Apex Center
An incredible site, the Apex Center features a huge swimming area complete with water slides, hot tubs and a clubhouse-like "pump station" that sprays water from every conceivable angle. There's also an excellent ice rink, workout areas, weight rooms and an enormous climbing wall, plus a place to get food so people who've just worked off lots of calories can replenish them again.
Think of recreation as a commodity: Leisure time is one of life's luxuries that everyone wants and needs in our modern buzz-saw world. South Suburban makes it easy to give the gift of game by offering gift certificates in any denomination, redeemable (and available) at any district recreation facility for whatever activity the recipient chooses, be it dance lessons, pottery classes, lap time in the pool, a round of mini-golf or a spot in a spring softball league.
Although it's not on the scale of Albuquerque's justly famous balloon extravaganza, the Rocky Mountain Balloon Festival, which took place last year in late August, is turning into an annual blast. The balloons at the 2001 event ranged from corporate tie-ins (Tony the Tiger, the Energizer Bunny) to generic but still vibrant models that early risers could see up close and personal for the cost of entrance to the park. And they can be viewed from miles around for free: C-470 near Wadsworth was lined with looky-loos parked on the highway's shoulder. This year's version is scheduled to take place August 23-25. Up, up and away!
The giant corn maze at Chatfield Nature Preserve, which is open from Labor Day until October 31, is a great way to get temporarily lost. Thanks to clues located at strategic spots on the five-acre site, most people will be able to find their way out in about twenty minutes. But as soon as they reach the exit, kids will be ready to go right back in again -- especially during the big Halloween finale, when the maze is haunted by scary (but not too scary) creatures.
Stockton's Plum Creek Stables
Stockton's is close enough to the city to be accessible, but far enough out to seem like it's in the country. Visitors can ride horses or go on hayrides through some beautiful scenery. Also, part of the property is an indoor arena perfect for staging large-scale events with a Western theme -- and each Halloween, the place features Haunted Hayrides complete with professional storytellers and a haunted maze.
Born in turmoil and baptized in controversy -- does it really look like a diaphragm or a half-finished prop from E.T.? -- Invesco has failed to win the hearts and minds of fans, despite a cost of nearly half-a-billion dollars. Yet the new stadium has some great attributes, chief among them the larger-than-life sculptures -- of a kicking tee, cleats, shoulder pads and a metallic face mask -- designed by Littleton native Melissa Smedley and two partners. Unlike the stadium's interior, this sculpture park is free and open to all.
The stadium turf sale was cleverly advertised with the slogan "Own a piece of Mile High History!" Last October, football fanatics who participated were able to purchase a slab of turf six feet long and eighteen inches wide for a mere $10, providing them with the least-expensive stadium souvenir conceivable. Betcha they never forget to water that part of their lawns.
In what some Mile High Stadium diehards saw as an offering to appease the football gods, dozens of seats caught fire during demolition of the old horseshoe. It seemed like there was still some fight left in the former home of Morton, Elway, et al., and even as crews doused the blaze, warm memories of the past were rekindled.
John Carmona, a Colorado Springs letter carrier, isn't one of the new stadium's neigh-sayers. A season-ticket holder for ten years, Carmona wound up with the best seat in the horse: smack-dab in the eye of the Bronco symbol.
After 37 years in limbo, the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame finally found a permanent home by Gate 1 at Invesco Field. This hometown-hero museum doesn't honor just the big names -- although John Elway was somehow chosen in 1999 -- and high school coaches and college athletic directors stand cheek-to-jock with ex-Broncos, including 1977 "Orange Crush" mastermind Joe Collier, who was among this year's inductees. Each year's class ranges from two to six individuals; since the original induction of Byron "Whizzer" White and Jack Dempsey, a total of 163 athletes have joined the roster. The museum is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. most Tuesdays through Saturdays, and admission is free. Guided tours are available for a small fee.

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