DAY ONE – DENVER
After a 9 hour stand-by, due to TSA taking their sweet time, I landed in Denver, Colorado. Stepping off the plane, I was ecstatic to have finally reached my destination. “Hello, Denver, I made it! I’m in Colorado,” I said while walking through the terminal at the airport. I had given up all hope of actually getting on a flight that day, but by some miracle, a representative of American Airlines was able to confirm my seat on a 3 PM departure.
The Denver airport had a Caribou Coffee and I decided that was going to be my first stop; the Chicago locations had closed down in the last few years and I missed their refreshments. Grabbing my latte to go, I boarded a shuttle that took me to the rental car area. After securing my car, I pulled out of the National parking lot and entered the highway that would take me into downtown Denver. As soon as the car changed directions, I saw them. The majestic white, cerulean, and navy mountains that brought us to this beautiful city; the mountains that defined the daily lives of Denver locals. I knew I had to see them up close so I decided to plan the next day’s hike as soon as I got to my hotel.
15 minutes later, I arrived at the DoubleTree Hotel on Quebec Street and checked-in. My room was pretty, the lobby was cute, and the staff were all very accommodating. (They even gave me a phone charger to use for the weekend because mine broke the first night there.) I decided to go to a Wal-Mart in the area and pick up a few basic necessities, then stop by Papa John’s and get a small pizza for dinner, and then head back to the room to plan my evening out. Getting ready theme music for the night: Ocean Drive by Duke Demont.
Arriving in downtown, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d read reviews on numerous locations via Yelp and TripAdvisor, but when I drove past those places, they seemed to lack people. I finally ended up calling the hotel’s recreation center and they informed me that most people go to bars at the intersection of 20th and Market Street. After parking near that intersection, I started walking down the “mean streets” of downtown Denver.
The first bar that stood out to me was called Tavern. It was dark, had a trendy appeal to it, and it played good music. It was the perfect start to the night! Walking in, I immediately noticed that the place had a very similar feel to Chicago’s John Barley Corn. There was a bar on the first floor for those that wanted to just sit and chill and a flight of stairs that lead to the club/rooftop area. I dashed up the stairs and set foot into a completely different atmosphere than the bar below. The place was packed, people were drinking, dancing, and hanging out on the open roof, even though it was freezing. After spending about an hour there, I decided to explore other places.
Leaving Tavern, I went across the street to a place called Lodo’s Bar and Grille. It had a similar building structure to Tavern. I had to go up a long flight of stairs to enter the actual social scene. There were 3 counters on that floor, an outdoor section, a huge dingy dance floor, and a few tables to sit at by the walls. It looked kind of broke and I was thinking to stick around for 15 minutes and then head out to a place called The View House, recommended by the hotel’s rec. center. However, things never go as planned. While I was bopping to the music, I ended up meeting some pretty cool people and decided to stay a bit longer. A few more minutes turned into a few more hours and before I knew it, the bar was closing. Instead of going back to my room though, I headed out to a small after party at my new friend’s apartment.
I woke up at 6:30 AM. I was still at the after party apartment, but had fallen asleep on the couch. I rushed out the door, got the car from the lot, and drove back to the hotel to catch a few more hours of sleep. I needed to rest because my plan was to go hiking at 10 AM at the Rocky Mountain National Park.
DAY TWO – ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK & DENVER
The sun light was exceedingly bright for someone who hadn’t slept much. I cracked open my eyes at 10:30 AM and got ready for the day’s hike. Sports gear, water bottles, sunglasses, and cameras; I was on my way to nature. The drive to the park took about an hour and a half and by the time I reached the entrance, I was starving. I stopped to eat a small breakfast diner called The Egg & I – the food was pretty decent, but I’ve definitely had better. I’d recommend their sweet breakfast options over their eggs. It was a cute place to stop and enjoy the mountains, though.
Entering the park cost $20 per car. I drove through the gate and started making my way up the landform. About 7 minutes up I saw a bunch of cars pulled over to the side and a large group taking pictures. It was elk! I, too, stopped the car and made my way down the hill to see the elk. Due to the crowd, the animals seemed threatened, and the leader stood completely still judging our intentions. After the crowds backed off a bit and watched from a further distance, the elk seemed calmer.
