Downtown Aquarium
For a landlocked state, Colorado has a lot of residents who like to dive and snorkel -- and not many places for them to do it. But now you can get down at the Downtown Aquarium, where Swim With the Fish, Dive With the Fish and Dive With the Sharks allow you to do some underwater communing with our fine-finned friends. The snorkeling program, Swim With the Fish, is open to kids ages six to nine and runs $75. The other two programs are more advanced and require each participant to present a valid SCUBA certification card from a recognized agency (as well as $175). Still, this is the kind of swimming with the fishes we like to encourage.
The park formerly known as the Xcel Substation on 15th Street is now generating a whole new kind of electricity. Powered by the Greenway Foundation, the reclamation of this one-acre parcel of land was the final phase of the Confluence Park plan and was completed last year. The improvements at what's now known as Neusteter Plaza are shocking. Three shade structures protect granite play sculptures created by Andy Dufford in the shapes of a leaf, duck and fish. From here, you can watch bikers, hikers, kayakers and all sorts of residents and tourists doffing their socks to commune with nature. At the edge, a great lawn slopes down to the bank of the South Platte River, where you'll find the city's newest and definitely best beach. Whenever the temperature tops 80 degrees, this fine swath of sand becomes wall-to-wall waders. Spend fifteen minutes at Neusteter Plaza and you'll be re-energized for the week.
For years, the South Platte was the Rodney Dangerfield of rivers. It got no respect -- just a lot of trash. But all that changed with the River Sweep, an annual event combining the organizational skills of REI, Trout Unlimited and Denver Water with the litter-picking talents of hundreds of volunteers. The 2007 event, set for September 29, will mark the fifteenth time that the Greenway Foundation has teamed with Denver to clean the banks of the South Platte along all fifteen miles that run through the city.
What you need is someone who shares your values, understands your dedication to trail maintenance, recycling, litter control and other tenets of pack it in/pack it out. Someone who is going to respect you in the morning -- or the next afternoon. V Outdoors is ready to be your yenta, fixing you up for volunteering with the finest of land-use organizations -- even if you've only got time for a one-night stand. Sign on, pick your area of interest and get out into the great outdoors. You might even score.
REI
The REI flagship store on the Platte River is a mecca for Colorado singles, like Cafeteria or Cain in New York. There are always plenty of pretty hippie chicks and urban adventure gals around. But for even better odds, sign up for one of REI's many classes, whether climbing basics or bike-fitting or photography. Go to www.rei.com and prepare to say hi to the hot redhead in the back.
Gamma Gallery
Confluence Kayaks is a wonderland of kayaking information: From DVDs to books to gear to floats, Confluence has it all -- as well as a doting staff of hunky eco freaks ready to personally instruct you on the finer points of kayaking. When you're ready to take things to the next level, sign up for the Tuesday-night pool classes and learn how to roll. Hey, keep it clean over there.
Hirshorn Park
When a neighborhood is in transition, everything is in the process of becoming something else. In Wash Park and Cherry Creek North, the last bungalows are transitioning into three-unit, three-story townhomes. In LoDo, the last warehouses are transitioning into lofts. And in Highland, the neighborhood du jour just north of downtown, a traditional baseball diamond built for immigrant children more than fifty years ago is now transitioning into an unauthorized dog park. Hirshorn Park only takes up half a block, and half of that space is fenced off for a playground and softball diamond. But the chain link that was so good at stopping out-of-bound balls is equally good at stopping off-leash dogs. And since Highland's new residents seem to be raising more dogs than kids, park usage has picked up. For the health and safety of everyone, let's hope the dog poop is, too.
Wherever you're going, whatever you're doing in this state, the Colorado Mountain Club Press has a book for you. Looking for a quiet mountain trail without too much elevation but still away from civilization? Check. Seeking that perfect meadow to finish off your local flora checklist? You betcha. Want to hike a portion of the Colorado Trail but get lost finding your car in the Whole Foods parking lot? Hey, we all get lost there, but CMG's Colorado Trail Databook comes with GPS waypoints. With CMG publications in your pack, there's no reason not to explore our great outdoors.
Snaking off the South Platte River near Waterton Canyon to the southwest and winding all the way northeast to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal and Green Valley Ranch, the serpentine High Line Canal Trail bends through Arapahoe, Douglas and Denver counties. Approximately sixty miles long, the trail is a mellow meander through pristine areas of undeveloped nothing, as well as upscale sections of Greenwood Village and Cherry Hills. So in addition to bunnies and birds, flora and fauna, you can sometimes steal a glimpse of suburban backyard life amid the micro-mansions. With plenty of ponds and waterways along the way, this route draws joggers, power-walkers and dog-lovers on any decent day. An easy escape into the urban wild, the High Line Canal Trail makes for a pleasant walk on the mild side.
At Genesis Fitness Camps, the troops answer not to a bugle call, but to the siren song of Beyonc's "Bootylicious." No matter how loud the instructors crank the sound system, though, there's no drowning out the moans of winded exercisers working their way through the seven levels of fitness hell: abs, cardio, weight-training, kick-boxing and running, running, running. During the four-day-a-week, five-week intensive boot camps, both the fit and the flabby discover the joys of elevating their pain threshold -- one sprint, push-up and power squat a time. Sporting a headset and a six-pack, owner Garth Heth brings the hurt in a nice way, pep-talking students through every masochistic moment. Genesis's excellent instructors (including one bona fide Iron Man, trainer Jason Gass) mix up the programs with daily workouts smartly designed for maximum results, as well as guidance on nutrition and weight loss. Genesis's Low Impact, Performance and Level 10 programs are so popular, classes at both locations have started to sell out a month in advance. Best book that floor mat early: Genesis Fitness Camps hurt so good.

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