Last December what started as a whim turned into a blissful winter wonderland getaway. Me and my friends went on a weekend vacation to Denver, Colorado. Frontier Airlines now offers direct flights from Charleston to Denver, so now it is super convenient to visit the Mile High City.
We arrived in the afternoon. Got our huge four-wheel drive extra large SUV and headed off to our Airbnb with tons of luggage crammed in the back. We were staying in the super convenient area of Highland. Close to LoDo across the Highland Park bridge. This area was full of high end apartments, coffee shops and quaint restaurants. It was a great area minus the lack of convenient parking for a larger vehicle. After a toast in our bar area, we were off in an Uber for our first meal in Denver. We went to meet some friends at Tables, a higher end casual American restaurant with some pretty amazing food. We had tons of plates to share as most of our party had worked in the restaurant previously. tuna tartar, sweet breads, duck, scallops, steak and bison dishes covered the table the whole night. Bottles of wine were flowing and cocktails were sipped. After hours of feasting the every single dessert was brought to our table. Our rather large party left feeling full and happy. New friends were made over all that excellent food.
The next day we had big plans in Winter Park Colorado. We were going snowmobiling! Early in the morning me and my boyfriend got up early to get some surprise coffee for everyone. We headed around the corner to Metropolis Coffee a cute little shop with some great drinks. We walked back enjoying the cold weather. Once we got back and surprised our friends with their morning coffee we were headed to the mountains! On the way we stopped at Bonfire Burritos in Golden, Colorado for some breakfast. The wait is long but totally worth it!
Winter Park is a ski town home to ski resorts and any winter sport you could want, but we were there for snowmobiling. The company we used was Grand Adventures. The trails they use go through the Arapahoe National Forest. Miles and miles of gorgeous woods covered in deep snow. We had a chance to get out and take pictures and play in the snow. We even got to see the Continental Divide! It was a great experience and I’m so glad I finally got to drive a snowmobile. I can absolutely recommend the Grand Adventures company. They were totally professional, the snowmobiles were in great condition, and they really made sure everyone was having a good safe time. We were all beginners and they made us feel totally comfortable driving our snowmobiles. My hands were really cold at one point and our guide Cody showed me how to warm my hands up near the exhaust while we were stopped. They do provide you with coveralls, helmets, boots, and some other gear but the one thing I would recommend to bring from home is a neck gaiter. It absolutely saved my nose and face from freezing! My friends didn’t have one and they were really jealous by the end. Be sure to dress super warm or you won’t have much fun!
We got lunch at Randi’s Grill and Pub, an Irish pub where we got some local beer and Irish fare. Shepard’s pie always hits the spot when it’s cold out. The food was pretty good nothing incredible. It was nice taking a break though. The place was crowded so it must be popular with the weekend visitors.
After our ride in the woods it was time to warm up! We headed over to Indian Hot Springs in Idaho Springs, Colorado. There are outdoor Jacuzzi’s to soak in, geothermal caves, and mineral water pools to swim in. It is an awesome place to relax after a long day in the cold. If you got beat up on the slopes trying to ski or snowboard I couldn’t recommend a better place to go on the way back to Denver. Prices are reasonable just don’t forget to pack your bathing suit!
We headed back to our Airbnb to shower and get ready for a very fancy dinner in downtown Denver. We ate at Tavernetta an Italian eatery in the Union Station neighborhood. The service was exquisite. We sat in an upscale lounge area with an open fireplace nearby. It gave a relaxed casualness to an upscale menu. Our dinner consisted of many plates which we shared. Insalada di Fungi, Spaghetti al Limone, Beef Carpaccio, Steak, Pasta, white and black truffles sprinkled upon some of our dishes, and of course some wonderful Italian wine! My friend is a sommelier so she had free reign when picking the wine each night. The chef came out and spoke with us about our experience and presented us with a sort of pancake/large cracker dish which I wish I remembered the name of! Overall a wonderful dinner.
