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Literally the Switzerland of America


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River canyons and snow-covered Rocky Mountains

A paradise nestled in the Rocky Mountains where the sun always shines, where snowcapped mountains glisten in the sunlight, where scenic highways and byways astound and amaze, where Colorado Fine Diningshooting stars set the stage for romance and where drop-dead gorgeous scenery beckons people from all over the world.

Whether you've come to Colorado to plan a ski weekend, a summer vacation, an adventure with friends or a business trip, one thing is certain – you'll love the food here. The state is crazy about food, takes dining seriously and is home to numerous award-winning chefs. Adventurous diners can indulge in buffalo burgers, rattlesnake cakes, wild boar, caribou, venison and the ultimate in barbecue. You can head to the hills and dine atop a mountain summit, with spectacular views that never quit. Or you can attend one of Colorado’s famed food and wine festivals, held throughout the spring and summer months.

The Colorado Restaurant Association, headquartered in the beautiful Mile High City of Denver, is home to over 4,500 member properties, many of whom you will find in this guide. The Association has 11 chapters throughout the state, all of which offer a plethora of eclectic cuisine and fine eateries. In Colorado, we live to eat, rather than eat to live. We invite you to kick back, relax and indulge in the Colorado dining experience.

Colorado, ski country USA, the place where skiing legends were born. Colorado is where 3 year-olds take their place on a hill and learn a winter sport for a lifetime of self fulfillment. The place where grandparents snuggle beneath lap robes on evening sleigh rides. Where snowboarders carve signatures on a morning mountainside.

The country’s most popular winter destination, Colorado reigns for its spectacular beauty and resorts that know how to make people happy. Colorado is known almost as well for its cuisine and evenings of unforgettable dining.

From exquisite B&B’s to modest motels, quaint lodges to full-service hotels, luxury condominiums to private rental homes, Colorado welcomes you for a winter you'll long remember. We at Colorado Activity Centers look forward to your visit. Our many sponsors will appreciate knowing you learned of their services through this, the Colorado Vacation Planner.

The Arts in Colorado

As soon as the snow melts in spring, until the aspen leaves turn gold in fall, there are music, art, film, theater, crafts, food and wine festivals up and down the Front Range, on the state's western slope, and at every major mountain resort. Some towns, such Ballerina as Snowmass and Telluride, are so event-oriented, there's a festival scheduled every summer weekend.

Music groups clamor to be in the line-up of performances at Red Rocks, the dramatic, natural sandstone amphitheater in the foothills west of Denver. At the other end of town, Fiddlers Green hosts music groups several times each week. Boulder covets its Colorado Music and Shakespeare Festivals; this artsy town surrounding the Colorado University campus, is a culture capital. Opera, in English, resonates in the century old Victorian Theater in Central City, the mining town famous for its Face on the Bar Room Floor. At the Gerald Ford Amphitheater in Vail, Bravo! Colorado schedules a summer of classical performances with visits from the Russian Bolshoi Ballet. Meanwhile, over the pass, the National Repertory Orchestra and Breckenridge Music Institute give classical and popular concerts in this town's Riverwalk Center.

Internationally acclaimed musicians perform at the Aspen Music Festival (with visiting concerts in Salida). As one of the nation's premier music events, the Aspen festival put this town on the summer map decades ago. There's bluegrass and jazz at Telluride, country western in Grand Junction, and America's second largest arts complex in Denver hosts music, dance and Broadway theater productions year-round. A most unusual event takes places each June and July in the forests of Larkspur, south of Denver. The Colorado Renaissance Festival brings you back centuries in time, with jousting knights on horseback, medieval crafts, magicians, jugglers, fortune tellers and feasting with maidens, knaves, oafs and monks.

Art galleries fill Front Range and mountain towns. Salida, alone, has 53; in Estes Park, more than 200 artists' works may be viewed and purchased. Outdoor arts and crafts shows line the streets of Snowmass, Durango, Dillon, Breckenridge, and Steamboat Springs, where photography workshops also are popular. Festivals in Vail, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge are extremely popular and attract the top creative hands from across the country.

