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Denver Aquarium’s Friday Family Nights Offers Great Discounts…and Mystic Mermaids

We may live near the mountains but on Friday nights, the ocean is where it is at in Denver.

Denver Aquarium has introduced Friday Family Nights. From 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. kids 10 and under eat for just $1.99 and the exhibition cost is just $5 for children (both prices are with a paying adult). Also included in this fun night is free face painting for the kids, exhibit scavenger hunts, animal shows and interaction, raffles for prizes and reduced adult exhibit tickets with an Aquarium Restaurant receipt.

Friday Fun

Last week, my family checked out Friday Family Nights. We hadn’t been to the Denver Aquarium in a couple of years and expectations were high–we recently returned from a visit to the nationally-renowned aquarium in Virginia Beach.

Friday Family Nights at the Denver Aquarium did not disappoint.

When we walked in the doors of the lobby, there was a live animal demonstration of an Africal Serval, an exotic cat that is able to jump about five times its height in order to catch birds. The aquarium presents many other animals, birds and reptiles on Friday nights.

We dined with black tip reef sharks, groupers and schooling jacks adjacent to the Aquarium Restaurant’s 150,000-gallon tank. My husband and I indulged in the Mariner’s Mixed Grill: Top Sirloin, Lobster Tail and Grilled Shrimp. My husband and I did, that is. The kids

Colorado Ski Country USA’s Passport Programs Get Colorado Kids Sliding on Snow

The only thing better than hitting the slopes with your kids is knowing they are doing it for FREE!

Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA) announced that its popular 5th and 6th Grade Passport programs are available for the 2010-11 ski season. The Passport programs introduce 5th and 6th Grade kids to skiing and snowboarding by making it easy for those families to access the slopes of Colorado’s legendary resorts. Each of the 21 CSCUSA participating resorts provide three free days of skiing for 5th Grade Passport holders, and four days of skiing for $99 for 6th Grade Passport holders.

The CSCUSA 5th Grade Passport is available to all 5th graders and provides three days of free skiing at each CSCUSA participating member resort. The 6th Grade Passport is packed with value by providing four days of skiing at the same participating CSCUSA resorts for $99, equaling 84 ski days for less than $1.20 a day.

New for the 2010-11 season, CSCUSA is introducing First Class. Available for 5th graders who have never tried skiing or snowboarding, First Class provides registered 5th Grade Passport holders one free ski or snowboard lesson, including rental equipment, anytime during January Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month.

The Passport programs can be fully processed online at www.ColoradoSki.com/Passport. Resorts participating in the Passports for 2010-11 include: Arapahoe Basin, Aspen Highlands, Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk, Copper Mountain, Crested Butte, Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort, Echo Mountain, Eldora, Howelsen Hill, Loveland, Monarch, Powderhorn, Ski Cooper, Snowmass, SolVista, Steamboat, Sunlight, Telluride, Winter Park and Wolf Creek. Also, check out a Breckenridge Ski Resort when it comes time for your next vacation.

10 Places Your Kids Will Love to People-Watch (and so will you!)

What makes for a good people-watching spot?

Is it the sheer flood of eye candy? The diversity? The ease with which you can project fake histories and personalities onto your subjects? A comfy bench?

For most people, it’s a mix. Airports and hospitals are fascinating people-watching spots, but unless you’re on vacation (or returning from a disastrous one), no one wants to set foot in either of them.

Parks, plazas and malls are also natural choices, but some are better than others — although all are usually busiest on the weekends.

People-watching tends to happen close to where folks live and work, so everyone’s preferred spot is different. But the best ones tend to have a few things in common, such as walkability, nearby attractions and plenty of places to mingle.

Here are 10 local favorites culled from years of casually observing the rush of humanity in all its messy, hectic splendor.

1. Pearl Street Mall


Downtown Boulder prides itself on its bike- and pedestrian-friendly ways, and the 33-year-old Pearl Street Mall (between 11th and 15th streets on Pearl) is a charming, tree-lined way to luxuriate in one of the country’s most self-satisfied communities. Bizarre, surprising street performers, aging hippies, well-to-do families and college students stream by without end, every day of the week.

Recommended spots:

Tips for Back to School Reading and Beyond

Research shows that parental involvement in developing their children’s love of literature is critical to raising lifelong readers. As family schedules are reorganized to begin the school year, now is a great time for kids and parents to be sure they incorporate reading into their daily routines.

Below are some fun and practical ways to make reading a normal and natural part of family life and encourage kids of varying ages to get reading-ready as they head back to the classroom and prepare to dive into books all year long.

• Book graffiti wall – Put up a piece of poster paper and label it the “Great Book Graffiti Wall.” Have your children draw a pattern on the paper to make it look like a brick wall. Then encourage them to draw pictures and write recommendations based on the books they have read or are reading.

