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Best Experience for Those Who Take Walking for Granted
Children's Museum of Denver
2121 Children's Museum Dr.

Strap yourself into a wheelchair and play ball at the Children's Museum's "Spokespeople" exhibit. Just try to. There's nothing better than firsthand experience in maneuvering around corners and backing up to make you appreciate the skill involved in living every day with a disability. It's a great experience for kids--and an even better one for some adults we know.

Best Place for Kids to Rock Out
Colorado School of Mines Museum
16th and Maple streets, Golden

The antique ore car out front is kept stocked with free rock and mineral samples the school doesn't need anymore, and the rule inside is that if it's not under glass, you can touch it. That's why on any given day you can find kids crawling under tables in search of dinosaur fossils, gemstones and other geological wonders at the School of Mines' display hall, the repository for all the mineral collections owned by the State of Colorado. Minor miners will find a 600-pound chunk of pure copper from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a walk-in cave, an underground-mine-light collection donated by the state's former chief coal-mine inspector, and what may be the world's best specimen of vanadinite, an orangy-brown mineral from Morocco. The admission fee is really rockin': It's free.

Best Rock
"Alma King" Rhodochrosite crystal
Denver Museum of Natural History
2001 Colorado Blvd.

The museum became the proud parent of the six-inch, five-and-a-half-pound "Alma King" last fall, after Golden rock collectors Bryan and Kathryn Lees discovered it in Colorado's Sweet Home Mine--which is, along with sites in South Africa and Peru, one of the best places to find rhodochrosite in the world. The glowing red crystal, embedded on a crystallized quartz matrix, is the largest known specimen in the world, so it's quite a coup for the museum's Coors Gem and Mineral Hall, where the rock will permanently reside. According to Bryan Lees, "The Alma King is to the mineral world what the Mona Lisa is to the art world." Now if we could only tell what it was thinking.

Best Fun in the Dark
Candlelight Tours
Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys
1880 Gaylord St.

What could be more Christmasy than a museum that looks like fallout from the Nutcracker Suite? The Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys houses antique toys and rare dolls, all of which seem quite ready to jump up and start dancing, especially when seen by flickering candlelight. Chamber music and fancy goodies (sugar plums?) round out the annual tours, making them a popular item with adults and dreamy-eyed kids.

Best Christmas Festival
Georgetown's got gingerbread to spare--the pretty mountain town's lacy Victorian homes make it the perfect place for an old-fashioned Christmas right out of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. So it follows that the festival held here every December would feature all the nostalgic trappings: roasted chestnuts, sleigh rides, strolling carolers, wassail at the Hamill House Museum, a children's Santa Lucia procession and a decidedly European St. Nicholas (the kind who wears velvet robes and a holly wreath) to oversee the proceedings. Be sure to wear comfortable boots--it's a winter wanderland.

Best People's Arts Festival
Denver Black Arts Festival
Held in July in the western meadows of City Park, the Black Arts Festival is dedicated to much more than a good time--though you can certainly have one there. Appreciation of culture is the festival's focus: There's a model Nigerian village, a food court where a mouth-watering smell wafts off barbecue grills, educational pavilions for both children and elders, Afrocentric art, a community parade and, God bless it, a gospel music stage. Check that out and you will see the light.

Best New-Age Arts Festival
Renaissance Festival
Boulder Central Park

Is your idea of an outdoor arts festival a mass public jostle, complete with sunburn? Or do you prefer one that encourages people to get in touch with themselves, rather than with the people passing by? Well, where else but in Boulder would you ever find such a thing? The New Renaissance Fest, held Labor Day weekend in Boulder Central Park, features solar-powered stages, booths touting alternative technology, holistic health practices, spiritual inner direction, psychics and a Women's Moon Hut, which must be the ultimate coffee klatch for ladies. The only rule: Leave your cynicism at the door. Peace, man.

Best Festival Food Experience
Cherry Blossom Festival
Sakura Square

There are plenty of reasons to come downtown and visit the summertime Cherry Blossom Festival, not the least of which is the chance to visit a Buddhist temple and learn more about a culture that's had roots in Colorado for decades. Ah, but what about the food? Head to the temple's gym, set up with long family-style dining tables and ringed with booths slinging succulent yakitori (skewered barbecued chicken, to the uninitiated), yakisoba (the same thing, with a side of buckwheat noodles and sauteed vegetables), traditional sushi, Japanese beer on tap and bean-paste sweets. Everyone chips in--grandmas and wee kids alike--assembling platters as you watch, ferrying food from the kitchen in giant woks that could double as small swimming pools, and graciously supplying the tables with complimentary green tea. We're talking home cookin'.

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