The largest outdoor art celebration in Colorado is the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in this tony area of Denver. Only the finest artists, craftspersons, sculptors, potters and photographers make the strict juried selections for exhibition at this anticipated annual event each Fourth of July weekend.

Statewide food tasting festivals let local chefs strut their stuff. This is the chance to sample signature dishes from the finest resort restaurants. The Taste of the Summit, in late June, summons chefs from restaurants in the world-class resorts of Keystone, Copper Mountain and Breckenridge in addition to the towns of Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne. Breckenridge, itself, with more than 100 fine restaurants in this restored Victorian mining town,holds its tasting over the Memorial Day weekend, combining it with cooking demonstrations. The posh resort of Beaver Creek shares its delicious secrets in a summer tasting fete. And, in early fall, Grand Junction celebrates its newest harvest with a wine festival and tastings from its critically acclaimed six wineries.

Hot air balloon festivals are feasts for the eyes. Mass ascensions in Snowmass, Steamboat Springs and Telluride are spectacular summer traditions. Pilots challenge each other's maneuvers with tests of skill, while visitors engage in sensory overload.

Then there's Oktoberfest, usually celebrated in late September to coincide with the turning of the aspens. Beer, brats, music and dancing herald the start of fall in scores of towns.

Dude & Guest Ranches of Colorado

Kick the city off your shoes, and head for the hills. Enter the gate of a Colorado dude ranch, and your western fantasy begins to come true. Maybe it's because everyone, at one time or another, has dreamed about being a cowboy, or cowgirl. At a Colorado dude ranch, you get your wish--even if you've never ridden a horse before.

There are forested trail rides for novices, intermediate routes, and back country rides for experienced wranglers. Even overnight pack trips for the more adventuresome. There are breakfast rides, dinner rides, and all-day excursions. Some ranches have llama treks into the high country; these gentle beasts carry your lunch and gear, while you lead them along the trail.

But, it's the whole experience that has made dude and guest ranching such a popular family vacation choice. For the most part, Colorado's ranches don't offer the "City Slickers" type of down and dirty cattle driving, although, if that's what you want, it can be arranged. Dude ranches here have the whole family in mind--from youngsters to grandparents.

Most ranches go beyond horseback riding--with swimming pools, Jeeping and whitewater raft trips, guided hiking, tennis, fishing, boating, gold panning, campfire cookouts, square dancing, skeet shooting, and even babysitting services. Dining is down-home good! There's something about a dinner with all the trimmings after a day on the trail. And accommodations can range from cozy cabins to Five Diamond, Five Star luxurious suites, or rooms in historic ranch buildings.

One of the most convenient aspects of a dude ranch stay, is the all-inclusive price--lodging, meals and horseback riding. Other amenities at some ranches are priced individually. Generally speaking, it's great to know you have to reach for your wallet only once during your stay--when it's time to say goodbye to new friends and promise to return next year.

Gambling in Colorado

The excitement of casino gambling combined with the rich history of Colorado's 1880's mining towns make visiting Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek a must. And there's no time better than during Colorado's gorgeous mountain summer.

These three historic towns are your hosts for Colorado's limited staked casino gambling in a beautiful, mountain setting reminiscent of the 1880's "Gold Rush" days of the wild west. Besides all the fun you'll have winning jackpots, you'll be enthralled by the beautiful, historic restoration of these three famous mining towns. It's no wonder that many of the pioneers heading West to find their fortune never went any further than Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek. The old gold mines of yesteryear have been replaced with the modern way to "strike it rich" with the fun and excitement of casino gambling in the middle of some of Colorado's most beautiful mountain scenery.

Black Hawk/Central City

Black Hawk and Central City host over 30 casinos, featuring nickel, quarter, $1, and $5 slots and the exciting table games of blackjack and poker. Once the home to thousands of miners who came to find riches in the gold-mining era, these towns now welcome thousands of visitors each year to try their luck at limited stakes ($5 bet limit) gambling and other attractions.Black Hawk, in addition to its mining-era fame, attracted many famous writers and artists during the 1950's - 1970's period of beatniks to hippies to include Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac and Judy Collins. It is the home of the famous "Lace house"- the most authentic example of carpenter Gothic architecture. During the last six years close to half a million dollars has been spent to restore structures such as the Lace House and other landmarks. The City of Black Hawk's rich history was the recent subject of an award-winning documentary, "Black Hawk Waltz". Be sure to visit the old school house at the top of the hill, beautifully restored and a central part of Black Hawk's historic preservation efforts.

