Colorado - Holiday and Vacation Rentals by Owner
COLORADO Travel Information
Diverse as Colorado's activities may be, it isn't always possible to make one's own fun. Thus we have amusement parks, those delightful man-man contrivances totally dedicated to the concept of pleasure and frivolity. Denver has several of the best. Six Flags Elitch Gardens represented an expanded, polished version of a park that has been a Denver tradition for decades. From a downtown location adjacent to the Ocean Journey aquarium, this expansive theme park features 40 separate rides, shows and attractions, including the new Boomerang roller coaster. The venerable Lakeside Amusement Park, located just off I-70 near Sheridan Boulevard, offers a scaled-down version, both in size and price.
Water World is billed as America's largest family water park, a claim substantiated by more than 40 aquatic attractions spread over 64 acres. With ample picnic facilities and free parking, this facility offers a fun-filled way to cool off during summer visits to the city.
Mountain slides have evolved as a Colorado summer tradition. You'll find them in Breckenridge, Winter Park and Golden.
Gambling became legal in Colorado in specific locations in 1991. The former mining towns of Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek turned to gaming as a means of economic revitalization. Today, casinos operate in each of these towns' historic districts, offering visitors the opportunity to also catch a glimpse of Colorado's mining history.
Black Hawk and Central City are located about 30 minutes west of Denver, tucked into a steep rocky canyon. You'll find large Las Vegas-style casinos as well as smaller, western-theme casinos. In addition to gaming, Central City boasts a national opera festival each summer and is surrounded by hiking and biking trails.
Cripple Creek is located in a mountain valley about one hour west of Colorado Springs. Its picturesque location offers plenty of hiking and biking trails as well as great gaming. Cripple Creek also boasts an underground gold mine tour, a working narrow-gauge train ride, and a series of summertime special events.
The Sky Ute Casino in Ignacio on the Southern Ute Reservation is located in southwest Colorado near Cortez and Durango. The wide open landscape surrounding the casino gives a sense of the vastness associated with this part of the world. The casino is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and offers lodging, dining, and conference facilities.
Toss a dart at a map of western Colorado and you'll likely hit a ghost-at least the kind of phantom represented by a long-departed town. The boom-and-bust syndrome that characterized the mining industry of more than a century ago left many dozens of relics scattered through the Colorado mountains. Some are relatively well preserved; others have decayed into, well, ghosts of their former selves. While mining towns such as Aspen, Breckenridge, Crested Butte and Telluride survived handsomely to become major four-season resorts, others faded into the pages of history and, alas, neglect.
All provide a welcome focus for exploration, both on and off the beaten path. Some may be viewed along major highways; others require an off-road vehicle or a vigorous hike that might provide an opportunity for an alfresco picnic. Perhaps the best way to choose a site by consulting a guidebook. Among the best is "Colorado Ghost Towns Past and Present" by Caxton Press. Other suggestions may be obtained from the Colorado Historical Society, 303-866-3682,
Certain larger mining districts left remains scattered throughout the surrounding gulches and valleys. You'll find ample opportunity for discovery around Leadville, Breckenridge, Cripple Creek, Georgetown, Idaho Springs, Keystone, Creede and Silverton.
Hot Springs and Spas
Think of them as small windows to the center of the earth, touching the firey source of creation itself. Hot springs typically originate when surface water seeps deep into the ground and comes in contact with molten rock in places where it lies closest to the surface. Now superheated, the water rises through cracks in the rock strata. Most hot springs flow steadily and calmly. Those that gush more powerfully and irregularly are called geysers.
Thermal springs frequently occur in regions noted for volcanic activity. In the Colorado Rockies, hot springs generally are associated with faults, breaks or folds in the layers of rock beneath the earth's surface. Faults enable surface water to penetrate the depths and become heated. The minerals that accrue to the water during its circuitous path through the rocks are believed by many to cure various ailments. Throughout history people have gravitated to hot springs to bathe and drink the waters. In Colorado, the most prominent such place is at Glenwood Springs. There a powerful flow has been converted to the world's largest outdoor hot springs pool and a vapor cave.
Remarkably, Colorado counts nearly 50 hot and warm springs which range from a tepid 68 degrees Fahrenheit to a searing 181. Many, as in the notable case of Glenwood, exist as highly developed commercial enterprises. Others, such as Steamboat Springs, have been incorporated as a public recreation facility. Still others burble on public land, where the price of admission is only a bit of map study and a hike of varying distance. Sadly, many substantial springs have been abandoned or lie in disrepair on private property. Others are either too small or cold to be of consequence.
