Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs)

What: Garden of the Gods Park, Visitor Center, Trading Post Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs CO) - free admission
Where: Colorado Springs
Park hours:
Summer 5:00 AM – 11:00 PM; Winter 5:00 AM – 9:00 PM
    Visitor Center hours: Summer 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM; Winter 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM;
closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Days
    Trading Post hours: Summer 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM; Winter 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM; open all year

Drive, hike, mountain bike, or horseback ride among spectacular red rock formations and all-around, jaw-dropping natural beauty. Technical rock climbers, who must first register at the Visitor Center to obtain a permit to climb, scale the towering cliffs of sandstone. Garden of the Gods Park is home to rock formations with intriguing names such as Giant Footprints, Kissing Camels, Siamese Twins, Three Graces, and Tower of Babel.

Legend has it that two surveyors came upon this natural wonder. One commented that it would be a “capital place for a beer garden.” His partner, Rufus Cable, having a greater appreciation for the uniqueness of the landscape, was taken aback. “Beer garden? Why, it is a place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods!”

Rock climbing at Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs CO)The Visitor & Nature Center is worth a stop, with interesting exhibits, complimentary park maps, and even a free sample of fudge. The cafeteria offers a wonderful view of the region, with majestic Pikes Peak as a backdrop. Ask for a schedule of the free Nature Talks held on the terrace of the building, and free guided Nature Walks.

If all this free stuff has you itching to buy something, or if you just like to browse, be sure to head over to Garden of the Gods Trading Post toward the southwest end of the park. This adobe-style building has been expanded numerous times, and now houses the largest Trading Post in Colorado.

The range of merchandise boggles the mind. You’ll find the odd little five-and-dime sort of trinkets that the kids always seem to crave, as well as t-shirts galore. However, you’ll also discover a wonderful collection of Navajo rugs, sand painting, Pueblo pottery, gorgeous southwestern-style jewelry, and other beautiful items in the Art Gallery.

On the other hand, perhaps you’d be interested in a mounted jackalope trophy? Ask for another free taste of fudge at the Trading Post’s café before you head off into the park again for a picnic.

Check out both websites for coupons offering discounts on food and merchandise, as well as discounts for a 12-minute movie offered at the Visitor Center.

For more information, contact:
Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center
30th Street & Gateway Road
Colorado Springs, CO 80904
(719) 634-6666

Garden of the Gods Trading Post
324 Beckers Lane
Manitou Springs, CO 80829
(800) 874-4515 or (719) 685-9045

Additional directions:
Drive to Colorado Springs on I-25

If you are heading south, take Exit 146 (Garden of the Gods Road)
Drive West 2.3 miles on to 30th Street
Turn left onto 30th Street, and follow it 1.3 miles to the Visitor Center, which will be on your left.

If you are heading north on I-25, take Exit 141 (US 24 / Cimarron) toward Manitou Springs and Pikes Peak

Drive West 2.5 miles on US 24 to 31st Street
Turn right at 31st Street, and follow it 0.6 miles to Fontanero, where you will turn right
Follow Fontanero 1 block to 30th Street, and turn left on 30th Street
Continue north on 30th Street 1.2 miles to the Visitor Center, which will be on your right.

Chile & Frijoles Festival (Pueblo)

What: Chile & Frijoles FestivalChile & Frijoles Festival (Pueblo)
Where: Downtown Pueblo – 1st and Union
When: 3rd Weekend after Labor Day in September
Friday, 3:00 PM –11:00 PM
Saturday, 10:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Sunday, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM

2011 Update:  We’ve learned that the Festival will be charging a small fee (admission $2; kids 12 and under-free) starting this year. Since this was one of the first items we listed on this site, we’ll keep this page online so people know about the change.

