4801 E. Harmony Road, Fort Collins, Colo.
WHY TAKE THE DETOUR
This is a zoo like no other.
Two decades ago, farmer Bill Swets began pulling apart junked machinery and welding the parts back together, just for fun. An old shovel here, a few rusted bolts there, a faucet, a plow handle, a bike frame, an oil pan. Soon enough, Swets had created a menagerie of whimsical scrap-metal creatures.
More than 150 sculptures now romp through his grassy "zoo," which he opens daily from dawn to dusk, for free (though donations are welcome). On busy afternoons, the grounds echo with squeals of delight as kids race along the paths, discovering a nest of propane-tank eggs hatching baby dinosaurs or a regiment of oversized metal ants invading a picnic basket. There's a towering T. rex, an impish Loch Ness monster, gawky birds, a goofy puppy and -- of course -- a heavy metal band.
Carry a lunch; there are plenty of picnic tables, including one that's shaded by the shell of a Volkswagen Beetle, which Swets has transformed into a 20-foot-tall bug with teeth that Jaws would envy. (The kids can marvel at the scrap-metal creatures but can't climb on them; some have sharp points.) When you're done with the zoo, check out Fort Collins' Old Town, several blocks of well-restored historic buildings filled with galleries and restaurants.
Fort Collins is about an hour's drive north of Denver on Interstate 25. Swetsville Zoo is off the Harmony Road exit.
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