After dinner we went to Union Station to the upstairs bar, Cooper Lounge for champagne and aperitifs. It provided us with a lovely view above all the little restaurants downstairs and huge windows to gaze out upon the city. It started snowing once we were seated and we were able to watch the flurries come down as we drank. The furniture and decor was very comfortable. The lounge is decorated much like an nice apartment would be with tufted fabric couches and lounge chairs, area rugs, and mid-century modern tables and lamps. It all flowed very well with the architecture of the historic train station. After such a lot of rich food and drinks we were done for the night by around eleven. We headed back to the room and went to bed.
In the morning me and my boyfriend decided to go explore downtown Denver before breakfast. We walked into the city on the Highland Park Bridge after grabbing our morning coffee. We just kept walking straight along with the people heading to work so early in the morning. As we walked we stopped in boutiques and high end shops. We joked about buying fur lined western gear to bring back home. We didn’t buy anything though. It was just nice to stroll around not spending any money and taking in the sights.
By noon we headed back to the room where our friends were finally up and ready to head to brunch. We headed off to Snooze, the breakfast place with a cult following. I will say our food was awesome! Those pancakes were delicious! If you can’t tell we really like to eat! After everyone was full we went and met our friend who recently moved to Boulder so that she could show us around.
Now as much as I liked Denver, I LOVED BOULDER! Seriously that more hippy mountain town vibe is what I prefer. I am not a city person. I love the more outdoorsy natural areas. Boulder is like a nice college town that loves being outside. You feel it in the buildings, the shopping areas, and in the people who live there. It is very eco-conscious which I also love! So after we arrived she drove us up to Boulder Canyon to check out Boulder Falls and to see Flagstaff Mountain Overlook. Both are worth the drive if you are visiting the Boulder area. These would be great places in summer too!
We went to Pearl Street Mall after our ride through the mountains. When we parked and walked to Pearl Street I actually stopped dead in my tracks. It looks EXACTLY like Burlington, Vermont! Little storefronts along a pedestrian walkway isn’t a new concept but at night it really surprised me how similar they looked. We stopped in a cooking store called Peppercorn for at least a full hour. Everyone found something they wanted to bring home from cookbooks to hot sauce to candy. They have anything a chef would want. They also had the streets ready for Christmas so everything looked magical out. We did visit a few other shops along the way. I would absolutely come back the next time I visit.
Our friend went home to feed her dog and get ready for dinner which gave the rest of us the chance to visit the best brewery I’ve ever been to. I am not much of a beer drinker but I have been to a ton of breweries all over the country. My boyfriend and one of our friends are total beer lovers and they wouldn’t stop gushing on this place! They LOVED Avery Brewing! The beer was amazingly good! We actually bought a bunch to take home with us! If you like beer at all stop at Avery!
For dinner we went to my favorite restaurant we visited on the whole trip, Blackbelly. It is a meat-centric restaurant in Boulder that focuses on farm to table. They have their own butcher shop on site where they butcher quality animals and try to use all the parts. The food was out of this world delicious! We started with the crispy pig ear with pepper jelly which sounds odd I know but it was like pork rinds. We also ordered beef tartar, the naturally raised pork, lamb and beef dishes. We also got some roasted vegetables, and sauteed mushrooms to even us all out. The cocktails were on point. I ordered the Howlin’ for you a few times! This was our last night there and honestly it was the best night we had! Great company, amazing food, a warm atmosphere… what more could you ask for?! The chef did come out and speak with us but that was because he is our friend’s husband. It is really nice having friends in the food and bev business! After hugs and sad goodbyes we all headed back home for our last night in Colorado.
The next morning we got up early and headed to the airport. Denver has a strange airport with a lot of odd theories about it. The crazy murals absolutely have something to do with it! Security went decently fast allowing us enough time to head to Timberline Steaks & Grille restaurant for a free breakfast. We have a Priority Pass which normally allows you into the airport lounges but some of the airports also have partnered restaurants. It gives you $28 per guest (the card holder and one guest) to use on food and drinks in the restaurant. No takeaway allowed. They open at 6 am and close at 9 pm, located in Concourse C. It was decent breakfast food and it held us over until we got back to Charleston.
I will absolutely be visiting Colorado again soon. There are plenty of things we didn’t get to see and do there. I would love to do some hiking in the summer and some brewery tours. I think it would be worth visiting more towns too. If you haven’t been it has something for everyone all year round so get on it!