The best burgers at Colorado ski resorts

My wife and I smelled beef sizzling on an outdoor grill at one of Colorado’s premier ski resorts. An employee there was systematically flipping what must have been four dozen beef patties.

“We’re getting ready for the lunch crowd,” the spatula-wielding man said.

But it was only 10 in the morning. Those precooked patties would swelter beneath heat lamps for an hour or more before being sold and consumed.

Standing in line to buy parched patties is not for us. When we crave burgers on the slopes, my wife and I head for full-service restaurants where the cow is cooked to order.

Here are a few of our tastier base-area options:

Keystone: Go Big Burger

I’m a cheapskate. When I ski Keystone, I park for free outside the River Run Village. It took a long time for us to discover Go Big Burger at Mountain House, Keystone’s original base village.

The unpretentious restaurant sits in the old lodge building, harkening back to that bygone era when skiers didn’t need second mortgages to buy lift tickets.

Its menu offers nine different burgers, which can be ordered in one-, two- or three-patty form. I like the Ultimate Colorado Burger (starting at $16.95) with cheese, pork green chili, roasted Hatch chiles and creamy horseradish with steak fries on the side. The “black-diamond,” double-patty version requires a dentist-worthy, open-wide mouth to consume. The juiciness of meat and topping make this a sloppy, multiple-napkin treat.

Breckenridge: Sevens

My wife and I formerly sedated our Breckenridge burger cravings with brie fondue burgers from the stand-in-line grill at Pioneer Crossing atop Peak 7. They’re not offered this year.

Looking for a full-service alternative, we went to the base of Peak 7 to check out Sevens, Breck’s self-proclaimed “premier on-mountain dining experience.”

The restaurant sits in the Grand Lodge behind the Independence SuperChair. Its interior features a modern motif appropriate for its timeshare-condo surroundings.

Sevens offers four burger choices. I prefer the Claimjumper ($18), which features BBQ sauce, melted cheddar, blue cheese crumble, Texas toothpicks and applewood bacon. Fat and tasty, it pairs well with a glass of imported malbec.

Related: Breckenridge’s Sevens will be turned into O’Sevens during March for St. Patrick’s Day

Crested Butte: Butte 66 Roadhouse Bar & Grille

The restaurant sits upstairs in the Treasury Building. True to its roadhouse moniker, the Butte features the feel of a highway road bar where tabletop buckets hold menus, napkins, condiments and cutlery.

For us burger lovers, there’s only one carnivorous option — the Roadhouse Burger ($16.95). It’s topped with sharp cheddar and garlic aioli on a butter-toasted bun; add Butte bacon for another $2.95. The crunchy waffle fries that accompany it come seasoned with sea salt, pepper and untold secret ingredients.

“As good as Chick-fil-A’s,” our server assured us.

Vail: Larkspur

With parking running $30 a day, skiing Vail is an indulgence we don’t make as often as we’d like. When the tax refund check arrives and we do head to Colorado’s largest ski resort, we’ll descend to the Golden Peak base and hit the Larkspur restaurant for classic “Larkburgers” ($23.50).

The burger features 7 ounces of unadulterated beef. It’s served with leaf lettuce, not iceberg, and the in-house-ripened tomatoes on top taste as flavorful as those from grandma’s garden.

Options include smoked bacon, marinated avocado and a choice of cheeses. The burger comes with butter-roasted fries, but since we’re splurging, we’ll opt for truffle fries.

Beaver Creek: 8100 Mountainside Bar & Grill

Some burgers go down best with beer. Others demand wine. One of our favorite places for such a pairing is the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek’s 8100 Mountainside Bar & Grill.

Their 8100 Burger ($22) comes covered with aged white cheddar, applewood smoked bacon and “special” sauce. They also offer a Black Diamond Burger ($32) made from black-truffled Kobe beef. Unfortunately, tax refund checks only go so far.

Our favorite place to enjoy a burger and bordeaux combo is outside on its patio. On warm, bluebird days, it’s a tough setting to leave.

Our well-honed plan is to arrive late, eat slowly and kick back with second pourings of wine. That leaves us with just enough time for a run or two before Beaver Creek’s free, chocolate-chip cookies arrive at the bottom of the Centennial Express Lift.

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The highest Irish pub in North America is popping up on a Colorado ski slope for St. Patrick’s Day

As far as drinking-holiday stunts go, Breckenridge Brewery’s latest is straight-up creative.

The Littleton-based brewer today announced that Sevens in Breckenridge will get an Irish makeover for the month of March, transforming the 10,100-feet restaurant into the continent’s highest-altitude Irish pub — however briefly.

No word on North America’s second-highest-altitude Irish pub, but Trip Savvy rates Paddy’s Irish Pub in Nepal — at 11,156 feet above sea level — as the world’s highest.

You won’t be gasping for breath quite so desperately in Summit County. But Sevens, located inside the Great Lodge at the base of Peak 7 at Breckenridge Ski Resort (1979 Ski Hill Road), comes as close as most of us will ever get.

Related: The highest restaurant in America just opened at a Colorado ski resort

“Before enjoying an Irish apres ski, visitors can take a ride down Leprechaun Lane and follow it all the way to the Breck Snug, a cozy pop-up bar made of snow ready to welcome skiers with Nitro Irish Stout and Irish cuisine,” Breckenridge Brewery said in a press statement Wednesday.

The restaurant will be temporarily renamed O’Sevens in honor of the March promotion, but “the only thing more Irish than this event is probably Ireland,” Breckenridge said.

As a result, and starting now and running through the end of March, Breckenridge is tipping off fans to a scavenger hunt of sorts with its Nitro Irish Stout. Golden cans will be hidden in the new 12-packs of Nitro, and “those who strike gold can enter to win a trip for two to Ireland by taking a photo of their gold can and posting on social using the hashtag #GoGoldSweepstakes,” Breckenridge said.

After Sevens gets its Irish makeover, the eatery and bar also will offer “Irish inspired, Colorado crafted speciality menu items” March 11-17, followed by St. Patrick’s Day festivities March 15-17 that include  live music, a snow sculpture bar, beer specials and more.

Reminder: High-country dehydration, even among acclimated long-timers, is a very real and dangerous thing, so be sure to alternate sips of water with your spirited St. Paddy’s Day libations this year.

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Six spots to show Spot some love on National Walk Your Dog Day this Friday

If every dog has his (or her) day, then Feb. 22 just might be that day.

That’s National Walk Your Dog Day, which seems like a pretty good day if you’re a dog. After all, say the word “walk” to your dog right now and watch him freak out. Then, after you’ve mopped up the puddle on the floor, celebrate the day by taking him outside, perhaps to a new place. Here are six ideas gathered from Dog Lovers of Denver’s Facebook group and park websites:

Lair o’ the Bear Park

This Jefferson County Open Space in Idledale — which has to be one of the coolest names ever for a park — features picnic tables and fishing at Bear Creek. But it’s also a good place to walk your dog. There’s even a 12.6-mile, round-trip trek on Bear Creek Trail that passes through three Denver mountain parks, but no one except your dog is saying you have to go that far to have a good time. Visit jeffco.us for more information.

Bear Creek Lake Park

This Lakewood spot’s extensive network of soft trails makes it the perfect place for the annual Bear Chase Trail Race ultramarathon, which covers distances from 10K all the way up to a 100K. It’s a gorgeous area, with creeks and trails you can hike for hours. Visit lakewood.org for more information.

Are you feeling a little pressure because we’ve included two places where you can go on a Bear Grylls-like adventure? Don’t worry, there are places to go that don’t require a backpack. We’re barely getting started. (See what we did there?)

Westminster Hills Off-Leash Dog Park

If you or your pup are not up for a long day of walking, this place sounds like an Elitch Gardens for dogs. There’s a dog swimming pond, a dog drinking fountain and 420 acres in which your dog can romp and play with other dogs. The best part: You don’t need a leash. You can walk your dog on the trail, play fetch or just watch the other dogs run into each other.

Keep in mind that off-leash dogs can be a little crazy, so if you bring young children, keep an eye on them so they don’t get run over. Note: Your dog should respond to voice commands and should not harass other dogs or wildlife. No bullying on the playground, in other words. Visit cityofwestminster.us for more information.

 

Cherry Creek State Park

This Aurora park, just like the one in Westminster, is a favorite of folks on Dog Lovers of Denver’s Facebook page. This is a quieter time for the park, as the lake is closed (it should open in March), but there’s a natural prairie over gentle, rolling hills. There’s also a family shooting range, but we’re guessing that doesn’t include your dog, so you may want to stick to the extensive selection of hiking trails. Visit cpw.state.co.us for more information.

North Table Mountain Park

Golden is an amazing place for trail-runners, and since the city just hosted a festival that attracted more than 1,000 Golden Retrievers (and our heart just burst at the thought of it), this is a pretty cool place to walk your dog. The area is rugged but safe, and you can go as far as you want. If you are looking for a more civilized stroll, there’s always the concrete trail next to the river that sweeps through the city and through Lions Park. Visit cityofgolden.net for more information.

Sloan’s Lake Park

This park got rave reviews on TripAdvisor for being less crowded than Washington Park or City Park. Many people say the 2-mile walk around the lake is also prettier. Bonus: There’s even a large parking lot. You’ll have to keep your dogs leashed, but we’re guessing they won’t mind. Visit cityofgolden.net for more information.

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Free festival brings ice climbing, human curling and a frozen maze to downtown Denver this weekend

When you think about ice climbing — if you’ve ever actually thought about ice climbing, that is — images come to mind of climbers moving in tandem on intricate ice formations while immersed in the beauty and silence of nature.

That image will get turned on its head this weekend at Denver’s Civic Center when more than 100 of the world’s best ice climbers compete in front of thousands of spectators on man-made walls at the Ice Climbing World Cup Finals – the first of its kind in a major American city.

Of course, the notion of ice climbing may seem like an oxymoron — especially if you’ve fallen on ice in your driveway recently. And in one of the two events that will be contested Saturday and Sunday, participants will actually be climbing a wooden wall using ice-climbing equipment and ice-climbing techniques rather than grappling spider-like over actual frozen water.

The Denver event will mark the sixth and final World Cup competition of the season, so titles will be on the line for climbers who have been on the circuit since early January, traveling to Korea, China, Switzerland, Italy and France. Previous U.S. World Cup ice-climbing events have been held in Durango (2016) and Bozeman, Mont. (2014-15).

UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup schedule

Saturday: Lead climbing qualifications, 8 a.m., speed climbing qualifications, 4:30 p.m., speed semifinals and finals, 6 p.m.

Sunday: Lead climbing semifinals, 10:30 a.m., lead finals, 4:30 p.m., awards ceremony, 6 p.m.

