I knew that I really liked Denver, but after my long weekend getaway last weekend, I can now state that I absolutely LOVE Denver. I went to Denver when I was pretty young for a cross country road trip that involved lots of camping. I don’t remember much of that trip, other than fighting with my older brothers and having to sleep in less than favorable conditions. I was also in the Mile High City over the Winter of 2014. During that trip, we got to explore the downtown scene for a night and ski for three days. We went to Vail, Breckenridge and Keystone, with a Breckenridge cabin being our home. That was an awesome ski trip with three of my college friends. I knew I wanted to get back ASAP. Unfortunately, I waited two plus years.
I flew out to Denver last weekend to see one of my best friend’s from High School and her fiance. I was a little worried when I booked my flight for the first weekend in April because the weather in Denver was actually warm. For the first time ever, I wanted it be snowy so that it would be good conditions to ski! Luckily, I got the best of both worlds…It was amazing, warm weather in the city, and snowy and cold enough to venture to the mountains an hour and a half away to hit the slopes!
I found a round-trip, direct flight on Southwest that was $179 total. Any flight under $200 is a steal for me, especially when it’s to ColoRADo (I promised myself I would refrain from saying that in this post, dangit). The reason it was such a deal was because I found a flight home for Monday, April 4th for $36!!! THIRTY-SIX DOLLARS to come home from the Mile High City. That’s equivalent to a tank of gas that only gets you to the next state over! I was able to be slightly flexible on the dates (while only taking one vacation day off from work), which led me to this amazing, RAD deal.
Anyways, I was all set to leave Friday after work and land in Denver around 9pm their time. Without any flight delays or troubles, I was in the air and on the ground in Denver in just over two hours! I was super excited to see my friend, her future hubby and their two little dogs who you’ll see featured throughout this post, Bear and Baloo.
So the first night, I got the tour of their new home they recently bought, renovated and decorated with so many cute accessories. Totally jealous of my friends mad skillz. We drank peach vodka’s and Red Bull and chatted until we couldn’t keep our eyes open any more. Us two can definitely girl talk for hours.
The next morning (Saturday) she found a brunch spot downtown close to the Rockies stadium called The Lobby. Two words: Bottomless Mimosas. SOLD. We met up with a couple of her friends and definitely got our moneys worth of mimosas. The food was also delicious! I got their Chorizo Sweet Potato Hash. It tasted as good as it sounds. I’d recommend The Lobby to anyone visiting/living in Denver if they’re looking for a boozy brunch! Perfect atmosphere to kick it with your girlfrans.
After brunch, we bounced around to some different bars, including First Draft, Denver Beer Co and ending at a sushi place whose name I can’t remember. Surprise! I definitely love the craft beer scene in Denver. I already found something I want to do for my next trip to Denver – The Denver Craft Beer Tour. The awesome weather we had that day made the experience that much better! We were able to sit outside and soak up the rays. I was most impressed with First Draft. Basically, they give you a ‘credit card’ when you arrive and you can try as much beer and as many different kinds as you’d like! They have beer taps lining the one side of the wall so you can self serve yourself. You tap your credit card before you pour and that’s how they know how much to charge you at the end. Pretty nifty! I wish more places in Chicago would do that.
This may sound like quite the boozy day because, well, it was. Luckily, we decided to call it an early night and we were in bed by 11pm. It was definitely necessary if we were going to make it to the slopes the next day! Which we did. The plan was to leave around 7am and fortunately, that did not happen. We allowed ourselves to sleep in a littttttle bit longer. I believe we were out the door still by 8am and on the way to our first stop: Taco Bell breakfast. I’ve been talking nonstop about trying it and it was finally time! I had a $15 Taco Bell gift card (from a very thoughtful friend) so breakfast was on me! It was the least I could do. My thoughts on Taco Bell breafkast? AMAZING. Not kidding. I loved the sausage crunch wrap. And the $1 bacon burrito. And the hash brown. But enough about Taco Bell breakfast.
The drive to Winter Park Resort was about an hour and a half. With Taco Bell in tote, we made our way to the mountains. I was able to rent my skis at a spot right along the highway in Idaho Springs for only $25! I’ll definitely be going back to that shack to rent skis moving forward. I didn’t have to deal with waiting in line, crazy paper work or outrageous prices. If you remember anything from this post, remember: Idaho Springs. Ski Rental. Right off the highway. $25.
We made it to Winter Park, I bought my day pass and we were good to go! I only ski now once every year, but I have been fortunate enough to ski out west, where the real mountains are (i.e. not in Indiana, where I had to ski growing up). I wouldn’t call myself an expert by any means, but I didn’t fall once. #Expert. However, my legs got super tired after about four hours (I used to be able to go all day)! and we hit the road around 3pm. I love the thrill skiing brings me, and I hope to do it more often next Winter! Winter Park is a beautiful resort, and I got some pictures to prove it. It was, again, another gorgeous day in ColoRADo (dangit…)
I was exhausted from skiing, so we decided to stay in and watch the Country Music Award’s that night with some Hamburger Helper* to warm us up. I had one more full day in Denver and we planned to go on a hike! There’s so many different hikes and routes to take in and around Denver, but of course, my friend and I had a difficult time finding one. The first ‘hike’ we thought we were going on ended up being a park. A park with amazing views, but not quite the hike we were looking for. It was called Lookout Mountain.
I enjoyed the park, but wanted something with a little more ‘activity’ if you will. We had seen a parking lot from the highway with what looked like a hiking trail right outside downtown, so we went on an adventure to try to find that particular exit. Eventually, we found it, but the parking lot was technically just a ‘park and ride.’ We hopped out with Bear and Baloo and decided to see what it was all about anyways. After going down a dead-end path, we FINALLY found the right trail to the hike. It wasn’t your typical Denver, out-west hike, but it worked for us. I’m not even sure where we were, or I’d tell you. Plus, I think you’d be able to find better hiking trails with more scenic views than we were able to.
After the strenuous hike, we ended up at Panera because carbs. My flight wasn’t until 8:30pm so we sat around in the sun a little more (did I mention it was 70 degrees?! All while it was snowing in Chicago – amazing feeling). For dinner, because we can’t stop, won’t stop eating, we went to a bar close to their house that offered outdoor games – cornhole, bocce ball and giant jenga. So fun! The bar was the Green Valley Ranch Beer Garden. It was the perfect ending to my trip.
After finding my favorite beer at the Green Valley Ranch Beer Garden – Dry Rock Apricot Blonde – it was time to say goodbye. My friends live under 10 minutes from the airport, so getting there was no trouble. I had another on-time flight and I was on my way back to the cold, Windy City. Luckily, I had my girl Tina Fey’s Bossypants book with me which made the flight a little smoother. That and I also managed to get front row on the way back! More leg room? Yes please!
You can see now why Denver is a city that I absolutely love. I may have returned with both windburn and sunburn, but that’s a small price to pay. I got really lucky that I could experience the fun day drinking atmosphere of downtown, the skiing in the mountains and the hiking all in a quick trip! If you’ve never been to Denver, I leave you with one question – What are you waiting for?!
*My friend wanted you to know that we did not eat Hamburger Helper, but rather a Pinterest-inspired HOMEMADE version of Hamburger Helper. She’s quite domestic.