Those planning Colorado vacations can turn to a number of sources for background on the state and its major cities. Among my favorites is A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains, a fascinating compilation of Isabella L. Bird's letters to her sister; they were written in the late 1800s as she traveled alone through the Rockies, usually on horseback. Those who enjoy lengthy novels will want to get their hands on a copy of James Michener's 1,000-page Centennial, inspired by the northeastern plains of Colorado. For a more bohemian point of view, look no further than Jack Kerouac's classic, On the Road. Also engrossing is Wallace Stegner's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1971 novel, Angle of Repose. Horror fans will surely appreciate a pair of Stephen King classics with Colorado ties: The Stand is set in Boulder and The Shining was inspired by the writer's stay at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park.

Travelers interested in seeing wildlife will likely be successful with help from the Colorado Wildlife Viewing Guide, by Mary Taylor Gray. You'll likely see a lot of historical sights here, so it's good to first get some background from the short, easy-to-read Colorado: A History, by Marshall Sprague.

Movies set in Colorado range from numerous westerns -- mostly filmed in the state's southwestern corner -- such as the John Wayne classic The Searchers, as well as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and City Slickers. There's also Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead, About Schmidt, and WarGames. Television shows shot in the state include Dynasty (Denver), Mork & Mindy (Boulder), and South Park (50 miles southwest of Denver).

Musically speaking, the region has a rich heritage and a diverse current scene. John Denver; Judy Collins; Earth, Wind & Fire; Big Head Todd and the Monsters; and the String Cheese Incident are among the bands that broke it big with strong ties to Denver or Boulder. In parts of the world, the "Denver Sound," a roots-based genre that melds gothic and country, has been gaining notoriety, with bands like 16 Horsepower, Munly and the Lee Lewis Harlots, DeVotchKa, and Slim Cessna's Auto Club gaining an international following.

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