In September, Casey and I flew to Colorado to meet up with childhood friends. The gathering was to celebrate my dear Myra’s 30th birthday, but we went out a few days early to also celebrate our third anniversary.
We arrived in Denver in the late afternoon, grabbed our rental car (a Chevy Cruze), and checked into our hotel. We stayed in a cheaper hotel pretty far outside downtown in order to save money. For dinner that first night, we embraced our tourist side and went to Casa Bonita. Yes, it is a real restaurant.
Casa Bonita is quite the dining experience. Cliff divers leap from a 30-foot waterfall in the main dining area. There are pirates, Bad Bart, caves, and more. Know going in that it will be the worst pseudo-Mexican food you will ever eat. Seriously, it’s impressively bad food. But cliff divers!
Afterward, we walked next door to a local brewery, WestFax Brewing, for a nightcap.
Once we returned to our hotel room, we watched the Southpark episode featuring Casa Bonita. Was it worth it? Totally.
Being in MST instead of EST meant we got an early start while still feeling well rested. For breakfast, we hit up Snooze, which has an impressive eggs benedict menu. I’m hungry just thinking about this meal.
Post-breakfast, we headed to the Denver Botanic Gardens. I highly recommend this stop. The admission fee was $12.50 each to get in, and we spent probably three hours wandering among the flowers and bees. The variety of types of gardens, including a Japanese garden, a prairie, and a reflecting pool, were incredible. The placement of each plant is so intentional, and we learned quite a bit about the various biomes found in Colorado. There is also a Chihuly sculpture.
Once we made it all the way around the gardens, we bought some chocolate in the gift shop made with lemon verbena grown on-site, and headed downtown to Union Station.
Hungry, we decided to do burgers at Hopdoddy, which is next to Union Station. It was good food with the added benefit of great people watching. Union Station also has a few restaurants and shops in it. The architecture alone is worth stepping inside.
Newly energized, we headed to the Denver Aquarium for the afternoon. It wasn’t the most amazing aquarium I’ve ever visited, but it was good for a rainy afternoon. Also, they have tigers. In the aquarium. It cost $20.50 each for admission.
We ended the day by wandering Larimer Square, an adorable street of shops and restaurants decked out with garland lights and Colorado flags. We chose well with dinner: CRÚ. Our meal consisted of goat cheese beignets with honey and black pepper, a fig and prosciutto stone fire pizza, and lovely New Zealand wine. Yum.
The next morning, we checked out of our hotel early and drove downtown to the Denver Biscuit Company for breakfast. These were big, beautiful biscuits, y’all.
On our way to Steamboat Springs, we made a slight detour to Red Rocks Amphitheater. I’d been when I was about 15, and I wanted Casey to experience it as well. It’s stunning and has amazing acoustics.
Our next detour was up Mt. Evans, a peak 14,000 feet above sea level. Unfortunately, the last five miles of the road were closed for the season the week before (after Labor Day weekend), but we still drove up to Summit Lake and were able to hike a bit. Hiking at 13,000 feet is no joke. It was my first time at that elevation, and while my muscles were fine, my heart rate shot up faster than normal. It was slow going, but the views were amazing.
The drive up and back down Mt. Evans was harrowing. With sheer drops and no guardrail, it was quite the experience. I’m so thankful that Casey was willing to drive despite my constant squeals of terror.
The next leg of the trip was the longest, as we headed toward our destination for the day: Steamboat Springs. The variety of geographical features was impressive, from snow-topped mountains, to buttes, to scrub brush that looked a lot like Patagonia. We took I-70 and went through Eisenhower Tunnel, the longest mountain tunnel in the Interstate system.
We arrived at our cabin in Steamboat Springs just in time for dinner with our friends—Thai takeout—and we relaxed in pajamas the rest of the evening, looking out our balcony at the adorable town.
Stay tuned for part 2!