Yesterday Melissa and I went to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Like many big-city science museums, it is targeted towards the ankle-biter set, but it is still fun for fuddy-duddy adults like us. If there is a theme for the museum, it's Colorado and Western history, which is dominated by mining and resource extraction. There is a very large and impressive collection of gems, many of which originated in Colorado. I didn't take as many photos as I should have, and it was difficult to take good photos in the dim light, but below is an example of how amazing some of them are. For some reason, they have a very large topaz gemstone that was previously owned by Salvador Dali.
There is also a space sciences exhibit with plenty of hands-on displays for children to interact with. The one I liked best is a meteoroid simulator that is Rube Goldberg-esque. Enclosed is a sand pit with a pressurized nozzle above that shoots ball bearings downward into the sand. The bearings make a crater in the sand that is similar to what a meteoroid does to a planet. When all the bearings have been shot, an automated rake sweeps the sand, dumping them into a sluice that feeds a chain lift, closing the cycle. It's debatable how much some of the children were learning from it, but it is fun.
On the West side of the museum is a very nice atrium with an excellent view of downtown Denver and the front range. I'm sure that the foreground looks better in the summer when the grass is green, but in the winter the snow-capped peaks make up for that. If you look carefully in the full-sized panorama, you can see the gold dome of the State Capitol, and a flock of some ubiquitous Canada Geese.