The American Alpine Club, headquartered in downtown Golden, is organizing the event. The AAC’s goal is to expose people to the sport, which proponents hope will be included in the Winter Olympics, and to promote the development of America’s competitive ice climbers.

“It’s got to be one of the most dynamic and athletic endeavors I have ever witnessed,” said AAC chief executive Phil Powers. ”Bringing that to the center of Denver and allowing people to witness it and be amazed by it is just going to be an extraordinary thing. It’s about the athletes, and our responsibility, but it’s also about sharing this with one of the most amazing high-altitude outdoor communities in the United States. People are going to love it.”

Visit Denver is organizing a Winter Festival associated with the event at which visitors can try an assortment of participatory activities including ax throwing, human curling, an ice maze, fir-tree throwing on a target range, arm wrestling, a slingshot snowball game, and a fat tire bike course. Other diversions will include food trucks, an ice bar and beer garden, music and fire pits.

“We wanted to put on something complementary to the competition because it does last for a fairly long time, all day Saturday and Sunday,” said Justin Bresler, Visit Denver’s vice president of marketing. “I think it’s a great celebration of winter sports.”

This won’t won’t be the first time Civic Center park was transformed into a playground for elite winter athletes. In 2011, it was the scene of a two-night ski and snowboard “big air” competition with a ramp that soared 106 feet in the air. An estimated 14,000 spectators attended. That event charged admission, but the event this weekend is free.

Two climbing walls will be built, attached to a superstructure of scaffolding. One, covered with actual ice, will be about 40 feet high and will be used for speed climbing. The other, 60 feet tall, will resemble an indoor climbing wall made out of plywood planks. Climbers will be wearing boots with crampons, as they do on ice, but they will be kicking the front points of their crampons into the wood. They will be using “dry” ice tools, similar in appearance to what they would use on ice, but with picks designed to snag on holds fixed to the wall. Ropes will be in place for protection against falls.

RELATED: Wondering what ice climbing looks like in the wild? Check out these photos of climbers scaling huge ice cliffs in Ouray

“We’re working with four different companies to build the structure, because nothing like it has ever been built in the United States,” said Vickie Hormuth, director of strategic partnerships for the AAC. “It’s never been engineered anywhere the way we’re engineering it, because we are doing this in a metropolitan area where the weather is not dependable. Most other World Cups are up high in the mountains, so they can depend on the weather a little bit more. They climb on blocks of ice or an ice flow that they’ve created with a hose.”

To make it work, the ice wall for speed climbing will be refrigerated. The ice will be formed around a structure laying flat on the ground, and when it’s finished, it will be hoisted into a vertical position and secured to the superstructure it shares with the lead climbing wall.

“We’re building the ice on the ground because we need it to be as vertical and as flat of a surface as possible,” Hormuth said. “It’s not like it will be free-standing ice. It will be backed by metal within this big frame. We are the first people using this technology for a World Cup ice climbing event. (It) has been used for other ice events across the world, so we’re sort of translating this technology into vertical ice climbing.”

The speed climbers will scamper up the ice wall in a matter of seconds. Ascents in lead climbing are longer, more complex, and involve overhangs that require great dexterity and spider-like moves to negotiate.

The American Alpine Club dates back to 1902, and since 1993 its offices have been in a 95-year-old building in downtown Golden that previously housed Golden High School and Junior High. After deciding to move here from New York City, the AAC renovated the building, which it shares with the Colorado Mountain Club, the American Mountaineering Museum and the AAC library, which was established in 1916.

The climbing will be live-streamed at americanalpineclub.org/watch-ice-climbing.

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Tuesday’s super snow moon will be the biggest we will see until 2026

Stargazers got a double treat last month when a near supermoon coincided with a lunar eclipse on Jan. 20, creating a reddish “blood moon” that was visible in all 50 states for the first time since October of 2014.

The full moon coming Tuesday will lack the drama of an eclipse, but it will appear to be the largest full moon of 2019.

OK class, here’s the science…

The average distance of the moon as it revolves around earth varies from the 251,966-mile apogee to 225,744-mile perigee, according to NASA. On Tuesday, the moon will be the closest to earth that it will come this year. A supermoon occurs when the moon’s closest distance to the earth in a given month coincides with a full moon. The full moon for last month’s eclipse was nearly as close — only 540 miles farther away than it will be Tuesday.

The next time a supermoon will get this close to the earth will be in December of 2026.

RELATED: Don’t stop at the snow moon. Here are four other cool things to watch in the sky this year.

“What’s making the supermoon super is that you have both a fully illuminated moon and closest approach,” said John Keller, director of the University of Colorado’s Fiske Planetarium in Boulder. “All supermoons are cool. They do happen at least once a year. It’s nice to appreciate where the moon is in its orbit. You can notice it’s slightly larger and brighter than when it’s any other normal full moon.”

If the weather cooperates, that is.

You might want to check it out Sunday and Monday as the moon grows in fullness and proximity to earth, just in case Tuesday night is cloudy. Here are the times when the moon will rise and be directly overhead in Denver as the supermoon approaches:

Day Moonrise Highest point in the sky Percentage of fullness
Sunday 3:29 p.m. 10:56 p.m. 95 percent
Monday 4:43 p.m. 11:57 p.m. 99 percent
Tuesday 5:59 p.m. 12:55 a.m. (Wednesday) full

Source: U.S. Naval Observatory Astronomical Applications Department

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Froot Loops mini doughnuts are returning to a drive thru near you

Let’s take a step back in time.

You’re a child, it’s the morning and you’re elated because your parents let you indulge in the colorful, sugary cereal that is Froot Loops. The bright blue, green, yellow, purple and red pop from the white milk like little parties ready for your mouth.

But now you’re a grown-up. You’re not sure it’s socially acceptable to sit down and sink into that bowl of Kellogg’s-brand childhood anymore, so you begrudgingly eat your egg whites and fiber cereal.

It’s time to let that inner child back out at a drive-thru near you. Froot Loops doughnuts are returning to Carl’s Jr. — no bowl or milk needed.

The colorful, sugary mini treats popped into the chain restaurant at the end of August last year, and sold out in weeks  — probably because you can front the $1.99 price tag pretty easily by breaking into that ol’ piggy bank of yours.

At 1¾ inches in diameter with the vibrant, not-found-in-nature colors in the frosting and injected into the doughnut, it’s basically a giant version of the cereal circles.

A request for calorie information from Carl’s Jr. has not yet been returned.

Much like other gimmicky goodies (we’re talking to you, Unicorn Frappuccino), the colorful carb parade launched a flurry of YouTube reviews and posts from social media influencers, including Kim Kardashian’s best friend Jonathan Cheban, who goes by Foodgod on Instagram.

“They smell exactly like Froot Loops. Taste exactly like Froot Loops. They even look like jumbo Froot Loops when you cut into them,” said Shay Spence, the food editor for People, in his Instagram posted on Aug. 28.

“It actually smells like I just cracked open a box of Froot Loops,” Peep THIS Out!, a YouTube food reviewer with more than 19,000 subscribers, said in his video.

“That’s a big Froot Loop,” was his big take away of the “fresh, fluffy” mini doughnut.

According to the restaurant’s website, there are 25 locations in Colorado, including Denver, Lakewood and Commerce City. However, not all may have the doughnuts. According to a company spokeswoman, “While there are several Carl’s Jr. locations in the Denver area, the availability of the product will be dependent on participation of the franchisee.”

Dierks Bentley and his Seven Peaks Music Festival are returning to Colorado

Country star Dierks Bentley and mega-promoter Live Nation are officially bringing the Seven Peaks Music Festival back to Buena Vista over Labor Day weekend.

The 2019 event will take place Aug. 31-Sept. 1, although few other details are available at this point. Fans can sign up for the festival’s newsletter at sevenpeaksfestival.com, which will grant them access to a pre-sale code to buy tickets before they go on sale to the public.

Returning ticket-buyers will have the first chance at passes with an “Alumni Pre-Sale.” More information including lineup and ticket details will be available in the coming weeks, Live Nation said.

MORE: Dierks Bentley’s flip phone has a Denver number and more things we learned ahead of his Seven Peaks Music Festival

Last year’s debut of the three-day, two-stage music and camping event featured performances from pop-country, bluegrass, roots and Americana acts Bentley, Miranda Lambert, Brothers Osborne, Clint Black, Sam Bush, The Cadillac Three, Elle King, Dan + Shay, Del McCoury Band and more.

Fans traveled from 49 states and Australia to attend the event, according to a press statement from Live Nation, adding a crucial, destination-worthy element to the first-year music experiment.

Live Nation did not disclose ticket sales, revenues or attendance numbers, but with other major festivals pulling out of Denver this year (including The People’s Fair, Velorama and Grandoozy) it’s clear that the company thinks a second year is a profitable idea.

“I love that element of failure being possible. It’s like making a first record,” Bentley told The Denver Post last year. “That’s where all the good stuff is.”

Even without hard numbers, Seven Peaks easily brought tens of thousands of country-music fans — a relatively under-served market in Colorado — to an unpopulated swath of the state about two hours southwest of Denver. Bentley previously said he’d be happy if 10,000 people showed up the first year, although the event was designed to draw about three times that.

“The festival wound up being a no-brainer for attendees, too, with its smooth three-day run being full of jaw-dropping natural sights, Instagram-worthy backdrops, football-watching at booths that echoed sports bars — and, of course, music,” Rolling Stone wrote last year.

Want a vacation where you can explore the outdoors while eating international cuisine? Try Utah.

By Andrea SachsThe Washington Post

“This is a great activity for date night,” a young employee at the Soap Factory in Provo informed me when I walked in as a party of one. I looked around the room and saw many couples making their own soap (for their future His and Her sinks?). Then I noticed a penguin mold in the bin, and I found my companion for the night.

The Utah Valley city is not your typical destination or college town; it has a long and strong affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Two of its most prominent institutions are Brigham Young University and the Provo City Center Temple, both of which are ringed by majestic peaks.

Provo was named for the French Canadian trapper Etienne Provost and was settled by Mormons in 1849. In 1875, church President Brigham Young established an academy that rose to university status at the turn of the 20th century. Nearly 90 percent of the population is made up of members of the LDS Church, and many residents are current or former BYU students, a distinction that has shaped the city’s culture. For instance, Mormons do not consume alcohol, and the dearth of bars and social drinking is notable in Utah County, much of which is a mountainous area that attracts outdoorsy types with happy-hour habits. (I spotted two bars downtown and overheard one group of friends searching for wine, which they located at the Black Sheep Cafe. The caveat: They had to order food, too.)

But Provo doesn’t need cocktails to stay up late. Many of the BYU campus museums remain open till 9 p.m. on weekdays, as do the shops and restaurants. On a Thursday night, in the dead of winter, I stood on tiptoes to read the chalkboard of flavors at Rockwell Ice Cream Co. The following evening, I set out to hear live folk music at Pioneer Book but ended up in line for country dancing lessons and later at a crafts table surrounded by fragrant oils and paints. (These activities do seem to support the county’s controversial nickname, Happy Valley, and I did feel fairly joyful ending the day with new toiletries and dance moves.)

