2010 Summer Guide

"For weirdness to flourish, it has to have the right compost made up of dramatic history, amazing environments, and truly unique, off the grid characters," writes Charmaine Ortega Getz, author of Weird Colorado. "Colorado is blessed with all three."

She should know, because she's been exploring the intersection of these three elements for a new book that chronicles many of this state's weird, wonderful spots — everything from Bishop's Castle (featured in Weird U.S.) to Cañon City's Prison Museum to the Alferd G. Packer Memorial Grill at the University of Colorado to the haunted corners of the Denver Botanic Gardens. And in this guide, she offers up her Top 10 favorite weird places to visit this summer — just the map for a wild road trip.

But you don't have to love weird to love summer in Colorado. And you don't even have to jump on a highway. You could simply grab a seat at the nearest outdoor patio in downtown Denver and get a complete taste of this state by pouring down local microbrews and enjoying the inevitable sunshine, then the balmy evening air. That could be enough.

But there's more, so much more, to experience. That's what Jessica Chapman learned when she told friends she was moving to Denver, and they loaded her up with suggestions for things to do in this city, plus places to see around the state. She culled through all their ideas and admonitions and came up with her own Top 10 lists: the Top 10 Things for a Newcomer to Do in Denver, and the Top 10 Things for a Newcomer to Do in Colorado (and, yes, there is a difference). Even if you've lived here for forty years, though, you never get tired of summer in Colorado — not with a favorite park to picnic in, a new festival to explore, as Jonathan Shikes reveals in his own list: the Top 10 Things for a Native to Do in Denver.

And still, these lists just begin to capture all the wonders of summer in Colorado. From Buffalo Bill's Burial Commemoration the first week of June to A Taste of Colorado, the giant festival in Civic Center Park that brings the season to a close over Labor Day (although the good weather and good times will continue for many more weeks), there's always something to do, always something to see — and quite often, those somethings are free.

So what are you waiting for? There's a world of weird and wonderful things right outside your door. Get out and enjoy summer in Denver.

Stay Weird and Wonderful, Colorado

Charmaine Ortega Getz was weird before she came to Colorado from her native California more than a dozen years ago — but she was delighted to find that her new home was also filled with weird attractions. "As a kid, I would read the newspapers, and I would always wonder, 'What happened next?'" she says. "I always thought there was more going on."

She made it her mission to find out, working as a journalist and always looking for the story beyond the story. And she didn't give up that habit when she met her future husband, who'd lived in Colorado all his life, and moved to Boulder to be with him. She got her MFA at Naropa ("a different kind of weirdness," she says), slapped her car with a "Keep Boulder Weird" bumpersticker, and started doing some freelance writing. A fan of Weird New Jersey and its Weird U.S. offshoot (www.weirdus.com), she scoured the book for references to Colorado, and, finding only one, sent a note to the founders of the Weird series, Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman ("The Marks," she calls them). "Gentlemen," she told them, "you don't know from weird in Colorado."

And so the Marks and their publisher invited Getz to share her discoveries not just with them, but with readers across the country, as the author of the just-released Weird Colorado: Your Travel Guide to Colorado's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. Getz spent more than a year researching the book, traveling around the state and talking to everyone she met. "Some of the best sources are the teenagers, who will glom on to the urban legends," she advises. She tracked down authors who'd put out their own books "about everything that was strange or colorful or oddball or bizarre," and dug into history.

"What I found out as I was going around was how key it was for many of these small towns to have something unusual," she says. "I think every town needs to find the good weirdness and nurture it. You can nurture pride in your town; you can nurture a whole tourism economy." In fact, she hopes that her book convinces people to get out of town this summer and see these sights for themselves.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun
Jessica Chapman
Contact: Jessica Chapman
Charmain Ortega Getz
Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes