Things to Do in Colorado - page 2
Denver’s 314-acre City Park is the largest park in the city, built in 1882 following the tradition of New York City’s Central Park and later used as the site of the 1893 World’s Fair. Today, this beautiful urban green space boasts a number of attractions, including the Denver Zoo, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and a pair of lakes, complete with a boathouse where visitors can rent paddleboats. Ferril Lake is the location of the iconic Prismatic Fountain, a newly renovated centerpiece that lights up the nights with brilliant, ever-changing displays of light and water.
Not only is the park itself a highlight of a trip to Denver, but the surrounding City Park neighborhood is well worth exploring as well. Nearby Colfax Avenue boasts a bevy of hip shops and restaurants. At the north end of City Park, just across East 23rd Avenue, the public City Park Golf Course offers 18 holes near the heart of the city.
The Denver Firefighters Museum offers guests a rare glimpse behind-the-scenes of the life and times of modern firefighting. The venue offers a chance for the young ones to try on some firefighter suits and pretend they’re on the job, while the adults peruse over a century’s worth of historical artifacts, all housed in the original Firehouse Number 1 built in 1909. A great look into a turn-of-the-century firehouse and all the progress made in firefighting technique and technology over the 20th century, the Denver Firefighters Museum offers something interesting for all of us.
Dinosaurs once roamed the earth, and they once walked the ground in Colorado. We only know this from the dinosaur bones, tracks, and marks left behind at Dinosaur Ridge, just west of Denver. Known as one of the most famous sites where dinosaur bones have been discovered, they were first unearthed in 1877 by a local professor. Their display increased public interest in dinosaurs and prehistory, sparking excavations throughout the Rocky Mountain region. Later, in 1937, dinosaur tracks from the Early Cretaceous Period were found.
These steps can now be traced on the Triceratops Trail, a half-mile journey through fossils and imprints as much as 68 million years old. There’s also a Dinosaur Ridge Trail which, at 2 miles roundtrip, circles through the rocky landscapes of dinosaur tracks and bones.
The Dinosaur Ridge Visitor Center is also worth a stop to learn a bit more about the area and the dinosaurs past. You can learn as the excavation process as well with an interactive simulated dinosaur dig.
With classic American foods served alongside some of rock and roll’s best music memorabilia, the Hard Rock Cafe Denver is part of the two-story Denver Pavilions shopping area downtown. Marked by the 20 foot neon electric guitar out front, it always draws a lively crowd and hosts a variety of music events on its stage.
The Denver outpost of the Hard Rock Cafe creates the casual and fun experience you’d find in any of their restaurants. Their menu includes appetizers such as nachos, wings, and potato skins and tasty entrees that range from burgers and sandwiches to barbecue. Vegetarian options are also available.
The cafe also has a large outdoor patio, two event rooms, a dozen large screen televisions, a full bar with premium cocktails, a fun atmosphere, store, and of course, great music playing.
Memorabilia on display rotates but includes musical instruments and stage costumes played and worn by the greatest musicians in rock and roll.
The Colorado Trail offers an outdoor experience ranging from breathtaking to “life-changing,” according to people who have hiked all or even just a portion of its 500 miles (805 kilometers). Ideal for hikers, runners, and bikers alike, it runs from outside Denver to Durango, carving through eight mountain ranges and seven national forests.
Even though Denver is the “mile high city,” the city itself is set in the plains at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Denver ski resorts are often over an hour away from the city, and Winter Park is one of the closest at only 80 minutes from downtown. It’s also the oldest and one of the largest ski resorts in the state, and one of its mountains—Mary Jane—is often considered to have the best moguls of any resort in the country. Like many other parts of Colorado, Winter Park is graced with over 300 inches of snowfall and 300 days of sunshine—thereby creating ideal conditions for an active resort in the mountains.