The culinary scene, meanwhile, is partially influenced by the Mormon tradition of international missionary work. Members who leave for proselytizing return to Provo with expanded palates. You can play spin the globe in the historic downtown district, stopping on pho, Belgian frites, sushi, Indian, Czech pastries, Mexican fruit pops or kronuts in a French bakery. Of course, the natural attractions that preceded the pioneers are equally integral to the Provo experience. Depending on the season, you can fly-fish on the Provo River, boat on Utah Lake, and ski, snowboard and hike in the Wasatch Range. Bring a date, or go solo – Mother Nature doesn’t care about your relationship status.

Go

Local faves

Hop on the Provo Canyon Scenic Byway, also known as Highway 189, and watch civilization fade away in the rearview mirror. The 24-mile route runs from Provo to Heber City; don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t reach the endpoint. Several parks will draw you in and out of your car, such as Mount Timpanogos Park and South Fork Park, which links to the Great Western Trail, the epic trek from Canada to Mexico. The Provo River runs parallel to the road, and you can often see anglers standing in the water, waiting for the blue-ribbon trout to bite their flies. In Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, the 607-foot-tall Bridal Veil Falls unleashes curtains of water in the summer and freezes over in the winter, becoming a Spidey course for ice climbers. About 16 miles up, Deer Creek State Park offers activities for every weather system, including stand-up paddling, zip-lining, ice fishing and camping – in case you want to prolong your return to that other world.

You don’t need to own a car, or know the words to “Route 66,” to appreciate AAA Lakeside Storage and Museum. The vintage gas station signs, pumps and automobiles were amassed by the storage company’s owner, who scours the country for new acquisitions. Among his finds: a Polly Gas pump frozen in time and price at 32 cents per gallon; a Bob’s Big Boy statue with protruding belly; and a green Volkswagen bug that might cause you to punch the nearest shoulder. There is also a P-51 Mustang fighter plane with a Flying Tiger shark mouth that pretend-growls at visitors and a 1942 white halftrack used during World War II. The tour is self-guided, so unless you’re a baby boomer, you might need to call your grandpa to fill in the blanks. However, the website does provide information on select objects, such as the Roman Column Wayne Model 491 pump, which it describes as “the fanciest and most beautiful gas pump ever built by the Wayne Pump Company.” One person’s pit stop is another person’s passion.

Guidebook musts

The Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum, on the Brigham Young University campus, doesn’t count homo undergradutis among its 3 million-strong collection of mammals, crustaceans, birds, insects, arachnids and plants. However, it does display the equally fascinating liger, a hybrid cat named Shasta from the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, as well as an 8-foot-tall Kodiak bear that greets guests with a tinny growl. The research institute, which opened in 1978 and completed a renovation in 2014, is more than the final resting place for its subjects. At least once a day, staff members hold a live critter show. During my visit, the handler trotted out a cockroach, a corn snake named Reggie and a frog called Lemon, who is not allowed to fraternize with his brother, Lime. “They have been known to eat something too big and choke and die,” she said to an auditorium full of parents and children too squirmy to fully comprehend the implications. The university is also home to the Museum of People and Cultures, the Museum of Paleontology and the Museum of Art, which is currently exhibiting Pulitzer Prize-winning photos from the Newseum and towering willow branch sculptures by Patrick Dougherty.

On a tour of Provo Pioneer Village, Stevens Nelson doesn’t temper the truth. “When they got here,” said the museum director, “life was hell.” The open-air historical attraction focuses on the period from 1849, when the first Mormons landed in Provo, to 1869, when the railroad arrived. The seven original buildings demonstrate the early inhabitants’ will to survive, and sometimes in style. In the Turner Cabin, porcelain tableware and figurines adorn the shelves and a framed picture of hair art (yes, the stuff that sprouts from your head) hangs by the front door. The cotton coverlet in the Haws Cabin features a decorative chenille star pattern. “The women civilized this place,” Nelson said. “They made it happen.”

To learn about their food prep, visitors can peek into the Corn Crib, where the ears were dried and then ground into cornmeal. The village also owns several wagons and handcarts that the poorest settlers pushed to their new life. In the summer, a working blacksmith practices his trade near the oxen lift used to shoe the beasts of burden. Before exiting, take a peek inside the outhouse for a cheeky surprise.

Eat

Local faves

Homesickness has an upside: authentic Hawaiian and Polynesian food thousands of miles from its roots. The founders of Sweet’s Hawaiian Grill are originally from Tonga (Mom, whose name is Sweet) and Samoa (Dad), and they lived in Hawaii before moving to Provo for law school. Missing the cuisine of the islands, they started serving plate lunches nearly 30 years ago. Their kids now run the show, but the classic meal has not changed much: two scoops of rice, a choice of macaroni salad or pineapple with li hing mui seasoning and one to four proteins – including kalbi ribs, katsu fried chicken, teriyaki barbecue chicken and kalua pig. The restaurant rotates its specials and themes, such as Saturday’s poke bowl. Beverages dive deeply into tropical flavors. Try the Otai, a Tongan smoothie with mango, coconut milk and ice, or an infused kava drink created by BYU students. Omai Crichton, the daughter often found behind the counter, also makes leis that she sells in an adjoining space. It’s the statement piece that says, “Aloha, Provo.”

What do you get when you combine Czech and Texan culinary influences? Czech-Tex? Nope, Hruska’s Kolaches. The Eastern European breakfast food arrived in Provo on the wings of three Texan siblings attending the university. The dough is based on a recipe from their grandmother, and the fillings are as bold and assertive as a Texan oilman. The sweet pastry resembles a Danish in appearance but not taste; the savory variety looks like a dinner roll with a bun in the oven. The teeny bakery with the pear-themed decor (“hruska” means “pear” in Czech) opens at 6:30 a.m. By the noonish closing time, only the tags describing the 24 flavors and two specials remain. On a weekday morning, empty trays mocked patrons for not arriving earlier. We missed out on la bomba carnitas; chocolate, peanut butter and banana nut; bacon, egg, cheese and jalapeno; and raspberry Nutella, to name a few. A few maple pecan and mixed berry remained, but the kolache clock was ticking.

Guidebook musts

Chef Mark Mason cooks what he knows — Native American and Southwestern dishes — and what he picked up from watching cooking shows on PBS. Before opening Black Sheep Cafe with his two sisters, Mason lived with his family on a Navajo reservation in Arizona and the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in North Dakota. (The siblings have since sold the business, but Mason still holds the head-chef title.) That formative experience turns up in such dishes as hog jowl tacos on blue corn tortillas and Navajo tacos with green chile pork or red chile beef. The green chile also shows up on the frites and in a stew. All of the sauces and breads are made on-site, including the nanniskadi, which kicks the burger bun to the corner. The restaurant has a full bar with bottles of high- and low-alcohol beer, though who needs booze when cactus pear lemonade is in the house?

With more than 1,000 games, you could easily end up eating three square meals, plus snacks, at Good Move Cafe. The board game restaurant, which serves diners from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weeknights and till midnight on weekends, encourages eating while playing. If you’re stumped by all the choices, the staff is happy to recommend a dish (the Cowboy Burger, Meeples Mac and Cheese) and a game (Telestrations, Photosynthesis). If you dribble, say, gooey cheese from the Grilled Parcheesi onto the Sorry! board, don’t fret: “That’s why we have a budget to buy new games,” said Dave Moon, who owns the place with his son, Shawn. On Wednesday nights, the cafe holds tournaments, and you can take the Jenga Burger Challenge. Eat a stack of three burgers chosen off the menu to win a free burger for a future visit. Before opening wide, you might want to hit up the Hungry Hungry Hippos for some tips.

Shop

Local faves

With the exception of ironing, if your preferred activity ends in “board,” you can satisfy all of your provisioning needs at Board of Provo. Founded in 2004, the shop specializes in skateboards, longboards, splitboards and snowboards. You can find all the big names in the industry, such as Burton, Capita, Volcom, RVCA and Emerica footwear, plus crucial hot-tub attire such as flip-flops and board shorts. John Hales and his wife, Ellis, practice what they sell and know the riding landscape well. After a morning on the slopes, John was bantering with customers while perusing a catalogue of hooded ninja suits by Airblaster. When I asked them for recommendations, they suggested the Provo Recreation Center’s skate park and the Provo River Parkway Trail for skateboarding and Sundance Mountain Resort for snowboarding. Then Ellis offered to suit me up.

When designing Shade Home and Garden, in nearby Orem, Todd Moyer looked across the Atlantic for ideas. The Utah native wanted to replicate the European garden centers he had toured with his English wife. He envisioned a pastoral escape from the city, where customers could leisurely shop for their window sills and front yards. Moyer describes the store’s aesthetic as “modern farmhouse,” assuming your barn is in the desert (cactus and succulents) or Kyoto (bonsai trees). In addition to fauna, the store carries decorative planters, straw baskets with pompoms and pillows with cactus designs. In the cooler months, a herd of goats turns the greenhouse into a yoga studio. The Goga Guys use treats to encourage Nigerian dwarf goats to climb on practitioners. That sound above you isn’t infinite consciousness but Tootsie and Butterfinger crunching on graham crackers.

Guidebook musts

The Shops at Riverwoods is home to some familiar faces, such as Williams-Sonoma, but ignore those. Instead, seek out the unfamiliar names. Lime Ricki, for one, is a swimwear company founded by three sisters from Utah. Their designs – fashionably high bikini bottoms, wrap fronts, Dalmatian spots – transform women of all body shapes and modesty levels into sirens. Katie Waltman learned to make jewelry from her grandmother while in high school. She opened the Provo store in 2014 to showcase the delicate pieces adorned with her signature flourish, feathery leaves. Pebbles and Twigs carries new and consignment pieces that will up the cozy factor of your house, and Heirloom Art & Co. peddles in small indulgences, such as an Arches National Park puzzle, a giant fly-shape swatter and bird call boxes. For your commitment to local retailers, reward yourself with a cocomel cookie from Suss Cookie Co., a riff on the Girl Scouts’ Samoa.

Open since 1980, Pioneer Book fills its two-level shop with used, signed and rare books, without a whiff of mustiness. The ground floor contains every category of literature except fiction, which dominates the stacks upstairs. For regional reading material, check out the books filed under “Western, Americana, Utah and Native American,” or the entire wall of Mormon nonfiction. Blue index cards designate customer and staff picks, and if you find your reviewer soul mate, congrats! (Mine are Tori and Black C.) The store runs an annual reading challenge – “book with red cover,” “book by an author born over 100 years ago,” “book with a strong female lead” – and the winners earn a $50 store credit. A backroom upstairs showcases local art and hosts folk music jams. As a warm-up before the show, go hang out in the “Music” section.

