Denver & Boulder on a Budget
I love the feel of Denver and Boulder. It seems like everyone was wearing Patagonia jackets and walking their dogs. I initially bought plane tickets there for a surprise trip for Collin’s birthday. I was being so careful about not giving the destination away, but of course, I slipped within a few days after buying the plane tickets. Oh well.
How We Got There I found the plane tickets through “JustFly.” They were super cheap, and I just used credit card points to pay for both plane tickets.
I have also been saving up rental car points through Enterprise Plus, so we had a free rental all weekend! It’s free to join and you earn free rentals. While we were in Florida, we used “Fox Rental” because it was cheap, but it felt sketchy and the car wasn’t in great condition… it feels better to just use a company that is a few dollars more per day that we trust more. Plus Enterprise has the best customer service.
Where We Stayed We booked this place through Airbnb. It’s a private space with its own entrance and a hottub. It’s centrally located in Denver, but in hindsight I wish we would have booked a place in Boulder. All of the hiking we have done has been in Boulder, which is about 35 minutes from our Airbnb. The hot tub was especially nice after those long hikes.
To read more about why to try Airbnb, check out this article.
What We Did We had a lot of friends sending us great recommendations for both Denver and Boulder. In Denver, we ate at the Denver Biscuit Company our first morning here. It was SO good. Best biscuits ever. There are a few different locations around Denver, and the one we went to was in a whole marketplace area. Afterwards we grabbed coffee at a place next door and walked around the shops in the marketplace. The espresso was less than average, and the coffee was about average. We had been up since 4am for our flight though, so we were just thankful for some caffeine though.
After brunch and coffee we drove out to Boulder to do the First and Second Flatirons hike. This hike was around 3 miles long. It was a “moderate” level hike, and we took our time getting acclimated to the altitude. We made plenty of stops to catch our breath. The funny thing is that at the top we actually ran into someone Collin knew in college in Iowa who was also out visiting friends in Denver. Small world!
Whenever we are hiking, it’s sort of a tradition to get Mexican food and margaritas afterwards. The margaritas are always a good motivation for me to get through the hike. 🙂 We found a place in Boulder that was good and it happened to be happy hour when we went. We got $2 tacos and 2-for-1 margaritas.
That night we met a friend at the Viewhouse in downtown Denver. It had a fun atmosphere & good drinks. They have a yard with different yard games and a rooftop bar with views of the city. Once it gets late, it turns into more of a club which isn’t really our type of place (especially when trying to chat with a friend over loud music).
Often on vacation, we try to save money when eating out by only having two large meals a day and some snacks, rather than eating out for three meals per day. On longer trips we usually try to go grocery shopping too and prepare some meals at the hostel or Airbnb. On this trip, we had a large breakfast/brunch out in the mornings and then a big early dinner later. We also stopped at the grocery store for a some granola bars and other snacks for the hikes and drives. On Saturday morning we ate at Snooze for brunch, which was delicious! We were told that Snooze is the “quintessential Denver brunch place.” They also have a few locations around the city. We ate a nice big breakfast before our long hike.
After brunch, we drove back up to Boulder for the Bear Canyon hike. We were sore for the next several days. It was definitely the hardest hike I have ever done, but I joke that I only cried once during it. It was beautiful and brought us to the top of Bear Peak. We took Fern Trail back down the mountain, which was steep, but took less time. It probably would’ve been better to take Fern Trail up and then the Bear Canyon trail down due to the steepness/difficulty. The loop was about 9.6 miles in all, and it took us almost exactly six hours. As I mentioned before, we stopped at a Safeway before the hike to get some water bottles, beef jerky, and granola bars so we could skip lunch.
While we were climbing back down from the peak, we were chatting with a hiker that was going up. He asked if we made it all the way up, and when we said yes he responded “That’s gonna make dinner taste extra good!” He was right! That night we ate at our favorite restaurant from this trip (recommended by good friends), Lucky Pie.They had fantastic pizza (& margaritas on happy hour). We ate two entire pizzas– yeah, we were starving after that hike. Next door to Lucky Pie was an ice cream shop called Sweet Cow. It had cookie dough ice cream and I felt like I deserved it.
On the third day we met friends for brunch at a place called Sassafrass.They had a rainbow of Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas and even different flights of both. It had a quirky feel and yummy food. It looked like it would be great for lunch or dinner too.
Later that day we walked around the South Broadway area. We had friends recommend several different places along that road: Gozo, The Hornet, The Post Brewery, Denver Distillery, Archetype Distilery, and Sputnick’s. Several of the restaurants and breweries have rooftop seating, and it’s just a fun area to walk around. We went into a few different shops and ended up leaving Buffalo Exchange with a few things. (To make our basic economy bags burst even more)
Before our flight left that night, we decided to go for a bit of a scenic drive. After some googling, we ended up taking highway 6 out of the city towards Golden to highway 70 and along highway 74. That route was gorgeous along the mountains and foothills. Along 74, in Evergreen, we stopped at a brewery called Lariat Lodge. They had good drinks and a cool atmosphere. We sat on the porch facing the mountains and evergreen trees and sipped on a few drinks. Side note– Colorado Collin is a bit of a lightweight because of the altitude & it has saved us money. Further along highway 74 we stopped at the red rocks theater to check it out and walk around before we drove off to the airport. This whole little scenic drive was called the Lariat Loop.
Moral of the Colorado Story: just enjoy the outdoors! It’s cheaper and better than museums and zoos and aquariums (although we did hear that Denver has excellent ones).
What recommendations would you include for a trip to Colorado?
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