Thursday, August 18, 2016

Rocky Mountain High, Oooooh Colorado!

"Vacation's when you go somewhere...and you never come back."

But lucky for YOU, we did come back!

Before the last few weeks of Summer ticked away, we were able to squeeze in one final adventure out West, to the snow-capped mountains and cannabis filled lands of Colorado! 

About four months ago, my younger sister and her husband changed jobs, packed their things, and moved from Seward, NE to Aurora, CO. Which gave the rest of us the PERFECT excuse to come visit, explore their new home, while also getting some much needed down time.


Eric and I flew out that morning, landed in Denver early afternoon, and planned to meet up with everyone else at the Beaver Creek Resort. Nestled at the bottom of a mountain, this place literally looks like a fairy tale. I could just picture Belle, waltzing around singing "Little town. It's a quiet village..." 
The main square is bursting with shops, art galleries, restaurants, cafes, as well as a huge ice rink that's open year around. Everywhere you looked, people were chatting around fire pits, while sipping wine and roasting marshmallows. And the best part? They give out free cookies everyday at 3:00. FREE COOKIES! Like I said, basically a fairy tale. 
Did I say cookies were the best part? I lied. These girls, THEY were the best part. :)


As we've gotten older, our family trips tend to lean away from "rest and relaxation", and more towards "get that blood pumping!". So it shouldn't be a surprise that the first item on our agenda was a day of zip lining and whitewater rafting! 
Picture-perfect, is the only way to describe the view from atop those mountains. I wish I'd taken more (or any) photos from the rafting part, but we totally conquered that river. Nobody was thrown overboard, and we even fit EIGHT PEOPLE into Swiss Cheese Rock!!!!! 

Does it smell like cheese? 
It smells like VICTORY.

While on vaca, no evening is complete without ice cream. Or in our case, Gelato from Rimini. And since this was our 2nd or 3rd time visiting the cafe, and the ever-so-friendly boys behind the counter remembered us, Gelato quickly turned into Get-a-LOT-o.
We actually scored pretty high on the "Get Free Food" scale this trip, I mean look at that cupcake!. Let's keep track shall we? Extra Gelato - GFF #1


Since Beaver Creek is a ski resort, during the Summer the mountains are ideal for hikes, horseback riding, and biking. Our original plan was to ride the ski lift up to the top, and then work our way down. But after the nice lift-man informed us it would cost an arm and a leg to ride up...but free to ride down...we changed our minds.
16,390 steps, 255 floors, and 7 miles later, we made it to the top! 

To reward ourselves for conquering the mountain, we bummed around the rest of the day, had some serious hot tub time, and stuffed our faces with Blue Moose Pizza. Any restaurant that uses paper table cloths, and provides crayons, is aces in my book. 


On Wednesday morning we said goodbye to our cozy little mountain home, and took off for Denver. While in the city we grabbed lunch at Brider, a casual, yet super chic restaurant focused on rotisserie-style cooking. We even scored some dessert (GFF #2) after they gave Dad the wrong sandwich. So so yummy. 

After lunch we walked to the Downtown Aquarium, and hung out with the fishies. I'd forgotten how entertaining aquariums are. Everywhere you looked, little kiddo's were losing their mind in front of giant tanks of sea life. 

No day in Colorado's capital is complete though, until you visit the original REI Flagship Store. This is the emporium of outdoor gear. Three floors, exposed brick everywhere, giant windows, and in the center of it all a legitimate rock wall.
In spite of being surrounded by every extreme outdoor activity you could imagine, nothing tested my nerves like that Jenga match. 

And finally, what better way to take in the sights and sounds of a city than with SEGWAYS?! 
Overall, very successful first day in the Mile High City. 


Thursday morning sisters #3 and #4 flew back to OH, while the rest of us decided to take a day trip up to Boulder. Eric has family living there, and his Grandma always told us to go visit because, "It's full of hippies... you'll love it!". And while I can't say much about the hippies, I CAN say Boulder has personality, lots and lots of personality. 

Before we left, Eric did some research on what we could do, and Banjo Billy's Bus Tours kept popping up. Described as "an old school bus tricked out to look like a traveling hillbilly shack", we were certainly curious, and bought tickets. Let me tell you, Billy did NOT disappoint. We went from feeling posh and sophisticated while lunching at The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, to riding around downtown in this...
Absolute hilarity. Hillbilly on the outside, retro gypsy caravan on the inside. Our guide was informative, entertaining, and a very passionate storyteller. We learned all about the many ghosts that haunt Boulder, the history behind some of the neighborhoods, and even saw the house the creatures of South Park lived in while attending Colorado University. 

Banjo Billy dropped us off just a few blocks from historic Pearl Street, a precious pedestrian mall, home to dozens of shops, restaurants, and also the Boulder County Courthouse. If given more time, Mom and I could have done some serious damage. 