Ahhh, the incredible aroma of roasting chilies turning over hot flames! Sample a variety of salsas made by local farmers as you admire colorful Ristras – chilies tied on a string. Unfortunately, the displays of frijoles – that’s “beans” in case you didn’t know – aren’t quite as exciting to the nose and eyes. Not to worry! Kids can participate in The Art of the Bean, where they compete in age groups for the best sculpture constructed completely using beans (and mostly Pinto beans at that). Or check out the Great Bean Spit Off. Both bean-spitting accuracy and power will be judged. If the kids are still looking for something to do after all that excitement, send them over to the Piñata breaking area where they can let off a little steam.

Both commercial and non-commercial competitions are held for best Red Chili, Green Chili, and salsa recipes. The “Holy Frijoles” Cooking contest features cooked beans (again, Pintos must be the predominant ingredient). The public can help judge the Best Bean Dip in Pueblo by stopping at participating shops along Union Avenue for a sample and to place their votes. We suggest you try to schedule sampling the bean dips before you participate in the Jalapeño Eating contest.

Chile & Frijoles Festival (Pueblo)If you’ve had your fill of chile and frijoles for a while, check out the farmer’s market, the fine art show, live entertainment, and our favorite, the “Salsa & Cerveza” Brew Fest. Sorry, the brews aren’t free. 

Finally, for you car-buffs out there, the Festival often includes one or more car shows to participate, so watch for Corvettes or other cool cars at the festival.


For more information, contact:
Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce

Bishop Castle (Beulah / San Isabel)

What: Bishop CastleBishop Castle - crazy place! (Beulah/San Isabel CO)
Where: Colorado Highway 165, near Beulah and San Isabel

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost.” Could Henry David Thoreau have been talking about Jim Bishop? Bishop has literally transformed a castle of his dreams into a passion, creating a work of art (please don’t refer to it as a “building” – it is a “world class monumental art form”) that surpasses most peoples’ wildest imaginary visions of what a castle might be.

Since 1969, Jim Bishop has been building a castle of rock and iron, stained glass and wood in the forested Wet Mountains. He has been working essentially alone on the project, creating a structure rising into the skies, with great turrets, some more than 100 feet tall, iron walkways arching dramatically between the towers, parapets winding around the exterior, a flame-spewing dragon head, a bell tower, spiral staircases of stone and of iron, buttresses, and a great hall. On one of many hand-painted signs posted around the grounds, Bishop describes future plans for a moat and dungeon.

Speaking of hand-painted signs: Bishop isn’t shy about letting visitors know what he thinks. A recent added attraction is described as “Jim’s Sign Garden.” Walk along a short trail to “visit Jim’s rants through the ages in a unique collection,” as a sign describes it. Bishop Castle - crazy place! (Beulah/San Isabel CO)As you read the often-lengthy messages, you’ll learn that he adamantly disagreed with the fire ban ordered during a recent draught. “If we let our government take fire, what freedoms will they demand their slaves to sacrifice next?” Be aware that “no drunk taxpayers” are welcome, and that most “lawyers, politicians, bureaucrats & Gestapo” should be ashamed and should “get an honest job” – in this case, by providing legal services. “I now need a truly good lawyer!”

An on-site gift shop and snack bar round out the venue. Children will find numerous costume effects such as Viking helmets, capes, swords, magic wands, toy dragons and knights. Books range in topics from crystals to Christianity, from Racy Madams to Road Kill (a cookbook). Then there are the politically-oriented items, which we’ll leave to the reader’s imagination.

Viewing Bishop Castle is a real jaw-dropping experience. A word of caution: this work of art (remember: it is not a building) has not been subject to building and safety inspections. You are on private property, and the Castle is a work in progress. It is not unusual to walk along a high iron walkway, turn a corner, and find that the walkway ends abruptly (marked only with a ribbon), or that the handrails you were clinging to for dear life haven’t been completed on the section you are now traversing. Don’t let your kids explore without staying very close beside them!

Additional directions:
Bishop Castle is located on CO 165, approximately halfway between its intersection with CO 96 (a winding gravel road coming west from Beulah) and CO 96 (a paved highway joining Wetmore and Westcliffe). The total distance between these points is 17 miles.

There are road signs to Bishop Castle on CO 165 and at the intersection of CO 165 and CO 96.