• Record your child’s favorite book – A cassette recorder is one way to enable younger children to enjoy a favorite book again and again. Grandparents, parents, older brothers, or sisters can record their favorite stories on tape or the whole family can join in and play different characters.

• Read around the world – Help develop geography and reading skills by making a faux passport and a copy

Taking on Brunswick Zone’s New Bowling Mamas League

I have a confession: I generally avoid activities at which I suck. I’m not sure if this is due to the fact that I hate losing or that I’m not having a good time if I’m not winning.

Oh wait. Is that the same thing?

Regardless, bowling is one such activity. So, when my friend Eva invited my kids and me to go bowing at Brunswick Zone in Wheat Ridge, I hesitated before deciding that socializing with friends in an air-conditioned building far outweighed any personal failures.

We had six moms juggling more than 20 kids so I did not have time to care about the game until I realized that out of the moms, I had come in dead last.

I’m pretty sure the toddlers in the bumper lanes beat me, too.

I laughed it off but have to admit, my fire was fueled just a bit. We went on to play another game and I fared a lot better, even knocking out a strike and a spare. I was still not invested until Eva announced she was one frame away from declaring victory.

Here’s the thing about

Legend of the Tarantula opens Labor Day weekend at the Butterfly Pavilion (win 6 tickets!)

**CONTEST CLOSED. CONGRATULATIONS TO WINNER SUSIE NELSON!**

The Butterfly Pavilion’s famed tarantula Rosie has some competition.

Venture into the world of the tarantula at the Butterfly Pavilion during the world premiere of their new exhibit, Legend of Tarantula, starting Labor Day weekend.

Discover how these versatile arachnids go far beyond the dangerous, scary image given to them by Hollywood, and learn the true value of these eight-legged wonders. Come face-to-face with over 25 rare tarantulas from around world, including some species never before displayed at the Butterfly Pavilion.

The Victorian-themed exhibit will teach visitors about the tarantula’s anatomy, habitats, diet, behaviors and cultural significance through interactive panels and activities. Become captivated by the beauty of these extraordinary creatures while exploring the tarantula’s secret world.

Interactive activities will include building a tarantula by layering over-sized anatomy parts; discovering where tarantulas live on a life-sized world atlas map; identifying different types of tarantulas by matching specimens with descriptions; dancing to Tarantella music and much more. The exhibit will also provide quiet and active learning opportunities for younger children in the specially designed Tarantula Town. Tarantula Town will feature climbing elements such as a spider web and tarantula burrow, and a reading nook with puzzles, hand puppets and educational games.

Legend of the Tarantula opens Saturday, September 4 and runs through November 28, 2010. Entrance into the new exhibit is included with general admission. For additional information, be sure to go to www.butterflies.org.

Mile High Mamas is giving away six tickets to the Butterfly Pavilion! Please go here to enter. Contest deadline is September 12, 2010.

Weekly Event Round-up: Italian Family Circus, Chile Harvest Festival & More!

Friday-Sunday. Catch a glimpse of circus as it once was when the Zoppé Italian Family Circus sets up at Mile High Marketplace. Featuring a brand-new, one-ring tent, the Zoppés perform in a traditional style with one story binding all the performances together. Nino the Clown stars, as usual, along with Tosca the Equestrian Ballerina, acrobats, dog performers and more. 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Friday; 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday. Mile High Marketplace, 7007 E. 88th Ave.; 303-289-4656. Admission is $3 to enter the Marketplace, plus $10 for circus admission. Kids age 11 and younger are free with a paying adults. Go to milehighmarketplace.com for more information.

Saturday-Sunday. Prepare for cooler days to come by getting a blast of heat at the Lakewood Chile Harvest Festival. Local green chile mavens battle it out at two green chile cookoffs, one each day — Saturday’s chile is traditional, while Sunday’s theme is “Think Outside the Pepper.” Live music and dancing celebrates Hispanic heritage, including performances from Aztec dancers, a classical Spanish guitarist and Latin jazz band. Kids can keep busy with craft projects while grownups tour art demonstrations and exhibits. And of course, green chiles will be roasting all day for visitors to take home for winter warmth. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Lakewood’s Heritage Center, 801 S. Yarrow St., Lakewood. Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for kids ages 3 to 12. Visit lakewood.org to learn more.

Saturday. Take to the streets for the first-ever Exempla Good Samaritan Boulder Nites Classic. The family friendly bike ride winds around Boulder, covering 9 miles total. Begin and end the race at the 29th Street Mall, where plenty of treats await riders: massages, music, food and drink. The evening cruise benefits the PLAY Boulder Foundation, the City of Boulder’s Youth Services Initiative and Boulder Parks and Recreation’s EXPAND program. 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Start/Finish at the 29th Street Mall, 1710 29th Street, Boulder. Registration is $30 for adults, $25 for seniors age 60 and older, $15 for kids under 12. A family rate is available for $75. Visit bouldernitesclassic.com for more information and to register in advance.

