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Summer Guide 2010: Do this. Not that.

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Your whole life, somebody's essentially been telling you to "do this, not that."

Well — not in those exact words, but you get my point. A commercial tells you to buy one product over another; as a kid, your mom tells you to do your homework and put down that laser-guided crossbow; as an adult, your wife tells you to do some dishes instead of rocking out with your buddies to the Baha Men.

Since you're so well-trained at taking such orders, we figured we'd issue some of our own, related to what to do and not do this summer. It's pretty simple, really. We've taken more-popular destinations and tourist-type options (which, of course, are still options if you don't mind the crowds) and suggested entertaining alternatives.

Consider these choice selections to be worthy destinations on the road less traveled, just waiting for a willing voyager like you.

Happy summer, minion.

Cultural destinations

The Fine Arts Center Theatre Company won't resume shows until October, and TheatreWorks at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs doesn't stage its annual Shakespeare opener until August. Early summer often heralds a local theater lull at several main venues, even the Pikes Peak Center, leaving stage fans in the lurch.

Since you can't hit those spots, get your fix instead at several other local and regional community theater spots, some nearing or matching the professional level of our stages. Here's a quick rundown of offerings:

Buntport Theater Company (717 Lipan St., Denver, buntport.com): Jugged Rabbit Stew, May 21 through June 19: An original musical "about love, deception, and Salisbury Steak Hungry-Man TV dinners" featuring Colorado College alumni and a magician's depressed white rabbit.

The Impossible Players (1201 N. Main St., Pueblo, impossibleplayers.org): 100 Lunches: A Gourmet Comedy, June 11-26: A playwright drags his biggest critic across pricey New York City restaurants in exchange for writing lessons. Rumors, Aug. 6-21: A farcical comedy centered around a man who shoots (but not kills) himself before guests arrive to celebrate his 10th wedding anniversary.

Damon Runyon Repertory (611 N. Main St., Pueblo, runyontheater.org): A Slight Case of Murder, June 12-20: At Prohibition's end, a bootlegger tries to go legit, but a murder gets in the way.

The Butte Theater (139 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek, butteoperahouse.com): You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, June 18 through Sept. 18: A musical depicting a day in the life of the comic character. Gunslinger, The Legend of Billy the Kid, June 25 though Sept. 18: A melodrama performance based on the original 1906 play.

Springs Ensemble Theatre (shows at Watch This Space, 218 W. Colorado Ave., springsensembletheatre.com): Glengarry Glen Ross, July 15-31. David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winner about cutthroat real estate salesmen.

Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (304 State Hwy. 105, Palmer Lake, trilakesarts.org): The Wisdom Within These Walls, July 16-18. Based on oral histories from local area seniors. — MS

For a holly jolly summer's afternoon, you can visit Santa's Workshop at the North Pole. Complete with the Christmas Tree Ride, a space shuttle, a miniature train, an antique carousel, elves and some jolly fat Joe dressed as Kris Kringle, it could make your kids believe in Santa until they're 30. It may also lead them to believe that aliens abducted the elves, inhabited their bodies and set up shop in Cascade.

So while amusement parks can be fun, let's leave Christmas in July to rednecks in Montana. (I say that as someone with family in Montana. And we did celebrate Christmas in July one year with them.)

Rather than raising your kids in Neverland, why not teach them about the real world? Take them to visit the rundown Hartsel Jail and Sheriff's Office on Highway 24 in Hartsel. The small, decrepit building looks like a garage. The white cinderblocks are painted in sloppy black lettering that reads "Hartsel Jail" and "Sheriff's Office." Overgrown grasses and several broken windows are signs of abandonment.

These are facts of life: It's not always Christmas, puppies die, and the government ditches those in need. — BA

Yeah, the Denver Art Museum might have priceless artifacts from the tomb of Tutankhamun and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science might have Body Worlds, but do they have a gas chamber? Or the last noose used to execute a person in the state of Colorado?

Nope, because those grisly items, both long retired, belong to Cañon City's Museum of Colorado Prisons (prisonmuseum.org), a prison-turned-museum devoted to late-1800s life in the clink. Here — sans the summer crowds destined to swamp the Denver locales — you can scope out cells, prison contraband, the equipment used to make license plates, and historic photographs detailing the lives of some of the prison's notorious inmates, including accused cannibal Alferd Packer.