The Money Museum (Denver)

What: The Money Museum Money Museum
Where: Denver
When: 8:30 am – 4:30 pm Monday through Friday
(closed on bank holidays)

Sorry, they aren’t giving away free money. But you get to design your own money — that’s pretty cool. You can’t spend it, but…

And you get to see what $30,000,000 looks like. Real money. Up close and personal.

The Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank offers a unique and up-close look at the nation’s financial system in action. Visitors can learn more about the Fed, view aspects of the payments system and discover how the Fed promotes a healthy economy which positively impacts our daily lives.

If your interest (pun intended) is in historical currency, you’re in the right place. Would you like to see a $100,000 bill? Yep, that’s here too. And here’s something that you’ll want to check out: see if you can spot a counterfeit vs. real $20 bill. There are several other interactive displays to enhance your knowledge of money and the economy.

Important:  There are special requirements for IDs and rules about items that cannot be brought into the Bank. Check them carefully before you go.

For more information, contact:
Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City – Denver Branch
1020 16th Street
Denver, CO 80202

(303) 572-2300

Longmont Museum (Longmont)

What: Longmont Museum and Cultural CenterGlass wall 2
Where: 400 Quail Road in south Longmont
When: Mon. – Sat. 9-5, Sun. 1-5.

Now here’s a museum where you’ll enjoy the architecture, decor, and views just as much as the actual displays!

The exhibits change regularly, and there is surely something for everyone here. Take a look at a few of the offerings for 2007 and early 2008:

Ansel Adams & Edwin Land: Art, Science and Invention
– Photographs from the Polaroid Collection
Gadgets & Gizmos: Tools in Longmont
Frederic Remington Makes Tracks…Adventures and Artistic Impressions

Added in September, 2007 — a new permanent history gallery called “Front Range Rising” with hands-on artifacts, a large-scale topographical map of the area, and numerous treasures from the Museum’s collection.

Longs Peak RoomNote that the permanent exhibits are free. However, there may be a fee to view some special exhibits.

Got kids? The beautiful Longs Peak Room has killer views from the mountains to the plains, and is filled with interactive, cool stuff for the whole family to enjoy. There are local history books, an antique stereoscope, and drawers full of interesting historical objects from the Longmont area for everyone to explore.

Children can dress up as bison or crows as they learn about the special meaning of these creatures to native peoples of the region. Plan out a town using wooden blocks. Learn about early mountaineers Isabella Bird (who climbed Longs Peak in 1873!) and Enos Mills, the “father” of Rocky Mountain National Park. View some of the tools used by climbers to ascend Longs Peak over the years.

What a great way to spend the day!

For more information, contact:
Longmont Museum & Cultural Center
400 Quail Road
Longmont, CO 80501

(303) 651-8374

Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art (Boulder)

What: Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western ArtLeanin' Tree Western Art Museum (Boulder CO) - free admissionWhere: Boulder
When: Monday – Friday 8 AM – 4:30 PM.
Sat. and Sun. 10 AM – 4 PM. Closed Holidays.

This art museum is one of those wonderful surprises you sometimes get to experience. Be sure to allow yourself at least an hour to fully appreciate what is described as “the largest, privately held collection of western art in the country.” We’re sure you won’t be disappointed.

The Museum’s collection includes a wide variety of drawings, paintings, and sculptures from a number of famous artists. The exquisite facial expressions in some of the artwork have to be seen to be appreciated. You expect the characters to actually step out of their frames and engage you in conversation.

The Frederick Remington collection from Harper’s Weekly alone is very impressive. Those of us who can’t draw a straight line using a ruler can really appreciate the life-like animation he brings to his drawings. It’s difficult to say enough about this fine historic collection.

The variety of subjects insures that everyone in your family will enjoy this very special Museum. You might imagine that all the artwork revolves around cowboys and Indians. Not so! The Western landscapes are absolutely breathtaking. You’ll also find a sharp contrast in theme when you come across the humorous artwork.

Take time to browse through their very fine gift shop. There you will find a wide selection of fine art gift ideas including posters and greeting cards. After all, Leanin’ Tree is the largest publisher of western wildlife and regional interest greeting cards.

