Back to school blues were felt throughout the whole Music household last couple of weeks of August. However, we all had one thing that we were looking forward to. Something to get our mind off the cold weather, homework and shorter daylight weeks ahead. It was our end-of-summer, pre-fall family trip to Denver, Colorado.
I booked our travel through Expedia, as it is normally the easiest way for us to book flight, hotel and rent-a-car all at once. It is also fairly easy to use the site to search for things to do, and even book activities and events. Plus you get a bigger discount when you book as a package deal.
We flew on an early flight, which really works for us as a family in a few ways:
kids are too tired to cause a havoc… (yours might be super tired and cranky and this might not work for you, so don’t hunt me down)
easier to get boarding passes and go thru security check point (shorter lines, if any)
traffic on the highway almost non-existent
get to the destination earlier, have more time to explore on arrival day
We stayed at Courtyard by Marriott Denver North/Westminster and it was perfect. Room cleanliness, indoor pool for kiddos, great customer service, on-site bistro, and proximity to everything were topping the ‘score’ chart. The hotel was a walking distance to many food and shopping options. Literally across the parking lot. With check-in done and bags unpacked,
it was time to sail off to adventure…
RED ROCKS PARK & AMPHITHEATER + BOULDER COLORADO
Red Rocks Park is a free attraction. Park is amazing for biking, hiking and exploring trails. It also bursts with captivating natural backdrops for some amazing photography. Amphitheater as well as Colorado Music Hall of Fame (free to explore) is also open to the public, but make sure there are no concerts or private events going on as this will affect hours of operation for visitors. There is an on-site cafe serving coffee, ice cream , popcorn and like, as well as on site full menu restaurant in case you get hungry.
Off to Boulder…
Less than an hour drive from Red Rocks Park is a charming city of Boulder. It has plethora of fun and friendly kid activities, charming cafes and places to eat. Right in the middle of a pedestrian friendly Pearl St. mall is a Pop Jet Fountain. With convenient shaded seating, it was a perfect place for kiddos to cool off and burn off some of their energy whilst we took a break. I always pack an extra outfit when we explore, especially when there is a splash pad involved. We had a quick change in the car and continued on. Girls loved Into The Wind kite shop with so many trinkets, toys, special items, kites, and colorful thingamajigs. There are a lot of inexpensive small items you can pick up if kiddos are itching to get something. We finished our touristy day with some gelato from delicious selections at Gelato Boy. YUM!
ESTES PARK and neighborhood
After talking to few local people, we were encouraged to take kiddos to Laverne Johnson Park at Lyons, and let me tell you… so glad we went. Park was absolutely gorgeous with sandstone cliffs in the background and creek passing through it. With a huge playground, splash pad and picnic area, kids were amazed. We could have stayed there for hours. Zip-line was everyone’s favorite activity.
After a good workout with kiddos, we were ready for some food and refreshments. A short drive from the park is the city of Estes Park and the base to Rocky Mountain National Park. Make sure when you take photos by welcome to Estes Park to say hi to the chipmunks. Girls thought it was the best.
Weather was beautiful, town was charming, and we were super hungry. With so many beautiful distractions it was hard to stick to a plan. Girls kicked off their shoes any chance they got to dip their feet into the water. In Colorado, there was never a lack of the opportunity to do so. Water was Freezing by the way.
After some food at Wapiti Pub, off we went to get some ice cream and continue with more sight seeing.
With food in our bellies, it was time to gear up. Put some warm clothes on and drive up to Rocky Mountain National Park. With so much to see, we had to take into consideration trails that were kiddo friendly. Our favorite was Bear Lake, as it was only a mile walk around, plus absolutely gorgeous. Fee to get into the park is $25 per vehicle and the pass expires at midnight.
West Alluvial Fan Trailhead, was a small toddler manageable hike and a great family photo opportunity. Make sure to read a story of Lawn Lake’s dam rapture in 1982 and the effects it left behind.
You can drive around and take pictures pretty much anywhere in the park and it will be beautiful. I had thousand photos on my phone at least. We really wanted to get up high to Alpine Visitor center and see for ourselves how 12,000 feet above sea level feels like. It was about a 45 minute curvy uphill drive on a one way mountain road with plenty of scenery and wildlife. Some views were out of this world beautiful.
Alpine Visitor Center sits 11,796 feet above sea level at Fall River Pass. A short hike up from visitor center to scenic overlook left us breathless huffing and puffing. Girls were champs considering the strong wind, drop in temperature to low 48 degrees (from 85 btw), steep hill and such high elevation. But the climb was worth the spectacular panoramic views. Plus the kids’ bragging rights of course. Dress warm, wear good shoes and drink plenty of water. 12,000 feet will kick your behind if you don’t. Both my husband and I forgot hiking shoes, so we can tell you about derriere kicking from personal experience. Sigh…
We woke up tired from day before adventures. Girls needed a change of scenery and more leisurely time. After long breakfast and two cups of coffee we decided to go sight see the city of Denver. No climbing or hiking today. We started our day at Larimer Square, a Historic district with independent shops, bars & restaurants. Tons of cute nooks and crannies to explore. Short 10 minute walk from there was Denver Union Station which houses a hotel, shops and restaurants. It has a lively and fun atmosphere, and it is a perfect tourist pop in location. After splashing around, girls enjoyed ice cream at Milkbox Creamery, while hubby and I had some iced coffee from Pigtrain Coffee Company. Well worth it.
We finished our day in Denver with visit to Millenium Bridge, Riverfront Park and a dinner at the Avanti Food & Beverage food hall located in LoHi district. Avanti houses multiple restaurants and three full-service bars, something for everyone’s taste. We had pizza followed by Italian S’Mores at Brava! Pizzeria Della Strada. Highly recommended by Ela and Ema.
GARDEN OF THE GODS
Last stop on our Colorado Adventure was Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. The Garden of the Gods Park and Visitor & Nature Center are free to the public and fun for the whole family. With ongoing daily activities, beautiful rock formations, accessibility to hiking and biking, and amazing scenery you won’t run out of things to do. Make sure to stop by visitor center across the street to cool off, grab a souvenir or a refreshment and to take a beautiful panoramic photo of the park. Make sure you bring water, sunscreen and comfy shoes.
Our lovely family trip soon came to an end. I felt we only scratched the surface of everything Colorado has to offer. We cannot wait to come back and explore more of its natural beauty, charming towns and fun city adventures. Until next time…
Feel free to comment below or send me a private message in case you have any questions or suggestions.
Happy travels and stay well.