Stay

Local fave

The family behind Aspenwood Manor created the Airbnb-esque accommodations with particular travelers in mind: Their guests do not need frequent housekeeping (once a week will do), a front desk (no keys, just door codes) or room service (full kitchen included; vending machine downstairs). The 20 luxury suites occupy two stately buildings near downtown and range in size from 220 square feet to 1,110 square feet. Each room is named and decorated after a destination close to the family’s heart. Waltzing Matilda, which has a secret passageway in the eaves, honors the clan’s patriarch, who grew up in Australia. Monocacy Estates, which comes with a built-in playhouse, gives a shout-out to Maryland, where the family previously resided. A daughter studied abroad in Austria, hence the Vienna room, a posh three-bedroom fit for a Habsburg. (Three-night minimum required for all rooms.)

Guidebook must

The namesake of the Hines Mansion Bed & Breakfast worked in mining and real estate and as a pharmacist and saloonkeeper. His hard work paid off, as you will witness when you step inside the opulent Victorian manse dating to 1895. You might first notice the chandelier, a prop from “Gone With the Wind,” or smell the chocolate cookies cooling on the counter. All nine rooms feature jet tubs, and one (the Library) has a spiral staircase that leads to a soaker with skylight views. With such dreamy names as Victorian Rose and Secret Garden, I was hardly surprised to meet around the breakfast table newlyweds and a couple celebrating their fifth anniversary. I stayed in the Seaside Retreat, the original location of Spencer and Kitty Hines’ bathroom, but wished I had known about the Lodge room’s Butch Cassidy connection before booking. (The outlaw allegedly sneaked in through the door to evade the sheriff of Salt Lake City, whose cousin, a friend of Cassidy’s, owned the place.) Ghost stories are up to the guests’ imagination, but whenever an electric issue arises, innkeeper Michelle Schick will say, “Kitty, knock it off.” When the front door code didn’t work, I knew exactly who to blame.

Explore

Local fave

I first spotted Robert Redford in the hallway leading to the Tree Room, one of five drinking and dining venues at Sundance Mountain Resort. He was cuddling a golden eagle, and I am pretty sure everyone who passed by the wall of photos wished they were that raptor. In 1969, the celebrity benefactor bought the Provo Canyon land that morphed into the year-round playground. Sports enthusiasts can ski and snowboard in the winter and then switch gears to hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding in the warmer months. The fire pits are seasonal, but the zip lines operate in all four. Most of the noncardio activities take place in the village, such as the Owl Bar, a watering hole that honors both Butch Cassidys (the real scofflaw and the Redford one), and the Art Studio, where artists teach guests to make pottery, jewelry, soap and other crafts. The General Store stocks their creations, as well as clothes, blankets, housewares and other goods that possess the Sundance spirit. As a souvenir, grab a free Sundance catalogue. Signs posted outside select locations ask guests to refrain from taking photos to protect the privacy of others, but the advisory does not mention asking for an autograph.

Guidebook must

The Utah Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau’s walking tour covers more than 70 sites, including many in the Provo Downtown Historic District. Where do you start? No. 1, Provo Town Square, seems obvious, but I decided to begin with No. 71, because I am a sucker for sweets. Startup’s Candy still occupies the 1900 building that produced the country’s first filled candy and Magnolias, a forebear of the breath mint. The confectionery is open weekdays, one of the few places on the list with public access. (Most are private homes.) The LDS Tabernacle (No. 65) suffered fire damage 112 years after its dedication and was turned into a temple. Only Mormons with an ecclesiastical recommendation can enter the sacred space, but everyone can stroll the parklike grounds. On Center Street, the main strip for eating, shopping and entertainment, I supplemented my education with historic plaques. En route to the Soap Factory, I learned that Brigham Young set up his first school nearby. Most likely, the academy didn’t teach its students how to make soap in emoji and Star Wars shapes, but modern-day Provo will.

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Colorado Symphony might leave downtown Denver, but Boettcher Concert Hall is done either way

The Colorado Symphony is free to look for a new home on — or off — its current site at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, following an agreement with the city this week that effectively condemns its current home at Boettcher Concert Hall.

Planning for a new concert hall is already underway, as both parties have said there is no future for the roughly 2,700-seat Boettcher. A specific timeline has not been set, the symphony said in a written statement Wednesday.

The agreement hands the Colorado Symphony Association the freedom and potential resources to build on recent successes, including increased ticket sales, collaborations with pop and classical stars, younger audiences and three consecutive years of financial stability.

A new and better concert hall would encourage this growth, the symphony believes.

“It’s only gotten worse and it has to come down, and nobody argues about that,” Jerry Kern, chairman and CEO of the Colorado Symphony, said of Boettcher. “So the question is: What do we do when it comes down? Now we’ve gotten to the point where we can move ahead with that question, and we’ve been freed to seek out developers for a new site.”

The memorandum of understanding, as it’s called, allows the symphony to move forward without waiting on the city’s Next Stage plan, the ambitious, multimillion-dollar overhaul of the Denver Performing Arts Complex that could add residential towers and other amenities to the 12-acre complex — but could also potentially drag on for years and hamper the symphony’s growth plans.

The memo also ensures access to $16.7 million that remains from a 2007 bond issue, provided the symphony adheres to certain terms — such as using the money by Sept. 30, 2023, and building its new concert hall within the city limits of Denver.

Boettcher, built in 1978, has for years been decried as flawed and inadequate, and neither the symphony nor Denver Arts & Venues — the agency that owns and operates the Denver Performing Arts Complex — wants to put resources into a renovation.

Craig F. Walker, Denver Post file
Outside Boettcher Concert Hall in 2014.

Named after philanthropist Claude K. Boettcher, the concert hall was the country’s first in-the-round symphony hall, a design choice meant to give all patrons proximity to the stage. It sits next to some of Colorado’s largest, most prestigious performing arts venues, including the homes of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Opera Colorado and Colorado Ballet.

However, the benefits of being grouped with the city’s other top-tier performing arts organizations are outweighed by not controlling the site, Kern said. Poor acoustics, too many seats, problems with the women’s restrooms, and design issues that violate 1990’s Americans with Disabilities Act also need to be fixed immediately.

“We still have some older people who like going to listen to music, and you can watch them with their canes and oxygen tanks trying to get up steps that don’t have a handrail,” Kern said. “On top of that, we’re viewed by the city as a user of its facility, so we use the city’s concessionaires, but we get no part of their revenue. … If we want to put on shows without our own musicians, we have to pay a higher level, and we pay a seat tax on everything. We don’t have it 24 hours of a day, and we don’t have it every day because the city promotes events there as well, or rents it.”

Most successful regional orchestras in the United States, from Nashville and Minneapolis to Kansas City, all have their own homes, Kern added.

Losing the symphony to another site is not a particularly attractive idea to the city.

“Certainly, Arts & Venues and the city have always been working toward the goal of having the symphony stay at the arts complex, and we hope that they will,” said Ginger White, who recently replaced Kent Rice as executive director of Arts & Venues. “It’s such an important cultural institution, not just for the city but for the arts complex itself. But at the same time, we recognize that the symphony wants to also be in control of their own destiny, and some ways to do that would be for them to consider places off the campus.”

Talks between city and symphony officials about a new (or renovated) home have been ongoing since at least 2007, and not always smoothly. That’s been complicated by the symphony having to deal with righting its finances after a 2011 review found that the organization was on the brink of financial disaster.

Stumbling blocks continued: On Sept. 18, 2014, the symphony was ready to announce plans for its $40 million Build a Better Boettcher renovation plan. Before it could hold a scheduled press conference at noon that day, the city issued a media release about Mayor Michael Hancock’s appointment of an executive leadership team meant to rethink the entire Denver Performing Arts Complex.

“We were never satisfied with the results of that,” Kern said.

As recently as 2016, one of the city’s plans included demolishing Boettcher and building an outdoor amphitheater in its place. Symphony officials criticized that in terse language.

“To even propose the demolition of a beloved community asset reflects a lack of both vision and leadership,” read a formal statement released by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, as it was known at the time.

The symphony’s rising fortunes of late have lessened some of the tension. High-profile collaborations and innovative, venue-spanning performances have brought everyone from Yo-Yo Ma and Renée Fleming to The Flaming Lips to the symphony — and the symphony to venues such as Red Rocks Amphitheatre and the FirstBank Center.

In the 2017 fiscal year, the Symphony Association had an operating surplus of nearly $200,000, on $12.8 million in revenue. Other income recorded outside its operating budget resulted in a net positive balance of $2.4 million, according to a financial summary provided by the symphony.

Last year, the city cut the organization some slack in two lease deals that provided the nonprofit with nearly free office space and cheaper rent at Boettcher, with an estimated $166,000 in savings per year, according to a previous report from The Denver Post.

The city recently retained Keen Independent, a market research firm, to update its findings for its Next Stage plan at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Meetings between Keen officials and cultural organizations will begin at the end of this month, White said.

“We’re trying to give the symphony the opportunity and the resources to be able to explore some different alternatives that include the Next Stage, but could be outside of the city’s master plan,” she said. “And we’re of the same point of view with Boettcher: it’s a facility beyond its useful life, and it would require a lot of money and gymnastics to make it work.”

Over the last six months, the symphony has looked at building a new hall on land owned by the Temple Buell Foundation next to the Cherry Creek Mall, according to the Denver Business Journal. But Denver officials balked at letting the symphony tap the bond money from 2007 and the effort went belly up, the Business Journal reported.

The symphony is also considering a parcel at 1245 Champa St., across from the Colorado Convention Center. But it’s dependent on the historic preservation status of the building that currently sits there (occupied by The Commons on Champa).

“We didn’t want to be precluded from looking elsewhere for a new home for the symphony, because to us, time is of the essence,” Kern told The Denver Post this week. “What we like about (the new memo) is that people are going to show up and start talking to us.”

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Denver Restaurant Week has gone from 83 eateries to 238 since it started. Here’s some menu help for 2019.

In 2005, you most likely hadn’t heard of Facebook; you could buy a decent home for under $300k; and Denver got its first-ever Restaurant Week, with 83 participating eateries.

Oh, how times have changed. Facebook hasn’t just entered the conversation but controls it; houses cost a smidge more; and this year’s Denver Restaurant Week, Feb. 22-March 3, will feature 238 restaurants. So …progress?

Like DRW’s format over the past two years, a (typically) three-course meal will run you $25, $35 or $45 per person, depending on which pricing tier the restaurant chooses. For some spots, this is a steal, which is why this week can be a lot of fun for both diners and, believe it or not, the restaurants.

