Best Piece of Denver Outside of Denver 2009 | The Denver Mountain Parks system | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Red Rocks is one. So are Winter Park and Genesee Park (where the city's buffalo roam), Echo Lake, at the foot of Mount Evans, and Lookout Mountain, home to the Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave. In fact, the Denver Mountain Parks system, created in 1912, includes 47 unusual properties totaling 14,000 acres. Because of their location outside the city, however, the parks have been underfunded. But that's changing, two quarters at a time. Beginning this year, the parks will get 50 cents from every Red Rocks ticket sold and use the money to create trail maps and make much-needed upgrades. The best part: Most of the parks are free. So get out of town and enjoy Denver!
Outdoor Divas prides itself on catering specifically to sporty women and the understanding that what works for the gander isn't always good for the goose. That's why these women's gear shops now feature women-specific snowboards from Colorado's Never Summer Industries and other major manufacturers. Aside from just being pretty, these boards sport features designed to increase flexibility and accommodate a better fit for smaller feet. Just the thing for cunning carvers.
There are plenty of quality miles to pedal on the Front Range, but you didn't buy that trick, free-riding dual suspension just to ride the foothills. The Monarch Crest trail is one of the finest rides on the planet; starting at over 11,000 feet in elevation and running along some jaw-dropping sections of the Continental Divide, it's not your average Sunday ride, so true that wheel, fill up your hydration pack, and make sure you've been doing your cardio for the past two months. You'll experience above-treeline grandeur, killer switchbacks that laser through dense alpine forests, and a descent that offers nearly 7,000 feet of now-would-be-an-excellent-time-to-adjust-my-brakes singletrack. There are even a number of shuttle-for-hire options outside of Poncha Springs that will do the driving for you, so you can spend more of your day feeling like a god with a handlebar, not some lost, citified touron in a Subaru. Just make sure you pack oxygen if you haven't been hitting the StairMaster, because this is a mile high times two.
Whitewater kayaking is not just about having the right gear, though Confluence Kayaks sells it. It's not just about scoring the right price, though you'll find that here, too. And it's definitely not about a staff that simply regurgitates a sales brochure. What the folks at Confluence Kayaks give you is the confidence that comes with having poked the Grim Reaper with a stick and quickly run away. Not only has owner John Kahn been the man to see when it comes to buying boats in Denver for nearly fifteen years, but he and his staff have been there: staring into the bottom of the s-turn hole on the Arkansas, dropping Skull Rapid on the Westwater stretch of the Colorado, braving the rude waters of Gore Canyon every spring. Translation: Kahn and company know how to float your boat because they're half fish, and they've got the gills and the guts to take you along for the ride.
Wouldn't the world be oh-so-much sweeter if we all lived in one big bouncy castle? While such a paradise only exists in our dreams, we're one step closer to it thanks to Jump-Street, a gigantic family fun center where a trampoline covers almost every surface. Somersault across the floor, pinball off the walls — anything's possible (as YouTube clips of Jump-Street regulars attest). There's even trampoline dodgeball — quite possibly the greatest concept since the ham sandwich.Best Year-Round
At NBA games, the best seats in the house are on the floor, which means the rich and the gaudy are front and center rather than tucked away in skyboxes. Check out the enormous bodybuilder guys in silk shirts and the buxom babes squeezed into zany zebra stripes. Take a gander at the old guys with rings on every finger, ponytails and berets, or chance a guess at which synthetically boobed and tanned women are wives, which are trophy wives and which are mistresses. You'll see playas, big shots, CEOs, homies and hotties all dressed to the nines. The Nuggets are exciting, but some of the best action is definitely off the court.
Whether your closet looks like a Patagonia outlet store or you view hiking as a prelude to a coma-inducing brunch, Boulder's Flatirons should satisfy your hiking needs. The rocky Boulder foothills are easily accessible from busy Chautauqua Park, and a variety of trails offer challenges for experts and beginners alike, but each features access to the same winding terrain and sweeping vistas of Boulder. One of our favorites? The 3.5-mile Royal Arch trail, a moderately strenuous but totally doable climb that peaks at an impressive rock arch, from which you can see practically to Kansas. No matter which trail you choose, though, the area's opening salvo alone — a slow, steep climb out of the open park and into the denser hiking areas — will burn enough calories to make it through that brunch guilt-free.
The opening hole of Fossil Trace Golf Course sums things up: Rising from the middle of the fairway, about halfway through the beastly par-five, a strange rock formation juts from the earth. It looks like a middle finger, and it's a warning of what's to come: a unique, sometimes harrowing but always rewarding test of golf. The test continues for 6,800 yards (from the back tees), through the equally challenging par-five 18th, which hugs a lake all the way to the clubhouse. But while the course may take a big chunk of your confidence, it won't take too much from your wallet: Weekend, peak-season greens fees are less than $80 with a cart. And with the Great Depression Part Deux upon us, expect to find some discounts this season.
Stapleton may not have too many shade trees, but it has three public pools (the Aviator, the Puddle Jumper and the F-15) where overheated new-urbanists can cool off during the summer. Although all three can get crowded on the weekends, there are usually plenty of chairs and sufficient space to stretch out. The pools themselves are new and clean, and the areas around them feature grassy areas, barbecues and picnic tables. While Stapletonians get in free with a neighborhood resident card, the rest of city can enjoy the pools, too, at $3 for kids and $7 for adults. Oh, and you can bring in canned beer (no bottles, please), and they kick the kids out of the water every 45 minutes for adult swim time.
Like Chauncey Billups, Conor Casey is a local hero who's getting a chance to prove that you can go home again. He excelled for South High School before heading off to get his kicks beyond state lines, first at the University of Portland and then for a number of European squads, including Germany's Borussia Dortmund. By the time he was picked up by the Rapids in 2007, he seemed to be rounding into a journeyman — and a subsequent ACL injury didn't bode well. But despite missing part of the 2008 season, he led the team in scoring. Looks like Colorado agrees with him.

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