There's so much to do in Colorado during the summer, it's almost paralyzing. There are the always-popular but always-sold-out concerts at the Denver Botanic Gardens, the KBCO World Class Rockfest, the Shakespeare Festival, the Taste of Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, the Grand Prix, the ever-expanding number of farmers' markets, Red Rocks, the Cherry Creek Arts Festival . . .
Not to worry. We've done the heavy lifting with a week-by-week guide to this season's greatest hits. All the usual suspects are in our Thirteen Weeks of Fun listings starting on page 52, but if you lean toward the quirky, the off-the-beaten-path, here's a few you won't want to miss. So pull out your Treo and make a plan. There's no reason to lose another summer to indecision.
Culinary Classic and Wedding Cake Competition, Beaver Creek, June 10-13
Unfortunately, wedding-cake smashing is not part of the competition held on Saturday, June 12, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. After all, humiliating your spouse with gobs of sickly-sweet frosting is all those monstrosities are really good for, right? The bakers competing for the $10,000 purse would beg to differ. But they're just one part of the culinary delights happening this weekend. On Thursday night, there's the Chef's World Cup Challenge, featuring dueling Vail and Beaver Creek chefs trying to make something -- anything! -- out of their baskets of mystery ingredients, and on Sunday, a "pastry extravaganza." Let's just hope there are no red-velvet armadillo cakes. For more information, visit www.beavercreek.com.
The streets of Larimer Square will be transformed into a vivid palette of explosive colors at this weekend's second annual La Piazza dell'Arte event. Attendees can enjoy Italian food, drinks and entertainment while watching more than 200 professional, amateur and student artists create chalk masterpieces on the pavement. The free artsy fun goes from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Just be sure to watch where you walk. For more information, visit www.larimerarts.org.
If rushing over extremely challenging, expert-only terrain is your idea of fun, sign up for the rugged Red Bull Divide and Conquer. You and three other mates will kayak, trail run, mountain bike and paraglide through the Animas River Valley from Silverton to Durango Mountain Resort -- that's Continental Divide territory -- and there's only one rule: The fastest team wins. The whole thing will air on Fox, minus Survivor-esque quibbling but including a $6,000 prize and a trip to Austria to compete in the European version. Register at www.redbulldivideandconquer.com.
Big Wheels, Brews and Chili, Vail, June 26
Prepare for a good laugh at the annual Big Wheels, Brews and Chili, where dozens of wacky adults drag race down Vail Village's Bridge Street on decorated Big Wheel tricycles, hitting speeds of up to twenty miles per hour. Once everyone's worked up an appetite, more than twenty Vail restaurants will compete for bragging rights to the city's best chili in the Vail Chili Cookoff and brewfest. Judge for yourself for only $20 at the all-you-can-eat-and-drink competition. For more information, visit www.vail.com or call 1-970-477-0111.
For those of you who are not super athletes, the third annual Slacker Half Marathon -- the highest downhill half marathon in the country -- is just the race for you. The race begins at Loveland Ski Area (10,630 feet) and travels a meandering descent that ends in Georgetown (8,400 feet). If that's still a little too much athletic activity, sign up for the two-person Half Marathon Relay or 5K race. Advance registration is available at www.active.com.
Week Four: July 1-7
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, Antonito, July 4
Why spend another Fourth of July packed into a park, straining to see the few pathetic fireworks displays still allowed during drought conditions? This year, head down to Antonito and take the narrow-gauge Cumbres & Toltec steam train into Chama, New Mexico, just beyond the Colorado border. The whistle blows at 10 a.m. for the 64-mile ride that lumbers over the 10,015-foot-high Cumbres Pass, stopping briefly in Osier for a picnic lunch. Once you're in Chama, stay the night at one of several charming bed-and-breakfasts, and enjoy the full-scale fireworks display in Gallegos Park. There's also great horseback riding in this tiny town on the cusp of the Colorado Rockies and the New Mexico desert. If you can't make the trip this weekend, the train runs every day except Fridays from May 29 until October 19. For more information and pricing, visit www.cumbrestoltec.com.
Soar to new heights at this weekend's 24th annual Community First National Bank Hot Air Balloon Rodeo, where spectators can watch more than 45 billowing balloons soar over the majestic mountains surrounding Steamboat Springs -- and compete in an airborne rodeo. If you're looking for something more grounded, check out the wide variety of eclectic artistic creations at Art in the Park, Steamboat's annual art festival, held downtown in West Lincoln Park. We just hope it's more than an eight-second ride. For more information, visit www.steamboat.com.