“Restaurant Week is like a food festival in Denver that celebrates all of the incredible culinary experiences we have in the city,” said Andrea Frizzi, chef/owner of RiNo’s Il Posto. “It provides the opportunity to so many people who may have never been in before to try our restaurant. We love the energy it creates in the restaurant and all of the new faces we get to see. It’s truly a beautiful thing for the city.”

Besides being beautiful, DRW also can help restaurants attract new diners throughout the year. Il Posto general manager Kell Kaiser has tracked the restaurant’s numbers via a customer management database and OpenTable. He said that 62 percent of DRW diners returned to Il Posto at least once within the following six months.

“Restaurant week can be a real win for restaurants,” Kaiser said. “When done correctly and deliberately, the increase in guest count opens the doors to numerous opportunities for a profitable program.”

Visit Denver, which launched the program way back when, did so to promote the city’s dining scene to its own residents. Travel + Leisure had conducted a reader poll where Denver residents ranked the city’s dining scene 25th out of 25. So, yeah, we didn’t think too highly of our city’s culinary offerings then.

“We wanted to turn that perception around,” said Justin Bresler, vice president of marketing for Visit Denver. “We had good restaurants — not as many as we have now — but they were there.”

The plan seems to have worked. With nearly triple the number of restaurants participating and hundreds of thousands of meals served each year, diners and restaurants both are filling up.

If you haven’t made reservations, you’re not completely out of luck. If you’re booking online, check weekdays first and be flexible on your time. A light lunch can make those early reservations pretty appetizing, and snacks (snacks!) make the later ones doable. If you’re coming up short with online booking systems, try calling the restaurant. Sometimes they save reservations for callers and walk-ins.

Need more convincing? We’ll let the food speak for itself. Here are some DRW menu highlights:

For $25

Check out Cuba Cuba Cafe’s tostones con ceviche, fish sandwich and key lime tart. 1173 Delaware St., 303-605-2822; cubacubacafe.com 

For $25, not just one person but two people get beer, dessert, meat platters and sides at Burnt End BBQ. 5332 DTC Blvd., Greenwood Village, 720-538-1153; burntendbbqdenver.com

At Max’s Wine Dive, choose an appetizers like Crispy Deviled Eggs, main dishes like Southern Style Meatloaf, and finish with the Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding. 696 Sherman St., 303-593-2554; maxswinedive.com

Feed two for $25 at Tag Burger Bar in Congress Park: Choose two orders of fries, two burgers and get a buy one, get one draft beer to boot. 1222 Madison St., 303-736-2260; tagburgerbar.com

For $35

Fill up on Bamboo Sushi’s menu of rolls, smoked duck stuffed with bao bun and scallop, bass and salmon nigiri. 2715 17th St., 303-284-6600; bamboosushi.com

Lots of choices at Il Posto, but beef tartare, pappardelle pasta and pork cheeks with polenta are a good start. 2601 Larimer St., 303-394-0100; ilpostodenver.com

At Bacon Social House, try the Crispy Brussels, Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin and Creme Brulee. 2434 W. 44th Ave., 720-550-7065; baconsocialhouse.com

The Rhein Haus will start you off with a house-baked pretzel with sauce; a choice of salads or charcuterie for an appetizer; one of three entrees (try the Schweinhaxe); plus dessert. 1415 Market St., 303-800-2652; rheinhausdenver.com

For $45

You’ve got a full menu to choose from at Old Major, including salmon crudo, charcuterie and fried chicken — and that’s just the first course. Keep going with short ribs, lamb, duck confit and lots of other meat-centric plates. 3316 Tejon St., 720-420-0622; oldmajordenver.com

Satchel’s on 6th has roasted carrot salad, seafood pasta, pork belly with broken pistachio sauce and apple tarts on the menu.1710 E. 6th Ave., 303-399-2560; satchelsonsixth.com

In Cherry Creek, Cucina Colore‘s Restaurant Week menu includes Filet Mignon Carpaccio, Strawberry salad, Maine Lobster Ravioli, Veal Marsala and tiramisu. 3041 E. 3rd Ave., 303-393-6917; cucinacolore.com

Even The Palm downtown is getting in on the act, with choices like Poached Pear Salad, Saffron Spaghetti a la Lobster Arrabbiata and New York Cheesecake. Plus, there are upgrade options. 1672 Lawrence St., 303-825-7256; thepalm.com

Get the full list of restaurants and menus at denver.org/denver-restaurant-week.

Despite major cancellations in 2019, Denver festival scene still seeing success

A Taste of Colorado, Denver’s 36-year-old food festival held at Civic Center park, could have skidded off the map last year after it pulled an unexpected, 180-degree turn.

“We needed a revamp, and it’s really important for a community-focused festival like that to refresh itself,” said Kaylin Klaren, public events manager with the Downtown Denver Partnership, the producer of A Taste of Colorado. “We took the traditional model, which we had all seen for so long, and really flipped it around.”

That was no small turn, given that Taste has typically attracted an estimated 500,000 people over its four-day, Labor Day weekend run, according to organizers. And if it crashed, it could mean losing an important piece of Denver’s cultural identity, given that its historical inspiration stretches back to 1895 (when it was called the Festival of Mountain and Plain).

But rebuilding the festival from a free, one-size-fits-all event to a more streamlined offering — in this case, by shedding a day and revving up the live-music draw with national acts such as LeeAnn Rimes, Smash Mouth and REO Speedwagon — propelled Taste further than it expected.

“Last year was a huge success for us,” said Klaren. “We did the same amount of business and saw the same amount of people in three days as we did in four, which meant less up-front costs in terms of staffing, hours, load-in and load-out. We also had less of an impact on the city in terms of shutting down streets.”

While Klaren declined to share the festival’s budget or revenue, it’s easy to believe that a revamp helped A Taste of Colorado’s fortunes. Not only did vendors and attendees return in the same numbers, but USA Today nominated A Taste of Colorado this week as one of top 10 best food festivals. Online voting for the winners continues through March 11 and, as of press time, A Taste of Colorado was ranked No. 3 among all North American food festivals — four spots ahead of Aspen’s star-studded Food & Wine Classic, which was No. 7.

“It’s been interesting watching what all these other festivals are doing, and it really validates all the reasons why A Taste of Colorado made the changes we did last year,” Klaren said.

What the other festivals are doing — including the upstart Grandoozy and Velorama festivals, and the early 50-year-old People’s Fair — is pulling out of the city. The three major, mainstream events will not have a presence in Denver for 2019, and there’s no guarantee any of them will come back in 2020, even with Grandoozy and the People’s Fair stated intentions of doing so.

Produced by Superfly, which puts on the Bonnaroo and Outside Lands music festivals, Grandoozy drew an estimated 55,000 people to Overland Park Golf Course last year for what many attendees thought was a slick, national-quality music gathering, with electric performances from Kendrick Lamar, Florence + the Machine, Stevie Wonder and many more. But the cancellation of Grandoozy’s counterpart in Phoenix — Lost Lake, also produced by Superfly — was not a good sign, especially since Lost Lake had already announced several acts for its second year.

In January, Superfly announced Grandoozy would not return to Denver in 2019.

Velorama, which combined the Colorado Classic cycling race and performances from bands such as Modest Mouse, Wilco and Cold War Kids, attracted tens of thousands and took over large swaths of the trendy River North neighborhood in its two-year run. But like music-specific festivals, combining a otoriously difficult-to-monetize cycling race with other logistical issues (long lines, complaints of shortages) likely played a role in organizers pulling back to focus solely on the bike race.

“By pivoting the Colorado Classic to become a women’s standalone pro bicycle race, we can fulfill that mission without the need for Velorama,” producer RPM Events Group said in written statement last month.

The People’s Fair — a free, community-focused event put on by the nonprofit Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods (CHUN) for more than four decades — had in 2017 revamped its format with a new production company (Denver-based Team Player) and other changes that organizers hoped would stabilize the financially spiraling festival.

They did not, so CHUN pulled the plug on the 2019 version last week.

So what went wrong?

“There are very different reasons for why these events are taking a hiatus in 2019, and I don’t think it represents a trend,” said Jill Thiare, communications and outreach specialist with the city’s Office of Special Events. “Our office was formed in 2014 due to a significant increase in the number of requests (for events), and we haven’t seen a huge increase or decrease since that time.”

Thiare, whose office worked with all of the aforementioned events, coordinates with festivals on locations, permitting, public safety, street closures and other concerns. She said requests for events on public property in Denver last year numbered about 700 — the same as in years past. The office does not track the annual number of public events on private property.

“If People’s Fair wants to come back in 2020, they may or may not be first in line to get the park on that weekend,” Thiare said of the reservation process for Civic Center park, which also hosts large-scale festivals such as PrideFest and Cinco de Mayo. “It’s first-come, first-served.”

Denver’s festival scene is in no danger of going down in flames, despite all the attention the spectacularly failed Fyre Festival (in the Bahamas) has gotten in recent months, said Steven Schmader, president of Boise, Idaho-based International Festivals & Events Association.

“Denver’s been very active in our industry and has stayed on the cutting edge,” he said, noting that the Mile High City won his organization’s World Festival & Event City Award in 2012. “There are niches that are getting hit a little harder for some, like music festivals — which we call the big-box stores of festivals, since they’re a dime a dozen these days and have become vulnerable. But all events need to revisit themselves from time to time, and (Denver) has been working hand-in-hand with its festivals.”

From security fears of lone shooters to finding new revenue streams through digital partnerships, festivals have been forced to adapt or die in recent years. On the other end of the spectrum, the proliferation of neighborhood block parties and other small events — which require little planning or resources, but may still need city permits — has kept some would-be attendees away from big, pricey, generic events, Schamder said.

“It used to be about, ‘How do you build a more creative parade float?’ And now we’re having conversations about, ‘How do you keep your audiences alive?’ ” Schmader said, referencing increased awareness of mass shootings and terrorist violence at public events. “Festivals also used to be the favored children of cities, and now they’re in competition for tax dollars and attention with other events. I’ve seen some that went from not paying for police to all of a sudden getting a bill for six figures. How do you survive that?”

In the case of the People’s Fair, bad weather at the free outdoor festival, declining revenues, declining attendance and other factors combined to push the it out of CHUN’s hands for the first time since it was founded in 1972. Organizers have also cited the proliferation of entertainment options in Denver’s rapidly growing urban core.

“In 2016, we were closing in the red every year for roughly five years,” said CHUN president Travis Leiker. “It became a liability because we recognized we were operating at a loss, and 80 percent of our revenue came from (The People’s Fair). So that’s why we transferred responsibility of the production to Team Player.”

However, CHUN and Team Player dissolved their partnership prior to this year’s event, Leiker said, and since CHUN can’t put the festival on by itself, it’s on hiatus for 2019. (Team Player did not respond to requests for comment.)

