Elitch Lanes

Elitch Lanes attracts everyone from weekday pizza-and-beer leagues to late-night bowling aficionados. Business and blue-collar types, high-schoolers and senior citizens have bowled alongside each other for years as the booze and sodas flowed. A North Denver institution from a bygone era when its namesake family ruled this part of the city, Elitch Lanes will close this May, but there's still time to come in for a few frames, stay for the buffet and cocktails, and hang with your Denver neighbors.

ViewHouse Centennial

Flush with its success in the Ballpark neighborhood, ViewHouse opened a second outpost last September right off I-25 in Centennial — and it turns out that residents of the southern suburbs had been hungering to get in the game. From almost the moment it opened in a transformed Trail Dust Steak House, this ViewHouse has been packed at all hours, with groups gathering to drink and chat, linger over weekend brunch, party late into the night — and maybe even watch some games. ViewHouse is filled with big screens where you can watch just about every sporting event imaginable live, and there's room to stretch out while you do (and plenty to snack on off that expansive menu). But on the rare occasion when there's nothing to catch on television, you can watch all the action as suburbanites meet, greet, eat and possibly cheat. Or you can just gaze off to the west at that stunning view of the mountains, from both the ground-floor windows and the rooftop deck. Bonus: When you leave this ViewHouse, you don't have to worry about running into the LoDo let-out crowds.

Readers' choice: Blake Street Tavern

Blake Street Tavern

The winner and still the champ! Since 2003, Blake Street Tavern has been scoring big with sports-bar fans — and the best got better when Blake Street opened Underground Social, the ultimate solution for a big basement space that now features its own bar, jukebox and photo booth, along with plenty of games: shuffleboard, ping-pong, darts, cornhole, Giant Jenga, Giant Connect 4 and many more. Of course, there are big-screen TVs down here, too, in case you want to watch games as well as play them. And upstairs, Blake Street remains as accommodating as ever, with another game arcade, private rooms that groups can claim for watching their favorite sporting events, big booths and tables that are perfect spots for taking on some of the big offerings on the menu — like the green chile cheeseburger and the Blake Street nachos — and a huge rectangular bar from which you can catch the action on TV, or just around the rest of the room. Score!

Readers' choice: The 1up

Highland Tap & Burger

When Highland Tap & Burger opened in September 2010, it was a sports lover's secret spot for catching a game. Not only could you walk in and grab a seat at the bar (where there are five TVs alone) or a table without a hassle, but the staff was more than willing to tune in to whichever obscure sporting event you were searching for. But word soon got out about the Tap's top-notch burgers, sinful bacon-topped mac and cheese, and standout smoky Stranahan's wings with a sticky, crackling glaze perfect for nibbling on with one of the bar's many local beers. These days, the joint is always hopping, and often too crowded for people who like to watch games in relative quiet — but for most fans, that crowd just means more friends to help you cheer on the home team. There may be better bars for watching a pitcher's every move or capturing the hushed whisper of the Masters at Augusta, but you won't find a better menu at any of this town's other sports-crazed bars.

Readers' choice: Highland Tap & Burger

There is no place in this state quite like Lakeside Amusement Park. On a perfect Colorado summer evening, a stroll through the grounds reveals a gathering place shaded by mature trees and lit by thousands of twinkling bulbs, all accentuated by the sounds of the rattling Cyclone roller coaster and a chorus of happy screams and hollers. The turn-of-the-century amusement park wears its age well and with pride. From Victorian-era buildings to the art-deco additions of the '30s, Lakeside is just as much a place for fun as it is a home for those who appreciate beautiful historic architecture.

As the snow melts, Vail's Adventure Ridge swaps out tubing, ski biking and a kids' snowmobile course for zipline tours, a climbing wall, a primo disc-golf course and other activities. The best of these is a pair of ropes challenge courses. You'll start with a ground-school lesson to make sure you know how to operate the can't-fall, can't-fail harness system, then spend thirty minutes up in the air on the North Course or sixty minutes on the more challenging South Course, quivering in that harness as you attempt to traverse a series of increasingly difficult obstacles. Don't sweat it when some adventurous little girl shows you up. Happens all the time.

With their name and image plastered on everything from T-shirts to car dealerships to street signs, it's easy to forget that the Flatirons are more than just a cool logo. But they're definitely real: majestic slabs of sandstone, punching up a thousand feet or more out of the ground just a scant few miles from Boulder's Pearl Street Mall. The best way to properly appreciate them is to rope up and scale one of the formation's many moderate lines, like the Direct Route on the First Flatiron. Climbing the Flatirons is far from a wilderness experience: The parking lot at Chautauqua Park is packed with dog walkers and hikers shortly after sunrise, and on game days you can watch instant replays on Folsom Field's jumbotron from halfway up the face. But convenience has its benefits: When you're done, you can hike straight off the summit and into the Chautauqua Dining Hall for a post-climb drink.

It may be rimmed by concrete and smell like feet on its best days, but for city-bound kayakers, Confluence Park is the best place outside of a swimming pool to sneak in an hour or two of after-work paddling. The park is located in the shadow of REI's flagship store, where Cherry Creek meets the South Platte River, and the water's waves and eddies give paddlers a convenient way to practice the basics before striking out on wilder rivers like the Arkansas or the Animas. Confluence Kayaks, located on Platte Street just a block and change from the park, offers beginner lessons in the water for $149 a pop, equipment included.

Carol and Punch Bohn, son of legendary boxer Eddie Bohn, run Lake Carol Anne, a private fishing enclave in north Denver. Fishing is belly-boating only, and membership is limited to a hundred — but those lucky fishermen can catch (and release) big bass, channel catfish, crappie, bluegill and brown, rainbow, brook and tiger trout — including the biggest tiger trout ever caught in Colorado. Joe Petrow's catch landed on the cover of a magazine, which brought him to the attention of the state and earned him a thirty-day license suspension, but he got to keep the bragging rights...and avoided a $1,000 penalty.

5880 Lowell Blvd.
303-429-3748

Best Place for Kids to Commune With Nature in the City

Mordecai Children's Garden

Denver Botanic Gardens

Denver Botanic Gardens offers one of the finest examples of nature play around. That's because naturalists used indigenous species, alpine plants and tons of natural materials to craft a legit mountain experience for kids and their families at its Mordecai Children's Garden. The highlight is Springmelt Stream, where children can dam things up with logs, skip stones and surmount rocks to their heart's content. Little ones can meander downhill to Chipotle Homes Harvest Garden — just beyond Pipsqueak Pond — then get elevated at Marmot Mountain, which features a rickety bridge, a picnic nook and furry friends. Because the environment is constantly changing, no two visits to this magical three-acre oasis are ever alike.

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