We lived in Colorado for 20+ years. Now that we’ve moved away, going back really feels like a vacation and we realize we miss everything about the state! Colorado is an amazingly beautiful place full of kind people and limitless activities. It’s no wonder everyone wants to live in Colorado. Who can blame them, right? You have mountains, water, hiking trails galore, beautiful blue skies…we could go on and on.
What to Do and See
Don’t waste your time or money in the fancy ski resort towns like Aspen or Vail. Stick to the smaller mountain towns. Two of our favorites are Grand Lake and Glenwood Springs.
Grand Lake is a quaint town on the edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park. The town is nestled right on Grand Lake, where you can rent a boat or just sit on the beach and eat ice cream. We love to head up to the national park and take a drive over Trail Ridge Road. Trail Ridge Road isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you can stomach the tight turns and steep drop-offs, the views above tree line are amazing. Also, you never know what animals you’ll see along the way. Maybe moose. Maybe elk. Maybe fox. Maybe mountain goats. Maybe all of them! The Grand Lake area also has amazing hiking trails for all levels and the best ATV trails we’ve ever ridden. And, don’t forget BINGO on Fridays and Saturdays during the summer.
Glenwood Springs has a couple hot springs to choose from. If you have kids, go to the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool. If you prefer a quieter, more upscale setting, try the newer Iron Mountain Hot Springs. If you’re not into hot springs…shame on you. 😊 But, you might enjoy hiking to Hanging Lakes, taking a white water rafting trip, or riding your bike along the Colorado River. We ride our own bikes, but you can rent one too.
Where to Eat and Drink
Colorado is a foodie’s paradise. It’s pretty much a melting pot of food cultures. Our favorites in Grand Lake and Glenwood Springs include:
Sagebrush BBQ and Grill in downtown Grand Lake serves up pretty darn tasty BBQ, but we prefer the burgers and salads. It’s also fun to chow down on peanuts and throw the shells on the floor.
Ed’s Cantina and Grill isn’t actually in Grand Lake, but if you decide to drive Trail Ridge Road, you should stop in Estes Park and enjoy some yummy Mexican food. Ed’s has a great happy hour and some of the best chili con queso and margaritas on this planet!
Underground Italian is a funky restaurant located under the bridge in the heart of Glenwood Springs. The restaurant probably only seats 25 people, so there’s generally a line. But, it’s worth the wait. The pizza and fettucine alfredo are to die for. Plus, you get fresh baked bread, a salad, and sorbet with every meal.
Vicco’s Charcoalburger Drive-In serves delicious burgers, fries, and shakes. If you’re still in your bathing suit (after hitting the hot springs) and looking for a quick, casual bite to eat, this is the place to stop in Glenwood Springs.
As a side note, if you’re traveling through Denver on your way to or from the airport, a couple of our favorite foodie stops are Osteria Marco, GB Fish and Chips, and Tamales by La Casita and Taste of Denmark. It’s also fun to stop in the Denver area for a Rockies game, take in a concert at Red Rocks, or tour the Coors brewery.
Also, we thought we’d throw a couple honorable mentions into our list. If you have time while you’re in Colorado, you should definitely add these things to your itinerary:
- Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. It’s easy to get to, has paved walking paths, and more instagram-worthy photos opportunities than you could ever want.
- Hell’s Kitchen Pizza in Manitou Springs. We love pizza! And, Hell’s Kitchen is one of the best. They have locations in Colorado Springs, but our favorite is in Manitou Springs (just outside Colorado Springs).
- Pearl Street Mall in Boulder makes the list just because it’s weird, eclectic…whatever word you want to use! But, try to go on a Saturday during the summer so you can linger in the local farmers’ market too.
- San Juan Mountains are not easy to get to, but they’re spectacular. Jeep trails, gondola rides, and the Million Dollar Highway add to the allure. And, Telluride, Silverton, and Ouray are sweet little towns with just enough activity (but, not too much).
If Colorado isn’t on your bucket list…it should be. But, don’t forget your Dramamine, sunscreen, and water (lots and lots of water)!