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Taking The Kids / Travel & Leisure

It's more than 90 degrees and I'm planting spinach ... on vacation ... in high altitude. And I'm smiling doing it. There's something special about following your kids' passions on vacation, whether they're four, 14 or 21.

Taking the Kids: And Exploring Colorado in Summer?

It's more than 90 degrees and I'm planting spinach ... on vacation ... in high altitude.

And I'm smiling doing it. That's because I'm taking direction from my 21-year-old daughter Melanie, who has been helping to oversee the Colorado College student farm this summer in Colorado Springs.

There's something special about following your kids' passions on vacation, whether they're four, 14 or 21. We're going to follow Mel's passions our entire week in Colorado, hiking, biking and fly fishing together in Crested Butte (www.visitcrestedbutte.com) and Aspen (www.aspenchamber.org), even riding coasters at Elitch Gardens (www.elitchgardens.com), the "urban" theme and water park in Denver.

I'm glad my daughter is still willing to spend some of her precious vacation with us. (More about our other Colorado adventures in future columns and my trip diaries (http://www.takingthekids.com/travel-diary/.)

I'm also glad to be in Colorado for another reason -- to support Coloradans after the Waldo Canyon Wildfire here in Colorado Springs and the horrendous Aurora shootings to the north.

The fire that destroyed more than 340 homes earlier this summer has been completely contained and the city (www.coloradosprings.com) and all of its attractions -- the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (www.cmzoo.org), the highest zoo in the country, the spectacular Garden of the Gods rock formations and hiking trails (www.gardenofgods.com), the Air Force Academy, the world's highest Cog Railway to the top of Pike's Peak (www.cograilway.com) -- are all open, as is the spectacular historic Broadmoor (www.broadmoor.com) resort where we are spending the weekend. We hadn't seen Mel since March and it was nice to catch up in such a convivial spot.

The skies are blue, the air is clear and there is no evidence of fire where tourists would go. "Some people watching TV thought the whole city burned up," one local told me. "Some people thought the entire state burned," said another in Crested Butte. Fortunately, Colorado's fire-impacted areas represent less than 1 percent of the state's 23 million acres of public land.

As a result of these misconceptions, as far away as Aspen, vacations and meetings have been canceled. And now, in addition, the state has to deal with tourists staying away because of the senseless shootings in Aurora, Colo., a Denver suburb.

The good news for those who love Colorado and exploring the outdoors with their kids is that you'll find plenty to do this summer and fall and great deals wherever you go. The Colorado Tourism Office (www.colorado.com) has launched a "Share the Love" initiative (http://www.colorado.com/share-the-love) to welcome back visitors. Get more involved with "Share the Love" by following Visit Colorado on Facebook and (at)Colorado on Twitter; for more ways to help those affected by the wildfires in Colorado, visit www.helpcoloradonow.org.

Colorado Springs is running "Welcome Back Colorado Springs Deals" (www.visitcos.com/welcome-back-colorado-springs) with discounts on everything from hotels to rafting to Pikes Peak Mountain Bike Tours. Look for special fall deals at The Broadmoor, too.

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(c) 2012 DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.



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