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Taking the kids -- and exploring Colorado in summer

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The historic Broadmoor Resort.Broadmoor Resort

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 and Aspen, even riding coasters at Elitch Gardens, 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. 

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 and all of its attractions -- the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the highest zoo in the country, the spectacular Garden of the Gods rock formations and hiking trails, the Air Force Academy, the world's highest Cog Railway to the top of Pike's Peak -- are all open, as is the spectacular historic Broadmoor 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 has launched a "Share the Love" initiative 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" with discounts on everything from hotels to rafting to Pikes Peak Mountain Bike Tours. Look for special fall deals at The Broadmoor, too.

Aspen's deluxe Little Nell Hotel is offering a third night free and a free day of fly fishing or mountain biking. For more Aspen deals -- and locals whisper late summer and fall is the best season to be here -- check out www.aspenchamber.org.

The Durango Mountain Resort promises four nights for the price of three and an adventure for the entire family, including Total Adventure tickets that include the alpine slide, mountain bike trails, mini golf, climbing wall and the Purgatory Plunge zip line starting at just $407 per family.

As I write this, I'm sitting in my room at the Broadmoor Resort on a blue sky day looking out at Cheyenne Mountain. The resort, spread out over 3,000 acres, has been welcoming families since 1918. When I leave my room at 8 a.m. for a spa appointment at one of the nicest spas in the state -- I'm trying not to feel guilty about a little me time! -- I spot a swan on Cheyenne Lake, its water so clear I can see a reflection of the mountain in it.

Families are spending this sunny Sunday splashing in the pool and playing tennis and golf at the Broadmoor, which boasts special tennis camps and summer kids' activities. Kids fly down the mountain water slides and paddle-boating on the lake. Everything is as it should be on vacation.

In Aspen and Crested Butte, where the entire downtown area is a registered National Historic District, everyone seems to be hiking, backpacking, biking, horseback riding and enjoying local restaurants (check out the new St. Regis Aspen and Chef's Club by FOOD and WINE  where even the youngest foodies are welcomed.) Visit farmers' markets and Aspen's fantastic Center for Environmental Studies to see the resident golden eagle or join a naturalist on a hike.

Families here are flummoxed that people are staying away because of their fears about the fire damage. I look around at the smiling faces and think, given what happened in Aurora, it's even more important to make time together a priority, especially when you can get outdoors in such spectacular places with the kids.

At the Broadmoor we probably wouldn't move from the pool all day after our work on the farm, if we hadn't had a hard-to-get reservation for the Broadmoor's famous Sunday brunch, which at $39 (plus tax and gratuities) seems a bargain.

Where to start? Eggs Benedict and corned beef hash, waffles with berries and cream or chocolate sauce? Oysters, shrimp and smoked Colorado trout? Omelets to order or roast beef and ham, hanger steak, red snapper, mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy and every variety of salad and cheese. I'm so glad we've come hungry.

We finish with chocolate covered strawberries. Did I mention the chocolate fountain? The kids line up to dip marshmallows and cookies into it.

Bananas Foster, anyone?

We can't resist. After all, we've got a big hike planned for tomorrow.

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

Eileen Ogintz is a nationally syndicated columnist and creator of TakingtheKids.com. Her new  Kids Guide to Boston is available online and from major booksellers, along with the Kids Guides to NYC, Washington, DC, Orlando,  LA and Chicago. Coming  later this year: San Diego, San Francisco and Denver.