Hey hey y’all! If you’ve been following The Swirl on Instagram (and honestly why wouldn’t you be?) you know that I just got back from a 5-day mini-vacation to Denver, Colorado!
My friends and I knew we wanted to take a trip somewhere after school got out but before we all started our summer internships. Once we established that we wanted to do some fun outdoors-y activities, we settled on Denver, Colorado.
I had only heard great things about Colorado before the trip, so this beach-loving girl was excited to trade her flip flops for her hiking shoes and explore the Rocky Mountains.
Keep scrolling to read all about my Denver trip (hint: we never stopped eating). There’s even a vlog (my first!) at the end with more fun footage from the trip.
Getting to Denver / Where We Stayed
After everyone arrived at the airport on Tuesday morning, we took the RTD train into Downtown Denver! Denver has a great public transportation system and the train from the airport to Downtown Denver is only ~40 minutes and costs $9.
The train pass is good for unlimited rides on the bus system or the train system until 3AM the next morning. We used the bus a few times throughout the first day to save money on Ubers and Lyfts!
Our Airbnb was located in the Lower Highlands district of Denver, about a 5 minute car ride from the train station. The locals call the Lower Highlands “LoHi”. Stay tuned for more trendy Denver lingo!
You can see the Airbnb in the vlog below, but here are some of the photos from our fabulous host, Samantha!
First Day in Denver
After dropping our bags off at the Airbnb, we walked into Downtown to explore and eat lunch.
We stopped at Illegal Pete’s for lunch, which was a Chipotle-style place in Lower Downtown (“LoDo”, if you’re cool).
Next up: The Colorado State Capitol. This was one place that I really wanted to see, mostly because the 15th step of the Capitol is exactly 1 mile above sea level! As someone who lives at sea level, this was a big deal.
Turns out someone miscalculated the altitude when they engraved the step! That gold marker a few steps higher is actually one mile. Close enough for me!
Next we hit up Cherry Creek, which is a really trendy neighborhood east of Downtown. We were all feeling pretty groggy, so we ducked into probably the most hipster coffee shop I’ve ever been to in my life, Aviano Coffee.
The guy who made me a cappuccino had a handlebar mustache. ‘Nuff said. (You can peep him in the vlog!)
We took an Uber back to downtown, where we enjoyed BBQ at Yazoo BBQ . After changing into warmer clothes at the Airbnb (Denver gets chilly in the evenings), we walked to Little Man Ice Cream. I warned you we never stopped eating in Denver!
Can we talk about how we all got SMALL SCOOPS of ice cream and that’s what they gave us?? Denver, you know the way to my heart.
We were so full from BBQ + ice cream, so we walked around even more. Back at the Airbnb, we watched Netflix and called it an early night since we had a full day of hiking in store for the next day!
Seven Falls, Colorado Springs
The next morning, we woke up and had breakfast at Snooze Eatery in Union Station. Good thing Denver loves breakfast as much as I do!
We picked Seven Falls down in Colorado Springs for our first hiking trip. Because car rental companies charge you a ton of money if you’re under 25, we rented a Jeep for the day through Zipcar and made the hour trip down to the Falls.
The Falls themselves (it’s called “Seven Falls” but it’s actually 1 continuous waterfall) were absolutely stunning! After you hike to the top of the falls, there are tons of great trails to explore with more waterfalls and fantastic scenery.
On our way back to Denver, we stopped at Garden of the Gods. Garden of the Gods is an incredible series of rock formations with beautiful mountain views. You can even climb in and around the rocks.
For dinner in Colorado Springs, we stopped at Bingo Burger. It turns out that Colorado is famous for Pueblo Chile peppers, which are grown locally in Pueblo, Colorado. The burger meat at Bingo Burger had diced Pueblo Chilies in it, which gave the burger such a unique (and not-too-spicy) taste.
We drove back to Denver (in the pouring rain) and stopped at the grocery store to get food to make breakfast the next morning. Back at the Airbnb we watched more Netflix and prepared for our hike the next day!
