Last month, Brian and I traveled to Colorado for a long weekend getaway. We ventured to new cities, chowed down on great food, and saw the sights. While it was a quick trip, we experienced enough to know we will definitely be back! We enjoyed the people and loved the overall vibe. With three days to explore, we trekked to four different cities.
We began our trip in Castle Rock, Colorado, a quiet, suburban city about 30 miles south of Denver. We were unable to snag an affordable accommodation in Denver, so we chose Castle Rock to be our home base.
Castlewood Canyon State Park
With overcast skies and a breezy cold chill, we forged on with our plan to hike a 4-mile loop within the Castlewood Canyon State Park. This moderate trail leads to canyon views and historic ruins. This state park is home to the historic Castlewood Dam, which gave way in 1933, causing Denver’s second worst flood in history. We came across a small herd of deer, a baby snake, and heard (and subsequently ran from) a rattlesnake. All in all, it took us a couple of hours to finish our hike and head back into town.
Sawara – Sushi Fresh + Fast
We rounded out our evening at an awesome sushi joint called Sawara. Affordable and delicious, it was a no-fuss, counter-service place with friendly faces and conversation. In fact, the gentleman taking our order offered us a drink on the house just because we were visiting from out of town! We were pleasantly surprised and appreciative of his kindness. It was a great welcome!
Ah, another chilly day of exploration with the added fun of cold rain!
Linger – Denver’s Finest Eatuary
We headed out to Denver during lunch time and snuck into a former mortuary-turned-restaurant for a quick bite. I have a morbid curiosity and was dying to visit what was formerly Olinger Mortuary (fun fact – Buffalo Bill’s body was housed here in 1917!), but is now a bar and restaurant featuring Asian-fusion cuisine. We enjoyed a couple of cocktails and feasted on Lemongrass Pork Potstickers and a Mongolian BBQ Duck Bao. YUM.
Little Man Ice Cream
From Linger, we headed over to Little Man Ice Cream for some homemade ice cream. From what we have researched, this place is usually crazy-busy with long lines and lots of activity. It seems that we lucked out with the cold, rainy weather, as we were able to swoop in and get our cup of Salted Oreo Ice Cream right away.
Despite the chill, we sauntered down the quiet streets enjoying the perfect blend of sweet and savory. Divinely rich with smooth, creamy texture, the Salted Oreo is a must-try for those who appreciate a burst of electric, contradictory flavor designed to keep you coming back for more. We finished up our mini-dessert break as we came to our next destination: Carrie Baird’s Bar Dough.
Bar Dough – Italian Restaurant
Brian and I are big fans of Top Chef. When we travel, we make it a point to try to visit any Top Chef alumni restaurants. Carrie Baird was one of Top Chef’s four finalists in Season 15. Baird’s food seemed to be simple, but grounded with complex flavor and technique. We could not wait to try out her restaurant, Bar Dough, and knew we had to beat the crowd since it’s become so popular. Bar Dough opened at 3pm with a limited happy-hour menu. While we wished we could try their full menu, we were very happy with the happy hour options (and for the fact that everything was half-off!). Brian and I indulged in meatballs and a margherita pizza. Everything was perfect. The meal was flavorful, filling, and a great value. We can’t wait to come back for dinner.
Carbon Café & Bar
As we exited Bar Dough, the skies opened and the rain came down on us. Happy and full, we soldiered on and walked around the city. We checked out Union Station, the REI Flagship Store, and Larimer Square. We ended our evening at the Carbon Café & Bar, a neat little coffeehouse and bar serving up caffeine, brews, and booze with a spirited food menu. Brian and I found a quiet, candle-lit corner and shared the Nitro Cold Brew Manhattan, a shockingly smooth blend of a classic Manhattan with a cold brew coffee. Brian couldn’t pass up ending on a sweet note, so he ordered the Apple Pie French Toast. Drenched in maple syrup and honey butter, the spiced apple-stuffed French Toast delivered the perfect balance of tart sweetness.
Rumors of a spring snowfall swirled the day before, and sure enough, Brian and I woke up to a blanket of whiteness. We were a little nervous driving in the snow, as we had a near 2-hour drive through the mountains to Estes Park. Slow and steady kept us safe on the road. It was a beautiful, scenic drive, if not slightly eerie since we were headed to The Stanley Hotel.
The Stanley Hotel
The Stanley Hotel was Stephen King’s inspiration for The Shining. We opted to take The Historic Stanley Tour, which was incredible and engaging. The hotel offers other tours, including haunted ones for those interested in a more paranormal experience. Brian and I really enjoyed learning the history behind the namesake, the hotel and staff, as well as the filming of the TV mini-series The Shining. Apparently, Stephen King was NOT a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation. King went on to write the screenplay for the TV mini-series The Shining, which more closely followed the book. The TV mini-series was shot on location at The Stanley Hotel.
From Estes Park, we ventured over to Boulder for a bit of day drinking at the Avery Brewing Company.
Avery Brewing Company
Now, I am more of a whiskey girl than a beer girl…but even I found some beers I liked. We tried a variety, from IPAs, to sours, to stouts. Brian and I had the same favorite: Uncle Jacob’s Stout – a 15.9% bourbon barrel-aged stout. Hearty, full-bodied, and warming, this beer was perfect for a cold, snowy day. We grabbed a bite to eat and chatted with some folks until we were ready to hit the road.
Fifteen minutes later, we found ourselves walking up and down Pearl Street perusing the shops. Since Brian and I are not huge shoppers, we naturally found ourselves at the Pearl Street Pub. We sat ourselves down at the bar, made buddies with locals, and chatted the next three hours away. We didn’t plan to spend so much of our time there, but those are some people and conversations I won’t forget! On our way out, we stumbled across Press Play, a nifty little barcade with operating games and ice cold water. A few games later, we hopped in the car and headed back to Castle Rock.
From the people, to the food, to the great outdoors, we know we will be back to visit. Thank you, Colorado, for an awesome experience!