In the beginning of August, Jimmy and I had planned to go to Colorado and instead of visiting one city, we planned to explore as many as possible! Funny enough, Courtney had made a last minute trip to CO as well so we had one overlapping day. Keep reading to see what we did in this beautiful state and some of our tips!
We landed in Denver & picked up our rental car (a 4 wheel drive) which is a necessity in CO, and made our way to our first stop, Colorado Springs. Unless you are planning on staying in one city, it would be pretty hard to get around without one. We checked into our quaint hotel The Academy Colorado Springs about an hour south of Denver and headed to Old Colorado city to eat at Front Range BBQ where we indulged in amazing food, cold beer and live country music.
We woke up early the next morning and put on our hiking gear for Garden of the Gods. It's an amazing site that gets crowded very easily so the earlier you can go, the better! We grabbed some subs (from Jersey Mike's, go figure) and drove up to Pike's Peak, a 19 mile drive up into the clouds with breathtaking views of CO. The temp dropped 30 degrees by the time we got up to the top so make sure you pack some warm clothes! We warmed up with some fresh donuts and memorabilia. We started to drive to our next city and took some beautiful backroads so Jimmy could put his fishing rods to good use. We made it to Breckenridge right before sunset and took in the gorgeous views that The Lodge at Breckenridge gave us. We wish we were walking distance to town but the view and accommodations made up for that very quickly. We ended the night at Breckenridge Brewery and a quick walk around town before heading back to the lodge.
Jimmy is a fishing addict so he went on a guided tour in the morning so I had a few hours to myself to check out all that Breckenridge had to offer. I started the day at the cutest coffee shop, The Crown, with a chai latte and a croissant. I tucked myself into a window nook and tried to read my book, but my eyes easily wandered toward everything going on inside and outside the shop. I managed to go in almost every boutique possible (make sure to check out Valleygirl Boutique) to check out CO's fashion pieces and nik naks. I met Jimmy for lunch at The Canteen and I convinced him that we needed to try cookies from Mountain Top Cookie Shop (delish!) since the chicken sandwich and mac & cheese just didn't do it for me! After getting poured on (make sure to bring a rain jacket - it poured everyday!), we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and relax before checking out our next city. Vail is about 40 min away from Breckenridge so we thought it would be a great idea to make a date night out of it. We wandered around the pretty city (and tried to not get distracted by all the puppies) before getting a recommendation to check out Mountain Standard for food and drinks. Before it got too late, we made our way back to Breckenridge for our last night there.
We checked out of the lodge and made a necessary breakfast stop at Crepes a la Cart. We got there 15 min after it opened and still had to wait 15 min for a crepe - it was well worth it! After getting our last Breckenridge fix, we started our scenic drive to Denver. We drove through Empire on route 40 to 34 around the Rocky Mountains to Este Park. We were roughly in the car for 7 hours between all of our photo ops. We would have much rather been hiking but it poured on and off that day so driving was the best bet. We tried to make our way to Coors Brewery but found out it was closed when we wanted to go (make sure you check that out prior!) so we headed straight to the amazing Hotel Monaco. I'm a Kimpton member so I received an email about a last minute deal for a suite at the hotel. It was about the same price as the original hotel I had booked (free cancellations are key) so I booked the Kimpton while we were at the airport and cancelled the other! We had forgotten about lunch that day with all of our excitement so we immediately ordered a small pizza while we got ready for dinner. We walked to La Loma for delicious margaritas and tacos and went straight to bed for another early morning soon to come.
We woke up at 5:30am to grab bagels and head to the Rocky Mountains for a hiking day. We got there around 7:45am and the parking lots were already packed so make sure to get there very early! We had to park in a farther parking lot and take a shuttle which ended up working out since it was right next to the place we would be horseback riding at! We had an amazing hike and saw parts of the world that we'll forever remember. We continued the day with a 2 hr horseback riding session at the Glacier Creek Stables which was another amazing way to see the Mountains. We had forgotten about lunch again (oops) so before heading back to Denver, we stopped at Smokin Dave's BBQ in Estes Park since we couldn't get enough bbq. We had gotten tickets to see Miranda Lambert & Randy Rogers at the Red Rock Amphitheatre for our last night which was only a short 20 min drive away. The concert was a highlight of the trip mainly due to the amazing venue.
This is where my trip ends. I would highly recommend making a trip out there - it is absolutely beautiful! I'm handing it over to Courtney now for her trip details!
Hi it's Courtney!
No one was more surprised than me when I booked a spontaneous trip to Denver! I’m all about doing things spur-of-the-moment, so why not book a trip a week in advance to see Mark (not to mention it was my first time flying alone!). Amanda had told me about her and Jimmy’s plans to see Miranda Lambert & Randy Rogers at the Red Rock Amphitheatre, so obviously I planned my flight around that! I took a 5am ET flight out of Newark, so I could land in Denver at 9am ET (just in time to work remotely for the day). Mark picked me up at the airport and the adventures began!
We couldn’t check into our Airbnb yet, and since we both had to work we figured it would be best to go on our own coffee shop crawl. The first stop on our journey was Jubilee Roasting Co. in Aurora, which was absolutely adorable! It was a quaint little shop with positive messages written on chalkboards and lots of books to read. I told the barista to make his favorite drink and he whipped up a delicious honey cinnamon latte, which was so yummy! Of course, I was hangry at this point and devoured a very large croissant as well.
