Things to Do in Boulder/Denver

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We needed our nature fix and Boulder, Colorado was the perfect solution. It was an easy flight from NY –> Denver (w/a quick 45 min drive), has great restaurants, tons of hiking and nearly perfect weather. On the way back, we spent one day in Denver, and need to go back. The restaurants we wanted to try were closed on Labor Day, but Denver seems to have nothing short of tons of great bars, a great food scene as well and lots of young people. 

Our Boulder Adventure:

We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn, which was pretty centrally located and a quick trip anywhere we needed to go. It was about a 5-10 min drive to the main part of Pearl Street, which is one of the main drags known for shopping and restaurants.

We arrived on a busy Friday morning in Boulder, right after the students had moved in for their first weekend of school. We needed food and decided to have breakfast at The Buff Restaurant – a Boulder breakfast staple. You’ll see 20 people waiting outside (including students), but it’s a very smoothly run operation and the line moves quickly! We only had to wait about 15 mins. The almond milk latte and breakfast tacos were fantastic (and the service too)!

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We quickly digested our meal and drove about 15 mins to Mount Sanitas Trailhead and started with an easy hike along the Sunshine Canyon Trail (A). Check out the link above for the trail map. It was perfect for an easy hike after a day of traveling and a great warm-up for the days to come. Would say it would be “easy” on the scale of difficulty. I used my new Garmin Vivo Active 3 watch, which I have synced to the app Strava, to track our distance and elevation. In total our hike was about 4 miles in distance and 784 ft in elevation. We snacked on some empanadas from Rincon Argentino before going back to shower and chill for a bit. This was a fun fast-casual Argentine spot. Still don’t compare to my mom’s homemade empanadas, but they were good. Watch out for the spicy beef – it IS very spicy.

That night we were craving sushi, so went to Japango on Pearl St and indulged. The fish was super fresh and the libations menu was on point.

Saturday morning we woke up early and drove out to Nederland, CO (about 45 mins from Boulder). It’s a cute, and quirky little mountain town, where you can find locals chatting over a cup of coffee at the New Moon Bakery & Cafe. They’ve got locally roasted coffee, amazing espresso (with dairy free milk options) and tons of homemade baked goods (including gluten-free options). They even had egg sandwiches or egg wraps, on a homemade egg-battered wheat/plain wrap.

I’m all about finding the best coffee culture while traveling. This was definitely a hit. It was so much of a hit, that it delayed us getting started early enough on the hike and by the time we started the drive up to the Red Deer Lake Trailhead, all the parking spots before the road deteriorated into a dirt/rocky road were taken. In our little sedan, we kept driving, determined to find a spot, until panic set in and we had to do a 9 pt turn and turn back on the one-way/edge of a mountain road. It was worth the adrenaline rush, but we didn’t end up doing the hike. Worth waking up early, getting there by 7 am and THEN getting coffee/breakfast AFTER the hike.

Instead we took the opportunity to drive back into Boulder and hike Chautauqua Park. We parked along the street using the ParkMobile App (super easy to download on the spot) and followed the Flatiron Trail. This was not easy and would say it ranks on the more “moderate” level. I might even say it was “moderate –> hard” but it was a busy trail by the late morning, with kids even climbing, so maybe it is really just moderate. For context, we hiked 3.2 miles in distance, and 1,355 feat in elevation. This hike took just under 2 hours.

We built up quite the appetite and lunched at the Med Boulder for some yummy Mediterranean food. We over-ordered, but it was worth it. My favs, were the greek salad, whipped feta/herb dip with pita, and bacon wrapped dates.

That night we had a reservation at the place I was most excited about: Blackbelly Market. It’s a farm-to-table restaurant in the up and coming East Boulder neighborhood, with a cute outdoor seating area. The mission at Blackbelly is that food will always start with seasonal, local Colorado- grown ingredients, and pasture raised, sustainable animals. Blackbelly works closely with all their local ranchers on research and development and they also have an artisanal butcher shop on site where they can fully process, as well as cure and sell their own meats. It was the perfect place to celebrate the last year of my 20s. The menu even had Happy Birthday written on it. Talk about thinking of the little details. 29 is going to be better than ever…I can feel it.

The broccoli with anchovy sauce was my favorite dish. It was so flavorful and was a great complement to the rest of the meal. We also started with the beef tartare and coppa (which was like a prosciutto). For my meal, I enjoyed the halibut with a yummy tomato stew underneath and Drew had the lamb. My cucumber and gin cocktail was so light & refreshing and made for a perfect drink.

On Sunday morning, we found a new coffee spot on Pearl called Boxcar Coffee. It easily became our go to spot for the rest of our time in Boulder. It was truly ANOTHER GEM.

We then hiked again (obviously), and went back to Mount Sanitas and did the Anemone trail, which was slightly harder than our first hike Friday, but still very moderate. Had great views overlooking boulder saw some deer along the way. I would say having a pair of hiking boots would’ve helped on this trip. Some of the more moderate hikes are a bit sandy/rocky making it easy to slip.

We brunched at Snooze AM, which was good, but was a bit of a wait by the time we got there. Sadly it truly was the 35 min they quoted us. The side pancake made for a fun little treat. I ordered the egg white scramble, with spinach, red pepper and avocado. Drew went with the regular egg scramble. Will say the hasbrowns were yum! I’d probably look for a more local spot next time, but even here, there seemed to be a lot of locals stopping by to add their names to the list.

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That afternoon, we lounged by the pool and soaked in the Vitamin D. With fall approaching in NY, we just felt like it was the right use of time ;). Before we know it it’ll be winter 😦 (insert crying emoji).

Drew found a sister restaurant of Blackbelly for dinner called Santo, which took us to North Boulder, another neighborhood with more of a young-family vibe. It was a fun spin on Mexican and had another solid libations menu. We enjoyed the fun flavored margs on the rocks, crispy pork belly sopes as an app, and the bison tongue tacos (i know what you’re thinking – gross…but were truly delish) and steak for our main course.

We sadly got one last easy Mount Sanitas hike AND one last meal in Monday morning, before we drove off to Denver.  Our last meal was the famous Boulder Dushanbe Tea House, which was a gift from Tajikistan to celebrate sister city ties with the city of Boulder. They built the building over seas and then took it apart to ship it overseas and have it reassembled in Boulder. The noodles were to die for, along with my Golden Milk Latte (so basic, but SO good).

Our Denver Adventure:

We stayed at the Four Seasons in downtown Denver. Loved that they had a pool and great gym onsite if we wanted.

As soon as we arrived, we dropped our stuff off and went exploring. We started with a long walk to the RI-NO Art District (River North). The Central Market was worth the walk. They had everything from ice cream, coffee, acai bowls, smoothies, pizza, seafood and candy. Along the way there was a grafitti art contest going on called Crush Walls, where local artists are given a canvas on the sides of buildings. It seems like such a creative city, where they embrace local artists.

Another food hall, slightly further and on the other side of the train tracks is the Avanti Food Hall, but it is much smaller and had a few more asian-inspired spots, as well as ice cream.

Dinner Spots we wanted to try, but were closed:

  • Root Down Denver (farm-to-table)
  • Linger (Root Down’s sister restaurant)
  • Buffalo Exchange (tacos)
  • Tavernetta (Italian)
  • Urban Farmer
  • Mercantile
  • Stoic and Genuine

All in all, it was a fantastic trip spent hiking and eating yummy (and mostly healthy) food. Can’t wait to go back and explore some of the mountain towns! Check out Colorado highlights folder on my instagram.

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