Saturday. Celebrate Colorado’s European Americans at the third annual European Festival in Highlands Ranch. More than 20 European countries are represented at the gathering, from east to west, including Latvia, Poland, Norway, Spain and Ireland. Vendors will peddle arts and crafts, plus lots of tasty food from all over Europe. Grab a seat on the lawn and catch a variety of music and dance performances, too — Hungarian grooves from Magyarock, Scottish dance from the Rocky Mountain Highland Dancers, German party music with Tanzkapelle and more. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. Civic Green Park, 9370 Ridgeline Blvd., Highlands Ranch. Admission is free. Learn more at eurofestival.org.

Saturday. Explore Central City’s past and present at the 22nd annual Cemetery Crawl, followed by the opening of Gilpin County Arts Association’s 2010 Members Art Exhibit and Sale. The afternoon starts with guided tours of Central City’s Masonic Cemetery, compete with costumed actors portraying the real-life settlers buried there. Afterward, crawlers will gather at Washington Hall to check out works by Central City’s current residents, plus live music, food, beer and wine. Cemetery crawl: 2-4 p.m. Saturday. Art exhibit hours: 4-7 p.m. Saturday. For cemetery crawl, meet at the Central City Opera parking lot, 124 Eureka St., Central City, for a free shuttle to the Masonic Cemetery. Art exhibit located at Washington Hall, 117 Eureka St., Central City. Tickets are $12 for adults, free for kids age 12 and younger. Buy $10 advance tickets by calling the Gilpin County Historical Society at 303-582-5283.

-Kathleen St. John

Museums where kids dig the past in Colorado

During road trips, nothing beats a museum for prompting a child’s eyes to glaze over. History? To kids, that means last year. But a handful of Colorado museums will pique the interest of otherwise jaded youth. Here are some of them:

Giant Steam Shovel

Colorado 119 at Colorado 72, outside the Nederland Mining Museum, Nederland

Dig in.

This behemoth, officially known as the Bucyrus 50-B steam shovel, was built in 1923 and labored at the Lump Gulch Placer mine near Rollinsville. When the mine closed in 1973, the steam shovel was left to itself for 35 years. In 2005, it was donated to the Nederland Area Historical Society as the last functional steam shovel of its kind in the world.

It did not actually dig the Panama Canal, which was completed in 1914, long before the Bucyrus 50-B was a gleam in a welder’s eye. Instead, the Bucyrus 50-B is the last survivor of a fleet of 24 steam shovels that disposed of dirt and rocks excavated from the canal, and helped construct dams, bridges and roads in the wake of the canal’s nominal completion.

Bonus: Nederland is also the home of the Tuff Shed Cryogenics Mausoleum, which houses the celebrated Grandpa Bredo Morstoel. He inspired the town’s annual Frozen Dead Guy Days festival.

The mausoleum, which really is a Tuff Shed, is located on private land and no longer is open to the public.

Grampa Jerry’s Clown Museum

$4 million kids attraction debuts in Denver!

Denver Botanic Gardens is now the home of a $4 million garden designed for children.

Janet Mordecai, through the Daniel and Janet Mordecai Foundation, donated the funds for a 3-acre exploring garden, and before construction began, she went on a nationwide tour of children’s gardens.

“She would say, ‘The kids like this, but not this,’ and then we’d incorporate the ideas into the garden,” said William Jones, a spokesman for Denver Botanic Gardens.

The end result is a “Big World Up Close” theme that takes kids on a tour of Colorado’s ecosystem.

The journey begins with a cave tour, which opens into an alpine meadow. Towering above are Marmot Mountain and Pika Peak, connected by a wooden suspension bridge kids walk along.

The path then leads to plant life found at lower elevations, including a forest and grassland and ends in an area that resembles Red Rocks.

A public grand opening and ribbon-cutting celebration featuring the Colorado Children’s Chorale will be held at 9 a.m. today at the gardens, 1007 York St. The entrance to the children’s garden is on the northern end of the upper level of the parking deck. Patrons can pay for entry into the children’s garden at that entrance. Regular admission fees include the children’s garden.

For more information, call 720- 865-3500 or check the website, www.botanicgardens.org.

-By Kathryn Richert

Bacon no more at Cherry Creek Mall’s new play area!

Being a nice Jewish mother, I have always felt a sense of guilt when it came to letting my children play on the beloved bacon and eggs at the Cherry Creek Mall. While it was certainly not Kosher, it was a right of passage for every Denver child and I, too, joined in the fun many times.

Well, to my surprise and many other mall-goers, the most delightful breakfast time of all is gone! Forget about guilty pleasures, now your kids can play with the Looney Tunes gang. Enter Bugs, Sylvester and the whole crazy bunch!