abstract sculptures themselves), which fit right in on the rooftop of the Art, a Hotel

Paired with… Not Your Kid’s Hot Chocolate, a blend of house-made hot cocoa and whiskey, rum, or cognac, plus crushed mint on the rim

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If you’re looking for… A Lively Atmosphere 

Try… the surprisingly elegant LoDo biergarten Rhein Haus, where four bocce courts ($5 to $8 per person, per hour) are surrounded by glittering chandeliers and a hearth topped with two stately stuffed bucks

Paired with… Denver Beer Co.’s Pretzel Assassin, an easy-drinking Vienna lager with Munich and caramel malts

If you’re looking forA Low-Key Pub

TryBull & Bush Brewery, a dark, English-style bar with a postcard-worthy fireplace
Paired with… a Bloody Mary made with Ardbeg single-malt Scotch whisky for a strong (seriously, get ready) version of your favorite a.m. cocktail

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If you’re looking forFirst-Date Heat

Try Amethyst Coffee Co., one of the most welcoming hipster coffeeshops—thanks to the outdoor fire pit—we’ve ever visited. (The rocking chair and slouchy couch help too.)

Paired with… the toe-warming chai with honey and vanilla

If you’re looking forRustic Elegance

TryMiners Saloon, a Golden bar that harks back to the historic town’s prime with dark wood and stone adornments, including two fireplaces

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Paired with… Herman Joseph’s Private Reserve from AC Golden Brewing Company, a German-style lager only distributed in the Centennial State


Turn, Turn, Turn
Without winter, the season of death, you can’t have rebirth. So it goes with Denver restaurateurs, who are constantly shuttering one spot to open another. We pay tribute to the eateries that have recently passed—and welcome the new spots we’re eager to try.
Troy Guard

Closed: Lucky Cat
Because: The busiest chef in Denver needed time to focus on other projects.
Opened: Exhibit A is Hashtag (pictured), his first breakfast spot.
Order: Teriyaki steak with kimchi fried rice (savory) or bread pudding French toast (sweet)

Sean Kelly

Closed: Desmond Bar & Grill
Because: It’s unclear.
Opening: He and two partners have another iteration of the Denver Central Market’s rotisserie-focused SK Provisions on the docket for DIA next year.
Order: The porchetta with roasted potatoes and vegetables

Frank Bonanno

Closed: Lou’s Food Bar
Because: The Denver legend sold the Highland building that housed his fried-chicken joint.
Opened: That freed him up to work on downtown bistro French 75 (plus a new Dairy Block out-post of Lou’s, coming in 2018).
Order: The lobster roll

Chad Michael George

Closed: The Way Back
Because: Chef Marcus Eng was cooking out of a food truck.
Opening: The bartender will reopen The Way Back in a larger location (with a kitchen!) on Tennyson Street in 2018.
Order: We don’t know yet—but we do know it’ll be delicious

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Ian Kleinman

Closed: The Inventing Room
Because: Denver’s Willy Wonka had to close his ice cream parlor after a surprise eviction notice.
Opened: It took a year to find a new spot for his expanded Inventing Room Dessert Shop.
Order: The liquid nitrogen ice cream, of course


Going Green

Each year, the first deep freeze levels the last of your edible plants. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still grow your own food. Enter: the windowsill garden and City Floral Garden Center’s Trela Phelps, who tells us how to care for indoor veggies and an herb that will spice up your winter recipes.

Red Robin Tomato: This small cherry tomato plant can thrive in an itty-bitty container—they’re often sold in a six-by-six-inch box—if it’s kept in an area that gets direct sunlight and stays well watered (keep the soil consistently damp by watering once a day). You’ll be rewarded with 25 to 30 petite but incredibly flavorful tomatoes in about two and a half months.

Rosemary: Rosemary is a great starter herb because it is resilient—provided it gets lots of direct, natural light. Just be sure to trim or actually use the herb (or it’ll get leggy), and avoid too many fluctuations in temperature, which should ideally hover between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words: Don’t put rosemary above a furnace or in front of a drafty window. 

Microgreens: If you’ve ever had a Chia Pet, then you’re already a pro at growing microgreens. These tiny plants can flourish on a small pad of soil—about an inch deep and just a few inches wide—as long as it’s kept moist with daily watering. The low-maintenance seedlings don’t require trimming before harvesting either—perfect for the busy ski season.


IN CASE OF EMERGENCY: During the Molly Brown House Museum’s Thirsty Thursdays series ($15), history buffs learn little-known facts and sip on 1800s-era cocktails. The next one takes place on December 7.

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Stir Up Your Kids

Stay & Play

Why put yourself through the misery of road-tripping with your kids when your home city offers plenty of excitement? Try these age-specific staycations to keep the tykes occupied on even the grayest winter days.

Toddlers: Saddle Up

Day: Dust off the boots from your toddler’s old cowgirl costume in preparation for the National Western Stock Show (January 2 to 21). Between the purebred Welsh pony rides, minitractor races, and stick horse rodeo—in which pint-size jockeys compete in barrel racing, steer roping, and bull riding, all from the saddles of their hobbyhorses—your little ones’ short attention spans won’t be a problem.

Dinnertime: We’d like to keep the Western theme going, but your kid probably just wants a bowl of cereal. You’re in luck: The Cereal Box, scheduled to open this month in Arvada, offers grub in the form of more than 100 different cereals, from modern-day faves like Kellogg’s Frozen cereal to the old-school Boo Berry variety.

