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Best of Colorado 2024 — Recreation

Many of this year’s Best of Colorado winners embody the art of specialization. They don’t pretend to be something they are not, rather they concentrate on one element and aim to perfect it. That in turn has clearly helped them make a name for themselves.

Our readers (Best of Colorado customers) not only remember them but make a concerted effort to vote for them. That’s a tremendous accomplishment in this era of overwhelming messages, marketing and mindshare. But that takes time. Here at ColoradoBiz, we’ve heard many serial entrepreneurs and CEOs depict their success as a climb rather than a meandering journey. After all, the highest summits are always uphill and rarely scaled on the first day.

So, here’s to this year’s Best of Colorado winners. They have found a way to perfect their craft, grow their brand, and be recognized for their specialization. They have scaled the summit of success.

BEST PLACE TO HIKE

RED ROCK CANYON OPEN SPACE

Owned by the City of Colorado Springs, Red Rock Canyon Open Space totals 1,474 acres, much of it devoted to hiking, climbing, cycling, horseback riding, picnic areas, and a free bicycling area. The ridges and canyons of the area offer beautiful views and sheltered enclaves with varied terrain for recreation,The main entrance to Red Rock Canyon Open Space is located along Highway 24 in Colorado Springs.

mountain bike
Copper Mountain Resort

BEST PLACE TO MOUNTAIN BIKE

COPPER MOUNTAIN RESORT

Located off I-70 about 75 miles west of Denver, Copper Mountain offers the optimum mountain biking experience. Summer-long and day passes are available to haul cyclists and their bikes up the mountain. Or you can pedal up for free, but you still need to register to be on the mountain. Bike rentals, mountain bike lessons and clinics are also available.

Denver Zoo
Denver Zoo

BEST PLACE TO PLAY HOOKY

DENVER ZOO

Founded in 1896, Denver Zoo is home to more than 3,000 animals on an 84-acre campus. One of the biggest draws is Tropical Discovery, an indoor rainforest jungle with 300 species and nearly 1,800 individual animals, including a bat cave, spectacular reef fish, snakes, tiny tree frogs, large reptiles like Komodo dragons and Daphne the Siamese crocodile, the zoo’s oldest family member, at 60 years old. The zoo is open daily for general admission from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There are seven designated Free Days in 2024, available online on a first-come, first-serve basis.

BEST PLACE TO RIVER RAFT

ARKANSAS RIVER

The Arkansas River boasts some of the country’s most popular stretches of whitewater rafting. Every class of whitewater is available on the river. Buena Vista is a noted hotspot for rafting, with several outfitters located in the area. The river spans 1,400 miles, beginning in the Sawatch Range near Leadville and Buena Vista and connecting with the Mississippi River in Arkansas.

FINALISTS

Idaho Springs

BEST MOUNTAIN RESORT

DEVIL’S THUMB RANCH RESORT & SPA

Located 75 miles west of Denver and 15 minutes from Winter Park, Devil’s Thumb offers ranch adventures and other activities on 6,500 acres, including horseback riding, fly fishing, cross-country skiing, mountain biking and zip lining. There’s also a spa, year-round heated pool and hot tub, daily yoga, restaurants, private rustic cabins and lodge accommodations.

BEST SKI, SNOWBOARD, APPAREL AND EQUIPMENT BRAND MAKER

BURTON SNOWBOARDS

Founded by Jake Burton Carpenter in 1977, Burton is the second-largest snowboard manufacturer in the U.S. Its products are sold throughout the world in more than 4,348 stores, including 1,536 in the U.S. For years, Burton products were only available in local stores, but in 2003, the Burlington, Vermont-based company began allowing sales of Burton products online.

BEST ONLINE GAMBLING PLATFORM APP

FANDUEL

As of January 2024, 37 states, Washington, D.C., and the territory of Puerto Rico have legalized sports betting. FanDuel, which got a head-start as a fantasy sports app, is one of the leading online sports-betting platforms. A report in 2020 estimated that $20 billion is bet on sports in the U.S. annually, and that number continues to grow.

BEST ONLINE VACATION BOOKING PLATFORM

VRBO

Vrbo (originally Vacation Rentals By Owner) allows travelers and property owners to book or list properties all over the world. The service offers more than 2 million homes worldwide. Vrbo’s website was created in 1995 by David Clouse, a retired teacher in Aurora who was looking to rent out his Breckenridge condo.

