Best Place to Draw a Bead With a 1,247-Pound Vintage Cannon

State Capitol

On the west side of the State Capitol, two Civil War-era military pieces -- one cast in 1862, the other a year later -- point toward the not-too-distant Civic Center. But the placement shouldn't be taken as a symbolic assault by the state on the City and County of Denver. Instead, visitors can conjure up imaginary foes -- say, an income-tax form -- and blast away. (The cannons are plugged.)
For the third year, the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the Rocky Mountain Fifty Caliber Shooting Association plan to host their Fun Shoot on private land about seventy miles east of Denver. The groups, which delight in loud noises and the right to bear arms, have scheduled this year's event for May 3-5. If firing conditions permit, incendiary tracer bullets will be used. Spectators pay a small fee, shooters a larger one.
If your trigger finger's itchy, but you don't have your paintball posse handy, head for the Paint Pellet Game, a local supplier of all that colorful weaponry. It has a shooting range that can be booked for fifteen-minute blocks of time. When it's time to slime, this place is sublime.
It could be argued that most of Wyoming and much of eastern Colorado is ideal for paintball shoot-outs. Better yet, though, is Tactical Pursuit's forty-acre site on a private ranch about four miles north of Boulder. Rain or shine, a company operator will pick up Tactical Pursuit's paintball clients at a nearby restaurant, then set them loose at the top-secret spot for a day of splash and dash, as they drill each other with colored dye pellets.
Set in a former grocery store, Denver Paintball covers about 14,000 square feet and is open daily to walk-ins. Players can bring their own guns or try the rental package, which includes protective gear as well as ammo. Splatterers have to be over ten years of age, and those under eighteen need a signed parents' waiver, which can be gotten from the Web at www.denverpaintball.com. Hey, look, there's a wet cleanup in aisle one, and two, and three, and...
While youth basketball once seemed like a forgotten sport in Colorado -- the runty sibling of brawny football or flashy skiing -- it has grown up in a hurry. A big chunk of the credit belongs to the Gold Crown Foundation, whose CEO and original booster is ex-Nugget guard Bill Hanzlik. While Gold Crown deals with other games, too, it's the explosion of boys' and girls' hoops -- resulting in some 420 teams across the state this season, the largest in eight years of competitive ball -- that has Colorado basketball soaring.
REI
Sure, REI's flagship store has that slammin' climbing wall, its own Starbucks and, right outside, the Platte River, where you can test-drive/ride/kayak the equipment. But the best sports in the building are the people who man the Outdoor Recreation Information Center, a joint venture between the sporting-goods company's store and nonprofit groups, including the Colorado Mountain Club, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Colorado State Parks. Conveniently located near the map section, the center's booth is staffed by forest-service personnel and volunteers, who hand out maps, literature (only from public agencies -- no commercial outfits allowed) and all sorts of advice on where to use that equipment now that you've bought it. The center is open Tuesdays through Saturdays; the ORIC's Web site, www.oriconline.org, is available at all hours. Information, please -- and thank you.
Fillmore Plaza
It's sweet and petite, just the most delightful addition to a holiday shopping outing with the kids. From mid-November to mid-January, the Cherry Creek North Business District opens its outdoor rink at Fillmore Plaza daily, and it stays open late on Friday and Saturday nights. Skate rentals are available, but no tushie pillows.
South Suburban Ice Arena
Open year-round, the indoor South Suburban Ice Arena complex offers twin ice sheets, a concession stand, lessons for all ages and ability levels, competitive programs for hockey and figure skating, and cool admission prices for public skating: $2.50-$3.50 in district and $4-$5 for non-district residents. Tell 'em Sakic sent you.
From mid-December to mid-March, 55-acre Evergreen Lake becomes a high-altitude Hans Brinker's dream. This is outdoor skating at its finest, with a cleared hockey rink on one shore, the Lakehouse serving hot chocolate on the other and plenty of public skating in between. The rest of the year, the lake's great for fishing and boating. Try that at the Pepsi Center.

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