About a year ago I created this list titled “7 Places I Want to Travel to Before I’m 30“. This list consists of overseas destinations and destinations spread across the US. Out of the US locations, Colorado was one that made the list. I had been to Colorado once before, but I had strictly stayed in downtown Denver, so this time around I wanted to see more. Now, due to COVID restrictions and wildfires burning, this was going to be hard, but I was determined to get out of Wisconsin at least one more time this year. Trying to eliminate the risk factors of contracting COVID, we hopped in our car and drove through the night instead of flying. This worked in our benefit for two reasons. One: We had decided on a more scenic Denver, CO for the first two days and a scenic Fort Collins, CO for the remainder of our stay, so having our jeep was a great decision. Two: Traveling with a toddler can be tricky, so driving while he was asleep solved all tantrum, meal, and potty stop issues. None the less, if you are looking for a little guide to Colorado, look no further. Here’s what we did:
Where we ate
This is by far my favorite part of vacation. I feel like Christian and I have just started planning our trips around where and what we want to eat. Is that the excitement of adulthood? Do we have nothing better to do with our lives, but eat?
Going into this trip we knew we had to eat here. Over time we have compiled a stellar list of restaurants from the Food Network series “Diner’s Drive-Ins and Dives” that we would like to eat at, and Fat Sully’s was at the top of that list. Fat Sully’s isn’t just a pizza joint, it’s also a biscuit haven on the weekends. Unfortunately we came outside of biscuit serving hours and were disappointed, to say the very least, but their pizza alone is a reason to check this place out. Make sure you come hungry because there pizzas are the size of Jupiter. I’m not kidding.
Lucile’s was recommended to us by everyone we talked to about where to go for brunch. It’s this cute little Cajun restaurant that has a couple locations due to popularity. Originally, we planned on going to the one in Boulder, but due to wildfires we went to the one in Denver, located on Logan Street. We ordered the Shrimp and Grits and Praline French Toast, both of which were amazing. Not to mention each meal comes with a freshly baked homemade biscuit. But honestly, even though our meals were great and the biscuit was heaven, if I could recommend anything I would say; whatever you order, order the jalapeño grits as a side. SO GOOD.
Advice: Be sure to get here early with all members of your group. There is typically a line and everyone in your group needs to be present in order for your name to get on the list.
I feel like just saying this name, everyone knows the lowdown. These donuts are dank. Like seriously, thebomb.com. When it comes to donuts, I honestly feel the true test to determine whether or not somewhere is legit, is by trying their plain glazed donut. If your base donut is absolute garbage and you have to cover it up by a bunch of flavored icing and cereal, frankly, I don’t want it. This however, was not an issue here. We ordered six and there wasn’t a single one that went to waste. The added flavors just made each donut THAT much better. It’s probably best we don’t have a Voodoo Doughnut in Wisconsin 😛
D Bar stands for “Dessert Bar” so, obviously, when I heard about this place I had to go. This restaurant has an entire pastry case that you can order out of to take to-go or sit at the bar and eat. They also have a separate dessert menu to order plated desserts from if your dining in and want something more upscale. Like, pardon me, what? I have two options for dessert?! Hook, line and sinker. Sign me up.
Aside from desserts, this restaurant also has an awesome ambiance and amazing food. We ordered the hatch chili queso for a starter and I felt like elbowing everyone else out of the way just so I could have it all to myself. It was that good. Meal wise, we ordered steak & frites, sliders, the southern fried belgian sandwich, and finished off with caramel apple bread pudding. All was super delicious. Honestly, I shouldn’t have been let lose in this place because I ended up eating way too much.
Nuance chocolate is located in Fort Collins, Colorado, about an hour drive from Denver. If there is anything I seek out first, it’s definitely chocolate. So when the locals told us to check this out, we knew we had to. Walking in you are immediately greeted by staff eagerly waiting to describe all things “chocolate” to you. The entire counter is filled with rows of chocolate bars made from cacao beans from all different parts of the world. I ultimately decided upon getting a plain dark chocolate bar and a habanero chili bar, both using cacao from Ghana.
If you love good chocolate, make this a stop on your list.
Things we did
During our time in Colorado we spent a lot of time visiting family and friends, and honestly doing some really random stuff. Since our time spent was very sporadic, I thought I would highlight the three best things we did.
Hike to Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake was my #1 “must see” place even before we left Wisconsin. I knew if I did anything, I was hiking here. Rain or shine. Of course, not taking into account that a massive wildfire was raging and closing in on Rocky Mountain National Park, this almost didn’t happen. We luckily made it there in the nick of time. Meaning if we had gone 3 days later, the entire park would have been closed and Estes Park would be being evacuated. SCARY.
Thankfully, our hike was undisturbed and we had an awesome time. I kept telling Christian he deserved the “best dad award” carrying Oliver on his back the entire time because it was about a 4 1/2 hour hike there and back which was moderately difficult. There were a few closures which added extra milage onto the hike, with no closures I’m sure the hike would be shorter in time and distance. None the less, however far you have to hike to get here, it’s worth it. You pass three different lakes on the way to Emerald Lake and they are all absolutely stunning. Emerald Lake takes the cake but Dream Lake is a very close second.
The Botanic Gardens in Denver
The Denver Botanic Gardens were absolutely gorgeous. Funny enough, we went while everything was starting to die off, but the amount we loved it even though nothing was blooming is a straight give away that you should definitely make a trip here. It’s also a great place to bring kids for an afternoon. Oliver loved seeing all the flowers and being able to go down all the different little pathways. Near the end, when Oliver was starting to fuss and get hangry, we stopped at the little café and got him some sweet potato fries and lemonade and had a happy camper the remainder of our time. I loved that the café was located centrally; that way, when we got hungry or thirsty, we could stop to grab something and not have to walk all the way back to the entrance. They also have an entire interactive section just for kids. We were bummed this was closed due to COVID but we will definitely be back to utilize it next summer and see the garden in bloom.
The Denver Central Market
WOW. Just wow. Even if you don’t go for the food (which you should), just go here and walk around to admire the art. Almost every wall is filled with beautiful murals, graffiti, and history. Here are just a few of my favorites I snapped photos of.
These are just a few highlights of our trip that I hope will help guide you along Denver/Fort Collins in 4-5 days or even a weekend. Stay safe!