FINALISTS

Expedia
Airbnb

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

BEST ATTRACTION FOR IMPRESSING VISITORS TO COLORADO

RED ROCKS PARK AND AMPHITHEATRE

Regarded as one of the world’s top music venues, Red Rocks Amphitheatre has hosted thousands of concerts and events over 70-plus years, from the Beatles to Jimi Hendrix to U2. Red Rocks also hosts events such as the Easter Sunrise Service (since 1947) and Yoga on the Rocks. The amphitheatre seats 9,525; the spectacular view of the downtown Denver and the venue’s 193 steps from stage to the top make it a popular workout spot. Red Rocks Park itself encompasses 738 acres.

BEST CAMPING APPAREL AND EQUIPMENT BRAND MAKER

REI

Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) has been around since 1938, when it was established by 23 climbing friends. The retailer provides outdoor gear and apparel, rental equipment and expert advice to consumers within a co-op model. REI also offers gently used gear online and at local REI “garage sales.” Co-op members who buy or rent from REI receive a percentage credit toward future purchases and aid environmental causes.

Monarch Casino

BEST CASINO

MONARCH CASINO RESORT SPA

Just 45 minutes from downtown Denver in Black Hawk, Monarch Casino Resort Spa offers betting enthusiasts slots, table games, Keno, poker, a sportsbook and more. Aside from wagering, the resort has plenty of offerings to allow guests to celebrate their winnings – or console themselves if need be. Amenities include three new restaurants, a scenic rooftop pool and spa, and complimentary valet parking.

BEST COUNTRY CLUB

THE CLUB AT PRADERA

Nestled in the hills of Parker south of Denver, The Club at Pradera boasts an award-winning Jim Engh-designed golf course and a 27,000 square-foot clubhouse with two restaurants, full-service golf shop, men’s and women’s locker rooms, banquet amenities, adjacent tennis facilities and a fitness center. Social activities include specialty dining events, holiday celebrations, summer concerts, wine-tasting dinners, family barbecues, golf and tennis tournaments and league activities.

BEST PRIVATE GOLF COURSE (THREE-WAY TIE)

CHERRY CREEK COUNTRY CLUB

The Nicklaus Signature course design at Cherry Creek Country Club offers a test of golf at any skill level. The course blends water, landscaping and five sets of tees with three sets of combination tees ranging from 4,981 yards to 7,450 yards.

THE BROADMOOR

Set in the Cheyenne Mountain foothills of Colorado Springs, The Broadmoor Golf Club is consistently ranked among the best in the world. Its two iconic courses were designed by some of golf’s greatest names and have played host to numerous national tournaments, including the U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Senior Open and PGA Cup matches. Presidents, politicians, celebrities, and legendary athletes have played at The Broadmoor, and its distinctive courses have challenged them all.

THE CLUB AT RAVENNA

Nestled in the foothills southwest of Denver, Ravenna is one of the state’s most scenic courses. Its 18 signature holes offer a variety of terrain and a new challenge on every fairway of the 7,263-yard, par-71 course. Players may choose from nine different tees to suit their style and skill level.

BEST PUBLIC GOLF COURSE (TIE)

ARROWHEAD GOLF COURSE

Arrowhead’s par-70, 6,636-yard championship golf course was crafted by iconic designers Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Robert Trent Jones Jr. to blend seamlessly with its captivating setting in the foothills southwest of Denver. Easy to see why this is one of the country’s most-photographed golf courses.

FOSSIL TRACE GOLF CLUB

Framed by Table Mountain to the north and the foothills to the west, Fossil Trace Golf Club in Golden is available for daily fee play as well as limited private and corporate golf outings and events. The course is known for – and gets its name from — the dinosaur footprints on the 12th hole. The making of those fossils predates the golf course, which opened in 2003, by about 64 million years, the club likes to point out.

BEST PLACE TO SKI OR SNOWBOARD

BRECKENRIDGE

Breckenridge encompasses five peaks and 180 trails for skiing and riding, with 35 lifts in all, including the highest lift in North America. Each peak has its own character and terrain, totaling nearly 3,000 acres of skiable slopes.

Best of Colorado 2023 — Recreation

Many of this year’s Best of Colorado winners embody the art of specialization. They don’t pretend to be something they are not, rather they concentrate on one element and aim to perfect it. That in turn has clearly helped them make a name for themselves.

Our readers (Best of Colorado customers) not only remember them but make a concerted effort to vote for them. That’s a tremendous accomplishment in this era of overwhelming messages, marketing and mindshare. But that takes time. Here at ColoradoBiz, we’ve heard many serial entrepreneurs and CEOs depict their success as a climb rather than a meandering journey. After all, the highest summits are always uphill and rarely scaled on the first day.

