They love their Greater Prairie Chickens up in Yuma County, where every spring the citizens like to provide ringside seats to the biggest show in town: The lucky folks who sign up are taken out to the lek (or booming ground) at four in the morning to watch the male prairie chickens do their strange and amazing song and dance for the chicks. You have to go there yourself to truly find out why it's called a booming ground, but it has something to do with the incredible bassoon-like bellowing that occurs when the randy boy chickens strut, flap and go head to head, all the while inflating and deflating bright red balloon-like air sacs on their necks in a desperate attempt to attract female attention. Sure, you could sit at home and watch Animal Planet instead, but trust us on this one: There's nothing else like it. Make your reservations early.
Chris and Phil Switzer may be the state's foremost alpaca people -- they were the first in the region to raise the woolly creatures, and Chris -- who has a college degree in weaving -- has published a primer on how to spin llama and alpaca wool and runs workshops at the annual Estes Park Wool Market. Phil has credentials, too -- he helped form the Estes Park-based Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association, is a certified fleece judge and has run the alpaca tent at the wool market. And when they're not attending to all those duties, the couple raises and sells the fleecy beasts, keeping a herd of about fifty sweet and cuddly camelids (the babies are especially cute). Visitors should call ahead, and plan to peruse the Switzer's store for weaving supplies, fiber, books, tools and finished items. It's nothing to spit at.

Chris and Phil Switzer may be the state's foremost alpaca people -- they were the first in the region to raise the woolly creatures, and Chris -- who has a college degree in weaving -- has published a primer on how to spin llama and alpaca wool and runs workshops at the annual Estes Park Wool Market. Phil has credentials, too -- he helped form the Estes Park-based Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association, is a certified fleece judge and has run the alpaca tent at the wool market. And when they're not attending to all those duties, the couple raises and sells the fleecy beasts, keeping a herd of about fifty sweet and cuddly camelids (the babies are especially cute). Visitors should call ahead, and plan to peruse the Switzer's store for weaving supplies, fiber, books, tools and finished items. It's nothing to spit at.

These are programs with meat on their bones -- whether it's a daylong school field trip or a two-week summer camp, the kids involved are truly there, participating and learning as they go. One of the best and most novel is Women Afield, a series of daylong workshops designed to encourage an interest in science among girls ages twelve through eighteen -- a group that traditionally shuns such studies. But there's also a three-hour Bird Studies Extreme birdwatching trek for kids in grades four and up, as well extended camps for teens, featuring classroom instruction and hands-on field training right alongside the pros.
These are programs with meat on their bones -- whether it's a daylong school field trip or a two-week summer camp, the kids involved are truly there, participating and learning as they go. One of the best and most novel is Women Afield, a series of daylong workshops designed to encourage an interest in science among girls ages twelve through eighteen -- a group that traditionally shuns such studies. But there's also a three-hour Bird Studies Extreme birdwatching trek for kids in grades four and up, as well extended camps for teens, featuring classroom instruction and hands-on field training right alongside the pros.
Ritchie Center for Sports and Wellness
When you start with a state-of-the-art facility, the rest simply falls into place. The brand-new Ritchie Center for Sports and Wellness more than qualifies, offering just about every sport under the sun beneath its shiny copper skin: youth hockey leagues, figure skating, basketball, gymnastics, lacrosse, swimming, climbing for kids and more. There are also various summer camps, including overnight and day soccer camps, tennis and volleyball camps and all-inclusive sessions divided up by age groups. Plus, if it's a little R&R you're seeking for yourself, you can pack off the young ones at the center's Little Pioneer Place, which offers drop-off child care for up to two hours.

When you start with a state-of-the-art facility, the rest simply falls into place. The brand-new Ritchie Center for Sports and Wellness more than qualifies, offering just about every sport under the sun beneath its shiny copper skin: youth hockey leagues, figure skating, basketball, gymnastics, lacrosse, swimming, climbing for kids and more. There are also various summer camps, including overnight and day soccer camps, tennis and volleyball camps and all-inclusive sessions divided up by age groups. Plus, if it's a little R&R you're seeking for yourself, you can pack off the young ones at the center's Little Pioneer Place, which offers drop-off child care for up to two hours.

Best kid place that really lives up to its name

Funtastic Fun

Lollipop Park
Forget all of those overpriced, underwhelming entertainment warehouses and theme parks that cater mostly to the teenage crowd. The owners of Funtastic Fun know what kids -- and their parents -- like, and it shows. Just about everything here sets FF apart from most other play places in town. The indoor amusement park comes complete with a Ferris wheel, carousel and train -- and that's just the beginning of the fun. There are more than twenty different rides and attractions (including a giant air castle for bouncing, a roller-racing area, side-by-side slides, a shadow-making room and a slew of silly funhouse mirrors), and moms and dads are encouraged to join in the fun. (Bonus for parents: No blaring music, strobe lights or other sensory-overloading gimmicks included.) FF provides all of this for an incredibly reasonable rate (with free parking, to boot): The cash-only admission price of $7.99 per child (just $4.99 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays; adults pay $2.99 every day) gives you unlimited rides and play for unlimited time. The family-friendly game machines take 25-cent tokens, but there is so much more to do here that kids hardly notice them.

Best kid place that really lives up to its name

Funtastic Fun

Forget all of those overpriced, underwhelming entertainment warehouses and theme parks that cater mostly to the teenage crowd. The owners of Funtastic Fun know what kids -- and their parents -- like, and it shows. Just about everything here sets FF apart from most other play places in town. The indoor amusement park comes complete with a Ferris wheel, carousel and train -- and that's just the beginning of the fun. There are more than twenty different rides and attractions (including a giant air castle for bouncing, a roller-racing area, side-by-side slides, a shadow-making room and a slew of silly funhouse mirrors), and moms and dads are encouraged to join in the fun. (Bonus for parents: No blaring music, strobe lights or other sensory-overloading gimmicks included.) FF provides all of this for an incredibly reasonable rate (with free parking, to boot): The cash-only admission price of $7.99 per child (just $4.99 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays; adults pay $2.99 every day) gives you unlimited rides and play for unlimited time. The family-friendly game machines take 25-cent tokens, but there is so much more to do here that kids hardly notice them.

Kids will go head over heels for this one: For $65, you get one hour in the Meadowood gym for up to eight rowdy little gymnasts ($5 per additional child), followed by a half-hour in the party room indulging in bring-your-own cake and refreshments -- and this is one birthday party where they'll need some excess sugar to burn. Available Friday evenings or Saturday and Sunday afternoons, the parties are open to kids of all ages -- from just-walking to teens.

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