Saturday of the 3-day weekend on the Arkansas River
Day one: Cool off on the Arkansas River
Day three: Sunday
Mug shot. Florence flourished with an oil boom in the 1880s; the town has the second oldest oil field in the United States. Today, black liquid of the coffee kind flows at the Pour House (202 W. Main St.; 719/784-4071); grab a pastry and a cuppa.
Main Street meander. The 8,000-square-foot Mezzanine Arts & Antiques (127 W. Main; 719/784-4598) showcases antiques from more than 30 vendors, plus the work of local painter Peg Piltingsrud. Blue Spruce Arts and Antiques (closed Tue; 205 W. Main; 719/784-1339) features jewelry, oils, sculpture, and glass from southern Colorado artists, while Oil City Merchants (126 W. Main; 719/784-6582) specializes in Western wares and antiques.
All aboard. Two rival railroads, the Denver & Rio Grande Western and the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe, staged a shooting war in 1879 over the disputed right-of-way through Royal Gorge. The D&RGW won. The only shooting now comes from shutterbugs aboard the open-air cars of the Royal Gorge Route Railroad ($27, $16.50 ages 3–12; 401 Water St.; 888/724-5748), which chugs to the head of the canyon.
A big splash. In Cañon City hot burritos and cold margaritas await at Janey’s Chile Wagon Restaurant (closed Sun–Mon; 807 Cyanide Ave.; 719/275-4885), a favorite of Royal Gorge river-rafting guides.
Bone up. At Dinosaur Depot ($3; 330 Royal Gorge; 719/269-7150), you can watch trained volunteers dusting off fossils from the nearby Garden Park Fossil Area, which includes two major boneyards: the Cleveland and Marsh quarries. Both sites lie 8 miles north of Cañon City on State 9 and are open to the public.
Red all over. Locals refer to Red Canyon Park (12 miles north of Cañon City on Field Ave.; 719/269-9028) as a miniature Garden of the Gods-same striking red spires, same collar of green forest, same looming crown of Pikes Peak in the distance.
Continental flair. Fine French dining awaits at Le Petit Chablis (closed Sun–Mon; 512 Royal Gorge; 719/269-3333), set in an old Victorian home. Save room for homemade pastries.