Before meeting up with Eric's relatives, we had time to swing by Sweet Cow, "Best ice cream in Colorado", according to our segway guide. I don't have a lot of Colorado ice cream to compare it to...but damn...this is GOOD ice cream. When we told the guy serving us it was our first time eating Sweet Cow, he put all our scoops on the house! (GFF #3) 

We ended our day in Boulder with drinks, pizza, and a LONG overdue visit with Eric's aunt, uncle, and two adorable little cousins. Under The Sun Eatery and Pizzeria was the perfect setting for our rather large group, and since we had to wait a bit longer to get a table, they sent over a free appetizer! (GFF #4...seriously, we have a gift)


During the day, us "vacation-ers" were tasked with keeping ourselves busy, while my sister and her hubby did adult things like go to work. Today's activity? TOPGOLF. The last time my parents were in CO, they discovered Topgolf, and lucky for Eric and I, they actually just opened one 10 minutes from our house! Imagine a driving range mashed up with a restaurant and arcade, that's Topgolf. The Denver location practically shares a parking lot with my sister's office, so she was able to sneak over during her lunch and eat with us. We ALMOST chalked up another GFF, when the waitress accidentally spilled water onto Eric's lap, and offered us some dessert. But we declined, and consequently forever broke the Get Free Food was fun while it lasted.

As the guys perfected their swing, Mom and I sat back, chilled, and drank some strawberry and jalapeno margaritas. I swear, all golf should be like this.

After Topgolf, we headed downtown again to scope out a few more don't-miss-while-in-Denver spots Mom had read about. First up; the Tattered Cover Book Store. I'm pretty sure I could live in a bookstore, and this one in particular was intoxicatingly charming. Rows and rows of packed shelves, gloriously large windows, and a Dr. Who themed "It's bigger on the inside" gift bag. Be still my beating heart!

Next door was the equally impressive record, CD, and DVD store; Twist and Shout. If I lived in the bookstore, Eric would be living here. And rightfully so, apparently it's one of the best places in the country to find rare, out of print, and import items. It was probably a good thing we flew to CO, and had to keep in mind anything bought needed to fit in our suitcases, otherwise we'd be in trouble. 

Since it was Friday, and happened to be the first Friday, Denver's Art District on Santa Fe hosted their annual Art Walk. The whole street shuts down, and all the art galleries open their doors to the public for free. 
It truly is a beautiful street, and I think I could have spent the whole evening drifting in and out of museums, listening to music, and sampling the food trucks. Out of my whole family, I'm the one who takes the most interest in art. This was an awesome treat, and a special shout out to my husband and brother-in-law, who tagged along even though it wasn't quite in their wheelhouse. 

You know what IS in their wheelhouse? MEAT! And meat they did receive when we completed our night at The Buckhorn Exchange. Denver's oldest restaurant, they specialize in beef steaks, buffalo prime rib, elk, salmon, quail, game hen, and baby-back ribs. You'll also find exotic appetizers such as alligator tail and rattlesnake. Ever try a Rocky Mountain Oyster


Last full day of vacation :(
So what do we do? We channel John Denver and get Rocky Mountain high that's what! 
If you're in Colorado, and even the slightest bit into nature, you should have absolutely no reason to be bored.

Nature not your thing? Maybe food and drinks more your style? Then you HAVE to stop by the world famous, Dark Horse Bar and Grill.  We walked in, not really knowing what to expect, but anywhere claiming to have Boulder's Best Burger couldn't be bad, right?
You seat yourself, order food at the kitchen window, and drinks from the bar. Once the cook yelled "OOOOORDERUP!", we grabbed our meal, found a place to park, and enjoyed the Olympics on their enormous projector screen. Hallways lead to bars, which lead to rooms, which lead to more hallways. Each decorated floor to ceiling with movie memorabilia, antiques, and yes, the burgers were delish.

About a half hour south of Boulder, is the city of Golden. And that is where the MillerCoors Brewing Company calls home. 
The self-guided tour through the brewery was interesting, and even though I don't necessarily drink beer, I enjoyed seeing the copper brewing kettles, and learning about the whole process. Getting to glimpse into the packing room, with it's seemingly hundreds of assembly lines, was probably my favorite part (the sampling room was Eric's). Did you know it was Coors who first innovated the all-aluminum can, making the product entirely recyclable? Now you know! 

As another successful vacation came to a close, we toasted our trip with a rooftop dinner at Ignite. Located just a few blocks from the Colorado Rockies ballpark, we sat under a canopy of twinkle lights and feasted on sweet potato tots, fresh cocktails, and one-of-a-kind burgers topped with "man candy" aka BACON! 

But we couldn't stop there, especially after discovering Denver had their very own Voodoo Doughnut! I'd seen this unique doughnut shop featured numerous times on the Food Network and Travel Channel, so imagine how stoked I was to finally EAT ONE!

Good things really DO come in pink boxes.

Unlike Mrs. Gump's definition, our vacation couldn't last forever, and we eventually had to come back. Colorado truly is a magnificent state, and we only covered a blip of it. There are so many places to explore, restaurants to try, and mountains to climb! 
Hopefully I'll have time to sharpen my hiking skills.

Till next time!

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