A Weekend Guide to Denver

Colorado is such cool state.  I know when most people think of any city in Colorado, their immediate thoughts are about it being a beautiful winter wonderland, all the fun snow sports there are to do, and cozying up in the lodge afterwards.  That’s how I used to think too.  However, I have only ever been to Colorado in the summer and I love it!  I will be heading to Telluride this December, but until then, my only frame of reference is how cool it is in the summertime!

On New Years Day, one of my best friends suggested we should go to Red Rocks Amphitheater in the summer.  Having been there before, it wasn’t a hard sell for me.  She looked up the schedule and saw that Chromeo was to perform in June.  She and another one of our best friends became obsessed with this singing duo at Lollapalooza the previous year.  I had never heard of them, but it didn’t matter to me.  In that moment, our trip was born.

My girlfriends left it up to me to plan the trip.  It took me awhile to get to actually working on this trip and they kept asking me over and over what we are going to do in Colorado.  I finally buckled down and just planned the trip how I thought we should do it.  In no way was my itinerary the end all be all, but it was a start to get an idea of what the other girls wanted to do.  When my friends saw it, first they laughed and said “you would put together such an intense itinerary,” but then they ultimately thought it was awesome and well organized.  The feedback from them is what inspired me to start blogging about my travels!

WHERE TO STAY

For this girls trip we stayed in downtown Denver at the Courtyard Marriott.  I selected this hotel because we booked our stay on my Marriott Reward points.  Based on it’s location and point level, it was a great choice for us.  The best thing about this hotel is that it is located right on 16th Street!  Denver’s 16th Street Mall is basically a mile long street loaded with shopping, bars, cafés and restaurants.  The second best thing is that it’s attached to a Starbucks.  Haha.  Yes, we are that basic.  When we checked-in we took the first available room.  Unfortunately, it was an inside room with a window facing the indoor courtyard.  The lighting in this room was awful – a dingy yellow color.  We quickly decided we would wait for a room with an exterior window view to get that natural daylight in the morning.  It was like night and day.  The new room was 1,000% better and worth the wait.

I’ve stayed in Boulder before and if I were ever to go back to the Denver area, I would definitely choose to stay in Boulder over Denver.  In Boulder, I highly recommend the St. Julien Hotel & Spa.  This hotel is very nice and also located in a great area.  Boulder is more of a quaint feel rather than the city feel you get from Denver.

WHAT TO DO

Catch a Rockies Game – If you read my previous post about Toronto, you know that I think it’s super fun to check out baseball stadiums in cities other than Chicago.  (Baseball is a big thing in Chicago – especially when the Cubs are doing insanely well.  Go Cubbies!!)  Coors Field has a pretty modern feel and the Rocky Mountains set the backdrop of the game.

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Before or after the game, ViewHouse is an awesome sports bar to hit up.  It has all the typical elements of an upscale sports bar, however it’s outdoor area and rooftop set it apart.  A few years ago they had volleyball courts set up in their backyard.  Now they have bag sets and giant jenga games.  This bar is located right next to the stadium and attracts a fun, young crowd.

Red Rocks Amphitheater – If you are in Colorado, it is an absolute MUST to go to Red Rocks.  When I was there last summer, I said to my husband that I didn’t care who was performing, but I wanted to check it out.  Sam Smith happened to be in town and to this day was one of my favorite concerts ever.  The acoustics in this outdoor venue are shockingly perfection.  It sounded like we were just listening to his CD.  We were sitting close enough for me to know he was not lip syncing, don’t worry.  I went again this summer to see Chromeo.  They are an electric-funk type of group and sounded equally as awesome.

Aside from the sounds, the venue is absolutely stunning.  You are physically sitting in a mountain.  It should be mentioned that you have to hike up it to get in… it’s kinda difficult.  I have asthma and suffer from altitude sickness.  As long as you climb slowly, you’ll be fine.  I was a good 30 ft behind my friends at all times.  Haha.

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Although we had rented a car on our trip, we decided to take a party bus to the venue.  We used Front Range Ski Bus and it was only $35 a person round trip.  Can’t beat that!  I highly recommend this and would absolutely do it again.  It was so convenient and they even stopped at a gas station for people to pick up booze if they forgot it was BYOB.

Rent B-Cycles – My girlfriends and I rented these randomly and actually had a fantastic time.  There are all kinds of trails you can ride on that aren’t crowded.  It’s also an awesome way to get around the city if you don’t rent a car.  They have little baskets on the front if you happen to have a bag with you.

16th Street Mall – I know I already mentioned this in the beginning of this post, but you really could spend quite some time here.  This mile long street is loaded with bars, restaurants, cafés, and shops.  There are also cute little street vendors and entertainers here and there, as well as painted pianos and chess board tables. (Sorry about the below pictures… they were taken on a previous trip to Denver when I had no intention of ever blogging.)

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Larimer Square – Unlike 16th Street, this street is a little more trendy and quaint.  The shops are unique boutiques.  We happened to be there during the Denver Chalk Art Festival where artists turn the street into a gallery of beautiful sidewalk chalk art.  It was pretty incredible.

Pikes Peak Cog Railway – This is a three hour train ride that takes you over 14,000 ft above sea level.  The terrain changes drastically along the ride.  Most people can only handle 30 minutes or less at the very top due to altitude sickness, so you don’t get to spend much time up there.  However, there is plenty of time to take photos and grab a greasy donut at the gift shop at the top.  (Not worth the calories in my opinion, but it’s the “thing” to do up there.)  This train has been in service for 125 years and is well worth driving an hour and a half from Denver to check out.

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How cute is this little critter?!  There are many of these animals about halfway to the top.
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We got to sit in the very front row of the train and this is how we came to a halt at the very top.  A little gas on the pedal and we’d be goners. 
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Views from the top of the mountain.

Spend the afternoon in Boulder – Boulder is so cute.  Pearl Street is loaded with super cute boutiques and street performers.  Plus, it’s home to the Freebird by Steve Madden store.  To my knowledge, there are only a few of these kinds of store in the USA.  Freebird has the coolest boots that are similar to Fry, but a little more unique looking.  If shopping isn’t your thing, there are hiking trails and great restaurants as well.

Go hiking in Golden – There are cute trails in Golden and is the perfect spot to go for a quick hike, explore the town, and have lunch.  You will definitely get that “wild, wild, west” feel in this little town.

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Horseback Riding in Estes Park – My girlfriends and I went on a steak dinner horseback ride on the last night of our trip.  We were all beginners, but I would say our ride was a little scarier than I anticipated.  I guess I assumed we would be riding on flat land, but we definitely rode up and down a mountain.  Once we got the hang of things, we were totally fine.  About three quarters of the way through the ride, we stopped at the “cowboy round-up” for a steak dinner and coffee.  The food was pretty decent.  The horseback ride was gorgeous and one of my favorite things I’ve ever done in Colorado.

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Where to eat

My favorite restaurants in Denver are Rioja and Guard and Grace.  Every single thing we had at both restaurants were fantastic.  I have to give a shout out to Guard and Grace for making the best dirty martini I’ve ever had in my life.  It had rosemary and blue cheese stuffed olives that were wrapped with prosciutto.  Insane.

In Boulder, my favorite restaurant is The Med.  The courtyard is everything.  It feels like you are in Europe.  The plates are small and fun to share.  Again, every single thing we ordered (and we ordered a lot) was awesome.  My personal favorite was the dates.

ITINERARY

For a complete Denver itinerary, click here and enjoy your trip!

XO,

Lauren

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