While I usually travel with my husband, I decided to take on 24-hours in Denver alone, and it was a trip was marked by both exhaustion and excitement. If you know much about me, you know mountains are my favorite type of vacation – more than beach and more than city. This was my first time seeing the Rocky Mountains, and I was ecstatic. I left on Friday night and returned Saturday night, and since I was on extreme budget restrictions, I had to choose between staying in a hotel and renting a car. I chose renting a car, which meant sleeping in said car in a hotel parking lot. Exhausting? Yes. But even more exciting? Yes!
PLACES TO GO
When I set off for Denver, I knew I wanted to see the Rockies and experience nature at its best. For me, this meant getting up at 4:30 a.m. and traveling 2 hours to Grand Lake to watch the sunrise in the mountains. I stopped at Grand Lake — with a quaint town on the lake, mountains surrounding it and fog above it, Grand Lake was mystical and inspiring. On my way back from the RMNP, I was able to pass by Grand Lake again (this time in daylight) and it was completely different yet equally as beautiful as the first stop.
Rocky Mountain National Park
The Rockies were by far my favorite part of Denver, and although they are about a 2-hour drive from the city, they are worth a visit. Within the Rocky Mountain National Park, you can drive on Trail Ridge Road, which gives you arguably the greatest views of America’s top mountain range. Make sure you travel in May or later, though, or else the road may be closed due to heavy snowfall.
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Just outside Denver is the Red Rocks Amphitheater, a legend- (wait for it) -ary theater that has hosted musicians like the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. It is a beautiful venue, and if you have the chance to see a concert – any concert – then take it. There were no concerts when I went to RRA, but I did see a group of high school students taking their prom pictures. Can you imagine such a beautiful backdrop for pictures?
Great Divide Brewing Co.
Or any brewery, really! Denver is a Mecca for microbreweries — enjoy getting a free or low-cost brewery tour and after, a pint of beer.
Of course, you can head to downtown Denver, go to the shopping center or waterfront parks. One park I enjoyed was Washington Park – it had great green space and two lakes! There are plenty of other parks to enjoy within Denver city limits, so just choose one and go relax!
If you love the mountains like I do, then I definitely recommend renting a car. You can’t go to Denver without seeing the Rockies! But if it’s not your thing, then you can get around perfectly fine with public bus and walking.
WHERE TO EAT
Olive and Finch
I ate lunch at a cute restaurant called Olive and Finch and loved its café-esque atmosphere and interesting sandwich selection. If you’re not up to trying something new, then I do not recommend this restaurant. The dishes contain a variety of ingredients, so be sure to check out what you’re getting before you order.
Olive and Finch also had free Wi-Fi, which is always a plus.
I really wish I could give you more great, budget-friendly restaurants to eat at when you’re in Denver, but sadly my only other meal happened at 8:30 a.m. at McDonald’s. My day started at 4:30 a.m., when no restaurants are open, and when it was time to eat something, I was in the mountains and it was still only 8:30 a.m. Since my time was extremely limited and the schedule was a bit off from “normal,” meals were different for this trip. Thus, I had hashbrowns and an iced coffee in a small Mickey D’s on my way back from the RMNP. Although it was McDonald’s, it was in the middle of a cute mountain town, and I forgot that I was eating chemically-enhanced potatoes and focused on the beauty around me.
The Wayfaring Woman