Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Tips for Your Trip to Colorado

So you want to visit Colorado. I’m guessing you’re drawn to the state for a variety of reasons: world-class skiing, unbeatable beers, gorgeous vistas from the tops of 14ers, unending outdoor activities and 300-plus days of sunshine. Or you got orders and you had no choice but to “visit” for a couple years.  

Whatever your situation I realize I probably sound a little biased. Is Colorado really that awesome? But the thing is, you’re going to visit Colorado and suddenly find that you totally agree with me.  

Sure, you’ve heard of Denver and you’ve probably heard of Colorado Springs, since so many military bases are in those areas.  

But there’s so much more to the state than just Denver and the Springs. Are you ready to explore the state like a local and discover some hidden gems in the REAL sunshine state? Then check out some of these Colorado must-dos and must-sees.

World-Class Skiing 

If you’re going to ski for the first time in Colorado then you can’t miss Steamboat Springs. Their ski resort is one of the best because of the variety of terrain and the amount of snow they receive every year. From green runs to tree skiing to double blacks, there’s something for everyone at this resort. 

And you better believe you’ll have the best ski day of your life when they get a fresh dumping of snow. 

It’s typically less crowded than Breckenridge or Aspen and it’s the type of mountain town that will make you think, “You know, I could see myself living here.” Their downtown has a variety of restaurants serving locally sourced food, and there are several hot springs to relax in after a long day on the slopes. 

$$ Savings Tip $$ Visit one of the ITT offices at one of the many bases in Colorado to get discounted military lift tickets. If you’re looking to stay at a budget hotel, The Steamboat Lodge cannot be beat (look for them on or Travelocity to get the best deal!). It’s nothing fancy, but it’s a cheap and safe place to rest your head at the end of a long day of ripping sick lines...or pizza-ing your way down a blue run.

Honorable Mentions: If you can't make Steamboat work, you can also find great skiing in Keystone, Breckenridge and Telluride. Check ITT for lift tickets to these resorts as well. 

Soothing Hot Springs 

Colorado is known for its many hot springs. From Radium Springs to Colorado Springs to Steamboat Springs, there’s hot water coming out of the ground all over the state.  

If you’re looking to soak in some natural spring water, then the hot springs in Pagosa Springs cannot be beat. There are a few different areas to get your relaxation on, but the best place to go is The Springs Resort & Spa. They have 23 therapeutic pools at varying temperatures, so there’s a pool for everyone at this relaxing retreat. 

Stay at the hotel for 24-hour access to the soaking pools, or stay somewhere more affordable and buy a day or week pass. Once you’re soaking in the warm water, enjoy the view of the river running right through the middle of town.

And if you’re in the pools toward the end of the day, stick around for the sunset -- you won’t be disappointed.  

** Native Tip** It’s easy to spend all day in the pools, but watch out for the sun! You’re at a higher altitude in Colorado, which means you’re literally closer to the sun. Make sure to put on plenty of sunscreen throughout the day, and don’t forget to drink lots of water! 

Honorable Mentions: While Pagosa Springs is hard to beat, the hot springs at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs and Strawberry Park Hot Springs won’t disappoint. Both are more rustic, but no less relaxing.

Delicious Places to Eat 

This one is tough because I LOVE food. So I broke this one down into a mini-list, differentiating between genres of amazing food in Colorado.  

Mexican - There’s a lot of debate in my family about the best Mexican food in Colorado. But if I had to choose I’d go to Las Delicias in downtown Denver. Their food is definitely authentic and you’ll be begging for their green chili recipe by the end of your visit! 

Burgers - Drifter’s Hamburgers in Colorado Springs, hands down, has the best burger. Ever. Their uncomplicated recipe makes for a burger that you’ll just have to have again. And don’t forget a side of their delicious shoestring fries.  

Wild Game - The Fort located outside of Golden is known for their food and drink of the old west. But don’t assume this restaurant is gimmicky. All of their foods are based on recipes and ingredients available in the 1830s and their menu offers unique entrees like buffalo steaks, elk chops, quail and Colorado territory beef. If you’re looking for authentic “Colorado” food then this is the place to go.  

Fondue - Der Fondue Chessel at the top of Keystone’s North Peak Mountain cannot be beat. Close your eyes and imagine a large Nordic-style wooden hall with long wooden tables, an impossibly tall ceiling and a massive roaring fireplace. Then imagine artisanal cheeses with meats like elk and buffalo for dinner. Just try to tell me you don’t want to go! 

Pub Grub - If you’re looking for a place that has a little bit of everything then head over Wazee Lounge & Supper Club in downtown Denver. Pretty much everything on the menu is delectable, but their pizza will really hit the spot. And if you’re interested in trying some local beers then you need look no further than Wazee’s. 

Awesome 14ers - To Visit and To Hike 

Of course if you visit Colorado you’re probably interested in visiting a mountain, if not hiking one! Known for the 53 fourteeners(mountains with a minimum height of 14,000 feet) spread out across the state, people from around the world flock to Colorado to take on one of these beautiful peaks.  

To Hike - If you’re looking to hike a 14er, then I definitely recommend starting with Mt. Bierstadt. It’s one of the more accessible mountains in the state and it’s a great beginners peak. Even if you’re a seasoned hiker, the vistas you’ll take in throughout the hike are definitely worth a visit. 

