Central Plains Journey

What: Free admission to 10 historical attractionsTrainTicket
Where: Colorado Central Plains
When: Memorial Day through Labor Day (check website for exact dates)

Yes, we have ten — count them — ten unique and interesting museums, parks, rides, and more in eastern Colorado. All free during the summer months. Here’s the secret to free admission: simply download the free “Train Ticket” from Our Journey website, and you’re on your way to a lot of free and fun entertainment.

Here are just a few of the places you’ll discover on your journey to the eastern part of our state:

What: World’s Wonder View Tower
Where: Genoa (east of Limon)
When: Daily, 9 AM to 5 PM

picWonderTower01They just don’t make ’em like this anymore. In 1926, P.T. Barnum, C.W. Gregory, and Myrtle Le Bow decided what the eastern plains of Colorado needed was a tower. A tower that would let you see 6 states from the top. A tower that was confirmed, in 1934, to be the highest point between Denver and New York City. A tower that, over the years, has become the focal point of a building that houses such wonders as a museum with two-headed calves, eight-legged pigs, and other surprises.

For those whose interests are a bit less freakish, how about the rock collection with rocks from every state and from all over the world? How about a 75,000 year old Mammoth skeleton? A collection of 20,000 Indian arrowheads? Antique guns? A monument built of petrified coal? We could go on, but words just don’t do this place justice.


What: Kit Carson County CarouselpicCarousel01
Where: Burlington
When: Daily, 1 – 8 PM, Memorial Day to Labor Day

This historical Carousel ride was only the 6th one built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, and is the only surviving menagerie carousel from that manufacturer. “Menagerie?” you ask. Yes — instead of a merry-go-round consisting of nothing but horses, this magnificent carousel includes zebras, donkeys, and even a lion!

The carousel and its equally wonderful Wurlitzer Monster Military Band Organ both resided at Elitch Gardens in Denver for a time, but moved to Kit Carson County in 1928. Unlike the fate of so many other historical carousels, this one still boasts its original paintings on both the carousel animals and the decorative paintings.

Come enjoy a 20 minute tour and — here’s the best part — a ride on this beauty!


What: Grampa Jerry’s Clown Museum
Where: Arriba (east of Limon)
When: Daily, 10 AM – 6 PM, Memorial Day to Labor Day

picClownMuseum02Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Clowns, but were afraid to ask! Here you’ll find a multitude of all things Clown.

Clown music boxes, clown whisky decanters, clown coffee cups, clown tea sets, clown drawings by children, a glow-in-the-dark stick-on clown tatoo, a necktie clown, and even a hairball clown. You’ll discover over 3,000 clown-like things at Grampa Jerry’s.

My childhood TV buddy, Bozo the Clown from Denver’s Channel 2 back in the 50’s, even visited the Clown Museum at one time. Now, why doesn’t that surprise me.

Your kids will also enjoy playing on the playground equipment outside the small building.


The 10 free attractions are:
Lincoln County’s Hedlund House Museum – Hugo, CO
Limon Heritage Museum & Railroad Park – Limon, CO
World’s Wonder View Tower – Genoa, CO
Grampa Jerry’s Clown Museum – Arriba, CO
Flagler Hospital Museum & Hal Borland Room – Flagler, CO
Second Central School Museum – Flagler, CO
Kit Carson County Carousel – Burlington, CO
Old Town – Burlington, CO
Kit Carson Museum – Kit Carson, CO
Cheyenne County Museum – Cheyenne Wells, CO


For more information on these attractions, contact:
Prairie Development Corp.
Box 202
Stratton CO 80836

(800) 825-0208

Website: http://www.ourjourney.info/Default.asp

Olympic Training Center (Colorado Springs)

What: U. S. Olympic Training Center tourUS Olympic Training complex (Colorado Springs CO) - free tour
Where: Colorado Springs
When: Guided Tours – hourly Monday-Saturday
Visitor Center open 7 days a week

Experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat as you view a short film showing scenes from past Olympic games that is guaranteed to stir your emotions. The movie is followed by a 45 minute walking tour of selected Olympic complex areas. Life-size figures with narrative panels adorn the Irwin Belk Olympic Pathway and provide information about Olympic and Pan American Sports.