Stay: The Kimpton Hotel Monaco’s Western motif—enhanced by a remodel this fall—strikes that difficult-to-create balance between kitschy and sophisticated (see: animal-print plush robes, pillows embroidered with bucking broncos). Plus, kids will find stuffed animals, such as bison, on their pillows; little ones can take their new furry friends home for an extra $25 (from the parents, of course).

Grade Schoolers: City Safari

Morning: The Rocky Mountain Arsenal complex gets a lot of attention for its wildlife, but the 123-acre Bluff Lake Nature Center in Stapleton provides a more central place to glimpse animals in natural habitats. Take the kids for a sunrise hike and try to spot mule deer along the one-mile Lake Loop.

Afternoon: Now learn about the wildlife of yesteryear—or, rather, yester-millennium. The Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s latest exhibit, Ultimate Dinosaurs (on display through January 15), digs into recent fossil discoveries, using both life-size casts and virtual reality setups to reveal the secrets of the prehistoric past.

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Dinnertime: All that cozying up to critters may cause a sudden aversion to carnivorous eating habits. Fortunately, fast-casual spot Vital Root in Berkeley offers several veggie alternatives—such as crispy avocado tacos—to kids’ favorite foods.

Stay: Through December 31, the Ritz-Carlton, Denver will pitch a tent (with a mattress) inside your suite, complete with the wildlife picture book A Colorado Day, a stuffed lion, and a s’mores-flavored cupcake. Rates start at $524 per night.

Teens: Time Travel

Afternoon (because what teenager gets out of bed before noon?): The ’80s are cool again, which means your moody adolescent might retire his snarl for a while if you take him to four-year-old curio shop Fifty-Two 80’s in Platt Park. There, he can rummage through old Atari games and hundreds of collectible figurines. (Who knew Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure had action figures?)

Dinnertime: Teens’ palates should be evolved enough to enjoy the bao buns at Ace Eat Serve. Even if they’re not, your not-yet-an-adult will love slamming forehands on the Pan-Asian eatery’s pingpong tables (reserve your spot for $15 an hour from 6 to 11 p.m.).

Night: The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver has invested a lot in attracting younger folks to its winding galleries. Its next teen-specific night, titled 21 Below, will take place on January 20 and feature live music by teenage bands.

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Stay: BookBed, an Airbnb above the indie bookshop/wine bar BookBar in Berkeley, transports youngsters back to a time when words came on pages instead of a screen. Encourage your teen to take one of the reads lining the apartment’s shelves to the balcony for some smartphone-free downtime.


Night Lights

It’s the season for awesome illumination—just follow our map to the area’s best artificial stars.

Switch On The Holidays

Location: Pearl Street Mall, 1300 Pearl St., Boulder
Date: November 19 (the lights will shine until the end of January)
Cost: Free
Main attraction: More than 35,000 LEDs and 300 illumed ornaments lighting up the Boulder County Courthouse and the Pearl Street Mall at 5 p.m.
Perks: Modern renditions of classic carols by the Boulder Chorale and the Boulder Children’s Chorale before the lighting

Zoo Lights

Location: Denver Zoo, 2300 Steele St.
Dates: November 24 to 25 and December 1 to 31
Cost: Starting at $5 for kids, $7 for senior citizens, and $9 for adults
Main attraction: More than 150 animal light sculptures are scattered across 60 illuminatedacres, alongside the real animals
Perk: A New Year’s Eve celebration featuring face painting and a magic show

Denver Zoo
Denver Zoo Lights. Photo courtesy of Denver Zoo.
Blossoms Of Light

Dates: November 24 to January 1
Location: Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York St.
Cost: $10 to $20 (free for children two and younger)
Main attraction: An entire field of animated LEDs that reacts to your sounds and movements, no matter how small
Perk: A mug of hot cocoa

Santa’s Village at Chatfield Farms

Location: Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield, 8500 W. Deer Creek Canyon, Littleton
Dates: Friday through Sunday from November 24 to December 24
Cost: $15 to $20 (free for kids two and younger)
Main attraction: Several hundred thousand bulbs bedecking the paths and historic structures—including a schoolhouse and a restored dairy barn that date to 1874 and 1918, respectively—of the 700-acre nature preserve
Perks: Decorating cookies and making ornaments with Mrs. Claus

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Picture Perfect
Looking for a great background for your holiday cards? Megan Elvrum, photographer and studio manager at Bloom Portraits in Denver, has some ideas.
1: A Winter Wonderland

Wait until it snows, and then head to Clear Creek History Park in Golden. The scene—bundled-up shoppers and an idyllic 19th-century iron bridge with snowcapped mountains in the background—is straight out
of a snow globe.

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY: Get the kids interested in music early by taking them to History Colorado Center’s intimate Tiny Library Concerts ($10 to $13), with local bands playing to a maximum of 85 people in the museum’s research library. Shows run through March. 

2: Quintessential Colorado

The oh-so-recognizable 300-foot monoliths (Ship Rock and Creation Rock) at Red Rocks Amphitheatre serve as a reminder to your friends and family back in the pancake-flat Midwest that life is a little more interesting here.

3: Natural Meets Urban

Visit Riverfront Park, where the juxtaposition of the futuristic Millennium Bridge set above the churning South Platte and surrounding green space lets people know that while you love the outdoors, you’re no Luddite.

This article appeared in the November 2017 issue of .

Jerilyn Forsythe, Digital Associate Editor

Jerilyn Forsythe co-directs 5280.com's editorial strategy, manages the magazine's social media presence, and oversees 5280's digital internship program. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter @jlforsyt.

Mary Clare Fischer, Assistant Editor

Mary Clare Fischer co-edits 5280’s Compass, Adventure, and Culture sections; writes for multiple sections of the magazine; and blogs weekly about health and wellness for 5280.com.

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