Travel, United States

Road Trip Day 4-8: Exploring Colorado

My other half and I love adventurous vacations, which have taken us pretty much all over the world.  Several months ago, we decided that we’d stay in our “own backyard”, and explore what the areas of the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore/Keystone, and Colorado had to offer (click here to see all of our posts for our other days).

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Us at Keystone Resort

The ultimate goal of our vacation was to visit his family in Denver, and some of mine in Boulder.  However, we also wanted to explore Colorado as much as we could, while there.  Below are my recommendations, based on what we did.

Things to See

Loveland Pass – If you don’t have a fear of heights, and happen to have something warm to wear (it’s literally 40 degrees with wind, in July), then take the drive up Loveland Pass!  While it’s considered to be one of the most dangerous roads in America, it also happens to have some incredibly scenic views!

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At the top, reward yourself with a photo next to the Continental Divide sign, boasting the 11,990 ft. elevation number.

Keystone Resort – If you think ski resorts are only for snow activities, think again!  Almost all resorts turn into a BMX biker haven, and also have many different summertime activities, making it a great place to spend part of the summer.

We took the Gondola (about $30 per person with a $10 food voucher included), to the summit, which is 11,640 feet up.  The views were breathtaking, literally, as I got altitude sickness from the height (note, I drank four large bottles of water to prevent headaches, and instead, ended up being very light-headed/dizzy).  Still, the views were too amazing to leave!

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We decided to eat at The Summit House, which for those who are gluten-intolerant, will rejoice in the fact that they can serve all sandwiches and burgers on gluten-free buns!

When we finished with lunch, we headed back down to the resort, and walked around.  It happened to be kids’ day, so there were a lot of activities going on.  We played cornhole, went into some shops, and stopped at Mary’s Mountain Cookies, as they had very large, extremely tasty, gluten-free cookies in many different flavors.

Pearl Street in BoulderWalking Pearl Street makes for a great Sunday afternoon.  There are street performers, lots of restaurants, unique shops, and plenty of people watching!  Check out the Dushanbe Teahouse (see in the next section below), not too far from there, when you need an afternoon break!

Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs) – I visited this as a kid, but really couldn’t appreciate it for what it was (back then, I felt like I was being forced to stare at rocks).  Going back now, put this as one of my top five favorite walks of all time.  It’s free to all, and a great way to spend an afternoon!  (The kid in me loved being able to climb the rocks.)

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Manitou Springs – After we finished at Garden of the Gods, we drove to this little town I had never heard of before, to stop and get ice cream.  I wish I had known about it, prior to our trip, because I would have booked a room in an old inn for a night.  It’s a very old mining town, with some historic inns (some of them are very haunted), amazing/charming restaurants, and a lot of little artisanal shops.  It’s also very close to Pike’s Peak, which means you can take the cog train to the top, from there.  Definitely check it out and stay a night if you can!

Red Rock Amphitheater – Red Rock is known for its natural acoustics, making it a great place to hold concerts.  At night, artists from all over the world make it a point to stop and perform there.  During the day, people use it for insanely hard workouts, hikes, and as a point of interest to take pictures of the Denver skyline.  Definitely make it a point to stop for a few minutes, and take in the view – it’s free to anyone.

Dinosaur Ridge – This place was a last minute addition to our trip, and we are certainly glad we made it a point to stop and take part of the walk.  There is a visitor’s center on one site, and a couple of different hikes from different parking lots.

The museum gives you a good background, as to what to look for in the rock, as well as the types of dinosaurs that were indigent to the area.

We took the main hike, across the road from the museum, which afforded us foot imprints from several different dinosaurs, fossils of prehistoric leaves, an education on the layers of rock and how old they are, as well as great views of Denver.

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Places to Eat/Drink

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The “Paloma” from North County

North County (Denver)– There are days I really miss San Diego, so it was amazing to see that someone opened a restaurant, dedicated to the vibe and fare of one of my favorite places on earth.  The food is Cali-Mex, and the drinks are hand-crafted – a big nod to the growing craft cocktail experience in the SoCal area.  If you happen to go there, sit outside and dine on the fish tacos or the chicken salad.  Also, be sure to try each of their bottled alcoholic beverages – none of them will disappoint.  When you’re done, head over to the biergarten and ice cream stand, located next to Hangar 1 by the Air and Space Museum.  It’s a fun little place in the suburbs of Denver.

Boulder Dushanbe Tea House – This tea house has just about the most amazing story I’ve ever heard, and I am kicking myself for not taking more pictures.  As you can see in the video snippet below, the ornate columns and tile work were not fabricated.  Instead, in 1987, the Mayor of Dushanbe, had all of the materials packed up, and sent to Boulder, along with 40 skilled workers form Tajikistan, to put together this tea house, using no tools.  It took three years to be built, and has been open for almost 30 years.  There is an exact one in Dushanbe, with only two in the world.  Click on the link above to read the full story. (Note: Reservations are a MUST – it books up fast.)

I ordered the Hibiscus Mimosa (it’s a must-have) and the Spicy Indonesian Peanut Noodles (if you don’t like spicy food, you might want to skip it).  Truly, it’s a must-experience at least once in your life!

El Five (Denver) – I cannot say enough good things about this restaurant!  It sits in my top five restaurants I’ve been to in the world, accounting for food/drink quality, ambience, decor, and view.  The dishes are tapas from Gibraltar, with modern spins such as vegetarian paella with quinoa. The drinks are crafted into works of art, such as mine that came with an orchid (name not included, since their bar menu changes frequently).

The decor is reminiscent of old Israeli comic books, coupled with chic dining decor and lighting.  But hands down, what completely sold me on visiting there, was the view.  From the deck (which you can dine on), you have an unobstructed view of downtown.

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T Street Roadhouse (Denver) – Nestled in a town center in the suburbs of Denver, is a place called T Street Roadhouse.  It’s a great happy hour/casual dining place, offering an American menu of fares, including gluten-free flatbread pizzas!  If you’re looking for something casual/relaxed to do, go there, and then head over to the movie theater, or Lucky Strike for bowling!  The Town Center has a lot to do!

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