The museum's holdings come from the Territorial Prison complex built in 1868. The Territorial Prison proper is now part of the 900-odd-bed medium-security Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility (making it the oldest in the state), but the museum itself is held in the women's prison, a separate building constructed in 1935. The museum gift shop also sells arts and crafts made by inmates from the eight correctional facilities in the area.

The museum's nothing big or fancy (admission runs $5 to $7), but think of the family bonding you'll have driving there and singing along to Johnny Cash. — EA

When this summer's primary politics make you yearn for simpler times, don't see Robin Hood again. Instead, check out the Carriage Museum at The Broadmoor (11 Lake Circle), which features a collection of carriages assembled by Spencer Penrose that date back 170 years. It's air-conditioned and free, and the museum attendant also will happily validate your parking stub from The Broadmoor parking garage next door.

Penrose, who built The Broadmoor in 1918, drew his wealth from gold mines and development and traveled the world. We can thank his preoccupation with vehicles for the impressive collection, which includes 31 horse-drawn and five motorized models, including three Pikes Peak Hill Climb race cars from the 1920s.

The display, for which the attendant is eager to provide a guided tour, features two presidential carriages: the 1841 Williamsburg Brougham used for the inauguration ceremony of William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States, and an 1862 C-Spring Victoria, which belonged to No. 21, Chester A. Arthur.

Mrs. Penrose's 1928 Cadillac limousine is in mint condition, as are other more whimsical carriages in the collection, such as a 1906 Renault.

Upstairs, enjoy a collection of indian artifacts Penrose collected through his associations with the Ute Indians. And after your tour, take the money you saved on admission and check out the Golden Bee tavern for lunch. — PZ

True, December is the monster retail season, but there's a reason why shopping malls and big-box stores don't tape "Gone fishing" signs to their doors when summer rolls in. For one thing, they have air conditioning, which for many of us, is a definite luxury. And for another, they prey upon our constantly reinforced belief that we are just one purchase away from success and happiness.

Take a deep breath: There is an alternative, and it's one of the most progressive public institutions you'll ever find. We're talking, of course, about libraries, those last bastions of egalitarianism where anyone can read anything without spending a dime. (Unless you're a slow reader or lazy about returning them, in which case — trust me — Colorado Springs fines are a pittance compared to those levied upon our friends out on the West Coast.)

Plus, unlike our politicians and bureaucrats, librarians actual believe in civil liberties, which means they actively resist attempts by government organizations to snoop into what books you're reading.

If books aren't enough for you, they also have CDs, DVDs and, at the East Library, espresso drinks. Granted, that may not be as impressive as a two-story food court, but the espresso cart does have bagels. And Big Texas Cinnamon Rolls, five-time winner of Automatic Merchandiser's Pastry of the Year Award!

But really, if you're at all media-obsessed, a public library can save you tons of money that would otherwise be wasted on purchases you may never read, watch or listen to. Put enough of it aside and you may be able to afford air conditioning. — BF

Outdoor pursuits

Palmer Park is a real gem, and everybody, we mean everybody, knows it.

Even with 25 miles of trails and plenty of pine forest, the massive Springs city park nevertheless manages to feel like a crowded mall in the summer months. This is especially true if you happen to be on bike, in which case you will find yourself dodging equestrians, dog doo, and whole day cares full of kids.

Which is why it really is worth it to drive to Lake Pueblo State Park (parks.state.co.us). While the city to our south is a bit warmer, and the area around the reservoir doesn't boast many trees (don't forget the sunscreen), you will enjoy frequent cool breezes off the huge body of water as you bike Pueblo's 34 miles of relatively uncrowded trails. Pueblo Reservoir has a great variety of terrain, from loose rock to hard-packed dirt, and there are trails for relative beginners as well as more advanced riders.

You'll need to pay $6 to get into the reservoir for the day. But just think, for that price, you can also take a quick post-ride dip in the cool water.

The best part is after your ride, you can enjoy the culinary wonders of Pueblo, including its legendary Mexican food and a recent favorite of ours, Bingo Burger. — JAS

While at times there's nothing better than escaping the daily grind and getting lost in the sights and sounds of other worlds from the darkened recesses of a movie theater ... hey, it's finally summer. Pry loose your shoes from the soda-sticky floors, emerge from the safety of your plush reclining chair, and head outdoors.