The resort’s elevation is notably high—with a base at 9,000 feet—and the summit trails officially top out at just over 12,000 feet. Aside from the 143 runs—some of which are five miles long—the small community of Winter Park is one of the nation’s highest. Here you’ll find dining, lodging, golfing, and a comfortable family amenities, and even when the snow stops falling in summer, the lifts keep running for mountain bikers looking to gain some speed down the trails.
Thousands of visitors travel to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs each year, and the academy’s all-faiths Cadet Chapel is the most visited man-made attraction in Colorado. Among the best examples of modern academic architecture, the striking 150-foot-tall (46-meter-tall) chapel is designed with 17 spires created from aluminum, steel, and glass.
Just outside of Colorado Springs, the towering Pikes Peak stands as an American icon. Katharine Lee Bates wrote the song “America the Beautiful” after surveying the great western lands from atop this very mountain, and today, visitors can enjoy the same view that inspired Bates, looking down across the rolling plains and jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains.
The Georgetown Loop Railroad is a narrow-gauge historic railroad that runs between Georgetown and Silver Plume, Colorado. One of the state’s first tourist attractions, the railroad takes passengers on a 4.5-mile (7-kilometer) ride through spectacular scenery in the rugged Rocky Mountains.
How do you get from the heart of Aspen to the 11,000-foot summit of Aspen Mountain in less than 20 minutes? Hop aboard the Silver Queen Gondola.
In the winter, visitors ride to the top to ski Aspen Mountain, (also known as Ajax) or do some snowshoeing at Richmond Ridge. When the snow melts and summer heats up, there are a number of free outdoor activities including hiking, guided nature walks, kids’ games and Sunday concerts. It’s also home to the highest disc golf course in North America. Whatever the season, the view of the Elk Mountain Range is worth having a camera handy.
Plan on a half day to a full day, depending on how much exploring you have in mind. You can pack a picnic or buy food on the mountain.
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You can pack a lot into a day at Keystone Resort. There are 135 named ski trails covering more than 3,000 acres, and with 235 inches of average snowfall, 20 chairlifts work hard to make getting to trails easy.
Keystone Resort has nine trails that stay open late, making it the largest night skiing operation in Colorado. Open 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., the resort also has the longest ski day (11.5 hours) in the state. For families, Keystone Resort can’t be beat.
Embrace the spirit of the great Colorado outdoors in Grand Lake, home of the state’s largest natural lake, located at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. At an 8,300-foot (2,530-meter) elevation, enjoy brisk mountain air and year-round outdoor activities ranging from hiking and biking to fishing, golfing, and lake tours.
Tucked in the hinterlands of Colorado Springs, Cave of the Winds Mountain Park is an adventure park and cave system inside the Rocky Mountains. Learn about Colorado’s ancient geology while exploring lamp-lit caverns and narrow passageways. Above ground, aerial thrill rides offer an action-packed way to explore Williams Canyon.
The heart of Durango is a nationally registered historic district where visitors can walk in the footsteps of the miners and railroad workers who helped settle the Wild West, though today’s Durango is quite a bit more upscale that it was when William Jackson Palmer settled the area in the late 1800s. Historic attractions include the original Strater Hotel, built in 1887, and the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, which still carries passengers between the two towns along the Animas River. The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Museum sits at the back of the railyard with exhibits describing the history of the town and the railway.
At an elevation of 6,800 feet (2,072 meters), Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs is aptly called “America’s only mountain zoo.” Its 146 acres (59 hectares) are home to hundreds of animals, including grizzly bears, monkeys, hippos, tigers, elephants, and its renowned herd of giraffes—one of the largest in the world.
The historic Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad takes passengers on a spectacular 45-mile (72-kilometer) journey through the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, connecting the two towns for which the railroad is named. The steam-powered locomotive is a vintage—though comfortable—train that makes you feel like you’re traveling back in time. It also provides access to extraordinary wilderness scenery and mountainous areas of Colorado that you can’t get to by car.