“The challenge, of course, is the sustainability piece, the profitability piece and the capacity for human capital at these organizations,” Leiker said of his nonprofit, which holds forums with elected officials and advocates for residents in Capitol Hill. “We’ve been in the black the past couple years, and we’re seeing historic increases in membership-based revenue.”

That’s good for CHUN, but Leiker isn’t sure if the People’s Fair will return in 2020. If it does, he’s considering moving it out of Civic Center park, among other options, to scale it down to a more manageable size.

“The People’s Fair started in a school parking lot at East High,” he said. “Is that something we should be looking at going forward? I think it is, and other festivals are certainly doing the same thing.”

Want to buy an old ski area? Greeley’s Sharktooth is for sale.

By Anne Delaney, The Greeley Tribune

The Sharktooth Ski Area, a beloved Greeley winter recreation spot in the 1970s and 1980s, is up for sale.

The price? A cool $1.4 million.

The 18.54-acre residential property now called Sharktooth Retreat includes two homes, a metal 60-foot-by-60-foot fully insulated outbuilding plus memorabilia in a mini-museum from the ski area, ice skating rink and tubing run that was operated on the site from 1971-86.

Current owners Philip and Karen Erby, who bought the property in August 1998, are both in their 70s and they’re interested in downsizing.

Read more on The Greeley Tribune.

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Nearly 4.6 million visited Rocky Mountain National Park in 2018, breaking another record

Despite ongoing efforts to manage congestion fueled by Front Range population growth, Rocky Mountain National Park saw a record number of visitors last year.

The 104-year-old park drew 4,590,492 visitors in 2018, a 3.5 percent increase over 2017. The National Park Service’s annual ranking of the top 10 national parks has been delayed by the partial government shutdown, but Rocky Mountain National Park was ranked fourth in 2017, slightly ahead of Yosemite National Park and slightly behind Zion National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park has seen explosive growth in its numbers since 2012. Since then, visitation has increased 42 percent, including a 20-percent spurt in 2015 — the park’s centennial year — as compared to 2014.

“The population growth along the Front Range is probably the main reason we’re seeing this increase, because it’s not just Rocky that’s seeing this love affair with outdoor recreation,” said park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson. “It’s places all along the Front Range and in Colorado.”

After the big jump in visitation in 2015, park managers began to look at ways to restrict access on busy days. Beginning in 2016, vehicle restrictions were put in place on high-traffic days at three of the most popular areas in the park: the Bear Lake corridor, the Wild Basin area and the Alpine Visitor Center atop Trail Ridge Road.

“When parking lots fill and congestion warrants, when people start to park illegally, when they start to block our shuttle buses, then our rangers put in restrictions in those areas,” Patterson said. “Since 2016, we’ve seen more and more days when we’ve had to put restrictions in place. It’s a vehicle restriction. We still have the shuttle bus running in the Bear Lake corridor from the Estes Park Visitors Center. There can be long lines there as people are waiting to get on the bus.”

Patterson said vehicle restrictions were put in place most days in July and August last summer and on most weekend days in June and September. Seven of the park’s 10 busiest days last year happened in September, including the top three.

Park officials continue to study ways to address congestion and will report their concepts to the public later this year.

If you’re hoping to visit the park yourself, the next free day will be Saturday, April 20. See the rest of the free days here.

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10 winter hikes near Denver where you can try to avoid the snow

There’s a certain beauty to a winter hike: the peaceful hush, the absence of crowds, the white blanket evenly laid across boulders, trees and the trail. On the other hand, hiking in snow can double your time on the trail, leave you chilly and possibly craving an easier, drier hike.

One great thing about living in Colorado is that there are many trails that get loads of sunshine in the winter so the snow melts off quickly and you can hit the trail without snowshoes. The trick is to stay at a relatively low elevation with minimal shade, where the snow is typically not as deep or long-lasting.

Here are a few suggestions on where to hike before the snowmelt. (Note: I’ve hiked or walked all of these trails recently.)

Check out the hikes on The Know Outdoors.

“Frozen 2” is coming in November. Watch the official teaser trailer.

While the cold may have never bothered you anyway, waiting for “Frozen 2” probably has.

Well, the wait is over. Six years since the release of the ginormous Disney smash “Frozen,” “Frozen 2” will hit theaters on Nov. 22.

A new teaser trailer shows Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff and all the favorites getting into more icy trouble.

Voiced by Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad, the first Oscar-winning animated film has already become a Broadway musical that premiered right here in Denver. 

Get more on “Frozen’s” premiere in Denver here.

Diana Ross reveals 2019 Red Rocks Amphitheatre show hot off her Grammy performance

Legendary soul singer Diana Ross will return to Red Rocks Amphitheatre on July 22, promoter AEG Presents Rocky Mountains announced this morning.

With about a month to go until her 75th birthday, the former Supremes leader and Motown native is coming off of her “Diamond Diana” celebration at the 61st Grammy Awards over the weekend.

Ross, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner, received a standing ovation upon taking the stage to perform “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” and “The Best Years of My Life.” Her dapper, 9-year-old grandson also turned heads when he introduced her performance with a short speech celebrating Ross’ career.

Tickets for Ross’ all-ages, summer concert at Red Rocks are on sale at 10 a.m. Feb. 15 through axs.com. They will cost $46-$251 and are available by calling 888-929-7849 or visiting axs.com.

Tickets will also be available at the Denver Coliseum box office 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays and require a Flash Seats account (via the Flash Seats app).

Ross’ current gig is a series of shows at the Wynn’s Encore Theater in Las Vegas, which continue through Feb. 23.

A new, giant fun zone called The Summit opening in Thornton

A local operator of large-scale family entertainment centers will open its third Front Range location this week when the Summit Thornton welcomes its first guests on Tuesday.

The Summit, which uses the tag line “Elevated Entertainment,” is a small chain that combines bowling alleys, laser tag facilities, a bar and restaurant and other games and entertainment options under one roof. It has two locations operating today, one in Windsor and another in northern Colorado Springs.

Its 50,000-square-foot Thornton facility will celebrate its grand opening 11 a.m. Tuesday, according to its Facebook page. At 580 E. 144th Ave., just east of the 144th Avenue-Interstate 25 interchange, it will feature 24 lanes of bowling, a 5,000-square-foot arcade and game room, a two-story laser tag arena, 175-seat restaurant, VIP area and more, according to a company news release.

The facility will employ 225 people combined on a full-time and part-time basis.

Thornton and the surrounding north metro neighborhood have become hotbeds for family focused entertainment as the population in the area continues to grow. Water World water park and a Boondocks Food & Fun are also along the north I-25 corridor. Topgolf, an updated, high-tech take on the driving range with an existing facility in Centennial, broke ground on a Thornton location in October, according to the Denver Business Journal.

Watch Olympic snowboarders, bluegrass and experimental bands for free in Vail this month

The annual Burton U.S. Open snowboarding competition announced its musical lineup Monday for its free four-night concert series in Vail at the end of February.

This year’s bands include eclectic and experimental band tUnE-yArDs, Michigan’s Greensky Bluegrass, the Texas trio Khruangbin and Brooklyn-based Turkuaz.

The concert series starts Wednesday, Feb. 27, and run through Saturday, March 2.

The annual Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships, now in their 37th year, is free and open to the public. Athletes who will be competing this year include Jamie Anderson, Red Gerard and Mark McMorris.

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Crumbling church, ruined mansion: See these 5 endangered places in Colorado before they disappear

A crumbling 90-year-old church that retains timeless beauty despite its state of disrepair. The ruins of a remote mansion built by a 19th century Colorado governor. A market that predates the birth of Denver and is the oldest continuously operated business in the state.

These are just some of the sites that were added to the list of Colorado’s Most Endangered Places last week by Colorado Preservation, Inc., an organization that has worked with communities around the state since 1997 to save historic structures and archaeological sites.

So here’s an idea for a road trip: Tour the newly added five sites. It could make for an intriguing journey through our state’s rich history, and all can be visited on a swing through southern Colorado.

“The whole program is really to raise awareness about the threats to the sites and the condition they’re in and to try and rally support,” said Kim Grant, director of CPI’s Endangered Places Program. “We work with local organizations to build their capacity to do fundraising, and we help them with some of that. Sometimes we help them write grants and get grants.”

There are more than 120 sites on CPI lists, including 47 that are considered “saved” and 44 ”in progress” of preservation. CPI has 25 on an “alert” list (meaning they are considered endangered), including the five added last week.

“People have emotional connections to these sites,” Grant said. “There are great stories behind them, and they’re really tangible reflections of our past, and of the people who came here and settled and built Colorado. At the same time, I think people need something like that to hold on to, because change happens so fast in our society. These are the places that give our communities their identity and their distinction and their character. In a world that seems like it’s getting increasingly homogenized, it’s nice to have these places that are a reflection of the past.”

Here, then, is a look at the new sites on the list, as seen through the eyes of people who love them:

See the full list on The Know Outdoors.

 

Denver’s annual People’s Fair will not return in 2019

Denver’s long-running People’s Fair will not return in 2019, organizers announced on the event’s website Friday, marking the end of an era for one of Denver’s largest community festivals.

The website did not give a reason for the cancellation but offered this statement:

“The longstanding tradition of the People’s Fair will be taking a hiatus in 2019 and will look to return in 2020. We would like to thank all of the past supporters of the festival as we work to make People’s Fair even more unique, interactive, and a standout festival in the Denver community.”

The nonprofit festival, which has long been held at Civic Center park each June with live music, food, local vendors and more, was founded in 1972. It ran for years at the Esplanade at East High School, just off East Colfax Avenue, before moving to Civic Center because of growing attendance.

The cancellation follows other major festivals pulling out of Denver this year, including the Grandoozy music festival and the Velorama cycling and music festival. Like the People’s Fair, Grandoozy has vowed to return in 2020 after a year-long hiatus — but there are no guarantees.

Calls and emails to Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods, the longtime producer of the event which handed over the reins to the Denver-based Team Player in 2017, were not returned as of late Friday afternoon, nor were calls and emails to Team Player.

When it was first announced, Team Player and former CHUN employee Andrea Furness referred to the arrangement as “a partnership.”

“They’re still very much involved,” Furness said of CHUN in 2017, noting the 200 to 300 on-site volunteers she anticipated that year. “The partnership really is enabling CHUN to focus on their mission of the neighborhood work that they do, but not have the financial risk, which is challenging for nonprofits.”

For the past couple decades, the People’s Fair has been popular enough to shut down major arteries into the heart of Denver as it drew thousands of music, art and food fans to the area between the state Capitol and Denver’s City and County Building. It’s the same spot where other marquee city festivals such as A Taste of Colorado and PrideFest are staged, and have thrived, in recent years.

However, organizers of the People’s Fair have cited declining revenues as one of the main obstacles to putting on the event, which have been aggravated by weather-related issues, declining interest and the explosion of entertainment options in the metro area.