Summer nights in the Springs bring free movies under the stars. So pack up the lawn chairs and the kids, stock up on popcorn and Jujubes, and head to Pictures on the Promenade, a six-week series of family-oriented films every Thursday at dusk, beginning July 1, in the east parking lot of the Promenade Shops at Briargate (1885 Briargate Pkwy., thepromenadeshopsatbriargate.com). Or get a head start on Thursday, June 24, when the outdoor theater at Bear Creek Nature Center (245 Bear Creek Road, 520-6375) will offer a special moonlight showing of E.T. at 8:30.

Of course, if lawn chairs and squirming kids are things you'd prefer to avoid, the Margarita at PineCreek (7350 Pine Creek Road, coloradoeats.com/margarita/home.html) offers a more adult time with its Sunset Patio theater. Each week starting Friday, May 28, with Stranger Than Fiction, the restaurant will fire up its 15-by-8-foot screen and serve food and drinks that fit the film's theme. (Think Jaws and a meal of Mako shark.) — JT

While the Royal Gorge Route Railroad boasts incredible views, including ones of the Arkansas River between sheer granite cliffs, the hour drive from Colorado Springs and $33 adult coach ticket ($22 for 3- to 12-year-olds) are drawbacks.

For a thicker wallet and thinner you, try hiking the Manitou Springs railroad bed for a free glimpse of history, the old-fashioned way. A flat, though unmaintained, 2.2-mile round-trip hike winds through darkened railway tunnels (tip: bring a flashlight) and along the hills above Highway 24 and Fountain Creek, which babbles briskly this time of year.

Reviews on localhikes.com say it's not hard for kids, but I suggest starting the hike at the west end of the trail for a little easier access. Don't miss views of plateaus to the north.

The best part of the hike is the small valley after the last tunnel. Layers of orange, yellow and white sandstone lay stacked on their sides between hills of grass, yucca, wildflowers and cactus. A white sandstone wall juts above the trail on the left, Picasso-esque faces etched roughly in the uneven stone.

Instead of ignoring the "No trespassing" sign and venturing into the sixth tunnel, hike the small trail to the left of the tunnel. That leads you up the ridge to the top of the hill, where you can peek at Manitou Springs.

The trail is washed out in several spots that may soon be impassible, so get there before history is washed away. — BA

Summertime almost-classics

The first year I ever played Little League baseball, my team won one game and lost 19. Surely, I hated all that losing — a Scrabble defeat still today ruins my weekend — but all I really remember from that season is that in the moments after our sole win, we piled loudly into the back of Coach's pickup truck, spindly index fingers raised to the heavens, and drove to get ice cream. Soft serve ice cream.

So I have warm feelings for the cheap, easy-to-eat towers of summertime goodness, and their admirably austere flavor palette. That said, we've come a long way since my glory days of the late '80s, and there's no reason why our special treat should go "into a machine as liquid and powder and [come] out two seconds later as a mix of solids and air before quickly melting back into liquid," as Canada's National Post so nicely put it in a 2008 soft-serve story.

Instead, let's patronize some of the area's good indie ice cream shops: Josh & John's (joshandjohns.com), Colorado City Creamery (coloradocitycreamery.com) and Rizuto's (rizutosicecream.com) among them. The last few years have also brought an influx of gelato purveyors, including Nocon's Gelatoria (noconsgelatoria.com), Dog Tooth Coffee Co. (dogtoothcoffee.com), and Monument's Wisdom Tea House (wisdomteahouse.com) and Pikes Peak Ice Cream and Gelato (pikespeakicecream.com).

Leave the polysorbate 65 and magnesium hydroxide for the kids. They probably build character — you know, like losing does. — KW

Whether to help fill out the kids' summer plans or to entertain visitors, thousands of area residents consider it one of their rites of summer to throw everyone in the car and go to an amusement park, carnival or fair.

The costs involved can be no less than amazing, especially if the destination is a place like Elitch Gardens in Denver.