So, here’s to this year’s Best of Colorado winners. They have found a way to perfect their craft, grow their brand, and be recognized for their specialization. They have scaled the summit of success.

Check out our Best of Colorado 2023 issue here!

BEST ANNUAL FESTIVAL EVENT 

GREAT AMERICAN BEER FESTIVAL

Hailed by brewers and serious beer connoisseurs as the country’s premier gathering of its kind, the Great American Beer Festival celebrates its 40th year Sept. 21-23 at the Colorado Convention Center. The annual event is a festival, professional competition and cultural phenomenon, presenting the largest collection of U.S. beer in a public tasting event plus a private competition. 

Tasting sessions allow attendees to tour America’s brewing landscape, one ounce at a time, with access to more than 2,000 different beers from 500 of the nation’s finest breweries. 

Runners-up:

BEST ATTRACTION FOR IMPRESSING VISITORS TO DENVER 

Inside Meow Wolf's psychedelic cavern and castle exhibit. Arial shot
Meow Wolf art exhibit

RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATRE  

Widely regarded as one of the world’s great music venues, Red Rocks in Morrison sits between towering sandstone rocks that bracket the stage to create a natural amphitheater. Meanwhile, concert-goers are treated to spectacular views of downtown Denver and the surrounding foothills. 

Runners-up:

BEST ATTRACTION FOR IMPRESSING VISITORS TO THE EASTERN PLAINS 

KIT CARSON COUNTY CAROUSEL

Of the nearly 2,500 wooden carousels carved in the U.S. between 1885 and the 1930s, fewer than 150 are still in existence. One of the finest survivors can be found on the county fairgrounds in Burlington. 

Kit Carson County Carousel also is the only antique carousel in the U.S. with its original paint on both the scenery panels and on the animals. The sixth of 74 carousels manufactured by the Philadelphia Toboggan Co. between 1904 and 1933, the Kit County attraction is the only surviving menagerie (having other animals in addition to horses) carousel made by PTC. And it’s fully operational! 

BEST ATTRACTION FOR IMPRESSING VISITORS TO THE WESTERN SLOPE 

COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT 

Located near the town of Fruita, Colorado National Monument preserves one of the grand landscapes of the American West. Towering monoliths exist within a vast plateau-and-canyon panorama. Visitors can experience sheer-walled, red rock canyons along the twists and turns of Rim Rock Drive. 

Reservations are not needed to enter the park, but they are recommended
for camping. 

Runners-up:

BEST PLACE TO HIKE 

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK

Rocky Mountain National Park’s 415 square miles encompass a spectacular range of mountain environments, from glistening alpine lakes to towering mountain peaks. There are more than 300 miles of hiking trails and spectacular wildlife viewing. The most popular entrance is near Estes Park. 

Park entrance fees range from a one-day-per person $15 for walk-ins and bicycles, $30 for a one-day vehicle pass, $35 for a seven-day vehicle pass, $70 for an annual Rocky Mountain National Park pass, or $80 for an annual pass valid at all U.S. national parks and federal lands. Passes can be purchased online at nps.gov. 

Runners-up:

BEST PLACE TO MOUNTAIN BIKE 

COPPER MOUNTAIN SKI RESORT  

Copper Mountain’s lift service allows riders of all fitness levels to enjoy the downhill thrill of riding without the usual toil of getting to the mountaintop. Rental bikes of all kinds are also available. The choices in riding terrain are just as varied: easy-riding lush meadows teeming with wildflowers; exhilarating singletracks; bridges over mountain streams, and more.  

Runners-up:

BEST PLACE TO PLAY HOOKY 

DENVER ZOO

What better place to spend the day – after calling in sick (cough, cough). The Denver Zoo encompasses 84 acres on the edge of City Park and boasts more than 3,000 wild animals that enchant visitors while serving as ambassadors for their wild counterparts all over the world. The zoo’s award-winning education and outreach teams spark curiosity for learners of all ages. 

The zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Online timed ticket reservations are required for entry.  

Runners-up:

BEST PLACE TO RIVER RAFT 

Family on a white water rafting trip in Colorado. Blue raft and paddles, rocks behind the raft.

BUENA VISTA 

Just an hour and a half drive from Denver, Buena Vista boasts the highest concentration of 14ers in the state and is a jumping-off point for a number of rafting options on the Arkansas River. It’s also home to experienced river-rafting guide services that offer numerous packages for rafting with varying degrees of difficulty and duration – from half-days to 10 days.    

