Ten Things to Cross Off Colorado's End-of-Summer Bucket List
The kids are back in school, the nights are getting cooler, and there are moments here and there when it just plain feels like autumn. That’s right: Summer is almost over, and aside from a lot of binge-watching various Netflix series in front of the A/C unit, you just don't have much to show for it. But it's not too late: Here are ten Colorado-only ways you can still celebrate summer.
10. Drive over Independence Pass, Mt. Evans and/or Trail Ridge Road
All three roads will shut down for the winter (and a significant portion of fall and even spring as well) because of their elevation; that makes them truly Colorado summer roads. Sure, it’s great to take a drive in October when the aspens turn, but it’s also worth taking a drive now, before the snow falls in the mountains to a sufficient degree to shut down these avenues of oxygen-deprivation fun. For that matter, now's the time to satisfy any urge you might have to drive westbound out of Denver on I-70. Because as soon as ski season starts…you might be able to do it, but you sure won’t want to.
9. Make a Splash at Waterworld
If you haven’t been to Waterworld recently, that means you’re probably not sixteen and you probably don’t have children. But no matter who you are, you'll enjoy spending a sunny day at Waterworld, full of thrills, chills and, yeah, a lot of kids screaming. C'mon in: Although Waterworld is now closed on weekdays, the water’s fine weekends through Labor Day. (If you really want to make it a Colorado memory day, head to Casa Bonita for dinner afterward.)
8. Get a Taste of Taste of Colorado
Lots of people talk about how the Taste of Colorado isn’t what it used to be — and they’re right. In a lot of ways, it’s better. No matter how rosy your memories of this longstanding downtown festival, it’s only grown since 1983, with more turkey legs per square foot than your average Renaissance Faire. This year’s Taste runs from September 2 through September 5, over Labor Day weekend, and features performances by no less than Boyz II Men, Blues Traveler and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Oh, and it's also sure to feature lots of people in your way, waving turkey legs and spilling beer.
7. Boat Around City Park
Ferril Lake in Denver’s City Park is a beautiful sight during most of the year. But in the summer, it's also the site of a lot of fun: Wheel Fun Rentals offers rentals not just of specialty bikes, but also of pedal boats, kayaks, canoes and paddle boards. Get out on the lake: There are 24 acres of water to explore, and bunches of geese to annoy. At least until the end of October, weather permitting.
6. Meander Through the Colorado State Fair
The state fairgrounds in Pueblo (Pueblo? Yes, Pueblo) host this extravaganza at the end of every summer, when everyone’s in the mood for one more big party. From August 26 through September 5, you can see blue ribbons awarded to various jars of foodstuffs, animals that you’ve heard exist on farms, occasionally rigged games of chance, concerts, rodeo, and rides that creak and thrill and worry and may induce both joy and nausea. And you’ll love it all, because this is America, Colorado-style, and as the song goes, our state fair is a great state fair. Have a corn dog and funnel cake: Breathe it in.
5. Take In a Flick (or Three) at the 88 Drive-In
Drive-In movie theaters used to be everywhere, back when car culture was the national standard. There aren’t many drive-ins left these days, but Denver’s own 88 Drive-In is keeping the dream alive, now in its fortieth season of operation. While newfangled theaters are all abuzz about personalized seating choices and padded, reclining comfort, the bucket seats of your car did it first, and arguably did it best. (Just don’t try to sneak people into the drive-in by hiding them in the trunk — that’s so Archie Comics.) If you really want a memorable experience, check out the free Adult Swim Night at the 88 on September 10.
4. Go Back in Time at Lakeside Amusement Park
At this point, Lakeside is essentially a museum devoted to itself. We’ve written at length about the great mysteries in and about this venerable Denver attraction; it's the sort of place that seems to invite a sense of myth and wonder, from the vintage signage to the rides that, if you’re a Denver native, you remember being exactly the same as when you were a kid. You can still see it all — or at least most of it — through September 18. (Note: The Lakewide website is very specific that you should call to make sure, because Lakeside don't need no stinkin' regular hours of operation.) Yes, there are some things that have been lost, closed or just plain broken over the decades, but the spirit — and all that glorious neon — is eternal.
3. Climb Mount Bierstadt
Climbing a fourteener in Colorado is sort of like having sex for the first time: It’s a rite of passage, and you feel pressure to do it because you sort of want to, and everyone else seems to be doing it. So you anticipate it, plan for it, worry about it…and then it happens, and you feel both elated and sort of let down…but you know you’re going to do it again. Mount Bierstadt is in the Chicago Peaks, usually accessed at Guanella Pass, and it’s the “sure thing” of fourteeners, with a hike of around three miles and an ascension of less than 2,400 feet. Still an accomplishment, to be sure, and a good way to take in the beauty of the Colorado landscape. And here's a bonus: very little risk of pregnancy.
The great thing about having a terrible season is that every seat has the same view.
Max and Dee Bernt at Flickr
2. See a Rockies Game
Unless the season stretches past October 2 (maybe next year), baseball will be soon be history for 2016. But the beauty of seeing a pro-ball game in Denver isn’t just about the home team’s record, or the promise of action in the post-season. It’s about the manicured green of the outfield, the cheers in the stands, the beer and the hot dogs, and that purple cap you keep in your closet for this (and pretty much only this) occasion. And really: Everyone in this country needs to hear the crack of a bat at least once a year; it’s one of the most purely American sounds that exists. Take someone out to the ball game.
1. Watch a Film on the Rocks
Red Rocks might be a three-season venue, but the Film on the Rocks series is pure Colorado summer. If you haven’t seen a classic flick while sitting with your friends and family on a few blankets in the warm dusk of the amphitheater, with the lights of Denver coming up in the background and a crowd all around that, like you, is there as much for the majesty of Red Rocks itself as for the movie? You’re missing out on one of Colorado’s signature experiences. You still have a couple more chances in 2016: The last movie in the Film on the Rocks series is Star Wars: The Force Awakens on September. 9. Finish out your summer strong in the Force, or do not. There is no try.
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