Visit this Museum once and you’ll be promising yourself that you’ll be back again real soon, Pardner!

No photography is allowed within the building, but you may take photos of the statues outside.

For more information, contact:
Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art
6055 Longbow Drive
Boulder, CO 80301

800-777-8716 x299

Additional directions:
Drive to the north side of Boulder, to the intersection of the Diagonal Highway (CO 119) and Jay Road (County Road 44). Turn east on Jay Road, crossing the railroad tracks. Continue 9.0 miles on Jay Road to Spine Road. Turn left (north) on Spine Road, and drive 0.9 miles (passing the entrance to Celestial Seasonings) to Longbow Drive. Turn right on Longbow, drive 1 block, and turn right at the “T” intersection. The museum will be to your left.

Cinco de Mayo (Denver)

What: Cinco de Mayo CelebrationCinco de Mayo performers
Where: Denver – Civic Center Park
When: Saturday & Sunday (closest to May 5th) from 10 AM to 8 PM

!Fiesta! Come along with us and be entertained.

Cinco de Mayo (“5th of May”) is a celebration of Denver’s Latino culture and heritage. It commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. But, it’s more than that. Cinco de Mayo is a time for festivities galore.

The Denver Cinco de Mayo Cultural Celebration had its beginning in 1987 and has grown each year into what is now recognized as the largest such event in the United States, and it just keeps getting bigger. This outstanding event attracts in excess of 400,000 people of all ages and cultural backgrounds.

Cinco de Mayo arts & craftsMariachi bands, live performances on multiple stages, children’s activities, piñatas, a variety of dance troops, a parade; Cinco de Mayo is a happening, an event not to be missed. You just have to be there to feel the ambiance and experience the wafting aroma of ethnic foods. Words alone cannot adequately describe this exciting event. You are part of the celebration.  Come mingle with your friends, both old and new. We’re sure you’ll want to make this celebration an annual tradition for years to come.


For more information, contact:
NEWSED Community Development Corporation
901 W. 10th Ave., Ste. 2A
Denver, Colorado 80204
(303) 534-8342

Additional directions:
Civic Center Park is located in Downtown Denver at 14th Avenue and Broadway between the Denver City and County Building and the State Capitol.

Tour of Carvings (Bayfield / Durango)

What: Vallecito Lake Tour of CarvingsVallecito Tree
Where: Bayfield (near Durango)
When: Anytime

Forest fires — destructive, yet renewing.

In 2002, the Missionary Ridge fire burned over 70,000 acres of forest in La Plata county, including a substantial area around Vallecito Lake. By 2005, much new growth could be seen in the area. However, another very unique and memorable sight can be seen in this area: a number of artistic carvings of damaged trees near the lake have been created to commemorate the huge number of firefighters, EMTs, and others who fought to save lives and homes. Sadly, one firefighter, Alan Wyatt, was killed by a falling tree. One of the carvings is dedicated to his memory. In addition, 56 homes were destroyed in the region, including about 10 homes by Vallecito Lake.

As you drive around the lake, look for the dozen or so carved trees amidst the shops or closer to the water. Maps and information booklets are available just below the Vallecito dam at the information center, as well as from many local businesses.

Most of the carvings were created by artist Chad Haspels. Donations are still welcome to help preserve the completed carvings, as well as to support the creation of additional ones.

After driving around to see the carvings, stay a while to enjoy fishing, boating, hiking and horseback riding during the warm months; cross-country skiing and snowmobiling on trails during the winter months.

For more information, contact:
Vallecito Lake Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 804
Bayfield, CO 81122

(970) 247-1573


Additional directions:
Drive to Bayfield on US 160.

Turn right (North) at the traffic signal onto La Plata County Road 501.

Drive 14 miles to the reservoir.

From Durango, you can also reach the lake by driving about 22 miles East on County Road 240 (turn east on Florida Road from Main Street). CR 240 will intersect CR 501 (see above) — turn left onto CR 501 to head to the reservoir.