Runners-up:

BEST PLACE TO SKI 

Large group of skiers and snowboarders, including someone dressed in a beaver suit, at Beaver Creek resort. Snow covering the ground.

BEAVER RUN RESORT BRECKENRIDGE

For ski-in, ski-out access, it doesn’t get any better than Beaver Run Resort & Conference Center, conveniently located at the base of Peak 9 of the Breckenridge Ski Resort. There are also on-site rental shops, a lift-ticket office, retail shops and dining. In the summer, Beaver Run serves as a base camp for hiking, biking, fly fishing and outdoor adventures. 

Runners-up:

BEST CASINO 

MONARCH CASINO RESORT SPA BLACK HAWK 

Located just 45 minutes from downtown Denver, Monarch Casino boasts more than 1,000 slot machines, 42 table games, additional high-stakes games and amenities for high rollers, and the new state-of-the-art Sportsbook Lounge where you can make straight wagers or bet on parlays, teasers, futures, prop bets and more. 

Runners-up:

BEST COUNTRY CLUB 

GLENMOOR COUNTRY CLUB

Located in Cherry Hills Village, Glenmoor Country Club features an 18-hole Pete Dye championship golf course, restaurant, three bars, an expansive patio area, a 10-court tennis facility, fitness gym, kids’ activity room and outdoor playground, as well two swimming pools. Members enjoy a sense of community, spectacular cuisine, junior programs, and events throughout the year.   

Runners-up:

BEST SPORTS STADIUM OR VENUE 

COORS FIELD

A day at Coors Field in downtown Denver is enjoyable no matter what, thanks largely to the cool nights and palatable summer days (compared to most cities), but also thanks to the stadium’s fan-friendly design that allows for easy walking around and a range of ticket prices, from behind home plate to the Rock Pile in center field, to accommodate most budgets. The stadium, which opened in 1995 and holds 50,000 people, was designed with fans in mind, and they show up no matter how the Rockies are doing. Indeed, in their 30-year history, the Rockies have never won the NL West title, yet they consistently rank among the top franchises in Major League Baseball for attendance.  

Runners-up:

BEST PUBLIC GOLF COURSE 

FOSSIL TRACE GOLF CLUB 

Located in Golden, just 20 minutes from downtown Denver, Fossil Trace gives golfers a mountain course feel in an urban setting. The Jim Engh-designed course opened in the summer of 2003, and in its relatively short history, it has come to be considered one of the finest courses and golf experiences in Colorado. 

There’s also a prehistoric flavor, as dinosaur footprints and other ancient creatures’ fossils are visible adjacent to the golf course’s 12th green. 

Runners-up:

BEST PRIVATE GOLF COURSE 

THE SANCTUARY

The brainchild of RE/MAX Chairman and co-founder Dave Liniger, The Sanctuary was designed by award-winning architect Jim Engh and opened for play (for those lucky enough to get an invite) in 1996. The course in Castle Pines, south of Denver, occupies 220 stunning acres, and traffic is limited to 9,000 rounds per year, mostly for charity events, to preserve an ecosystem that black bears, bobcats and mountain lions also call home. 

Runners-up:

BEST ONLINE SPORTS BETTING PLATFORM (TIE) 

DRAFTKINGS

Sports wagering is legal in an increasing number of states, including Colorado. It’s fitting that DraftKings and FanDuel would tie for Best Online Sports Betting Platform. Both got started as fantasy sports sites, which most states considered activities of skill rather than chance (gambling). In Nov. 2016, the two companies reached an agreement to merge, but that was blocked by the Federal Trade Commission to prevent a potential monopoly, as the combined company would have controlled 90 percent of the market for daily fantasy sports. Now they’re the two biggest names in an increasingly accepted (and legal) online sports betting industry.  

FANDUEL 

Like its rival DraftKings, FanDuel Sportsbook, currently available in 17 states, offers wagering on all major U.S. sports and betting formats that include spreads, money lines, NFL team odds, prop bets, single bets or same-game team parlays. “If you can dream it, you can (probably) bet it,” FanDuel says. All from your phone 

Runners-up:

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This article is part of the 2023 Best of Colorado Business Choice Awards. Explore all the winners and runners-up:
PROFESSIONAL SERVICES | TECHNOLOGY/ELECTRONICS | TRANSPORTATION | FINANCE
FOOD/BEVERAGE | LODGING/ACCOMMODATIONS | MAINTENANCE | REAL ESTATE
HEALTH | LIFESTYLEPERSONAL FULFILLMENT | OFFICE | RECREATION