Growing up, I always believed I was a beach babe. Visiting family in Florida frequently and vacationing to various beaches throughout the country, the sun and the sand felt like home. There was no greater feeling than walking miles down the beach, taking in the salty air.
Then, in May 2016, I went to Denver, Colorado with my mom. Everything changed. It was another spur of the moment trip booked in the midst of some kinna life disaster. I intended to travel alone again and experience the Rocky Mountains like I had experienced New England.
My wanderlust soul was ecstatic to be traveling to yet another new state, but I never imagined how deeply I would fall in love. Denver is my new Chicago. The air is fresh, the people are generous, and overall , the atmosphere is absolutely incredible. One of the greatest things about Denver and Colorado Springs is how active everyone was and how close in age so many people there were to me. Every single person I met was pleasant and welcoming, making me wonder why on earth I wasn’t already living there.
Instead of telling you every reason I fell in love, I’m going to share with you the things we did and places we visited. Let me know which of these things you guys have done!
May 3rd, Day 1
My mother and I departed from Indianapolis Airport on the morning of Tuesday, May 3rd and arrived in Denver around 9:00 am local time. From the airport, we drove into downtown to check out some of the sights while a majority of the people were working. Right away, I noticed the elevation change. For the most part, I’m in shape enough that I’m not winded after walking up 3 or 4 flights of stairs. After just 1 flight, I was completely out of breath. It’s crazy how much of a difference that makes!
After walking through the city for a few hours, we had lunch a little panini and salad shop called Eat + Drink. It was so cute! I absolutely recommend this little lunch spot. We ate outside, taking in all of the fresh mountain air. We were in heaven! From there, we walked around some more, visiting a recreational area full of people exercising on their lunch hour. I could not believe how many people were out working out! You never see that many people jogging, walking, or biking around Louisville!
We stayed just outside of Denver in Parker, Colorado and it was the perfect place! Lots of things to do around there and just far enough outside the city that traffic wasn’t terrible and the prices were a little cheaper. The first day was pretty relaxed, for the most part. After dinner near the hotel, we walked around some and planned the rest of the trip!
May 4th, Day 2
The time change had officially affected me! I was up extremely early and ready to hike. Our first stop was Red Rocks Amphitheater. So gorgeous! There wasn’t an event there so we just spent the morning walking around the park and getting some exercise by running through the stadium seats.
I had never seen anything so cool. People were doing yoga, running the stairs, doing squats and lunges. Just one more reminder of how fit the people of Colorado are! So here’s a photo of me hiking, attempting to be just as fit. Ha!
After Red Rocks, we drove about 2 hours out to Twin Lakes. The drive there was worth every moment and flew by. Being in the mountains was the most incredible thing I had ever experienced. There was still so much snow, making all the photos even more beautiful.
Upon arrival at the lakes, we instantly knew why we had gone. It was breath taking. Being able to see the reflections of snowcaps in the lake was the coolest thing, y’all.
The weather was gorgeous so we just walked around for a few hours before heading back toward Parker for dinner. Before arriving in Denver, I was afraid of how much time we would spend driving from place to place. In hind site, that was one of the best parts. It was part of the experience just as much as our destinations.
May 5th, Day 3
Day 3 was by far the busiest day of the trip, going to three different places that included lots of hiking and driving. This was also likely my favorite day.
Garden of the Gods
Our first stop of the day was Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs. It was the most magnificent thing
I have ever seen. The rock formations were just incredible. I was able to climb up and into some of the rocks, allowing me to look around for miles.
It’s hard to describe how massive these rocks were and just how beautiful it actually was. There were some pro rock climbers who had climbed to the very top of the points of the rocks, so of course I was immediately jealous. I absolutely did not want to leave.
Our next destination was calling!
We drove up as far as they would let us and made it to mile 17 of 19. With the recent snow, the top two miles were closed down due to unsafe roads. The temperature dropped about 18 degrees from the base of the mountain to the top and we ended up adding more layers of clothing as we went up! It was gorgeous. You can’t understand how massive these mountains are until you’re actually nearing the top. The sites were absolutely stunning and the experience was amazing. Driving up the mountain was kinna trippy, being so close to the edge. It made my heart skip to look out and be able to see right over the edge. Definitely an experience I won’t forget!
We had lunch at Colorado Brewing Company and I absolutely would go there again! It was such a delicious and huge lunch that was so necessary with all the hiking that was coming up.
One of the most amazing stops of the trip. The first views came from Eagle’s Nest after climbing 185 stairs. It seemed so high, yet was nothing compared to what was coming.
After riding the elevator to the bottom, I decided to climb the 254 steps to reach the top of the waterfall. Talk about trippy! Being able to see through each of the steps all the way down the waterfall made me dizzy! When I got to the top, it was worth it. It was absolutely stunning. Definitely nothing you can find in Louisville that looks as gorgeous as that waterfall.
I continued hiking for another hour or so, taking different trails to get even better views of the Rocky Mountains. I came across Inspiration Point and took the trail to Midnight falls, both of which were stunning. How could I pass up the opportunity to see a place called Inspiration Point? These were sights pictures could not capture the beauty of. It was amazing.
May 6th, Day 4
We visited the Coors Brewery in Golden as soon as they opened. It’s a free tour with tastings at the end and was very cool! I don’t really love beer, but it was still fun and something about tasting it straight from the brewery made it much better than expected.
From there, we drove to Boulder and walked around Pearl Street. The crowd was very eclectic and different with a huge variety of people everywhere you turned. Definitely a cute town and a great experience. Certainly a place I’d love to see more of!
Being near Denver, there were tons of restaurants that have been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the Food Network. Obviously we had to check one of them out! Hops & Pies in Denver was awesome! They had the best mac & cheese and a great atmosphere.
To finish the day, we did a little shopping and hiking around our hotel. It was a beautiful evening and reiterated every reason I love Colorado.
May 7th, The Departure
When it was time to leave Denver, I had never felt so empty. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I was legitimately saddened to be leaving this incredible place. We left on Saturday and I would be starting nursing school two days later. In hind site, I realize I probably should have ditched the whole nursing school idea and just stayed in Denver! Maybe next time right?
Who else has fallen in love with Colorado like I have? Anyone been brave enough to leave everything behind and start over in the Denver area? Please tell me! I want to hear these stories!
Also, what should I do when I head back that way? It’s coming soon and I’m going with a friend this time so let’s hear all your recommendations!