During the tour, you will have the opportunity to view athlete training facilities including the Sport Center Gymnasiums where athletes train for gymnastics, volleyball and basketball, as well as boxing. The tour also visits the recently refurbished weightlifting facility where you’re likely to see athletes who look like they are right out of some of those ads for exercise equipment you see on TV.

The USA Shooting Center is particularly interesting. Here athletes are training to control their bodies to allow them to shoot between heartbeats!

US Olympic Training center pool (Colorado Springs CO) - free tourThe Aquatics Center contains a pool with a capacity of 1 million gallons of water! The pool is equipped with a multitude of cameras which allow the coaches to view each individual swimmer or groups of swimmers. Along one side of the pool is a tow rope which is used to pull swimmers along in the water at the rate they would need to be swimming to be in gold medal form. For most of us that would be like lying flat on the water while being pulled along by a speedboat.

Allow some time after you complete your tour to visit the Olympic Hall of Fame Rotunda, enjoy the memorabilia, and patronize the U.S. Olympic Shop all of which are located in the main Visitor Center.

After completing this tour you’ll be promising yourself to start working out and lose a few pounds so you can get yourself back into Olympic shape!

Most of the tour is conducted out-of-doors so dress accordingly.

Be sure to call the Center or check on the web for tour hours, which vary depending on the time of year. Tours are not conducted on Sunday although the Visitor Center is open for your enjoyment.

For more information, contact:
United States Olympic Training Center
One Olympic Plaza
Colorado Springs, CO 80909-5760

(888) 659-8687 or (719) 866-4618


Additional directions:
Drive to Colorado Springs on I-25

Take Exit 143 (Uintah Street), and drive east 2.0 miles to the “T” intersection at Union Blvd

Turn right on Union Blvd, and continue 0.7 miles south to Boulder Street, passing the Olympic Complex on your right.

Turn right on Boulder Street, then turn right again into the visitor parking lot.

Colorado Coffee Merchants (Colorado Springs)

What: Colorado Coffee Merchants – roasting tourCoffeeBeans
Where: Colorado Springs
When: Monday – Friday 9 AM – 4:00 PM
Saturday 10 AM – 1 PM
Reservations recommended for parties of 3 or more.  Tours last between 15 and 30 minutes.

Mmmmmm! Time to wake up and smell the coffee. And to watch the roasting process. And to get an education in green coffee and the air roasting process.  And, of course, to sample some fresh-brewed coffee during and after your tour.

Colorado Coffee Merchants are the proud makers of Ümpire Estate Mountain Roasters and Idle Truck Slow Roasted Coffee.

I have a confession to make here: I don’t drink coffee. I just love how it smells. Years ago, I shared an office with a guy who would buy coffee from an outdoor coffee cart vendor in downtown Denver on his way up to our office each morning. We had a ritual. He’d set the cup of coffee on my desk, I’d gently wave my hand over it, directing its fantastic aroma toward my nose (Ahhhhhhh!), and finally I’d relinquish his beverage to him.

So, if you see a woman waving her hand toward her nose on the roasting tour and sighing with pleasure, that might be me. Mmmmmm! Ahhhhhhh!

For more information, contact:
Colorado Coffee Merchants
302 East Fillmore Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80907


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.


Redstone Meadery (Boulder)

What:  Redstone Meadery – tour and mead tastingRedstone Meadery (Boulder) free tour
Where: Boulder
When: Monday – Friday: 1/2 hr tour 1 PM and 3 PM; tasting room open Noon – 6:30 PM;
Saturday: tour 12:30 pm, tasting room open Noon – 5 PM;
Call for private appointment at other times.
Plus: Free live music 2 PM – 5 PM every Saturday from November through April

Ah, Mead! The Nectar of the Gods, the original fermented beverage, Honey Wine. If you’ve never tasted Mead, you’re in for a treat when you visit this award-winning Meadery. Mead can be simply a fermented honey wine, or it can be turned into a champagne alternative with a little carbonation. Or, add fruit (black raspberry, boysenberry, apricot, grape), herbs, spices (vanilla, cinnamon), or other creative flavorings (juniper berry) to produce variations on the original theme.