It was frightening driving on mountain roads without fences. One wrong move and I could have easily fallen to my death. Other than that, it was absolutely lovely seeing the autumn colors complement the snowy peaks. I visited Bear Lake, Moraine Park, Glacier Basin, Beaver Meadows, Rainbow Curve, and Alpine – all different areas of the park. My favorite was Alpine because it was as close to the peak as one could get. My ears were popping, my breathing was shallow, and yet all I felt was complete peace in the silence; the mountains helped inspire a renewed sense of life.
I stopped, parked, and walked around each of the areas I drove past and then decided to make my way back down the mountain. Of course, I could not remember which roads I took on my way up, especially after seeing so many areas. Getting lost on a mountain is fun…in the beginning, but after a while it can get a bit scary. After fumbling with the map and asking for directions, I finally found my way to the gate.
I got back to the hotel and took a 2 hour nap and then got ready for the night. Getting ready theme music for the night: Hotline Bling – Drake. I decided to try a place called El Chapultepec for dinner; it had been a part of a Top 50 Dive Bars in the World list on Business Insider – Travel’s website. The food was so-so, I would not recommend it, but the atmosphere was definitely fun. Similar to that of an alehouse in the suburbs of Chicago. After dinner I was supposed to meet up with my new friends from the night before, but they were further away than expected, so I decided to see the nightlife in my area instead.
My first stop was a place called Chloe, the equivalent of Epic in Chicago’s River North area. It was smoky, dark, and pretty broke; there were only a few groups all of which were at tables getting bottle service. I hightailed it out of there within 5 minutes and walked over to Pour House. The Denver location of this chain bar was much smaller than the Chicago one, but it was cozy and fun. The bartender was so thoughtful that he gave me a glass of hot water to warm my hands up because he saw that I was shivering while sitting on the bar-stool.
Leaving Pour House, I took a cab over to The View House. Per an earlier text, my new friends were inside that venue, but it was too late and they were closing. Since it was cold, I did not want to wait for them, so I, instead, got back into the car and picked up the missing comrades from an alternate location. Finally, my new friends were with me!
They took me to a hookah club called the Golden Pyramid Social Club, roughly 30 minutes away from 20th and Market. It was similar to a hookah bar, but in the middle of the room there was a tiled dance floor which was glowing with neon lights, people were dancing on it to loud hip-hop music, and everyone was intoxicated. On both sides of the room, all around the dance floor, were leather couches and tables, with large hookahs. It was completely awesome. I spent the night conversing, people watching, and just enjoying the place. After dropping off my friends at their apartment, I got back to the hotel at 5 AM.
DAY THREE – BOULDER
Waking up on Sunday was much better than Saturday; I was not as tired because my night had been much tamer. I checked out of the hotel as early as I could because my flight was at 5 PM and I still had to see Boulder. The town was 40 minutes away from Denver and 45 minutes from the airport.
I found parking for free in the lot by the library and walked about 2 blocks into downtown Boulder. It was picturesque. A quaint, cute, city with a small-town feel all through their shopping district, probably because the place was a college town (University of Colorado Boulder). “It’s like walking through the Gilmore Girls town,” I thought, while I strolled about looking for souvenir shops.
I found 2 really great places to buy gifts for all of my friends back home and then decided it was time for lunch.
After contemplating between Old Chicago, The Kitchen, and a coffee house, I decided to eat at Lindsay’s Boulder Deli @ Haagen-Dazs. They had sandwiches and soup on one side of the restaurant and a huge ice cream selection on the other. It was great. The place is known for their grilled cheese on wheat and tomato soup, but their Mediterranean veggie sandwich is pretty delicious too.
As all good things often do, my trip had come to an end. I landed at O’Hare around 9 PM. It was sad to be back home after such a short time away, I missed the magnificence of Denver and Boulder throughout the rest of the week, and decided that I’d definitely return one day soon. So thank you, Colorado, for your mountains, your food, and the company of your locals. I’ll be seeing ya!