Our next stop was lunchtime at Next Door Eatery which is real food sourced from American farmers. We were thrilled to sit outside and enjoy the beautiful weather while having a beet burger (very interesting, I’ve never had it before).
Since we were on the clock, it was off to our next coffee fix – this time we went to Monk and Mongoose in Lone Tree. Mark and I both got cappuccinos, but I could feel myself crashing. We drank up and soaked up the sun, and sure enough it was almost time for check-in, so we moved to a closer coffee shop in Parker. Kunjani World Coffeehouse was also really cozy, but I just couldn’t take any more caffeine. You know you’re exhausted when you take a nap on a coffee shop couch!
I’ve never stayed at an Airbnb before, so I was a bit nervous, but Mark has stayed at plenty, so I figured it must be okay. We pulled up to a really pretty house and were welcomed by two Wheaten Terriers and an orange tabby cat. Our hosts so were friendly and greeted us both with a glass of wine and stocked fridge in our room! Where can you get better service than that?!
Obviously, I forgot to print the concert tickets, so we ran to a nearby Staples to get them before the show. This left us little time for dinner, so we stopped at Chick-fil-A (LOL super touristy, I know 😉 just kidding, but they have good waffle fries!). We had a great time at the concert and Miranda Lambert put on an awesome show – not to mention the venue was pretty cool too!
We woke up the next morning ready for a delicious breakfast at Snooze, where I had a sweet chai tea and even sweeter OMG! French Toast. Obviously I ate every bit because we had a big day ahead – I was so full and needed to take a walk to help digest (LOL), so we took a nice walk at Bluffs Regional Park Trail.
Next stop, Coors Brewery Tour in Golden, Colorado. You park in a parking lot and there are little buses that take you to the brewery. Be prepared to wait because apparently there is always a line! We had to wait an hour and a half 🙁 but it was worth it. The tour was really cool; it was self-paced and you got free beer samples at the end – three glasses! You aren’t allowed to bring bags, backpacks, strollers, etc. so just keep that in mind when planning. If you get the drunk munchies, bring some money because there are a few vending machines for snacks.
After the tour, we explored the town of Golden which had little shops and restaurants. We got out of the tour just in time for happy hour, so we stopped at Buffalo Rose Bar & Grill for nachos and quesadillas and headed straight to bed to rest for our big day ahead at the Rocky Mountains..
We woke up bright and early and enjoyed some blueberry bagels and cream cheese courtesy of our fabulous Airbnb host. As Amanda mentioned, the parking lots at the Rocky Mountains fill fast and we also had to park in a farther lot and take a shuttle. In reality, if you go to the shuttle initially, you’ll probably save yourself some time. Mark is a rock climber, so obviously he’s super athletic and good at hiking, me on the other hand... not so much! We took a really pretty path to Emerald Lake and got some really awesome pictures. Props to the boy for keeping at my pace (and carrying the water and granola bars).
After this long day, we stopped at Root Down in Denver (just in time for happy hour). I got the Tequila Daisy (tequila, pomegranate, lemon and sparking water) and Mark got The Don Draper (citrus infused bourbon, demerara and angostura bitters). We ordered a hodgepodge of eats – Seared Columbian Arepa (my new fave), sweet potato fries, veggie burger sliders, jerk duck wings and lamb sliders (the last two are for the boy, obviously). All very delicious!
Next stop, was Little Man Ice Cream where I had a combo of banana pudding ice cream and vegan horchata. SO yummy! Absolutely worth the stop if you’re in the Denver area – all the ice cream is tasty, fresh and homemade.
Then we walked around Larimer Square, Denver’s most historic block which has tons of restaurants and shops. It was really charming with a canopy of lights strung above the street.
We woke up bright and early to get to an 8am train ride at Pikes Peak Cog Railway in Manitou Springs. We got on board and traveled on the world’s highest cog train to the 14,115 feet Pikes! It was a really cool experience with great views and fun facts on the way up and down the mountain – even better views when we got to the top! As Amanda mentioned, we absolutely had to get the world famous donuts at the top! Very yummy.
Once we got back, we were absolutely starving and stopped at Park Burger where we had the Get Figgy with it Burger (topped with fig, brie and arugula) and of course, a side of sweet potato fries! It paired nicely with the local passionfruit beer.
We then walked around the 16th Street Mall in Downtown Denver where we checked out all the little shops. They also have tons of clothing stores that you can find in your local mall. For dinner we went to Will Call and ordered a variety of arepas (as you can tell, our new favorite!).
You can’t leave Denver without stopping at Voodoo Doughnut, so obviously that was the last stop on our checklist! There was a pretty decent line, but we only waited around 15 minutes or so. We ordered a variety of donuts that were all so tasty!
I quickly went into a food coma which wasn’t a bad thing since I had to be up super early to catch my morning flight back to the east coast!
Colorado was such an awesome time! I got to experience so many beautiful views, try new foods and make great memories. Interestingly enough, we had great weather the whole trip minus a few quick showers here and there. (Apologies for the lack of food pix – we were really hungry and demolished the food before I could photograph any of it).