According to legend and our old English Lit 101 class, Mead was offered to the gods of mythology, it was consumed by Beowulf, and Shakespeare’s character Falstaff enjoyed it regularly. The term “honeymoon” originally referred to the tradition of drinking honey wine for the first month of marriage to ensure the birth of baby boys.

Redstone Meadery (Boulder) free tourOne story of the origin of Mead is that lightning struck a tree with a cavity filled with honey and rain water. Natural wild yeast in the tree was activated, and the honey fermented. Some lucky soul then came to collect the honey, and had an eye-opening experience. As Pete Seeger sang,

“We will pray just like the Druids,
Drinking strange fermented fluids,
Go dancing naked through the woods,
They’re good enough for me.”


In this small, but growing facility, enjoy a very personalized tour where you can explore the entire process of creating Mead. The friendly staff at the Redstone Meadery describe and demonstrate the steps that turn honey, hot water, and yeast into a product that’s a bit like wine, a bit like champagne, and a bit like beer. Their bottling, labeling, and packaging process is mostly by hand; a sharp contrast to the so-fast-it’s-a-blur processes you’ll see at large beer breweries!

After the tour, enjoy tasting the wide variety of Mead products produced here. Feel the love, as the folks here like to say!


For more information, contact:
Redstone Meadery
4700 Pearl Street Unit 2-A
Boulder, CO 80301



Additional directions:
Drive to Boulder, and take Foothills Parkway (County Road 157) to the Pearl Parkway exit. Turn north on 47th Street, which is the frontage road just to the east of Foothills Parkway. Drive one block north on 47th, turn right on Pearl Street, and turn right immediately to enter the parking lot for the building that houses Redstone Meadery.

Hudson Gardens (Littleton)

What: Hudson Gardens Hudson Gardens in the off-season (Littleton CO) free admission during winter months
Where: Littleton
When: Free admission November through April

Perhaps you don’t think gardens can be beautiful during the “off-season”. It may be time to reconsider!

First of all, there are still many signs of life in our gardens in late Fall. And an early Spring visit can reward you with delightful blooms pushing through the last of the snow. But, even in the midst of Winter, a brisk walk in the cool, bright sunshine through a mostly-sleeping garden can be a joy.

Blue Heron at Hudson Gardens in the off-season (Littleton CO) free admission during winter monthsWander past the model train area and imagine a journey across the bridges and through the tunnels. Watch for Blue Heron or Canada Geese or other birds who enjoy these Gardens and waterways. Let your imagination take over as you wander through the Rock Garden or peek into the Hobbit Hole.

There is a special free remembrance day on September 11 each year (Check the Hudson Gardens website for other special dates).

For more information, contact:
The Hudson Gardens & Event Center
6115 South Santa Fe Drive
Littleton, CO 80120


email: info@hudsongardens.org

Earthquake Information Center tour (Golden)

What: National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) tourNational Earthquake Information Center (Golden CO) free tour by appointment only
Where: Golden
When: By advance appointment only

The greatest “earthshaking” event in recent history occurred in Chile in 1960. This was an earthquake which registered at 9.5 on the Richter scale. The Chilean earthquake was followed just a few years later by a magnitude 9.2 quake in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The 9.0 quake in Japan in 2011 was the worst ever recorded in that country. Earthquakes of magnitude 9.0+ are very rare and produce major damage over a 600 mile area. Learn these and many other interesting facts during your 30-45 minute tour of the National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC).

Seismologists at the NEIC track data from monitoring stations located around the world. This is the only facility on earth that tracks seismic activity for the entire globe. This information is recorded on a series of computer screens and seismographs which are located at the Center. The scientists use the tracking data to monitor not only earthquakes, but also tsunamis, giant sea waves produced by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. This information can be used to activate emergency response teams around the world within minutes after the earthquake has occurred.

