Colorado and New Mexico Road Trip
Given I am 4th generation Colorado (on one side of my family at least), it holds a very special place for me and the mountains routinely call to me. I recently spent September driving around Colorado and New Mexico, for both business with my Sonder Communications and fun time, which turned out to be a spectacular time of year – still warm but leaves change colors in the mountains, perfect hiking temperature. It’s no secret Colorado is one of the fastest growing states, with a beautiful landscape and a booming economy. Denver has grown the most, Boulder not far behind (especially as CU is there, Ad agencies moved in and now Google is setting up shop), so the options for hotels/resorts/ranches/home rental and dining have grown with it. But don’t forget to tack on side trips to the beautiful mountain towns which are there in abundance, and are to be enjoyed year round – afterall you come here to be healthy and play outside! Since I go back often to see family and clients, I wanted to pass on some things below (basic, non-ski focused), though it is worth noting Colorado Tourism is fantastic and very active across all social platforms, so make sure to connect with them and see what special ideas they have to customize for you: Colorado.com
On a side note, we are opening our own online store Wild West Home as a nod to our roots, to highlight local products, and give back a percentage of proceeds to our National Parks!
Denver has roughly over 10,000 people flocking to live there each month (yes you read that right, see future growth predictions) and so the City has been building like crazy, from residences to new restaurants. It also finished building a direct rail line from the airport that will take you straight downtown to Union Station, which is fantastic. Union station is walking distance from the major hotels (I actually did a charming Airbnb on my last trip), such as the wonderful Four Seasons Denver, and shops, dining galore. (Tip: It’s also cheaper to rent a car for long term in the city than at the airport….by a long shot.) This is also one of the healthiest places I know, everyone in Colorado gets outside to exercise, frequently, so you will see people running and biking everywhere, and of course going to cheer on anyone of their teams (Rockies, Broncos, Avalanche). Also here is the Denver Art Museum + Museum of art & science, a multitude of cool new neighborhoods to explore, and I don’t think I can even tackle the restaurant scene because it changes constantly but I have yet to be disappointed, and am sharing Eater’s recent list of faves here instead. On instagram @VisitDenver always has good ideas, and @Denver.Darling for fun
*I have to add this in here for good measure: 1 – This is the home of beer, literally. Both craft beer and the Coors plant so if that’s your thing, then you are in luck! 2 – One of my favorite outdoor concert venues – Red Rocks Amphitheatre – is a drive away 3 – If you like weed, you are in luck, it’s legal here 😉 4- A number of mountain towns have legalized gambling so if you want a mini Vegas experience, head to Central City, Black Hawk or (gulp) Cripple Creek which my relatives used to run (from government – senator – to the bottling plant to the ice cream) over 100 years ago. My, how the times have changed :0
Go Buffs! Home to the main Colorado University Campus, Boulder embraces it’s hippie past and healthy lifestyle and is only about 40 minutes from Denver, closer to the mountains. In fact it tends to be a daily routine to hike the Flatirons there, as it is to walk the shops on Pearl Street (where they usually have open markets on the weekend). The historic Hotel Boulderado is here as well, and its stained glass ceiling is stunning – grab a drink at its bar for sure.
Vail, Beaver Creek
About 1.45 minutes from Denver, Vail (Four Seasons is here) and neighboring Beaver Creek (Ritz Carlton is here) have a tradition ski village feel, and caters to it’s international visitors with an abundance of dining and luxury stores to choose from (i.e. Gorsuche). A collection of local villages are only 5-10 minutes apart so don’t forget you can jump around all of them for some variety. Dining will cost you, but then again if you rent a house with some friends, you can just do it yourself 😉
Apsen is possibly my favorite – the views, the hiking, the skiing, the biking, the shopping & dining. While Aspen certainly has a reputation as a billionaires playground (see the local small airport lined up with private jets, local celebrity residents Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Melanie Griffith, etc. or the real estate currently for sale including Bill Koch’s $80 million home), don’t think for a minute that it is not accessible. Aspen has a traditional, historic town feel at the heart of it, and offers a multitude of places to stay just outside the center, all over Snowmass and Crested Butte, so there is no need to actually stay IN the city center unless you really want to. Lots of options, and who doesn’t want a cabin up in the mountains? Definitely a good place to load up on groceries too vs. dining out all the time (not for lack of options, just price) and splurge on some western home decor at Georgia Brown Antiques. during the Fall, it was absolutely gorgeous to drive up the Independence Pass & back in Castle Creek, making a stop at the Ashcroft ghost town in between.
It’s a little harder to get here in that it is located in the south west portion of the state, away from everything else. It’s a long drive from Denver but they do have a small local airport. (Or maybe you could be buddies with residents Oprah or Ralph Lauren and hitch a ride 😉 Telluride is enjoying a boom of interest as well, and has become a host of many festivals from film to the recent blues festival. In all honesty I don’t know it well enough…yet…but hope to update this in the very near future.
Alamosa, Great Sand Dunes National Park
It is definitely worth a slight detour on your way South towards New Mexico, to drive towards Alamosa, which is mainly just open landscape but home to Zapata Ranch (see @owlfaceowlface and @kateloveshorses on instagram who work there) and the Great Sand Dunes National Park which is a surreal experience, like being on a different planet. Bring a board and sand surf the mountains!
I’ll be honest, I don’t normally stop here for a number of reasons BUT it should be noted that the incredible Broadmoor Resortis located here and it is WOW.
Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico
In my mind, if you have the time to add on a second trip you should absolutely head to New Mexico. Frankly, the green chili alone could bring me back there in a heartbeat. Taos is a small town known as a sort of mecca for artists throughout the years, and its a tradition that continues today. It’s still a wonderful place to buy art from locals, and while it can be touristy you need to walk the Taos plaza looking at shops I usually always pick up at least 1 new piece of silver jewelry, as well as see the Rio Grande Gorge and Taos Pueblos. The accommodations aren’t that strong but the dining is for authentic fare – I always need a legit enchilada fix, so I normally head to Orlando’s for a casual dining and the Love Apple is good too. Santa Fe on the other hand, is a much larger draw and has brought in regular visitors for years – it offers many accommodation options, excellent restaurants, and yes more shopping around it’s own plaza BUT…it really is a great place to buy sheepskin from places like Overland or luxury cowboy boots from our friends at Back at the Ranch and ship it home, often without taxes or shipping costs. I also grab a margarita, and yes enchiladas, at The Shed. No doubt you will see the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi or Museum of International Folk art given proximity to the plaza, but it is a nice drive out to the Santa Fe Opera house, conveniently near the Four Seasons there too. What are you waiting for?