National & State Parks
Colorado contains three national parks, each distinctly different in topography and impact. The largest, Rocky Mountain National Park, features some of the world's most spectacularly scenic high-mountain terrain. This spacious expanse of heavily glaciated peaks and dramatic sub-alpine valleys often has been called America's Switzerland. Highlighted by 14,255-foot Longs Peak, it also contains numerous glacial lakes and many miles of streams, which make it a favorite among anglers. Viewing of large wildlife such as deer, elk and bighorn sheep is a year-round prospect. The best comes in late September and early October when elk herds gather for an annual mating ritual. Hikers frolic on 355 miles of trails, many leading into the backcountry for wilderness camping. For more sedentary exploration, the paved Trail Ridge Road climbs to 12,183 feet on its route across the park.Gateways are through the town of Estes Park on the east, Grand Lake on the west.
Mesa Verde National Park, established in 1906 as the state's oldest, also is the first cultural park integrated into the National Parks System and, more recently, designated a World Cultural Heritage Site. Located near Cortez, it contains the remnant dwellings of aboriginal pueblo builders known as Anasazi with some construction dating to 550 A.D. Activities include hiking and camping.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado's newest, was upgraded from a national monument in 1999. It features a spectacular, narrow gorge carved through solid rock by the Gunnison River. Highway overlooks provide stunning views of the canyon. Activities include fishing, climbing, rafting and kayaking. Montrose is the gateway city.
Visitor Centers and information bureaus are spread throughout Colorado. They are designed to provide you, the visitor, with useful information on area attractions and services.
Whether you're pulling into a new town or state park, a preliminary stop at the visitor's center will help you maximize your available time and make sure you don't miss some great opportunities.
There are eight official Colorado Welcome Centers funded by the state at all major driving entry points to Colorado. These informative stations include:
Aquariums & Zoos
With so much wildlife scampering around the forests, it seems almost incongruous that Colorado also offers the opportunity to visit so many captive animals. Visitors can see many of Colorado's native large mammals at the expansive Denver Zoo, whose major attraction remains a broad-based exhibit of exotic creatures from around the globe. Among the feature attractions are Primate Panorama, a seven-acre exhibit featuring several of the world's endangered species of primates and Tropical Discovery, a dramatic indoor rainforest.
In Colorado Springs, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo ranks as the only mountain facility in the country. A surprisingly wide range of animals are energized by cool, crisp air. Visitors are similarly invigorated by a setting that offers sweeping views of Pikes Peak and the surrounding foothills. Pueblo Zoo boasts an impressive array of animals for a smaller city.
Creatures of a different sort have been gathered at the Ocean Journey, the region's only aquarium. This Denver facility takes guests on two river journeys-along the Colorado from the Continental Divide to the Sea of Cortez and from an Indonesian rain forest to the Pacific Ocean. The Butterfly Pavilion in suburban Westminster features colorful live displays of butterflies and insects. The state's most unusual animal exhibit, the Colorado Gator Farm near Mosca in the 7,000-foot-high San Luis Valley boasts the only alligators born in the state. Historic Districts
Colorado's rich legacy of hard-rock mining echoes through 150 years of human and economic drama to form one of the most interesting elements of the state's history. Many of the former boom towns that once spewed gold and silver have shriveled into ghost towns, visible only to adventurers who seek out these skeletons of the past. Others endured long enough to catch the tourism boom of the late 20th century. For some, the journey has been one of survival; others have boomed anew with as major ski resorts, white gold.
For the dozen or more former mining towns that have been designated, in toto, as national historic districts, the present-and future-hold far different meanings. They carry the mantle, and responsibility, of preservation a vestige of the past. How this is achieved is dictated by a set of rules that control the architecture and overll appearance of the place. At least inside the declared boundaries of the district, growth doesn't proceed willy-nilly. A national historic designation is something to be treasured, whether it's by booming resort towns such as Breckenridge, Telluride and Crested Butte, bustling gambling towns such as Central City--Black Hawk and Cripple Creek--Victor or less-developed places such as Leadville, Silverton, Lake City and Ouray.