National Earthquake Information Center (Golden CO) free tour by appointment onlyYou can log on to www.earthquake.usgs.gov to view a variety of the most recent earthquake information as well as some outstanding photos of the 1964 Alaska earthquake. This site is really cool and even has a special section for kids only. Don’t miss viewing this exciting website.

After your tour ends, you will have an opportunity to create your own personal earthquake by jumping up and down on the special platform located on the first floor. Watch as the seismograph registers your impact. We hope you didn’t create a 9.1 quake!


For more information, contact:

U.S. Department of Interior
1711 Illinois Street (Corner of 18th & Illinois)
Golden, CO

Phone for appointment: (303) 273-8420


Dinosaur Ridge (Morrison)

What: Dinosaur RidgeDinosaur Ridge (Morrison CO) - real dinosaur tracks + museum
Where: Morrison
When: Every day
Visitor Center hours: Mon-Sat 9 AM-4 PM, Sun Noon-4 PM
Interpretive trail is open daily until sundown

This site gives new meaning to the term “leave only footprints” when hiking! You’ll be amazed at the variety of prehistoric animal tracks, both large and small, which are available for viewing along this well-preserved site (see Map of main tracks).

Dinosaur Ridge is a geologically famous National Natural Landmark and is on the State Register of Historic Places. Here you will find Jurassic dinosaur bones, such as Allosaurus, Apatosaurus and Stegosaurus, the Colorado State Fossil. The area contains well over 300 Cretaceous dinosaur footprints.

Take time to experience the self-guided tour which includes sixteen interpretative signs that describe fossil remains as well as other relevant features of the area. These informative signs have been placed along a one-mile (two-mile round trip) stretch of Alameda Parkway and enhance your tour of the area. This tour is best viewed on foot as parking space is limited and it is illegal and dangerous to stop on the highway while you read the signs. Besides, you probably need the exercise after sitting in the car on the drive over to area.

Stop at the Visitor Center prior to taking the self-guided tour. There you will find additional displays and be able to ask questions about the different formations and tracks you will be viewing on the tour. Guidebooks, which may be purchased at the Visitor Center, give more extensive information relating to each of the signed areas along the tour.

For more information, contact:
Friends of Dinosaur Ridge
16831 W. Alameda Pkwy
Morrison, CO 80465
Phone: (303) 697-3466

Map of main tracks website: www.dinoridge.org/TrackMap.htm

Additional directions:
(Source: Friends of Dinosaur Ridge Website)
To get to the Dinosaur Ridge Visitor Center, use one of the following options:
From I-70, take the Morrison Exit (259) and head south towards the Town of Morrison and Red Rocks. After approximately 1.5 miles, watch for the turn for W. Alameda Pkwy on your left – it’s the only road on your left that leads up and over the Ridge. The intersection is marked by a brown sign denoting the left turn for Dinosaur Ridge, and on your right, there is an entrance to Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre. Follow W. Alameda Pkwy and you will see the Dinosaur Ridge Visitor Center at the base of the Ridge on your left.

From C-470, take the Morrison Road exit and head west towards the Town of Morrison. Turn right on S. Rooney Rd, which is approximately 200 feet west of the interchange (just before the Conoco Station). Follow Rooney Rd. past Bandimere Speedway until the road ends at a stop sign at W. Alameda Pkwy. Turn left onto W. Alameda Pkwy and you will see the Dinosaur Ridge Visitor Center on your right after approximately 1/4 mile.

Denver Mint Tour (Denver)

What: Denver U.S. Mint tourColorado quarter
Where: Denver
When: 8 AM – 3 PM Monday through Friday 

No advance tickets or reservations are available for tours of the Denver Mint.
Same-day tour tickets are available each day at the ticket booth starting at 7:00 a.m.

