Time from Seattle: 2 hrs by plane
Length of my stay: two days, one night
What to Pack
DSLR + 50mm
1 puffy coat
1 pairs of jeans
1 pair of leggings
2 pairs of wool socks
It started with the northern lights. My good friend Riley and I have been chasing them ever since we set foot in Anchorage, hoping to catch a glimpse of the painted night sky. Fairbanks was the goal, and if you're thinking, "wait, I thought I clicked on Denver," don't go! You're in the right place. Let me explain. The Aurora Borealis forecast quickly dropped down to a likelihood of 2 (out of 10); that, combined with the prediction of overcast skies, led to some last minute changes to the itinerary. On Friday, we decided to save good old Fairbanks for another time, and hop on a flight to Denver Saturday morning (6 a.m. to be exact... the only time I'm a morning person is when travel is involved). A quick Lyft Line to SeaTac and a coffee in hand (and a weekend full of Space-A luck) we were off!
Before I get started I'd like to thank Jessica Bajema for many of the wonderful recommendations I've included in this post! She's an angel!
If you've never been to Colorado before, and you're expecting a mountain-surrounded alpine town like we were, you'll be in for a slight surprise. While it was indeed mountain-surrounded, but in the wider sense of the word. Flying in, the city was incredibly flat, and brown. Still cute, still adventure-packed, just different! Once landed, we picked up a rental car, and took off with the airport in the rear view mirror and the mountains straight ahead.
With some minor audio issues - a faulty USB plug and the extra-safe feature that allows Bluetooth pairing only when stopped -we finally got our tunes figured out, blasting the best of everything (including Italian; you thought I was kidding?). Once passed the first hill into the Rocky's, Colorado's widespread imagery and well-marketed outdoors finally made sense. The terrain was massive and incredible; the roads hugging the slopes tightly as we made our way through CO's tall peaks. It took every muscle in my body to restrain from hitting the ski resorts on our way to Sulphur Hotsprings.
Though there're many hot springs to choose from, we settled with the closest (due to our time restraint) with at least one naturally landscaped pool. Before I get too ahead of myself, I'll quickly mention our short lunch stop at a small, local mom and pop restaurant: The Glory Hole. Yup, you read that right. We didn't know what to expect, except decent Yelp reviews, a questionable name, and breakfast food which I'm alllll about. Upon arrival, we discovered a pretty dominant religious theme mixed with a lot of patriotic paraphernalia. Take a seat by the animal window to dine with a furry friend. Squirrels, chipmunks, birds, and even raccoons stop by for a snack every once in a while. The food was definitely for comfort, but it did the job! The hobo scramble was decent! I'd recommend.
Hot Sulphur Springs is just a short walk and even a shorter drive down the street and across the bridge. Admission is $20 with an additional $2 towel rental fee. Snag a locker, rip off those clothes, slip into your flip-flops (it's hard on the feet) and book it to the nearest pool to escape the biting Colorado cold! These "magic waters" as described by the original founders, the Ute Native Americans, exude over 200,000 gallons of mineral-rich water a day fluctuating between 104 and 126 degrees Fahrenheit. The Ute didn't call them magic for no reason. Mineral hot springs are said to have incredible health benefits; though unproven, many believe they exist. Some say they open your pores and lessen skin-related symptoms of dryness and/or irritation, as well as decrease inflammation, offer pain relief, and more. Minerals of these particular springs include sodium, sulfate, chloride, silica, potassium, calcium, fluoride, magnesium and trace elements of arsenic and lithium. Our group consensus was softer skin and nails... not to mention the gawd-awful sulfur smell that relentlessly stuck around for the next few days. Prepare to scrub for hours and multiple times at that to get that rotten egg smell away. Consider washing your suit by itself more than once following your soak!
Pro Tip: Take off your sterling silver or it'll tarnish almost immediately. Though if you forget, like I did, rub on some toothpaste and let it work its magic.
After easily spending a few hours here, we rinsed, changed, and hit the road back out through the mountains to spend the evening in Denver. Staying awake that two-hour drive home was such a struggle, what with being so relaxed and all. We made it just after sunset, freshened up, and set out to Wynkoop Brewery (pronounced wine-coop) for dinner and a local brew. Denver is known for its many craft breweries - you gotta go to at least one! Check out the Denver Brewery Guide for more! Beer Cheese and Local Pretzel Knots were the appetizer followed by Jambalaya. Two others of the crew ordered the Short Rib Grilled Cheese and WOW was it good - I couldn't help myself. Beer-wise? I started with the Cow Town Milk Stout and ended with the Rail Way Amber with the latter inspiring the later purchase of a sticker to add to my growing collection. Pretty freaking good meal if you ask me! And the perfect pregame for a night in Lodo - Denver's go-to nightlife sector.
Though I wasn't able to hit up every dinner destination, here are a few other recommendations I received!
Linger - located in an old crematorium, this restaurant also offers rooftop dining. Also a great destination for brunch or late night activities.
Avanti - SO wish we had time to go here! It sounds literally amazing. This collective eatery offers seven different restaurant concepts all in their separate modified shipping container.
Root Down - globally-influenced cuisine, locally-sourced organic ingredients featuring items from two onsite gardens. Doesn't get more local than that.
It's Brunch Time!!
After sleeping in just a bit, we drove over to the Highlands for a bite to eat at Denver Biscuit Company. Their level of deliciousness is no secret - the place was packed. The wait for seats AND pick-up was 45-minutes, so we ordered to-go and stopped at Little Lula Rose Flower Shop just next door before heading to City Park for a quick stroll while we waited. The Flower shop was an adorable minimalist space with a coffee stand and to-go window just waiting for your order. All coffees are one size - 8 oz, but delish - or stay for a workshop! With no set hours, it may be helpful to call in advance if you're looking to stop by.
We killed a little time walking on City Park's frozen pond and watching geese slip as much as us before heading back to pick up our massive biscuits. Riley and I ordered the Franklin - buttermilk fried chicken, tender belly bacon, and cheddar cheese smothered in sausage or vegetarian mushroom gravy, and our friend Megan ordered the Dahlia - housemade sausage patty, apple butter, fried egg & maple syrup - both were to die for. It's well worth the wait!
Also recommended for brunch: Humboldt Farm Fish Wine
Coffee: WashPerk - take a walk around Washington Park afterwards!
And just like that, our 24 hours in Denver was up. We returned our rental car, boarded a plane and said goodbye to Denver's clear blue skies.
A HUGE thank you to Jessica Bajema for all these wonderful recommendations!! You truly made the trip!