BEST SPOT FOR CRUISING 2006 | Regis Square Mall 5100 block of Federal Blvd. | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
There's no place that better captures Denver's northwest side than the Regis Square strip mall, with its cut-rate hair salons, a carnicera, El Nuevo Time-Out Billiards, a Rent-a-Center and Tequila Le Club. A big part of northwest Denver culture is cruising, so it's no surprise that on warm nights, most Federal Boulevard cruisers -- mariachi pop music blasting from their custom vans and trucks -- make this address a must-stop. Since the massive parking lot of the defunct Kmart next door has been blocked off by a chain-link fence, it doesn't take long for the Regis Square lot to fill with teens and other revelers flashing their rides, smashing bottles and, on occasion, shooting pistols into the air. Talk about a block party! This is everything a hot night of cruising should be.
The Aurora Wheel Park complex is big and round, shaped like a pizza, with one slice featuring a BMX dirt track, another housing a BMX ramp course, and another piece reserved for three roller-hockey rinks. But by far the most popular topping is the 20,000-square-foot skatepark that opened in 2002 to the excitement of riders throughout the metro area. Designed by SITE Design Group out of Arizona for a total cost of $300,000, the Aurora Skatepark can easily accommodate a variety of users -- everyone from balding BMX dudes to first-graders in Heelies. The street course has an open, mellow feeling, with well-placed ledges, rails and pyramids. The snake run is small, but skaters who hit the angles right will be pitched into a fast bowl with tight walls and interesting lines. Most important, the texture of the concrete is just right -- not too smooth and not too rough (unlike the Denver Skatepark, which is far too slick, in case you were wondering).
The large drainage ditch that runs through the Harris Park neighborhood near West 72nd Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard in Westminster resembles one of those huge, concrete arroyos in Los Angeles that are notorious for suddenly filling with flash-flood waters -- along with abandoned El Caminos, stray dogs and Huffy-riding children. But Little Dry Creek lives up to its name and is usually no more than a foot-wide flow relegated to a narrow channel bordered on each side by large, banked walls. That's why the sections at the top, with a series of tall, concrete wedges and an oversized launch ramp, have been a prime unofficial spot for local skaters since the '80s. But ever since the site popped up as a major destination on Thrasher magazine's King of the Road tour, pros and bros from all over are heading to the ditch -- and keeping an eye out for storm clouds.
Get a cue: For pool fans in Denver, the place to play is the Colorado Cue Club, which boasts a friendly atmosphere, a full kitchen and 28 pool tables. But its major asset is Chris Honeman, a national champ (she won the BCA North American 8-Ball Championship) who opened the place with friends last year. Honeman knows first-hand what pool players want, and as a result, the club has quickly racked up fans.
For a landlocked state, Colorado has a lot of scuba fans; per capita, we rank third for certified divers. And their favorite place to take the plunge is the Aurora Reservoir, which has a designated dive beach and also an underwater airplane, sunk years ago by the Colorado Scuba Retailers Association so that divers would have something to explore. It may not be the Great Barrier Reef -- but then, Queensland doesn't have the Rocky Mountains, either.
For Catholics, the fourteen stations of the cross represent the events between Jesus's condemnation and his burial -- a progressive series of images that encourage spiritual contemplation, modeled after paths followed by Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem. But at the Mother Cabrini Shrine, a pious pit stop on the east side of Lookout Mountain, the stations also create a cardio-pumping obstacle course -- a steep vertical climb up hundreds of tiny steps that dead-end at a massive, Sacred Heart statue of Jesus. The Cabrini hike may or not lead you to salvation, but it will surely lead you to tighter buns.
Some people justify dropping big bucks on memberships to high-class joints with the flabby rationalization that they're more likely to hit the gym if they've been charged a lot for the privilege. And it's true -- you usually get what you pay for at these posh facilities...if you actually use all of their high-priced equipment. But if you want to get in shape for cheap, an annual Denver Department of Parks and Recreation pass grants you access to 29 rec centers, with about a dozen pools total, for just $150 a year. Although the meathead contingent can be heavy at some, there's no gain without some pain.
When money's in short supply, people need to get creative. So if you want a present for your pet and can't afford that gold-plated flying doggy disc that's all the rage, take your pooch for a stroll down Cherry Creek Drive, along the eastern edge of Pulaski Park. This particular spot is just south of Gates Tennis Center, whose twenty public tennis courts apparently draw a lot of bad but powerful tennis players. Every day, ham-handed lobbers send balls flying over the fence, onto the busy street, then into the gutter beside the sidewalk. Your pooch will think he's wandered into pet heaven -- but keep a tight hold on his leash, or traffic may send him to the real thing.
Every spring and fall, when the migration seasons bring thousands of birds to Barr Lake, the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory switches into high gear, gently capturing its avian guests in nets, banding them for further research and then setting them free. The education and bird-banding station is open to the public, but the entire area is filled with weary travelers on the fly. For birders, this is a sight well worth seeing.
Swimming pools have gone to the dogs, as well they should. Many breeds adore the water, and a bob in the pool is wonderful therapy for pups suffering from hip dysplasia, arthritis, sports injuries and other painful conditions. Canine Fitness boasts two pools: a deep one for swimmers and a shallow one for little pooches and big splashers. Both offer supervised recreation, exercise and social time for dogs that might otherwise spend too much time chewing the fat on the couch at home. Come on in, Fido, the water's fine.

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