The highest sand dunes in North America sit within Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in southern Colorado. The dune field encompasses some 30 square miles (78 square kilometers)—a vast area for hiking, sand sledding, horseback riding, camping, stargazing, or swimming in Medano Creek.
Let your children run free in the Children’s Museum of Denverat Marsico Campus. Here, kids are not just allowed to, but are encouraged to touch everything, role play, pretend, and let their imaginations run wild. Climb aboard a real Denver fire truck, make a masterpiece in the art room, or stand inside a bubble you yourself just blew—the Children’s Museum of Denver prides itself on its various activities and exhibits for the young and hungry mind. Rated as one of the top 12 children's museums in the country by Forbes Magazine, from engineering buildings and concrete trucks in the Assembly Plant, to blasting rockets off into the air, the Children’s Museum of Denver has enough to occupy both child and adult for hours.
Built on 80 acres of land in the Northern corner of Denver’s historic City Park, the Denver Zoo is a full day of animal excitement. The first of its kind in America, the highly regarded Denver Zoo did away with cages and began using naturalistic zoo enclosures beginning with its famous Bear Mountain back in 1906, and continues the trend of conscientious zoo maintenance and upkeep.
Today, a visit to the Denver Zoo is a pleasant, meandering stroll through Pachyderm Alley, Primate Panorama, Predator Ridge, Bird World, and many other intriguing exhibits which highlight the zoo’s 700 different species of animal, including the incredibly rare okapi, red-bellied lemur, Amur leopard, black rhino, and Siberian tiger. Take the train around the park, grab a bite to eat in the café, get up close and personal with flamingos, or go say “Hi!” to Mshindi, the world’s only rhinoceros that paints with a brush. This 3-ton artist’s work is on display in the Pachyderm House.
When summertime hits and the heat comes, there’s little that beats a day spent frolicking at the water park -- except maybe one spent laughing ourselves silly while holding on for dear life when getting thrown about on roller coasters. Denver’s Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park combine the best of both worlds and constitute 70 winding acres of adrenaline-pumping amusement park rides and twisting water slides. Located in downtown Denver, Elitch Gardens has, for over 120 years, been offering visitors the best time for their money. With over 50 rides like the Mind Eraser, Twister, Boomerang, and a bevy of winding waterslides at your disposal, Elitch Gardens makes any day spent here one to remember.
The Denver Botanic Gardens is Denver’s very own agrarian escape from the city, while still being within the city’s confines. Featuring North America’s largest collection of plants from cold temperate climates around the world, a Japanese Garden, and Denver’s first publicly accessible green roof, the Denver Botanic Gardens routinely presents visitors with a cutting edge way of approaching horticulture and what growing a garden means.
Actually comprised of three diverse and distinct gardens each with their own attributes and noteworthiness, the Denver Botanic Gardens has its main location on York Street in the Cheesman Park neighborhood. Also home to a natural amphitheater, the main gardens are often a site for summer concerts. The two other locations include The Gardens at Chatfield, which feature meadowland and natural riparian areas, and Goliath, an alpine wildflower garden.
Denver’s Downtown Aquarium is more than just an aquarium -- it’s also an entertainment and dining complex. Featuring over a million gallons of underwater exhibits, and over 500 species of animals, the Downtown Aquarium proudly houses sea otters, thousands of fish from climates all over the world, an interactive Stingray Reef touch tank, and even two live Bengal Tigers. Exhibits are ordered by where the animals originate, which aids in children learning about the various ecosystems. An upscale, full-service Aquarium Restaurant with floor to ceiling glass views of the large aquarium holding tank is available, and women in mermaid suits have been known to appear and wave to onlookers.
Add to this an upscale bar, a fancy ballroom for dancing, and a full-service restaurant available for private or group parties, making the Downtown Aquarium is Denver’s number one spot for not just underwater viewing, but for entertainment for the entire family.
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