At those destinations, or even the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo, just a half-day can drain your pocketbook or your credit card faster than many shopping trips. By the time you've paid for parking, admissions, rides, concessions and the inevitable souvenirs, you can easily drop hundreds of dollars. (The last time we took a family group to one of those spots, the conclusion was that we could have gone to Disneyland for not much more.)

So before that urge hits the family this summer, be proactive and circle these dates on your kitchen calendar: July 24-31, for the El Paso County Fair in Calhan (elpasocountyfair.com).

It's what small-town fairs used to be, like traveling back in time. There's a midway with carnival rides, indoor exhibits for the various farm-related competitions; booths with all kinds of gadgets, services and deals; and special events ranging from rodeo and demolition derby to extreme truck racing. Those events require an extra ticket (most in the $10 to $15 range), but it's not like the admission is a killer — $7 for 12 and older, $5 for anyone over 55, $3 for children 3 to 12, and younger kids free. And if you go on Wednesday, July 28, everyone gets in for $1 each.

All you do is take U.S. 24 east to Calhan, go through the town and then turn right on Yoder Street (or follow signs) and you cannot miss it. You won't spend as much money, you won't have to walk as much, and Calhan in late July is almost always nicer than Pueblo in late August. — RR

Around 6 on Tuesday nights, friends and family know where to find you: downtown, breezing through a 5K with the Jack Quinn's Running Club (jackquinnsrunners.com) and then downing a discounted Odell pint up against Quinn's bar as sweat drips down your back.

We're certainly not telling you to stop this ritual, but did you know you can run (and drink) almost every day of the week? We encourage you to venture away from the comfortable downtown zone a night or two.

Mondays, the Soul Runners take off from Trinity Brewing Co. for your choice of a 4-mile or 8-mile route (trinitybrew.com) and beer deals upon return. Tuesdays, if you do want a break from Quinn's, try the "Nacho Ordinary Running Club" for a three-mile jaunt from the Briargate Salsa Brava (salsabravaonline.com); a $2.50 22-ounce draft beer is your prize. Wednesdays, head to the Speedtrap in Palmer Lake (speedtrapcoffeebar.com) for a 5K and Bristol beer specials. Thursdays hit up the 5K that leaves from Mr. Biggs Family Fun Center (mrbiggsfunrun.yolasite.com); $2 pints follow. All of these runs begin between 5:45 and 6:15 p.m.

But if you're more of a morning person, join Sunday's Incline Club at 8 a.m. through June 12; 7 a.m., June 19 to Aug. 14 (inclineclub.com). Though they kept the name, the group as a whole stopped climbing Manitou's Incline back in 2000, instead setting up more challenging long runs on and around Pikes Peak; find details on the website. Bloody Marys after, anyone? — KA

At the corner of Denver's 20th and Blake streets sits the concrete-and-brick embodiment of that most special time of the year.

Though no official definition of Rocktober exists, it can loosely be explained as, "That time of the year, right after that other time of the year, when the Colorado Rockies make a frantic push for the playoffs, often starting in midsummer, involving walk-off grand slams, bullpen injuries and frequent fan cardiac arrest."

And though Coors Field and its 50,445 seats (including $4 Rockpile tickets), Rocky Mountain oysters (Section 144), and its 3,800 $12-to-$14 on-site parking spaces offer an experience unto themselves, save the gas and see the current and future stars at our own grassy venue: Security Service Field (skysox.com).

Home of the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, SSF opened in 1988, providing a place for the then-Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians a place to glove their balls. After switching sides when baseball begat the Rockies, the team later enjoyed $8 million worth of improvements to the stadium.

To see it all yourself, look for $2 Tuesdays, where tickets, parking and Coors and Coors Lights are, you guessed it, $2. Additionally, a special from Kraft means a Singles wrapper will earn you a buy-one-ticket-get-one-free deal.

Don't forget to keep an eye on who's on the field, as some major leaguers will likely make an injury rehab appearance during the season; pitcher Jason Hammel and outfielder Brad Hawpe have already spent some time in the Springs, and catcher Chris Iannetta may have taken up permanent residence until he finds his swing. — BC

Contributors: Bree Abel, Edie Adelstein, Kirsten Akens, Bryce Crawford, Bill Forman, Ralph Routon, Matthew Schniper, J. Adrian Stanley, Jill Thomas, Kirk Woundy and Pam Zubeck.


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