Just up the road apiece is Central City, know in 1890 as the "Richest Square Mile on Earth." It still earns that slogan with plenty of fortune-making jackpots, breathtaking scenery and history-making good times for the whole family. From casinos to gold mines to a Victorian opera house, Central City is one of the best places in Colorado to have fun. And when you're not playing the many slot machines or trying your luck at blackjack, enjoy country-western, jazz, pop or classic rock entertainment offered in the casinos or during Central's many summer festivals.

Winning big bucks brings on big appetites, so seek out some of the fine casino dining as well as buffets, snack bars and pizzerias in Black Hawk and Central City. Overnight lodging is also available in or nearby the casinos.

Black Hawk and Central City are approximately 34 miles west of Denver. If you are traveling west on I-70, take exit 244 to Colorado Hwy 6 east and proceed to Hwy 119 north. From Golden, visitors can take Colorado Hwy 6 west (Clear Creek Canyon) and follow the signs to Black Hawk and Central City.

Cripple Creek

Cripple Creek lies just to the southwest of Colorado Springs, and hosts over 25 casinos in a quaint mountain setting. Donkeys and mules wander down the center of town just as they did in the old mining days. When you're done winning at the slots or card tables, enjoy some great music from the nostalgic 1960's and 1970's , or some great toe-tapping country western songs as you savor some fine casino cuisine. Don't forget to sign up for your casino slot club card, as Cripple Creek casinos have some of the best slot club deals around! Later, take in some of Cripple Creek's summer festivals such as Donkey Derby Days in June, featuring real donkey races great fun and great food.

Cripple Creek makes a great day trip for the whole family if you're visiting the Colorado Springs area. It is located approximately 40 miles southwest of Colorado Springs. Take Interstate Hwy 25 south from metro Denver or north from Pueblo or New Mexico or Colorado Hwy 24 west, traveling through Woodland Park and Divide. Then take Colorado Hwy 67 south into Cripple Creek.

Golf in Colorado

What golfer hasn't dreamed about long, arrow-straight fairway drives-those dreams taking the ball farther than it's ever been driven? In Colorado, this is not a dream; it's reality. Well, arrow-straight accuracy can't be Golfing in the Mountainsguaranteed, but drives that place your ball 15 percent farther than at sea level, is a "given".

Colorado's heady air gives your ball a clear shot through that rarefied atmosphere. And, the higher you play, the greater distances you'll record. Leadville is North America's highest incorporated city at 10,200-ft.; the Mt. Massive Golf Course here plays in the shadow of Colorado's highest peak, Mt. Elbert (14,433-ft.). But, what happens in the air, also happens on the green. Your short game becomes a challenge, as thin air allows your putts the same freedom of distance.

Not all of Colorado's golf courses play above 9,000-ft., but even on the prairies, your games are up there above 4,000-ft. In the Front Range cities and even in the low mountain valleys, golf is practically a year-round sport. Spring and fall temperatures reach into the 50's and 60's; summer along the Front Range and in the desert on the western slope sees the thermometer climb into the 80's and low 90's. However, the higher you go, the shorter the golf season; courses at the higher mountain resorts are open from late May through early October, with temperatures in the 60's to high 70's.

The names behind the tees, read like a Who's Who in golf design. Jack Nicklaus, Hale Irwin, Arnold Palmer, the Dye brothers, Tom Weiskopf, Arthur Hills, and Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Colorado has 200 public, private, and resort golf clubs--from one corner of the state to the other, and just about in every mountain valley. Golf Digest spends a lot of time here, playing and rating the courses, many of which consistently make the publication's top 50 list. Every major resort in Colorado boasts at least one 18-hole course. For example, the AAA Five Diamond rated Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, has three championship courses meandering through its tony hillside location, and Copper Mountain has the USA's highest championship course.