Travel – Denver

I’m going to be very upfront with this – people who know Denver will read some of what I’m about to write and say, “But that’s Boulder, not Denver!” and I’m going to say…you have a larger metro area than you think.  Broaden your horizons.  But it’s also just true.  The city of Denver isn’t actually that big, but all of the surrounding communities (some quite large) that make up the area aren’t that far apart.  Driving from the side of Denver where we were staying to the edge of Boulder where we went hiking took about an hour – the same amount of time it can take to get from one side of the Beltway in DC to the other, say Alexandria to Bethesda.

Anyways – the point is that the Boy goes out to see Phish in Denver every Labor Day weekend.  Timing of work schedules allowed for the girls to stay with their mother during that time, and the Boy said I should join him for a few days and we’d do fun things.  He flew out early on the Friday to make the 7pm show time.  I was not quite as concerned, and flew Frontier Airlines, a new experience for me.  These are the seats, which are possibly even narrower than they look in the pictures.  It’s like a regular plane seat with all non-essential parts stripped off.  Additionally, the tickets are cheap, but Frontier will charge you for every little thing – more space, to check a bag, to put a bag in the overhead bin, any kind of beverage during your journey, etc.  If you’re only going a short distance (my flights were no more than 4 hours each), it’s fine, and hardened travelers can tough it out.  But it’s not the airline you fly for comfort.  So pack minimally, friends, lest you be charged twice.

I didn’t get in early enough to do anything on that first evening, which was ok, because we had big plans for the next day.  We left our airport-adjacent hotel and headed towards Boulder.  For a long time I was very confused and asked, “Where are the mountains?”  It turns out that there’s a lot of haze in the air because of wildfires, and so the mountains are not as easily seen and admired as they would normally be, until you’re suddenly a lot closer than you thought.  Still a lovely sight, but deceptively flat.

In Boulder, we fueled ourselves up with breakfast at The Cup, an espresso bar.  It was very hip, and much less crowded than the other eating establishments that we walked past on the street which had lines waiting outside for a table for brunch.  Since we were not interested in a leisurely brunch, this was fine with us.  Service at The Cup was speedy, and we found a table by the window which was perfect for drinking out hot beverages (coffee for him, chai for me) and eating our bagels, mine with maple pecan cream cheese, his with lox.   Very relaxing, though definitely a happening place, and we managed to walk in at the right moment to avoid the rush that followed.

One of the main reasons I was excited to go to Colorado was to do some hiking.  I’m not in the best of shape, so the goal was to find something that was not boring, not too long, and still very pretty.  The Boy originally wanted to head up to the Poudre Canyon area, but all the hikes there would have been too long, or just very exposed, which wouldn’t be ideal for my delicate fair skin.  But after quite a lot of searching on All Trails, I found a hike outside of Boulder – The Ceran St. Vrain Trail – that was about 2 miles straight in, meaning just under 4 miles round trip.  It was very well rated, and described by other hikers as easy enough to do with young children, while still being very pretty.  Winner winner!

It lived up to that description, and we were a little jealous of all the intrepid people who had staked out campsites next to the creek that ran along the trail.  It was relatively flat the entire way, with just enough rolling up and down to make it interesting.  There was also a lovely view at the end.  A terrific way to spend midday.

We went back into Boulder and had hoped to grab a bite to eat at the Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery (next door to our breakfast spot), but despite it being past 3 in the afternoon, we found there was a 20 minute wait for a table, something we didn’t really have time for.  But across the street was a fun little sandwich place called The Organic Sandwich Company where we had a nice bite to eat, and planned our evenings.  The Boy had another show to attend, and while he had invited me, it wasn’t really my first choice of how to spend many hours in a row.  Different strokes for different folks – but I had come up with a brilliant alternative plan.

After showering back at our hotel, the Boy drove me into downtown, and dropped me a few blocks from Coors Field before heading off to his show.  That’s right – I went to a baseball game – and it wasn’t the Nats playing!  It was the Rockies versus the Diamondbacks, the two teams vying most for the two National League Wild Card slots.  So that made the game exciting.  I found the box office, gave the girl at the desk my requirements for a ticket (no more than $25, and I was willing to sit up high), and she found me a good spot way up in the nosebleeds that also managed to be right behind home plate.  The fun thing about Coors Field is that because Denver is the “Mile High City”, there’s a stripe of rows that are painted purple which mark the actual spot where the stadium reaches 5280 feet.  My seats were so high up that I was actually 2 full rows above the mile marker, and there were still a few rows behind me!

The game was fun, despite the fact that the D’backs fairly well crushed the Rockies.  But on the advice of the guys at the frozen lemonade stand (It’s called a Squishy!), I had a burger which was much better than one I’d had at Nats park in recent days.  And if I’d been quicker on the uptake, I would have gotten some of the “Monster Nachos” which are sold on the main concourse, and are supposed to be delicious.  It’s a great stadium, though my seat definitely felt farther back than it would have at Nationals park if I were up high.  And while the security procedure wasn’t as good (the stadium was obviously not built with mandatory bag checks and metal detectors in mind), it was clean, spacious, and all the staff were terrific and friendly, despite my being an obvious out-of-towner, rooting for a team not even playing.  A fun evening, for sure.  I took the light rail train back towards where our hotel was, and then an uber, and sank into bed, tired and happy.

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The next morning, we went to one of the Boy’s favorite coffee shops.  It’s called Crema, is in an up-and-coming area of Denver, and is so hipster it hurts.  We both looked through copies of a local literary magazine that were scattered on our table.  But everything there is delicious, and worth the trip.  I had a very spicy chai that was served in a pint glass and labeled with grease pen “chai”, while the Boy got free refills on his organic, free trade black coffee.  I ordered a broccoli bacon quiche with a side of greens, and we split an enormous waffle that was smothered with pecans and maple syrup.  We even spotted Mike Gordon, bassist for Phish, working on his laptop while we were there, but didn’t say hi because he seemed very busy.  (LIFE RULE: If someone’s got earbuds in, do not disturb them)

After our brunch we headed into downtown.  We like to see state capitals whenever we can, and get a picture in front of the legislative building itself.  So we headed into town, and while Denver normally is very pleasant for walking around, this was a very hot day (90s), and despite the lack of humidity, was just plain hot.  So while it would have been nice to wander over to the Taste of Denver which was also happening, we barely managed to make a circuit of the capital building, get our snap, and then head back to our rental car.  My flight was early afternoon on Sunday, so there wasn’t a lot of time to do much else.  It was a quick trip (about 40 hours of on the ground time), but I feel like it gave me a good idea of what life is like in Denver.  It makes me want to go back, and we’re already planning a potential trip for next summer with the girls.  If anyone has any tips for what we should do next year, or that’s especially good with kids – let me know!

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