As the nation worries about the effects of Colorado’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana, it can rest assured that a Coloradan’s first love is booze. And when it comes to booze, Colorado’s premier winter celebration, Snowdown, delivers.

Back in 1979, Snowdown was created as a town-sized party to brighten the long Southwest Colorado winter — when the sun can duck behind the mountains at 2:30 pm.

With more than 100 events spread over dozens of locations for five days, it seems like the entire town turns out at some point. Though there are a few events aimed at families, the majority of them are for adults, and those adults are just as likely to be day-drunk 70 year olds as they are to be students from Fort Lewis College. 

Across the city, bars are packed for days on end with people in costume.  This year’s theme was “Safari So Good" — so lots of animal prints and pith helmets. Locals took part in events such as beer pong, the Bar Olympics, thumb wars, trivia contests, keg lid golf, outhouse stuffing, racy fashion shows and general heavy drinking, all leading up to the Snowdown fireworks and the wild light parade down Main Avenue.

Guide Notes

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At-Large Guide to the West James Orndorf was born in Minnesota, but knew at a very young age that the future lay out west. He is currently photographing and illustrating outside of Durango, Colorado. You can see what he’s up to at and


When you pass by Santa’s Pub off Highway 81 and Brandsford Avenue in Nashville, you might think it’s just an average seedy motorcycle bar. But I’ve yet to see a motorcycle bar with a Santa Claus riding a Harley painted on the outside. This double wide trailer—or maybe even triple wide, if you believe the bar bathroom graffiti—serves up some of the coldest beer in town. And if that’s not exactly true, they still have beer which is why I like to frequent this dive. The price list goes from $2.00 to $4.00 which is perfect for a drinker’s budget. Beer, wine coolers and a couple special daiquiris are all you’re going to get at Santa’s.

Unless you like to sing.

Santa’s is also one of the best karaoke bars in town. Nashville is known as Music City, so there are likely to be some very talented singers in the audience each night. Santa himself (yes, he looks like ol’ Saint Nick) entertains patrons on a regular basis. Don’t look for a song list book or a strategic system for this karaoke program. Simply write your name and song on a post-it and hand it to the guy with the computer. The best part: you can do this until 3am every night of the week.

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Tennessee State Guide Lindsay Scott is an East Nashville-based photographer, writer, drinker and ponderer. You can find her on any random night, porch sitting with a side of story telling and a camera in hand. Follow her on Tumblr at or on her website,

Maypole Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn


A German settlement known throughout the State for its chicken dinners, served harvester style, and its Frankenmuth beer. It was settled in 1845 by a group of Franconians from Bavaria and, later, by refugees from the unsuccessful German revolution of 1848.

The neat village, spread out for some distance, has retained its German flavor; most of the inhabitants are descendants of the original settlers and speak the German language.

—Michigan: A Guide to the Wolverine State (WPA,1941)

Postcard Key:

1. Maypole 2-4. Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn 5. The Fischer Opera Haus 6. Schnitzelbank Shop 7. Bavarian Festival 8. Bodenbender’s Apfel Haus 9. Bronner’s 10. The Edelweiss Trio

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Jordan Smith is the guide to ephemeral America for The American Guide. He currently works for the University of Notre Dame during the day and scans at night. He lives in South Bend, Indiana and you can find him on Flickr, his blog, or one of several Tumblr sites.

Looking north towards downtown Milwaukee from Cupertino Pier, Milwaukee, WI True Skool Block Party, Milwaukee, WI True Skool Block Party, Milwaukee, WI True Skool Block Party, Milwaukee, WI Chill on the Hill, Humboldt Park, Milwaukee, WI Farmers Market, South Shore Park, Milwaukee, WI

Aptly named Wisconsinite Evelyn Brewer’s #AmericanGuideWeek dispatch on what’s made Milwaukee famous.

Evelyn says:

As we head into the season we’re known for, the dreaded dreary winter, I wanted to take a moment to reflect upon the real gem of Wisconsin: Milwaukee in summertime. A time of never ending festivals celebrating the music and culture of all walks of life, when the beer flows freely, and the shores of Lake Michigan come alive with sports competitions, kite flying, and general beach bummery. Those three precious and vibrant months feel like one big celebration of life, and I’m pretty sure that’s what gets us Wisconsinites through our long, harsh winters. That and more beer.

(Source: beautifulgood)

Follow your guide to a church basement bowling alley in St. Paul, Minnesota. It’s the St. Francis Bowling Center, where players are asked to “be courteous and respectful to other players by using appropriate, Christian behavior.” 

Once common across the Midwest and parts of the Northeast, there are less than 200 church bowling lanes left in America today. German immigrants started building these holy alleys in the 1860s as meeting places and moral refuges for wholesome, after quitting time get togethers (i.e. to keep family breadwinners from blowing their paychecks at the bar).

Most started closing down in the 1980s and 90s. Though, you’ll be glad to know, some of the church lanes that are left now sell beer.

This is one of those times you say to yourself: “Only in America.”

Photo Credit: Katie Howie and Marianne McNamara