Aviation Xtreme's simulators let land-locked folk fly aboard jetfighters and WWI- or WWII-era aircraft in aerial missions or close-range combat. Aspiring aces strap into the cockpit of their simulator and choose from aircraft such as an F-15A Eagle, F-4 Phantom, or P-51 Mustang. After a short instructional video, they take off into the realistic blue yonder on a chosen mission, which can include an anti-ship mission or ground-attack mission. Each simulator is part of a larger computerized network, allowing friends to go head-to-head in a dogfight or team up to carve clouds into self-portraits.
Aviation Xtreme is housed inside Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, the former locale of the 1930s-built Lowry Air Force Base that closed in 1995, reports Frommer’s. These days, the 150,000-square-foot hangar houses more than four dozen airplanes, including five Century Series fighters and one of two B-1A Lancers on display in the world. The museum is even home to a full-size X-Wing Starfighter from Star Wars and the Harrison Ford Welcome Theater, where the staff starts each day in hiding to surprise Mr. Ford in case he visits.
In addition to aircraft from films, the museum’s space and rocketry exhibits include full-scale replicas of boilerplate spacecrafts used to train Apollo missions to the moon. Others models recreate planes in all their glory, such as the 16-foot Titan II launch vehicle, while hands-on exhibits replicate the conditions of space travel.
More than 4,000 artifacts. A 27-acre campus and 5,000-volume research library. These numbers just begin to describe the massive collection gathered at Western Museum of Mining and Industry. The institution's staff delve into history as miner's burrow into the ground, finding and preserving the stories and items that fueled the industrial revolution. The standing collection focuses largely on artifacts; visitors can see operating steam engines or pan for gold.
The venue also regularly hosts special presentations in its multipurpose center, featuring events in the past such as The Gold King's Legacy, an exploration of Winfield Scott Stratton's Cripple Creek mining operation. Some events also include the Pikes Peak Gem and Mineral Show, the Reynolds Ranch Harvest Festival, and Haunted Mines. Discussions on topics revolving around the Industrial Revolution and mining are led by appointed speakers to educate visitors.
The Plains Conservation Center is an offshoot of the West Arapahoe Conservation District, an organization appointed in 1949 to teach farming and ranching techniques that could help prevent another devastating Dust Bowl. While the PCC's mission has since expanded, the nonprofit organization's main goal remains the same: preserving the health of Colorado's plains. Between its two sites—a main 1,100-acre location in Aurora and more than 10,000 acres spread along West Bijou Creek—the organization maintains several attractions devoted to the history and environmental character of the region. These include more than five miles of hiking trails, a Cheyenne camp from 1837 with four standing tepees, and Wells Crossing, a replica 1887 farm consisting of sod houses, and heirloom gardens. For more modern sites, the Aurora location's visitor center features interactive displays and seasonal events such as Hops for Habitat, an annual fundraiser with beer tastings from local craft brewers.
Since 1894, four generations of the Bee family tended their 160-acre farm. Part of the National Register of Historic Places since 2002, 10 acres of this preserved land now host the Bee Family Centennial Farm Museum. Through various exhibitions and activities, the museum teaches visitors about the family's efforts to cultivate their little segment of the Northern Colorado prairie.
From antique tractors and trucks to private letters and diaries, thousands of the Bee's personal effects fill their original houses, sheds, garages, and barns. In the horse barn, a wooden horse models an original harness. Meanwhile, in the milk barn, kids can milk a wooden cow. The museum's other hands-on activities include gathering eggs from nesting boxes outside the chicken house, grinding corn for animal feedings, and throwing irrigation tubes.
There's something magical about the pink volcanic stone that makes up Rosemount Museum's exterior. Step inside, and you're instantly transported back to a mansion from the late 19th century. Original furnishings and artwork sprawl everywhere as visitors walk through this dream home, which was built in 1893 for John Thatcher, a banker and businessman, and his wife, Margaret, Pueblo's first public school teacher.
Combining science education with interactive entertainment, the Butterfly Pavilion houses five exhibits, 1,600 free-flying tropical butterflies, and a multitude of creepy, crawly creatures. Begin your day with a Tropical Odyssey, a bilingual adventure complete with larger-than-life caterpillars and butterflies and a zip line that allows children to sprout wings and soar like a penguin. Crab-walk to the Crawl-A-See-Em exhibit where brave souls can hold Rosie, a Chilean tarantula, and discover leaf insects, scorpions, beetles, and giant millipedes, and head to the Water's Edge to touch sea stars and more. Furthermore, levitate to the Wings of the Tropics exhibit to admire butterflies from around the world as they rest on your eyelashes. End your safari with a hike on the Butterfly Pavilion's half-mile natural trail teeming with prairie dogs, rabbits, ogres, herons, hawks, and eagles.