Off Limits

We feel for those unsuspecting tourists stranded at Denver International Airport while they wait for the East to dig itself out. After all, there are only so many "Layover" or "Flyby" massages you can get in a day -- even if DIA's rubdown room has been cited by both Lucky and Organic Style as one of the nation's best in-airport spas.

Instead, those yawning Yankees should be getting a real feel for this occasionally world-class city. They should get out from under those fluorescent lights and see what the Mile High City -- er, Denver: A City with Altitude and Attitude -- truly has to offer. And we have the perfect tour guide: Andrew Hudson, Mayor Wellington Webb's press guy for the past eight years.

The tenacious tuba player is on his way out -- eleven days and counting -- to become the head flack for the American Water Works Association, a Denver-based nonprofit trying to increase the amount and quality of drinking water. In the meantime, though, Hudson has 100,000 (his salary in 2002 dollars) and one reasons to escort these huddled masses through the great city that former mayor Federico Peña imagined: If our own water supply doesn't increase, these may be the last tourists Denver sees.

The Off Limits travel agency has a few suggestions for Hudson's excursion. Of course, no trip to metro Denver is complete without a stop at Casa Bonita, for a taste of some "great Mexican food" -- which can then be washed away with a few hours on the Coors Brewery tour. And for the area's newest self-proclaimed tourist attraction, Hudson should take them on a drive through Broomfield, Colorado's newest county. It has "breathtaking scenery, easy access to the mountains, Denver and Boulder, world-class shopping, luxury resorts, golf courses and outdoor activities for every season of the year," according to an announcement by the Chamber Serving the Broomfield Area that it plans to launch a tourism initiative. "We're a perfect example of everything Colorado has to offer. All we have to do is get our name out there."

Out there where someone hasn't heard about how the drought, forest fires and a plague of grasshoppers made for a generally disastrous 2002 tourism season. Despite the gloomy news, though, Broomfield chamber executive director Rick Roberts insists that tourism remains one of his group's top three priorities for 2003.

So far, the group has discussed the idea only once; it has no marketing materials and no slogan -- not even "Field of (Developer) Dreams." Still, Broomfield boosters believe that the county's proximity to Denver and Boulder is enough to draw tourists. Plus, there soon may be a new Walgreens or Eckerd drugstore, since both chains are currently eyeing a property in the area. And eBay is practically local, with Level 3 Communications providing its Internet access: Talk about world-class shopping!

"We have a hometown feel," Roberts says. "I think that's what people are getting back to. We're going to get away from the asphalt feel of corporate America and get back toward family-values travel and conventions."

Although that sounds a little Colorado Springs for a county so close to Boulder, conventions could be a wise focus, since Broomfield's biggest draw is the four-star Omni Interlocken Resort in the Interlocken Technology Park -- a place not exactly known for its non-corporate or "hometown" appeal.

Maybe Hudson can give Roberts a page from Webb's playbook. On Tuesday, the city announced a new program sponsored by the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau and Frontier Airlines, asking citizens to refer meetings and conventions to Denver. Those who do so are eligible for prizes -- including a trip to Mexico.

Just don't tell our stranded comrades.

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