In addition to these complete towns, many specific neighborhoods in other towns and cities also have been entered into the National Register, along with buildings and other landmarks. Consult the Colorado Historical Society.
Nature has been kind to Colorado. No, make that wildly generous. Few places on the planet display the natural world with such drama and abundance. The standard for it all, of course, is range after range of towering mountains. Forget, if you can, that Colorado boasts 54 peaks taller than 14,000 feet. Equally impressive is the fact that nearly 800 more rise above 13,000 feet, many of these equally impressive for their rugged appearance. A surprising percentage of these may be seen from major highways along popular tourist routes.
At the other elevation extreme, great rivers carve deep canyons into the rock. Visitors plan vacations to see spectacular places such as Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Royal Gorge on the Arkansas River. They might be equally impressed by Glenwood Canyon on the Colorado River, which surrounds motorists traveling along I-70 east of Glenwood Springs. Slightly less spectacular, but well worth the exploration are Big Thompson Canyon, a popular route for travelers bound for the myriad natural wonders of Rocky Mountain National Park and Poudre Canyon west of Fort Collins. For a different canyon experience, try Colorado National Monument west of Grand Junction, whose bluff walls are punctuated by red sandstone monoliths.
Because rivers and highways often share the same valleys, those traveling through Colorado bring home lasting memories of rushing water. Not surprisingly, this abundance of streams inevitably gives rise to waterfalls. Two notable examples are Seven Falls, near Colorado Springs, and Bridal Veil Falls near Telluride. Anyone who loves caves should visit Cave of the Winds in Manitou Springs and Glenwood Caverns and Fairy Cave near Glenwood Springs. In addition to the regular tour, both sites offer special exploration of undeveloped areas for physically qualified visitors.
The votes got counted on this one long ago. Colorado's snow riding experience is simply the best in North America, perhaps even the world. With 26 individual resorts-all of which also cater to snowboarding-Colorado skiing offers the optimum in variety. The appeal comes not just in the excitement of big mountains with slopes to suit every level of ability and ambition, but in all the accoutrements that make a ski vacation complete. You'll find the best in dining, lodging, entertainment and services. It's no coincidence that the three most popular resorts in North America-Vail, Breckenridge and Keystone-all share a Colorado address, or even less so that seven of the 10 most popular are found in the Centennial state. The Top 10 also includes Steamboat, Copper, Aspen and Winter Park. Those who prefer the intimacy of smaller resorts may choose from several traditional sites which offer intimacy and economy without sacrificing service.
Each has a special signature of terrain and ambiance, an appeal that keeps guests coming back year after year. Every Colorado ski area offers a wide range of services, starting with award-winning ski schools featuring the latest in technique and equipment. Larger resorts offer such conveniences as a universal charge card, with all transactions from lift tickets to rentals to dining directed to a single account. This convenience extends to transportation. Commercial jet service is available to regional airports at the doorsteps of a half-dozen resorts. Direct flights from every large North American city and connections around the globe are available through the spectacular all-weather Denver International Airport .
No mention of Colorado skiing would be complete without speaking of snow, famed both for quality and quantity. Snow comes early and stays late at high elevation; the season begins in mid-October at places such as Keystone and Loveland and lasts late into June at Arapahoe Basin, the highest ski area in North America at 13,050 feet. Contact Colorado Ski Country USA, 303-837-0793.
Pro Denver residents have a well-earned reputation for taking their sports seriously. After all, the city boasts five professional teams. Residents and visitors alike have the opportunity to see top-notch athletes compete year-round in world-class facilities.
The Colorado Rapids is Denver's major league soccer team. Their season runs March to November. Games are played at Denver's Mile High Stadium.
The city probably goes the craziest over the Denver Broncos, the city's professional football team. Metropolitan area voters backed a sales tax increase in 1999 to help pay for a brand-new, state-of-the-art football stadium currently under construction.
The newest professional sport to come to Denver is hockey. The Colorado Avalanche won their first Stanley Cup their first year in Denver. The city quickly embraced this newcomer.
Denver's brand-new Pepsi Center is home to both the Avalanche and Denver's professional basketball team, the Nuggets.
And last, but certainly not least, is the Colorado Rockies, Denver's professional baseball team. Coors Field, located in Denver's historic lower downtown ("Lodo") district, is a favorite destination for city dwellers and visitors alike. Smack in the middle of restaurant, brewpub and bar heaven, a day at the ballpark is sure to be long remembered.
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