That little rain storm quickly turned into a snow storm overnight and dumped over 2 1/2 feet of snow up in the Rocky Mountains. That didn’t stop us from going hiking though! We made a quick pit-stop at REI in the morning to grab socks and hats (none of us prepared for a snowstorm in May?) and then headed south once again to hit up Spruce Mountain.
The trails were covered in about 8 inches of snow, which made for such a unique hike.
After our hike, we went back to the Airbnb to shower and warm up! For dinner, we hit up The Denver Central Market in the River North Arts District (“RiNo”, for those of you keeping track).
The Market is composed of a ton of little shops selling everything to fresh meat and baked goods to coffee and cheese wheels. We stopped at Vero Pizza and then got a flight of ice cream at High Point Creamery (both have locations outside of the market as well).
I brought my camera to dinner but forgot the battery (major L) so these are some of my friend’s photos! But fear not! I went back to the Market on Saturday morning to redeem myself and get some more pictures (see them later in the post).
Top row: Strawberry Chamomile, Cookies & Cream, Salted Caramel | Bottom row: Dark Chocolate, Caramel Sauce, Mint Chocolate
The next morning, we stopped at Sam’s No. 3 for breakfast, which is a great diner that’s been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Then we hit up the Coors Brewery Tour, located 20 minutes west of Denver in Golden, Colorado.
The 30-minute (free!) audio tour was neat because they actually brew Coors at the factory that you tour. Most “factory tours” are at factories that don’t brew anymore, like Guinness in Dublin and Heineken in Amsterdam.
And fear not, all you under-21-year-olds, because you can still go on the tour, sans the beer sample at the end.
After realizing that there’s not a ton to do in Golden, we went spelunking up the nearest snow-covered mountain (Windy Saddle Park) and ended up finding a scenic byway to follow. The views were incredible since the snow was still fresh from the previous day. You can see more of our driving in the vlog below!
We stumbled upon Red Rocks Amphitheatre towards the end of our road trip and pulled over to walk around. Red Rocks is a really cool concert venue built into these gigantic rock formations right outside of Denver.
For dinner, we hit up Steuben’s in North Capitol Hill, which had a really cool retro vibe and great sandwiches.
Later, we visited Voodoo Doughnuts. Voodoo originated in Portland, but has spread to other trendy cities like Denver and Austin. They’re open 24/7, only take cash, and the doughnuts come in signature pink boxes.
We picked up half-a-dozen to split – our favorite ended up being “Dirt”, which is topped with Oreos! Also pictured is “The Loop”, covered in Fruit Loops.
Everyone except me left by Saturday morning, so I got to explore Denver on my own before my 3PM flight! As promised, I went back to The Denver Central Market to take more pictures.
The streets surrounding the Market are also covered in murals, so of course I had to take pictures of those! This is the River North Arts District, after all.
Side note that “Coffee. Above All Else.” should be the Swirl’s tagline.
I had a little extra time, so I also stopped for an acai bowl from Berriegood.
And then I made my way back to the train station to go to the airport! Union Station has been recently remodeled and is beautiful inside! There are lots of places to catch a quick bite, and the entire middle of the station is open with tons of plush seating, tables, and even shuffleboard.
And then I was off to the airport and back home!
Thoughts and Musings
I. LOVED. DENVER. The locals are super friendly and the food is amazing. And there is so much to do in terms of hiking and exploring!
We did a ton in 5 days, I can only imagine coming back for a week or two and really getting to know the area! If you’re looking for a unique vacation or want to get some fresh outdoor air, Denver is definitely the place to go.
As promised, here is my first vlog! I hope y’all enjoy!
Have you ever been to Denver? The Rocky Mountains? Let me know in the comments below! Gabby and I are traveling a lot this summer – next up she’ll be in San Diego! And if you’re going to Denver soon, I’d love to chat! Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.