Amid the crisp, thinning mountain air steeped in the aroma of pine trees, a single-track trail winds through a dense evergreen forest past sweeping views of the valley below. In 2005, wilderness enthusiast Stefan Van der Steen founded Denver Adventures as a means of introducing others to scenes such as this by immersing them in the great outdoors through adventures such as ziplines, hiking treks, and rafting excursions. Stefan and his team of knowledgeable guides lead groups to an elevation of 8,000 feet for zipline tours on an Association for Challenge Course Technology–certified course, where riders reach speeds up to 50 miles per hour past Colorado’s naturally blurry trees. Denver Adventures also leads hiking, snowshoeing, and mountain-biking treks through the uneven terrain, gauging participants' skill throughout to determine whether they can traverse a steep uphill climb or do a Superman seat grab over a row of sleeping bears. Making use of all the wilderness has to offer, guides also take explorers on rafting trips through canyons and past gold mines, or train them to navigate vertical routes using top-rope techniques during five-hour rock-climbing excursions.
Chances are a Tyrannosaurus would bite if you tried to pet it. Thankfully, that's not the case at Morrison Natural History Museum, where a Tyrannosaurus skull is one of many safe fossils that visitors are encouraged to touch. The paleontology museum's 3,000 square feet of exhibition space is full of other dino bones discovered in Colorado, from the first stegosaurus fossils to the tracks of an infant dinosaur. A peek into the museum's Paleo Lab reveals scientists conducting research in real time, while trips to the dig pit let kids experience the rush of unearthing their own fossils.
Not everything at the Morrison is about fossils. Among the Ice Age exhibit's bones of saber-toothed cats, for instance, glass displays teem with live reptiles, amphibians, and a wooly mammoth stretching after a 7,000-year nap. Educational programs likewise blend dinosaur-focused activities and interactions with live creatures, such as birthday parties that include the chance to pet a live snake.
Captain James Cook's nautical adventures have taken him from delivering yachts across oceans using only sextant navigation to earning the ASA's most-advanced instruction certification. Since 1986, he's channeled that oceanic expertise into Victoria Sailing School, where expert instructors help students of all skill levels earn ASA certifications and endorsements through hands-on techniques.
Before they set foot on a boat, however, aspiring seafarers get their feet wet in a safe classroom setting in the Colorado Executive Club Building. Upon passing their exams, they move on to practical sessions on the Cherry Creek, Lake Carter, or Chatfield Reservoirs, where they learn basic maneuvers or rig spinnakers on a J/22. More advanced students cut their nautical teeth on a J/30.
Along with sailing courses, 10-week coastal- and celestial-navigation classes help guests master the skills necessary for steering a course through the open seas, including an ability to decipher longitude, latitude, and the shouted, arcane demands of the moon. Weather for the Mariner classes teach students to analyze weather maps and prep strategies to avoid hurricane hazards.
Having plumbed the waters of New York, Michigan, Minnesota, and Colorado during their respective childhoods, the guides of 5280 Angler know that fly-fishing is a sport of personal preferences. They practice catch-and-release, and they don't schedule cookie-cutter trips?instead, they consult with their clients to gauge their skills, ambitions, and ability to hold something slimy without making a face. They then organize fly-fishing excursions that would best challenge and entertain their charges, scouting through public waters for choice wading locales such as South Platte River Valley, which accommodates fishers of all experience levels with prime casting spots. Full-day trips also include an onsite lunch, often prepared picnic-style along burbling banks and scenic mountains.
In lieu of tables, chairs and stools surround beer barrels at Colorado's Best Beers. Though no libations are made in house, the barrels nonetheless evoke the tavern's mission of selling whiskeys and wines made exclusively in Colorado. The bulk of the saloon's selection, however, consists of beers hailing from top microbreweries such as Caution: Brewing Company and Denver Beer Co. Located in the same two-story log cabin as Denver Zipline Tours, Colorado's Best Beers even offers zipliners a discounted drink and tiny beers for any of-age squirrels they've befriended on their journeys.
The experienced instructors at Pathways Through Art teach a wide array of artistic techniques to students of all ages. During a four-hour workshop, which can also be split into two sessions totaling four hours, the creativity connoisseurs provide step-by-step instruction, plenty of work time, and Mona Lisa–shaped koozies for students' self-furnished beverages. Aspiring canvas clothiers can train in a variety of painting styles, such as acrylic, watercolor, or printmaking. Ceramics classes allow creative juices to flow, overflow, and form lily-pad-covered swamps as budding sculptors turn clay into statues, dishes, and other earthen ephemera. Pathways Through Art provides glazes and up to three pounds of the malleable mud and will kiln-toast your finest creation.