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You'll be stir-crazy after spending the night in Denver's new jail

The "Bed & Breakfast" sleepover being hosted Saturday night by the Denver Sheriff's Department at the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Facility —that's the jail at Denver's new Justice Center Complex — will be very realistic. "We truly want to give them the experience," says the department's Melissa Ortega. And that means that when you check in at 4 p.m., you'll be fingerprinted, have your mug shot taken, get patted down, be given a uniform and have all your personal effects taken away before you're led to your brand-spanking-new cell. Which means no book. No purse. No weapon. No hooch. And "no commingling," Ortega notes. "Males and females will be separate."

There are a few special amenities being offered to those who sign up to pay $60 for this unique experience. The sheriff's department is checking in advance to make sure that would-be inmates don't have any outstanding warrants, which would quickly move them to real inmate status if they showed up at the jail. "Knock on wood, we haven't had that happen," Ortega says of the 89 people who've paid so far. And while everyone will be eating what regular inmates eat — something like a chicken patty with mashed potatoes for dinner — the department will be serving a late-night snack, right before the screening of a movie, probably The Blind Side. "We can't lose sight of the fact that they're paying," Ortega says of the department's guests.

One other way these inmates have an out: If you're really going stir-crazy, the sheriff will let you out of stir before the official 7:30 a.m. release for an additional $10.

That smarts! Best tip you won't find in the Best of Denver 2010: The Best Parking Meters are in the 2100 block of Larimer Street. Not only do those old-time meters charge just 25 cents for an hour, but you can still feed them this pittance with a Denver CashKey. Or actual change, of course.

Denver is now 60 percent of the way to replacing all of its parking meters with the so-called Smart meters, which don't take those keys that seemed so innovative a decade ago (and won several Best of Denver awards).

By early May, the city hopes to have replaced 80 percent of its meters with Smart ones, according to spokeswoman Ann Williams. Which might mean that it's a good time to replace your key with a Smart card — but unlike the keys, they're only available (now) at the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Building and Denver Wastewater headquarters. Some day, we hear, you'll be able to get them at the Downtown Denver Partnership office on the 16th Street Mall and all Tattered Cover and metro King Soopers outlets, but that day isn't here yet.

In the meantime, you can use credit and debit cards in the meters, but fair warning: Depending on your card policies, you may be charged a couple of bucks in bank administration fees every time you try to feed the meter with a debit card. And unlike the Smart cards, most credit cards won't let you charge less than a buck on the meter, even if you only need a quarter's worth of time.

Our advice? Park in the 2100 block of Larimer. Or next time you're at the Webb building, surrender to the inevitable, turn in your CashKey (the city will send you a check for the money still outstanding on the key, as well as your deposit, within a few weeks) and buy a Smart card.

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