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Winter Adventures without High Price Tags

During most of the year, Skyline Park on the 16th Street Mall is mostly empty. But come December, the area turns into a winter wonderland. Whether you need to while away a relaxed holiday afternoon or just kill a few minutes between classes, a merry time awaits.

The Christkindl Market and the Southwest Rink are Denver traditions, with the Market having opened for the fourteenth year. There are also plenty of nearby tea and coffee shops to warm up in after hours outside. Putting all three together makes for cheap and festive entertainment for everyone.

Denver’s Christkindl Market on 16th and Arapahoe is the best way to start an afternoon in Skyline, when the sun is high enough to make seeing the vendors’ goods easy. The Market is based on traditional German Christmas markets and much of the food and wares available for purchase are authentically German or Austrian.

Vendors range from German lacemakers to Polish potters to ornamental glassmakers. There are also roasted almonds available in flavors from classic to Mexican hot chocolate ($4–12) and Austrian baked goods from Styria Bakery. Weekends at the market also offer live entertainment for visitors as they wander and nibble on snacks.

Many things at the market are eye-catching enough to purchase, and conveniently there’s no reason to worry about ice-skating with packages. The Southwest Rink at Skyline, right across from the Christkindl Market, offers free lockers for shoes, purses, and purchases. Skating at the rink is free and ice skates are only $2 to rent.

Just in case someone wants to skate but hasn’t learned yet, the rink offers free skating lessons every Wednesday from 11 a.m.–noon. and Saturday from 8–10 a.m. More experienced skaters can put together teams to compete in free broomball matches on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30, 8:30, and 9:30 p.m.

When the ice skating rink closes in the evening, cold guests often flock to the Starbucks across the street, but jam-packed coffee shops are never as comfortable for blood-warming drinks. A few blocks down from the rink and market, on 17th and Champa, local tea shop Tea Cloud offers both a large selection of warm drinks as well as a quiet atmosphere.

The tea shop doesn’t offer a lot of seating, but the drink selection makes up for it. Boba tea can be brewed hot ($4–6) and loose tea is available as well, with prices varying based on variety of tea.

Although the holidays are usually an expensive time, sometimes the best way to get together with friends or family is to go out and spend as little money as possible. By creatively putting a few different activities together, an afternoon wandering can be just as fun as an afternoon paying for events.

Deal of the day sites on their way out

Deal of the day sites have been all the rage in recent years. Sites like The Clymb and Hautelook give online shoppers access to great prices on outdoor gear and haute-couture fashion. On that same token, Groupon has specialized in deals put up by local businesses.

Unfortunately, local discounted deal sites such turkey trips are losing popularity, and according to Forbes, Groupon is  struggling to even make a profit.

The idea behind Groupon was promising. Local and even major businesses offer deals through the website for everything from services—like spa treatments or haircuts—to products. The aim is to get people in the door with a lower price in the hopes that they enjoy the service enough to come back at the full price.

Since paying Groupon to advertise the discount on its website, a small business makes almost no money on the deal. And as it turns out, the idea that the low prices would bring repeat customers hasn’t worked out the way it was supposed to. Fewer and fewer local businesses are posting to the site.

Competitive sites like Hautelook and other Deal of the day groups have made it easier for online shoppers to find deals on almost anything. Groupon only has deals on a more specific selection of items, meaning shoppers have to dig through offers in order to find something worth ordering.

To be fair, there are some gems to be found in the pages full of housewares and clothing items. Teeth whitening kits, electronic cigarettes, and even vacation deals are all there for the taking, but fewer shoppers are biting.

Groupon has recently started giving out offer codes on other online stores, including some big name brands, and at no cost to shoppers, which seems to be counterproductive to making a profit.

The final blow to Groupon is going to come internally. According to Forbes, its public shares are floundering below the IPO (initial public offering). This mixed with poor fundraising spending has caused the company to consider bankruptcy.

Seeing as the site is currently full of listings for bargain yoga classes and laser hair removal services too far from downtown for anyone to be interested in them, it looks as though its best days are behind it.

Slightly cheaper deals on hotel rooms or gift ideas involving off-brand jewelry are slowly disappearing off the offer board.

It’s been fun, Groupon. Your annoying daily promotion emails probably won’t be missed. Instead of shopping online for a last minute gift deal, slackers should branch out and shop locally, putting a little more effort into gift giving and the local economy.

Who knows? Maybe Groupon’s decline will generate the kind of repeat customers that it was aiming for all along.