A postcard around every corner
by Michael Morcos
Colorado may be a giant, square-shaped state in the western part of the U.S., but it boasts some of the most striking scenery and an interesting melting pot of locals that hail from every corner of the globe. Western flair meets modern beauty in many of the cities, as fresh art galleries and points of interest pop up on the regular alongside old saloons and ranch-themed clothing stores. Many who’ve chosen to live at this destination full-time find a great balance between work and play, being able to find jobs and still hit the slopes or hike through the national forests. I had a wonderful time exploring this region and immersing myself into the culture of Colorado.
The wonders of downtown Denver
With such an eclectic group of guests and residents, Denver has made sure that it’s stocked with enough different places to discover that suits various tastes. For instance, sports fans have found their paradise – they can catch a ballgame in the summer at the state-of-the-art Coors field, or try out their own athletic ability on the countless ski and board slopes in the winter. On the same track, travelers can connect with Recreational Equipment INC., or REI, while in town to purchase active gear or to partake in some organized outdoor trips, including hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and kayaking. Other more relaxed attractions to check out in Denver are the live music show in Sculpture Park, a meal at a local diner or a tour of the massive capitol building. When it comes to accommodations, the Brown Palace Hotel is one of the classiest choices around, as well as the ideal spot for tea time or a delicious brunch.
Picking up some western gear
A great way to experience Colorado’s capital city is by foot. With so many things around every corner, this way you won’t miss any of the excitement and sights to see. Before hitting the streets, though, it’s important to look the part. That is why I made a stop at the Rockmount Ranch Wear store, famous for it’s western fashion and accessories that are recognized around the world. They offer classic fringed jackets, stately cowboy hats and much more donned by locals and visitors alike.
Art at it’s finest
So now that I looked the part, I was ready to experience more of what this interesting city had to offer. One of the most memorable stops was the Denver Art Museum, which provides various rotating exhibits featuring some of the best artists around the globe, such as photographer Gary Winogrand and painter Vincent van Gogh. It’s well worth spending an afternoon at this mecca of creative art, as it’s beauty perfectly complements its scenic backdrop.
The massive Garden of the Gods
As I ventured out of the city and into it’s picturesque surroundings, the first point of interest I encountered was the Garden of the Gods. Rising up above the tree line are these giant rock formations that create a beautiful landscape, perfect for hiking, picnicking and even horseback riding. This is also the ideal area to take some some excellent photos of Colorado’s natural wonders.
Seeing Colorado from the clouds
While a little scary, a helicopter ride over the mountainous peaks of this state should not be missed. I knew I was in expert hands, though, as the pilot navigated the sky effortlessly so we could catch some amazing views of the environment below in Colorado Springs. This is where I first laid eyes on the Broadmoor state and couldn’t wait to see it up close.
Wildlife at The Broadmoor
This establishment has a very interesting background. Early investors and builders on the project were thought to be a little nutty for constructing such a large resort in the middle of nowhere at the time. However, this vacation hotspot has experienced much success since the early 20th century and continues to draw in all types of guests, including tennis players, lovers of luxury hotels and gamers. There is also a world-class golf course to play on, while the hotel itself is covered in Italian frescos and elegant decor.
Royal Gorge Bridge and Park
After relaxing at the resort, it was time for some more fun. I headed to the Royal Bridge & Park in Canon City. The amusement park spans between both sides of the Gorge, connected by a long bridge and a thrilling skycoaster gondola. This place is perfect for little ones, as it has a petting zoo, wildlife park, mini railroad and plenty of rides.
A drive out to Zapata Ranch
This ranch was a real treat to experience and drive through, spreading out for more than 100,000 acres full of cattle and bison. Covering a large part of southern Colorado, the nature preserve is home to thousands of animals and allows travelers to get up close and personal with the wildlife. This ranch offers packages where you can learn more about its conservation efforts and unique history.
Visiting the Great Dunes National Park
One of the U.S’s newest national parks, the Great Dunes border Zapata Ranch and is welcoming a growing number of visitors every year. It feels like you are transported into the middle of desert, but the surrounding snow-covered mountain tops snap you back into reality with a quick glimpse. People come from miles around to hike through this sandy landscape or sled down the slippery slopes just after rainfall.
The relaxing atmosphere at Pagosa Springs
The natural landmarks throughout Colorado are seemingly endless as I continued to find out at the Pagosa Springs. Day or night this is the ideal place for rejuvenation and admiring the view. I made some time to soak in the hot springs and was not disappointed, as this was the most relaxed I felt on the whole trip. There are several spas in town to choose from, depending if you’re looking for a family vibe or a more romantic environment.
Accommodations in Durango
It was time to move on and journey to the town of Durango. Here, I was transported back in time to when this state was a little more rugged and mostly an unexplored frontier. I stayed at the Strater Hotel, which has retained an old charm that once was the norm decades ago in the wild west. Each elegant room has a distinct personality, usually presented by beautiful dark wood headboards, detailed wall patterns and rich drapes.
Witnessing a Ute tribe dance
Due to the rustic feel of this town in general, many locals claim native American roots and pay homage to this part of the past. I was able to watch a traditional Ute tribe dance while in Durango. Participants wore large headdresses and yellow robes to express power, honor and camaraderie. This was part of the welcoming ceremony I experienced before embarking on the SIlverton Railroad.
A ride on the Silverton Railroad
This line offers guests several options for seeing the sights by locomotive throughout Colorado. I was able to enjoy this comfortable ride and witness some amazing cliff-side views as the rails rugged the precarious route along the mountains. Other tours bring you through old mining areas and through national parks.
Ancient settlements at Mesa Verde National Park
Speaking of national parks, Mesa Verde was a sight to see. Ancient settlers carved their homes into the cliffs for protection from other tribes and the elements. Although these people were among the first to set up camp in the western states, traces of them all have but vanished besides their houses. Nowadays guests can check out the buildings and imagine what life may have been like for these native people. The settlements blend in with their background, made from stones chipped away form the same rock face they are built upon.
Staying at the Gateway Canyon Resort
Colorado has some stunning places to stay right in the middle of nature, including the Gateway Canyon Resort. Nestled in a gorgeous valley, these top-notch accommodations cater to the needs of every single guest. I loved perusing the owner’s giant classic car collection onsite, as well as the plethora of activities offered to all those at the resort. You can try everything from mountain biking and rock climbing to spending the day at the spa or by the pool.
The Gateway Canyon Stables
Horseback riding used to be an intricate part of life for many Colorado locals, and still remains important to many ranchers as a mean of livelihood. Professional cowboys took us out on a great ride through the estate and the mountains on horseback. Depending on your adventurous spirit, you can take a full day or half-day excursion in the area, or try a private lesson to brush up on your skills. Other activities they offer include Native American horse painting, “horseback yoga,” and even classes in equine massage.
Juicy steaks in Grand Junction
Colorado locals are often all about the BBQ and tender meat. After six days of eating beef came the seventh. Visiting the town of Grand Junction brings this idea to a whole new level. I feasted on the largest steak I’ve ever had, accompanied by delectable homemade sides, making for an overall hearty and tasty dishes. With all the active pursuits available throughout this destination, a big, satisfying meal is all the more appreciated.
The remarkable Colorado National Monument
What better way to conclude an amazing trip to Colorado than by visiting the Colorado National Monument. Guests can peer over the side and catch a glimpse of desert vegetation and wildlife.
The giant, dignified National Monument greatly embodies all Colorado stands for in it’s hospitality and diverse history that I will not soon forget and is another picture perfect Colorado postcard.