Best Unauthorized Dog Park 2007 | Hirshorn Park | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
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.
Elitch Lanes is where you prove you've got balls. This is where you spend perfecting your spare, strike, hook and backswing -- whiskey shooters or rum and Coke firmly in your other hand. There's no room for sissy drinks and fancy shoes in these lanes that time forgot. The place does get a little funky, though, during the quarterly Beats & Bowling, when a monster DJ lineup complements the spinning pins, and bowlers compete for time on the tables. Plus, every Wednesday is College Night, with $1 drafts, $1 games and $1 shoes. Let 'em fly!
Hidden above 14th Street in an old slaughterhouse, Tarantula Billiards is the perfect downtown pool hall: gritty and urban, with well-poured drinks, rows of tables and a commanding view of the poor workaday shlubs down below. The free pool during the day -- with purchase of lunch, even if it's just the liquid variety -- and DJs spinning funk, soul and electronica every night of the week top off an already ideal hideout. To keep you coming back, the beautiful-people bartenders offer Hangover Weekend, with $2 red beers and $4 bloodys. Fierce.
Let the games begin! Underground Games makes it easy, with stock that includes games both popular and obscure as well as replacement pieces for games you've had around so long that Park Place is looking, well, a little less than posh. There are also rooms available that you can rent by the hour, in case you'd like to hold that Monopoly marathon on neutral ground.
In elementary school, everyone loved Field Day. It was a dream come true: an entire day devoted to playing outside, and then everyone went home with at least one ribbon. Then we got older, and gym class turned from blissful anarchy into one structured game after another. By high school, the only people who actually enjoyed gym were the jocks who were good at playing those structured games. Meanwhile, everyone else longed for a return to the days of guts and glory, battling it out in a three-legged race or talking trash before tug-o-war. But now the Multiple Sclerosis Young Professionals Network has brought back Field Day -- this time for grownups -- and filled the fundraiser with such competitions as dodgeball, Capture the Flag and a rock-paper-scissors showdown, as well as commentary by local comedians. Score!
Fat City is every child's birthday-party paradise, with the bowling, the laser tag, the mini-golf, the rollerskating, the arcade and the foam factory. But the three-and-a-half-acre entertainment center doesn't stop at children's birthday packages, corporate team-building exercises -- including "crazy bowling" and mini-golf battles -- and rentable rooms. Oh, no. You can rent out the whole building -- which holds 3,000 comfortably -- for an all-night adults' party. Because why stop at laser tag when you really can have it all?
Trains and Christmas. They just go together, like hot chocolate and marshmallows, in the magical lore of childhood dreams and Chris Van Allsburg's beloved holiday-season picture book, The Polar Express, which was made into an animated flick co-produced and voiced by true believer Tom Hanks. And now Coloradans can hop on board our own Polar Express, when the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad hosts special November and December holiday rides for kids, complete with a storybook reading and high-country meet-up with Santa and his reindeer. Pajamas are encouraged. All aboard!

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