[related]

In 2017, the budget for the People’s Fair was $360,000, down about $10,000 from 2016, organizers said, while anticipated revenue was $100,000. That was up from $87,000 in 2016, but Team Player still needed to fill the gap with corporate sponsorships and vendor-booth fees, which long kept the People’s Fair afloat.

CHUN remained the nonprofit beneficiary and permit-holder with the city of Denver, even as Team Player took over the official event production.

“I have mixed emotions,” Roger Armstrong, the former executive director of CHUN and director of the People’s Fair, told The Denver Post in 2017 as he prepared to leave the nonprofit due to budgetary constraints. “It’s hard to let go of an event you helped produce for two decades.”

Team Player runs numerous music and cultural festivals, athletic races, corporate events and tours in Colorado and Utah, while CHUN works in historic preservation, community advocacy and neighborhood improvement in central Denver. The latter nonprofit in 2016 reorganized itself into an all-volunteer group while it continued to weigh its priorities, CHUN officials said at the time.

Colorado ski forecast: Where to find knee-deep powder, best conditions this weekend

A solid storm on Tuesday and Wednesday should have most Colorado ski areas in decent shape for this weekend. It’ll be fairly mild as well as dry, with southwest flow bringing in warmer air along with sunny skies for most of this ski weekend.

If you’re looking for knee-deep powder in the trees, go west and south, ski hounds. You’ll struggle to find bad snow anywhere across our fine state, but the San Juans and Aspen, Vail, Beaver Creek and Powderhorn all saw decent snow this week, with well over a foot in each spot. Winter Park and Steamboat both picked up over a foot from the most recent storm as well, so again, you’re going to struggle to find any bad slopes this weekend.

First chair on Sunday looks like a good pick, with most areas receiving a few inches of snow as a quick system moves through overnight Saturday. This system doesn’t look like a barnburner, but it should have skiers smiling with most of Colorado seeing some quick-hitting snowfall just in time for Sunday’s ski day.

Statewide, Colorado is at 111 percent of its snowpack water equivalent season-to-date average, as of Thursday’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) official update. That number helps show us that it’s been a good winter so far, and this week’s snow helped push some of Colorado’s southwestern mountains above average alongside our northern mountains. So far this winter, generally speaking, our northern mountain ranges have done better in terms of snowfall, but recent storms have benefited the Southwest.

[RELATED: The 5 best views in Colorado skiing]


Colorado 72-hour hour snow totals through Thursday morning, as measured by individual ski resorts:

Silverton: 37 inches

Aspen: 27 inches

Wolf Creek: 25 inches

Purgatory: 20 inches

Powderhorn: 20 inches

Steamboat Springs: 17 inches

Telluride: 17 inches

Beaver Creek: 15 inches

Vail: 14 inches

Winter Park: 13 inches

Crested Butte: 12 inches

Monarch Mountain: 8 inches

Loveland: 7 inches

Eldora: 7 inches

Copper Mountain: 6 inches

Keystone: 6 inches

Arapahoe Basin: 5 inches

Breckenridge: 5 inches


Driving to and from Denver and the mountains

Friday night: No issues! A smooth drive with no snow expected across the state.

Sunday afternoon: You shouldn’t have any issues driving home either, though a few snow showers on Sunday morning could have driving conditions on the slicker side earlier in the day.

9 National Pizza Day freebies, deals and events on Feb. 9

As if we needed a reason to celebrate the cheesy, saucy concoction that is pizza, there’s National Pizza Day, a whole day dedicated to this delicious Italian dish. On Feb. 9, you have a legitimate excuse to eat as much pizza as humanly possible — and no one can judge you for it.

Whether you’re a deep-dish lover or more of a wood-oven-fired fan, you really can’t go wrong when it comes to pizza pie. Plus, creative Colorado chefs are coming up with some pretty unique flavor combinations, using ingredients like tender belly bacon and kale, just to name a few.

Here are nine freebies, deals and events along the Front Range to help you celebrate National Pizza Day.

Denver Pizza Company

If the thought of beer-battered dough makes your mouth start watering, you might want to check out Denver Pizza Company, a popular, 100 percent wind-powered pizza joint that’s been around since 2009. The folks there make both thin-crust pizza and a Colorado-style deep dish, so no matter what your crust preferences are, they’ve got you covered. (There is also a tasty gluten-free pizza on the menu!) In honor of National Pizza Day, Denver Pizza is offering free bacon jalapeño popper breadsticks with the purchase of any large or extra large pizza. Denver Pizza Company, 309 W. 11th Ave., Denver, 720-475-1471, denverpizzaco.com.

Peel Handcrafted Pizza

Peel Handcrafted Pizza in Frederick will give you a free craft beer, wine pour or cocktail when you order one of its special pizzas on National Pizza Day. Options include the pepperoni rustica and the nduja (made with spicy nduja sausage, red onion, basil and whole-milk mozzarella), as well as a few others. Peel Handcrafted Pizza, 214 5th St., Frederick, 303-484-9702, peelhandcraftedpizza.com.

MORE PIZZA: From Chicago deep dish to Brooklyn-style, here’s where to find the best regional pizzas in Denver

Anthony’s Pizza and Pasta

Anthony’s Pizza and Pasta is offering two-topping large pizzas for just $20 on National Pizza Day. To get this deal, you must order online and from a participating location, so be sure to call ahead to see if your local Anthony’s is running this special. There are more than 20 Anthony’s locations along the Front Range serving up New York-style pizzas. Anthony’s Pizza and Pasta, various locations, anthonyspizzaandpasta.com.

Mici

If you order a 16-inch pizza from any of Colorado’s Mici locations on National Pizza Day, you can get a bottle of house wine or any four beers for just $13. To take advantage of this deal, you have to dine in at the restaurant. Choose from pinot grigio, primitivo red, Peroni, Fat Tire or Coors Light. Mici has five locations in the Denver metro area, plus a sixth coming soon in Parker. Mici, various locations, miciitalian.com.

OAK at fourteenth

For a little something different, head to OAK at fourteenth in Boulder, where executive chef Steve Redzikowski is cooking up late-night pizzas for one night only. Redzikowski has been experimenting with wood-oven-fired pizzas for 18 months, using 100 percent naturally leavened dough fermented for 72 hours. From 10 p.m. to midnight on National Pizza Day, you can taste five of his delicious concoctions for $11-$12, including The Steverino, made with OAK sausage, kale, olives and roasted garlic. There will also be beer, wine and cocktail specials, plus small plates. OAK at fourteenth, 1400 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-444-3622, oakatfourteenth.com.

Pilot Flying J

Pilot Flying J decided to combine its celebrations for the Super Bowl and National Pizza Day into one epic week of freebies. All you have to do to get a totally free slice of pizza at Pilot Flying J (there are six locations in Colorado) is download its app Feb. 3-10. If it’s your first time using the app, you can also receive a free drink. There are a wide variety of toppings available, including mega meatball. Pilot Flying J, various locations, pilotflyingj.com.

Hops & Pie

Visit Hops & Pie from noon to 11 p.m. on National Pizza Day for the OG Whales of Craft Beer Fest, featuring beers like the Kentucky Breakfast Stout from Founders Brewing Co. and Pliny The Elder from Russian River, among others. It’s also celebrating a new Detroit-style pizza it has recently debuted. Hops & Pie, 3920 Tennyson St., Denver, 303-477-7000, hopsandpie.com.

5030 Local

On National Pizza Day from 2 to 11 p.m., you can get a sneak peek inside 5030 Local, a new brewery, music venue and restaurant in Loveland. It’s a collaboration between Peel Handcrafted Pizza and Berthoud Brewing, so you know it’s going to be good. There will be pizzas like the fungo, made with a rotating blend of seasonal mushrooms, and the B.P.J., made with pickled jalapeños and tender belly bacon. 5030 Local, 1480 Cascade Ave., Loveland, 970-775,2235, 5030local.com.

Parry’s Pizzeria & Bar

When you visit the Parry’s Pizzeria & Bar location in Johnstown between now and Feb. 10, you’ll get a sealed envelope with a prize inside in honor of its one-year anniversary and National Pizza Day. Inside, you could find tickets to a Nuggets game, a VIP brewery tour at New Belgium and Odell, free pizza for a year or other prices. There will also be balloon artists, face painters and food and drink specials. Parry’s Pizzeria & Bar, 4874 Thompson Parkway, Johnstown, (970) 541-1775, parryspizza.com/locations/johnstown.

No excuses: Here are 20 Valentine’s Day dining options along the Front Range

No matter who your Valentine is this year — a spouse, girlfriend, dad, kid, BFF, lobster risotto — the absolute best way to show them just how much they’re loved is with food.

That is probably why Valentine’s Day is the second-busiest day of the year for dining out. (Mother’s Day is first, in case you’re curious.) Restaurants, of course, know this, and they’re putting their hearts and souls into creating special menus to ensure you and your date (or, heck, just you) have a memorable meal worthy of your affection.

Here are some of the most enticing and creative Valentine’s Day menus at restaurants around town — because flowers die and cards get recycled, but that flourless chocolate cake will attach itself to your body forever.

(Note: Reservations were still available for all restaurants at the time of this writing, but it’s a Valentine’s Day jungle out there, so call soon!)