This hike starts at a higher elevation (around 10,000 feet) but you only gain about 2,800 feet during the hike, making it manageable for hikers of varying levels. Keep your eyes peeled as moose love to graze in the marshy valley you walk through on your way to the summit! I saw four bull moose the last time I hiked that peak!  

**Native Tip** This hike can take between two and six hours, so start early in the morning to avoid getting caught on the summit during typical Colorado afternoon thunderstorms. And don’t forget to lather on the sunscreen and bring lots of water!  

To Visit - So maybe hiking an entire mountain isn’t for you. No worries! Head to Manitou Springs to visit Pikes Peak. One of the better-known mountains in the state, Pikes Peak is great for those not interested in hiking to the top. 

Drive the Pikes Peak Highway to the summit or better yet, take the Cog Railroad and enjoy the scenery without worrying about staying on the road. Drink in the gorgeous views of Colorado Springs from the top as well as the mountain range on the “backside” of the mountain. It’s breathtaking! And don’t forget to grab yourself a piping hot donut from the gift shop.  

**Native Tip** Parking is very limited at the base of the peak. If you plan on taking the cog, park in Manitou Springs and take one of the free shuttles that’ll deliver you right to the start of the Cog Railway. 

Outstanding Breweries 

If you didn’t already know, beer is kind of a big deal in Colorado. Home to over 2,800 breweries and four of the top 50 brewing companies in the nation, this is the place to try some amazing beer. An admirer of beer myself, I had to break this category down into sub-categories since there are so many great places to grab an excellent beer.  

**Native Tip** Remember you’re at a higher altitude which means it takes less alcohol to become more intoxicated. Make sure to drink plenty of water while enjoying some of Colorado’s finest beers.  

Colorado Springs - Housed in a former elementary-school-turned-nightlife-hotspot, Bristol Brewing Company is the brewery to check out in the Springs. Definitely give their flagship beer, Beehive, a try (it’s my favorite beer) and enjoy your pint their rustic-modern taproom.  

Denver - There’s a good chance you’ll get overwhelmed with the brewery options in Denver. So I’ll narrow it down for you. Visit Prost for the best German-style beers in Denver. Stop by Denver Beer Co. for beers with crazy flavors like their Graham Cracker Porter or Princess Yum Yum (it’s right across the river from Prost so you might as well visit both!) 

And last but not least, visit my all-time favorite brewery, Great Divide Brewing Co., to find out what it’s like to love every beer on tap. But if you’re only going to try one, then let your mind be blown by their divine imperial stout they call “Yeti.”  

Boulder - Okay, so you might get a bit overwhelmed by the brewery options in Boulder as well. So here are the must-visits while you’re in the CU city: Avery Brewing Co., Upslope Brewing Company, and Colorado’s first craft brewery,Boulder Beer. I could spend hours talking about the amazing beers these breweries. But since I don’t have that much time, I’m just going to tell you to visit at least one of them and see for yourself what the brouhaha is all about.  

Fort Collins - All within a mile loop of one another, New Belgium, Odells Brewing Co. and Fort Collins Brewery are must-visits. You’re probably familiar with New Belgium but their taproom is eclectic and they’ve always got something interesting on tap. As for Odells and FCB, they have beers you’ll wish you could get in stores across the country.  

**Native Tip** Blend in with the locals by renting a bike in Fort Collins and biking between all three breweries! They’re less than a mile apart. But make sure not to ride drunk. 

Place To Buy Art Like The Locals 

 A wise woman once told me that when you travel it’s always a good idea to buy a piece of local art from wherever you visit. That way when you come home, you have a memento that’ll remind you of your trip and will serve as a beautiful decoration in your home. That woman happened to be my mother, but that doesn’t diminish the wisdom of this advice. 

If you’re looking for western art (think picturesque landscapes, colorful western animals, one-of-a-kind airplane paintings, portraits of cowboys and Indians, and unique animal sculptures), then the Tracy Miller Gallery is the place to go. There’s something for everyone in this gallery and I dare you to try to walk away without buying something!  

But if photography is more your style, then don’t miss John Fielder’s Colorado in Denver. He’s the Colorado photographer who’s spent over 40 years capturing every inch of Colorado, from its scenery to its wildlife. His gallery photos may not fit in your home, but his famous Colorado 1870-2000 book is the perfect Colorado souvenir. 

No matter where you go or what you do in Colorado, you’re bound to have a great time. I hope you get the chance to check out some of these must-see spots in the state that gets 300-plus days of sunshine a year! Happy trails! 

What’re some of your favorite spots in Colorado? Where would you recommend a friend or family member visit? 

About the Author
Alexis Rose is the founder of Wife in the Wild Blue Yonder, a blog dedicated to providing advice and resources to military spouses. She's determined to help others by sharing personal stories and useful information that other military spouses can learn from and apply to their own lives. She's a passionate writer and photographer, a Harry Potter fanatic, a lover of dogs, a swimmer and a yogi. She's always up for an adventure and she loves to travel. You can find out more about her blog at You can also stay up to date with Alexis on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+


  1. Thank You Alexis for the shout out about my gallery!

  2. Yay for Colorado! It's been on my travel bucket list for ages but I've (sadly) never really been there. (I'd like to not count sleeping under some chairs at the Denver airport.) I love all your native tips--will definitely have to keep those in mind for when I finally get to go visit! :D

  3. The maternal half of my family mostly live in Colorado. My husband and I haven't been in a few years, but we've made three trips there during just the five years of our relationship! We're planning a long weekend back next spring for Denver and Boulder.