Road Trip Worthy Ways to See Colorado, Part 2
(Spoiler Alert: Skiing’s not one of them)
Last week, New Orleans Bride Magazine travel editor Becca Hensley gave readers a look into honeymooning in Colorado that didn’t involve hitting the slopes. Because of all the information, we’re delivering part two of Hensley’s road trip worthy vacation moments. This week’s installment brings us to Breckenridge, Vail, Boulder and more. Did you honeymoon or pre-wedding vacation in Colorado? Let us know in the comments below.
You know about its apres ski scene, bunny slopes, powdery bowls and half pipes. But diverse Colorado, with its broad swathe of mountains and snow-crowned peaks, also has sand dunes, dramatic canyons, be-flowered meadows, rushing rivers and desert terrain. With a history inclusive of dinosaurs, ancient cultures, greedy miners and settlers with a penchant for healthy diversions, the state has perpetual sunlight, fresh air and clean, glacial waters. Once sleepy, its capital city, Denver, now stands out as a trendsetting locale, a model for the revitalized chic mountain hamlets reimagining themselves throughout the state. With something for everybody, friendly Colorado offers experiences that run the gamut from river surfing to sand sledding, from llama hikes to yurt sleeping, from art tours to a hotel set in a whiskey distillery. Read on to discover some possibilities, accessible by car, for summer and fall.
Colorado has long inspired artists. Peruse some of the fruits of these inventive labors when you journey along the Colorado Creative Corridor. A 331-mile passage which links the mountain towns of Salida, Ridgeway, Crested Butte, Paonia and Carbondale, this extraordinary tour of the state ensures aesthetic fulfillment. Offering gallery tours, art walks, theater and music festivals, healing arts, gourmet adventures and other festive options to satiate the senses, the five creative districts will awaken your sleeping virtuoso.
Summit County has some of the world’s most inviting 12,13 and 14,000-foot peaks, prime for bucket list ascending. Choose from mountains such as Pacific Peak, Peak 10, Wheeler Mountain and Crystal Peak—among others. After your victory climb, decompress safely in the postcard-perfect ski town of Breckenridge, which welcomes visitors with proactive physical distancing rules this summer, plus loads of hooch-composed hand sanitizer made by Breckenridge Distillery. Once the domain of prospectors, this hip, historic mountain community reigns as the region’s most evocative “real” town, chock full of restaurants, bars, yoga studios, galleries, bakeries and boutiques. A year round destination, it presents some of the country’s first fall colors in autumn and lures skiers in winter. But, locals love it best in summer for fishing, hiking (think: 60 miles plus of interconnected trails), rafting, biking and cool nights.
Talk to the Animals
Did you know llamas hum when they’re happy? Listen to one croon when you join him for a hike with Colorado’s Paragon Guides at Arrowhead Ski Area near Vail. Their four hour “Take a Llama to Lunch” hike enables you to lead your llama over hill and dell. Longer treks, including hut-to-hut, multi-night excursions can be arranged. For some zen, join a goat yoga class. At Vail Stables, the enthusiastic goats who join your yoga practice don’t bleat—they say, “om.” While you twist and turn, the goats challenge your concentration, lighten the spiritual load with their whimsy, and turn your downward facing “goat” into the best asana of your life.
Most people don’t know the history of Vail. But its unique ambiance was born from the memories and passion of Pete Seibert, who served in the 10th Mountain Division in World War II, a team of skiers and mountaineer-trained soldiers, based in the alpine region of Italy. Vail Ski Resort, built from scratch, opened in 1962, architecturally replicating the mountain villages Siebert had come to love. Learn about the resort’s history on an art walk with Molly Eppard, Vail’s Art in Public Places coordinator, a one time New York art dealer. She’ll show you authentic sgrafitto on chalet-style buildings, explicate sculptures, murals, paintings and other artwork by masters from Lawrence Weiner to Carolyn Braaksma. Don’t miss the artist designed playgrounds, story tiles and water-jet cut stainless steel forms throughout.
Trains, Mountains and Manhattans
A blend of Old West romance, college town upbeat vibe, and thirst quenching, craft cocktail scene, Durango , the definition of a true mountain hamlet, has something for everyone. Outdoor lovers can float down Animus River, hike a panoply of trails, ascend mountains on two wheels, or soak at Durango Hot Springs for muscular relief. History buffs can chug through the countryside on Durango’s narrow gauge train. Foodies can tipple in a speakeasy or nosh gourmet pizza. Check into The Rochester Hotel, a ensconced in an old-time mansion. With breakfasts worth waking early for, the boutique hotel delights with its homage to Western cinema decor. and affable staff and owner.
Vibrant, always on trend (but still true to itself), Boulder evokes mountain living at its finest. Active and hip, but richly genuine, this university town brings experiences sure to please couples, families, or solo travelers. Hike or bike myriad trails along creeks and around mountain tops. Hover above the landscape in a hot air balloon. Sip kombucha at a dedicated kombucha bar, visit breweries—even tour a tea factory. Picnic by a waterfall, at the foot of ancient rock slabs called Flatirons or amongst a field of wildflowers. In season, attend Shakespearean plays in a world famous amphitheater, have a tea party in an ornate teahouse (sent as a gift from Dushanbe, Tajikistan) and take advantage of the gourmand’s culture that Bon Appetit described as the “foodiest” in North America. Choose elegantly rustic cabins set mountainside at Colorado Chautauqua for a cozy stay or be urbane and cool at witty Basecamp Hotel, situated right downtown.
Better than Disneyland
It’s not an amusement park. And, it won’t be as crowded. But you the mood of savvy Fort Collin’s bustling Main Street in Old Town offers so much personality that Disney borrowed its foremost characteristics to create the theme park’s own popular Main Street fantasia. Experience the authentic Main Street vibe in this lesser known college town, set on the verges of vast natural resources, chock full of lively urban pursuits. A major craft brewing hub, a certified Creative District with galleries aplenty, it vaunts notable restaurants, shops and outdoor options. Stay at the renovated Armstrong Hotel, a charming, independently-owned classic (take advantage of complimentary bikes to explore), or the new-built Elizabeth Hotel in Firehouse Alley which has an instrument lending library and in room record players.
No, we aren’t suggesting vanishing in the woods. At Snowmass,ride the Elk Camp Gondola up to partake of Lost Forest, an exciting mountainside playground. Steps from a terrace ideal for sipping wine, in the shadows of peaks and ski runs, the exhilarating Breathtaker Alpine Coaster will catch your attention. Open day (and some nights), the ride winds down a mile of terrain along an elevated track. At speeds up to 28 miles per hour, the jaunt takes around seven to ten heart-thumping minutes to complete. While there, also test some of the other experiences—such as the Treeline Trail Challenge Course.
Archeology and anthropology buffs can honor their inner Indiana Jones in southwestern Colorado’s Mesa Verde County. Home to Mesa Verde National Park, an expanse which holds 5,000 archeological sites, the area brims with history. Known for its spectacular cliff dwellings, the park allows access via ladders into the archaic, hand-built homes and villages. Stay on site at Far View Lodge for easy access to the ruins. Also, in the vicinity, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument contains the highest density of archeological sites in the nation. Nearby, Hovenweep National Monument boasts six prehistoric villages built between AD 1200-1300.