If you’re anything like us, you’re probably not kicking lobster mac and cheese out of bed. Shanty Supper Club’s Valentine’s menu offers that and more things that you won’t kick out of bed, like strawberry champagne soup, shrimp scampi, crème brûlée and a free bottle of wine. From $50/person. 1033 E. 17th Ave., Denver, 303-830-6637; shantysupperclub.com 

 

Love is a many-splendored thing at Ocean Prime DTC, and by “many-splendored” we mean Alaskan king crab gnocchi topped with roasted sea bass and champagne cream. More splendid dishes and cocktails await on the restaurant’s indulgent V-Day menu. 8000 E. Belleview Ave., Greenwood Village, 303-552-3000; ocean-prime.com

It’s impossible not to fall in love with someone over queso fundido. Nomad Taqueria + Beer Garden is exploiting that cheesy love potion with its $35/person, three-course meal that includes the queso, plus ancho chile-rubbed tenderloin and watermelon tequila sorbet to boot. 18485 W. Colfax, Golden (Origin Hotel Red Rocks), 303-215-2511; omadredrocks.com

More Valentine’s Day: 
Galentines and ” Goonies”: 12 Valentine’s Day events for singles in Denver and Boulder
Cheap Valentine’s Day ideas, BOGO froyo and more Denver-area deals you can score in February

Vegan valentines will fall for Charcoal Bistro’s five-course, $65/person vegan dinner on the 13th. With smoked eggplant “caviar,” black truffles and shiitake mushroom toast, there will be no missing the meat. On Valentine’s Day proper, the restaurant will feature a more traditional menu (also $65/person) with scallops and steak. 1028 S. Gaylord St., Denver, 303-953-8718; charcoalbistro.com

Fate will bring you and Courier’s passion fruit bombe together on Valentine’s Day. Thanks, Fate! The $50/person menu also includes oysters Rockefeller, French onion soup and wagyu steak Diane. Fate is also giving you a complimentary glass of champagne, because Fate is sweet like that. 1750 Welton St., Denver, 303-603-4171; courierrestaurant.com

Besides being patient and kind, love is also hearts of palm, salmon collars and black and white hand-made chitarra pasta. Or at least it is at The Bindery. And while love may not envy, you certainly will if you miss the restaurant’s four-course, $85/person menu. 1817 Central St., Denver, 303-993-2364; thebinderydenver.com

Value and V-Day don’t always go together, but Acova is giving couples a free half bottle of wine and appetizer with the purchase of two entrees. Because thrifty equals sexy. 3651 Navajo St., Denver, 303-736-2718; acovarestaurant.com

Spice up your night with Comida’s three-course, $50/person menu. The sweet corn bisque with habanero bacon and diced coconut cake with cayenne chocolate are sure to heat things up. 3350 Brighton Blvd. at The Source, 303-296-2747; eatcomida.com

Lovestruck carnivores will want to meat up (oh, snap!) at Fogo de Chao. Not only will you get to stuff yourselves silly with all the grilled meats you can eat, but if you dine between Feb. 14-17 you’ll also get a card for another free meal. That means even more meat! Could anything be more romantic? 1513 Wynkoop St., Denver, 303-623-9600 and 8419 Park Meadows Center Drive, Lone Tree, 303-481-4001; fogodechao.com

If carbs are your love language, Chow Morso Osteria has you covered with its four-course, $65/person Buon San Valentino menu. Choose among pasta with rabbit sausage, spaghetti puttanesca and burrata with ciabatta crisps, followed by Valrhona chocolate ganache cake for dessert. 1500 Wynkoop St., Denver, 720-639-4089; chowmorso.com

The Japanese word “omakase” basically means, “I trust you, chef.” Put your trust in the talented Uchi chefs and their Valentine’s Day omakase menu ($190/couple), which involves 11 courses of nigiri, oysters, king crab, wagyu beef and more. 2500 Lawrence St., Denver, 303-444-1922; uchidenver.com

A Valentine’s Day special at beast + bottle includes half of its namesake — a beast! On Thursday, the restaurant will have a dry-aged New York strip on the menu, not to mention chocolate stack cake with malted milk buttercream and hazelnut crunch. (That may not be beast nor bottle, but it sounds pretty tasty.) 719 E. 17th Ave., Denver, 303-623-3223; beastandbottle.com

If you love lobster, then Wine Experience Café & World Cellar’s four-course, $200/couple Valentine’s Day menu is right up your alley. Feast on lobster ravioli, lobster bisque and lobster with squid ink pasta. Even finish up with lobster cake! Kidding; dessert is the crustacean-free apple tart or flourless chocolate pyramid. Maybe next year … . 6240 S. Main St., Aurora, 303-690-1025; wineexperiencecafe.com

You know what they say: All’s fair in love and beef heart tartare. Or something like that. Hearth & Dram’s three-course, $59/person dinner has the heart (and the filet and the cheese plate). Be your own Valentine hero and add the whiskey pairings for $45. 1801 Wewatta St., Denver, 303-623-0979; hearthanddram.com

Citizen Rail is doing Valentine’s Day two ways — one for couples and one for singles. On the big day, lovers can order from a special three-course menu (highlights include foie gras-stuffed quail and 36-day aged ribeye). On Feb. 15, the restaurant will host a Lonely Hearts Club ’90s-themed happy hour at 10 p.m. Besides strawberry champagne Jell-O shots and Campari punch, Lonely Hearts Clubbers will score a free CD of ’90s ballads. Yes, really. 1899 16th St., Denver, 303-323-0017; citizenrail.com

All Valentine’s weekend (Feb. 14-16), Arcana is cooking up a killer, four-course, $75/person menu. Choices include lobster and grits, elk tartare and masa dumplings — and those are just the first two courses. Just imagine the possibilities for the rest. Or go to the website and see the possibilities for yourself and don’t imagine. Your choice. 909 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-444-3885; arcanarestaurant.com

For the first time in its history, California Pizza Kitchen will be serving heart-shaped pizzas. Feb. 13-17, you can eat delicious pizza-y love via any CPK pizza on a heart-shaped crust, and on V-Day you and your loved one can snag an appetizer, two entrees and dessert for $35. Various locations; cpk.com

The word “aphrodisiac” comes from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of sexual love. To celebrate her and all she arouses, FIRE at The ART hotel is hosting an aphrodisiac meal ($65/person). Set the mood with scallops and pomegranate, coffee-crusted filet mignon and cinnamon pineapple shortcake. 1201 Broadway, Denver, 303-572-8000; thearthotel.com

Jovanina’s Broken Italian knows that a little healthy competition is good for any relationship, hence its Loser Picks Up the Tab dessert. The peanut butter and chocolate tic-tac-toe bar comes with almond sugar cookie x’s and o’s so you can battle to the death (or to something a little more romantic) with your date. Besides the special dessert, Jovanina’s will also feature Valentine’s Day-themed dishes. 1520 Blake St., Denver, 720-541-7721; jovanina.com

Colorado’s resident “Top Chef” winner Hosea Rosenberg is showing you the love at his Boulder restaurant, Blackbelly. You’ll be head over heels for the $75/person, five-course tasting menu of bone marrow, truffles, scallops, chocolate and more words that cause our blood pressure to rise. 1606 Conestoga St., Boulder, 303-247-1000; blackbelly.com

Valentine’s Day is coming up. Why snowshoeing makes for the perfect Colorado date.

By Spencer McKeeThe Gazette via The Associated Press

Looking for a great Colorado date option? If it’s winter, you’re in luck. Snowshoeing makes for the perfect date experience in the Centennial State. Here are a few reasons why.

1. There’s not much of a learning curve.

In most cases, snowshoeing is just about as simple as outdoor recreation can get. It’s a slightly more complicated version of hiking. This means that most people will be able to enjoy the activity without having to master it. This quality alone makes it a much better date option than something like skiing, where skill disparity will likely leave one person frustrated and the other bored. Just stay on designated snowshoe trails and be aware of possible avalanche conditions.

2. The gear is affordable.

While most outdoor recreation activities have a pricy buy-in, you can hit the snowshoe trail for less than $200 if you’re looking to purchase all new gear. One great option is the MSR EVO Snowshoe Kit, which will give you a high-quality product that’s also conveniently packaged for on-the-go use. Gear can also be rented from places like REI for a fraction of the cost if you’d like to try before you buy.

Don’t stop at the snowshoes though. If you’re headed out in the cold Colorado winter, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve also got the right type of clothing and footwear. I typically rock whatever I’d wear skiing, opting for my Danner Raptor 650s to cover my toes instead of ski boots. They’re extremely warm boots that are sure to keep your feet dry. Some people also choose to use waterproof boot gaiters to keep the snow even further from their feet.

3. Snowshoeing is extremely peaceful.

Did you know that snow actually dampens sound? Skip the noisy restaurant for date night and pick snowshoeing instead to find a beautiful atmosphere that’s actually quiet enough to enable real conversation.

4. You’ll see some beautiful sights.

When snow starts falling around Colorado, it has a tendency to completely transform the landscape. Summer hikes will look completely different and summit views will give you an entirely new perspective. Pick your favorite beginner to moderate trail and give it a try on snowshoes. You probably won’t be disappointed.

RELATED: 9 snowshoe trails with the best views to fill up your Instagram

5. You’ll miss the crowds.

Most trails become quite empty come colder weather. Snowshoeing is one great activity that lets you take advantage of this. Even relatively popular destinations will have you feeling like you’re the only on there — especially if you hit the trail in the morning.

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The highest restaurant in America just opened at a Colorado ski resort

Telluride’s Alpino Vino can step down because Arapahoe Basin Ski Area has the highest restaurant in North America now.

With A-Basin opening a European-style bistro last month, the new restaurant exists as a safe haven at 12,456 feet elevation, making it the highest restaurant in the U.S. as far as A-Basin’s staff can tell.

Like a lookout tower high up in the mountains, Il Rifugio rewards anyone who ventures up there with a breathtaking, wraparound view of the surrounding terrain and nearby mountain ranges. It’s inspired by the Alps and can only be reached via chairlifts so anyone who eats there will inevitably have to ski or ride back down to the base.

It goes without saying there’s a limited amount of geography extending above 10,000 feet in North America. The vast majority of it is rugged mountains, uninhabited and undeveloped.

Read more on Summit Daily.

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Five Colorado campgrounds you should reserve right now

There are two types of campers in Colorado — those who make reservations and those who don’t.

Those in the first group know, and usually get, what they want. They’re organized. They plan ahead, scoping out future sites everywhere they go.

The other group relies on first-come, first-served campgrounds and open, dispersed camping areas on National Forests or Bureau of Land Management land; they avoid camping on holidays and weekends and, generally, they hope for the best.

If you’re a planner, then you know now is the time to start clicking away at your favorite campgrounds. Most public lands campgrounds accept reservations up to six months in advance.

The trend is toward opening up more campgrounds for advance reservations. Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), for example, just expanded the reservation system in 20 of their campgrounds (find the full list of reservations-only CPW campgrounds here; book by phone at 1-800-244-5613). These 20 parks now allow you to book campsites, cabins and yurts up to the minute.

“We previously had a three-day window where reservations closed three days ahead,” said Rebecca Ferrell, a CPW spokeswoman. “Now, at those 20 parks, if you are on your way to Ridgway, you can check out what’s available and book it from your phone to be sure you have a site when you arrive.”

Myself, I’m more of a non-reserver, since I have the luxury of midweek camping during the summer. Whichever way you go, check out The Know Outdoors for a few campgrounds to consider as you start making plans.


More camping resources

RVshare.com is a peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace (and camper vans and trailers), with more than 600 units in Colorado for rent from individual owners. They offer roadside assistance, 24/7 customer service and insurance.

Glampinghub.com is a booking platform for “unique outdoor accommodations,” which includes everything from primitive yurts to exclusive cabins, with options all over the state.

Outdoorsy.co is a “sharing community” service for campers with the mission “to mobilize the 16 million underutilized, idle RVs around the world,” meaning it has a network of RVs and campers for rent by owner. You just plug in your zip code, price range, dates of travel and class of vehicle and a bunch of local rental options pop up.

Trailermade.co is another RV and trailer rental community with unique options for Colorado.

HipCamp.com is another modern tool to help you locate camping spots on both public and private land.

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