For the little bit of time I spent living in New York City, there were many times when I found myself homesick for Colorado. The only things that seemed to quell the unnecessary self-sorrow were trips to Target and McDonald's. Those places were reminders of my somewhat suburban American existence, a retreat from the crushing reality of New York City -- a city that I eventually came to love. (Now that I'm finally reading Fast Food Nation, I'm realizing the "American" feelings I have about commercial giants is part of a super-yucky scheme/business model intended to make me feel that way.)
Much as I love Colorado, I don't feel at home with those other "American" activities common here on the Fourth of July -- watching fireworks and getting drunk outside. Fortunately, there are other authentically American options for the holiday. Here are five perhaps unlikely patriotic places that will make you feel good about America on Thursday.
Lakeside Amusement Park Lakeside is the most fucking awesome place in Colorado -- and this is true from a historical perspective, too. White City, as Lakeside was then known, opened just in time for the Democratic National Convention in 1908. Itching to shed our cowtown image -- something that a century later may finally be happening now that we've become the premiere transplant destination -- the "Coney Island of the West" welcomed politicians from around the country. Riding a rollercoaster while thinking about what it must have been like to ride a rollercoaster as a politician in 1908? That's pretty patriotic.
Brown Palace Hotel Steeped in history, the Brown Palace is a great place to go if you just want to feel like you're hanging out in old-timey Denver. But in honor of the Fourth of July holiday, the hotel hangs its 17-by-30-foot flag from the atrium, a tradition that was said to have initially stated in the 1940s, and then was reinstated for the 2008 Democratic National convention. Just think: you could start the day with a patriotic drink at the Brown Palace's Ship Tavern and admire the flag, then finish off the day enjoying more political history and a hot dog at Lakeside. Pikes Peak Pikes Peak is big and important and all of that, but did you know that "America the Beautiful" was penned after English teacher Katharine Lee Bates made a summer visit to the site? Also called "America's Mountain," Pikes Peak inspired the poem that eventually became a song that was momentarily considered for the national anthem -- only to be eclipsed by "The Star-Spangled Banner" in 1926. Head to one of Pikes Peak's observation platforms and see if you're patriotic enough to sing the whole thing by heart.
Molly Brown House Museum An integral part of Colorado's history, Margaret Brown was known internationally as the "Unsinkable" -- after surviving the Titanic. But Brown was also a great social advocate and active suffragist who helped form the Colorado chapter of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and was a charter member of the Denver Woman's Club. Pay Molly's Capitol Hill pad a visit and celebrate the patriotism of civil rights.
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Red Rocks Amphitheatre Sure, there's always a big show at Red Rocks on the Fourth -- if Blues Traveler is your thing, you're in luck -- and that's reason enough to take a trip to the gorgeous outdoor venue. But at this patriotic time, its nice to know that the place came to be as part of the New Deal. That's right, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was responsible for the 1941 build-out of Red Rocks as an employment project of the Works Progress Administration. As a result, today this place is part concert behemoth, part bootcamp/yoga fanatic dream spot...and part super-patriotic historical landmark.