My best friend's birthday was coming up, as was the birthday of another Colorado-based friend and it was the big 30! I had spare holiday at work but I didn't think I had spare money, so I played with the idea of a surprise appearance in Colorado and then left it until 2-3 weeks before to look for actual flights. Much to my surprise, there were flights available and they were direct from London Heathrow to Denver Colorado. Perfect, I thought, then I saw the total; £391, even better! That was without checked bags of course, but you know me. I don't do checked bags unless they're free! #cheaptraveller
3 weeks flew by like it was 3 days and before I knew it, I was fully packed into my carry on and "personal" item (which United Airlines allow for a reasonably sized backpack).
9 hours direct flight would have been pretty boring had I not met and got chatting to an interesting man who covered all topics from politics to bereavement. That and watching 4 movies made the flight time pass very quickly. I was then met at the airport by my best friend's wife and my other Colorado-based friend! We planned, all the way back to the place we were all staying in Littleton, how we would surprise my best friend. It was decided and when we got back, I hid in his room awaiting his return...
When he opened the door, he was so shocked he cried - from happiness I think... :P
So Colorado was a lot flatter than I expected from the air, but what made up for it was the stunning mountains to the east which were still snow-capped. The drive from the airport to the city is around 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic. Immediately you should notice the drier than usual climate which means that even when it's minus temperatures, you don't feel it as much! It also means that every time you blow your nose, you may get a nosebleed!
I stayed in two places in Denver; Littleton & Arvada. Littleton was a cute little area very close to amazing walking trails and hikes. Arvada had some awesome restaurants and, fun fact, was once known as the 'Celery Capital of the World'. Yea or nay?
Here are some of the things I checked out in Colorado.
Park Meadows Shopping Center
I could have been in this mall for hours! Coming in through Nordstrom, I stopped at Ebar for a really tasty golden latte before popping into Anthropologie and losing myself in the gorgeous fluffy slippers, accessories and candles. For lunch, head to the second floor for a wide selection of cuisines to choose from. I grabbed tacos from chipotle - yum!
If you want to relax, you could get yourself a nice massage or if you've been dragged here by your girlfriend (or boyfriend!), you can grab a seat by the water fountain and wait for her to shop 'til she drops.
America is well known for their unhealthy food, but this grocers is totally different! With all natural and healthy options, and even some sustainable choices, it's a haven for health lovers. Even more so for those of us with allergies and intolerances!
Another place that blew my mind in terms of healthy eating. The market offered a selection of nutritious and delicious salads as well as other choices. Even some of their sodas were natural and made with raw or unrefined sugars. I enjoyed a Thai coconut salad.
Red Rock Park & Amphitheatre
So you didn't come to Colorado just to go to the mall and grab some healthy snacks did you? You came to see something that you can't see anywhere else in the world, and this place is exactly that!
The Red Rock Park is full of awe-inspiring views with huge red sandstone rock formations. This time of year was particularly beautiful as the red stone contrasted with the white snow. Although exploring the large Amphitheatre was all the more dangerous if, like me, your shoes didn't have grip on the ice.
The Amphitheatre is an award-winning venue used for concerts, shows and other things, including a sunrise yoga class in the summer.
South Valley Park
If you thought the views ended at the Red Rock Park, you were wrong! As you head into South Valley Park, the view that was once hidden reveals itself and your jaw will literally drop! With lots of open spaces, it makes the sandstone rock formations here look like alien pillars placed randomly on the grassy planes.
Walks along the trails take you whichever direction you want to go and for as far as you'd like to walk. In the sun, it can get very warm, but in the shade, very cold! There were patches of snow in some parts.
Spend at least an hour here and maybe even bring a picnic?
Deer Creek Canyon
Just so you know, I wasn't done with the views thing. Oh yeah, Colorado is a hot spot for stunning hikes up beautiful peaks. The Deer Creek Canyon was no different in this regard.
Overlooking the South Valley Park, where I had initially hiked, were mountains just begging to be hiked. So we took our fluffy little husky pup and went on a hiking adventure up one of the peaks.
Some of the trail was glorious in the sunshine, other parts muddy (ew) where the snow had melted and some parts were still covered in snow (more like ice at this stage - I recommend good grippy shoes because mine were not!). There are boot cleaners for when you get back to the carpark.
Garden of the Gods
Alright, I saved the best until last. The Garden of the Gods! Truly, I can't describe it better myself. I don't think I stopped saying "wow" until I left the place. Just driving through, you are met with incredible scenery. Mountains form the backdrop and as the road swerves, you become aware that you are on a mountain yourself. More of these beautiful red formations decorate the spaces to the left and to the right. Huge cliff faces come into view and the sun shines behind the Kissing Camels; a formation atop one of the sandstone cliffs that looks like two camels kissing.
Balance Rock has a queue of people waiting to climb on it and take a photo. The funny thing is, it's literally balancing on it's edge and looks like it could fall any moment.
I tried to climb, but I was too short :( Sad times.
It's a huge park with many places to park up and go for a stroll. But I think this gorgeous pup may have stolen the show this time!
Colorado Springs Old Town
The old town is a pretty place to hang out, it gives you a historical feel with it's small boutiques and quirky coffee shops. Whether you're window shopping or looking for souvenirs, you can be sure to find something you like.
I grabbed a golden latte from Carnelian Coffee and had a stroll past all kinds of shops, art galleries, a local honey shop, an awesome ice creamery and an old chocolate factory - in fact the first of the Rocky Mountain chocolate factory franchise!
You're probably thinking, erm why do I want to go to school? But trust me, you do! This old school has been converted into a local marketplace and brewery. You can enjoy a beer at the Bristol Brewing Company, buy some trinkets in one of the boutiques or get some food in the Principal's Office!
Finally, you may be a little surprised to see a sushi recommendation in a state like Colorado - couldn't be further from the sea... But this place deserves a mention!
Completely packed on the Friday evening that we went, it was obvious that this was a local favourite. If you make a reservation, show up on time or a little early because people literally fight for these tables, and ours got given up being 3 minutes late! (Don't worry they re-seated us when we arrived)!
Once you've written down your orders on the sheet provided, you don't have to wait too long before a huge sushi boat gets delivered to you with ice sculptures and dry ice smoky effects! It's really quite the sight to behold. And as pretty as the display is, the food was equally tasty with good quality seafood used.
I definitely recommend!
So that concludes my Colorado highlights - I hope Colorado has made it onto the list of states you want to visit now that you've seen all dem viewwws!
Where am I going next? Who knows!
Ciao peeps! x
P.S Happy birthday Chello & Kelly x