The best things in life are free — the philosophy of this website! — and a fool and his money are soon parted. Even so, most of us find the transformation of coils of metal into billions of coins a year pretty fascinating! The Denver Mint produced over 3,700,000,000 pennies and 2,520,000 Sacagawea golden dollars during 2005, and a total of over 7,600,000,000 (7.6 billion) coins all together that year. The Philadelphia Mint produced similar numbers of coins during that time.

The new Colorado State Quarters were released into circulation in June 2006. When the winning design was announced, Colorado’s Governor Owens explained that the mountains depicted on the new quarters were a “generic” rendition that didn’t represent any specific peaks in the state, many soon pointed out that the design was a dead ringer for Longs Peak, Keyboard of the Winds, and Pagoda Peak. Artist Len Buckley concurred, explaining that he based the drawing on a photo he had taken during a family vacation to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Meanwhile, back to the Mint. Both circulating coins and numismatic coins (uncirculated coin sets) are produced at the Denver Mint. A whole lot of gold is stored at this facility, and you’ll get to view some gold bars, but sorry, they don’t give away free samples.

Be advised that you won’t be allowed to carry much of anything with you on the tour, and you also won’t be able to check items at the door. The tour reservations website explains what can and cannot be brought into the building (e.g. stun guns and fireworks are specifically not allowed, in case you wondered). But, let’s make this really simple: just carry a small, palm-sized wallet with your ID, money, and/or credit cards. Leave everything else — purses, cameras, pens, lipstick, cigarettes, strollers, diaper bags, cell phones, chewing gum — somewhere else. No kidding!

Oh, and for you serious money fans out there, don’t miss the Money Museum (Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City – Denver Branch) in Denver.

For more information, contact:
United States Mint
320 West Colfax
Denver, CO 80204
303-405-4761 (24 hour tour information line)


Colorado Capitol Building Tour (Denver)

What: Colorado Capitol Building TourColorado Capitol Building (Denver) free self-guided tour
Where: Denver
When: Monday – Friday, 7:00 AM – 5:30 PM

The Mile High City is home to Colorado’s domed State Capitol building. The distinctive dome is plated with Colorado gold. The gold has been replaced several times, using rolls of ultra-thin gold, requiring only 47 ounces of gold to coat the entire dome!

As you walk up the stairs on the west side of the building, look for a step engraved with the message “One Mile Above Sea Level.” Congratulations! You are now standing a mile high. The Mile High marker on the steps of the Capitol building (Denver CO)Or are you? Look at some of the surrounding steps, where you’ll notice a few geodetic survey plugs marking later measurements of the real 5,280’ elevation. No, we don’t think the stairs are growing and shrinking. However, measuring methods continue to improve, so there may be further corrections in the future.

The building is even more striking once you step inside. When construction began in 1886 (a decade after Colorado became a state), the building committee wanted to use as much native Colorado material as possible. The 5 foot thick exterior walls are constructed of granite from aptly-named Granite, Colorado. The striking pink stone you see used for wainscoting is Colorado rose onyx (commonly known as “Beulah Red Marble”) from near Beulah, Colorado. This color of onyx has never been found anywhere else in the world. Look for over 1,000 designs in the stone throughout the building that resemble famous people, such as George Washington (west wing rotunda wall) and the Unsinkable Molly Brown (west wing archway). Floors and stairs are marble from, you guessed it, Marble, Colorado.

As you explore the building on your own, or join a free tour, enjoy the murals, stained glass portraits, wall hanging, and presidential portraits. During the legislative session, step into the Senate or House of Representatives gallery to watch state legislators in action.Beulah Red marble - Denver's State Capitol building

For those Coloradoans who’ve visited in the past and remember hiking up and up the spiral stairs into the dome to enjoy the views of the city and of the building below, we have some bad news. After 9/11, this part of the building was closed to visitors. The good news is that visitors are still able to stroll through much of the building to enjoy its beauty and fascinating history.

For more information, contact:
Colorado State Capitol
1475 Sherman St
Denver, CO 80202



Additional directions:
The Capitol building is located in Downtown Denver by the intersection of Colfax Avenue and Lincoln Avenue.