Posted by: Shannon @ A Dash of Sparkle | June 6, 2013

Why didn’t I visit Denver sooner? My vacation recap…

Though I’ve heard people raving about how great Denver, Colorado is for years, I never had a real hankering to go there. Until this year.

Well, it wasn’t necessarily a hankering that brought me to buy a ticket and plan a trip, but rather it was Nick who wanted to go back and visit with some friends. I was just going along for the ride and planning to savor a few days of vacation in a place I’d never been.

In no way could I have ever predicted completely and seriously loving Denver. (Surprise!)

Okay, so the truth is I wrote off a number of places that were too far from the ocean a long time ago thinking I would always opt for and have more fun near the ocean. Of course, I’ve been many places away from the ocean, but none that ever really excited me. I could only ever see the limitations, versus what they did have.

There was not much of a shortage of anything except oceans in Denver. And there was so much of everything else, I didn’t really miss it.

Granted, it was a quick trip.

Nick and I took a late flight from Tampa directly (thankfully) to Denver so that we didn’t get our feet on Colorado soil until 10:30pm (MT). We stayed with a couple of his friends, a super fun couple who own a gym in downtown Denver where Nick used to train, who happened to live right in the city, so we didn’t have to worry about hotels and what not. They even fed us a wonderful dinner when we got in at 11pm!

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Our first full day in town, Friday, we decided to get an early start (since our bodies were two hours ahead on East Coast time, it was easier), grab breakfast and head up to Red Rocks.

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Nick had told me a lot about Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater and I’d seen pictures, but nothing could have prepared me for what it was… which was incredible.

You drive along a winding road to get to the parking lots and abandon your car to walk up steep paths of rust-colored rock and dirt to this towering pair of 300-foot sandstone monoliths, between which is a descending staircase of seating that leads down to a covered stage area.

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I can only imagine how awesome concerts are here.

At over 6,400 feet above sea level, you feel a bit of the impact of the elevation and even slight inclines are a bit more of an effort. Despite that, I was eager to explore so after I got my fill at the amphitheater, we headed to the park trails to do some hiking, water bottles in hand of course (hydration is extremely important at higher elevations especially).

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The hike was a lot of fun and the views were just breathtaking…

I felt like I had been blasted back in time, back to the days of settlers from the east seeing these mountains and terrain for the first time – totally overwhelming.

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We did take a couple breathers atop some easily climbable rocks…

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But it was more to stop and enjoy the scenery than because of exhaustion.

I actually made it through the whole weekend without experiencing any problems due to the elevation thankfully. I did take advice and do a 10-day prep of one aspirin and lots of water though. Either way, I was so grateful I could enjoy everything.

After Red Rocks, we drove the 35-40 minutes back to Denver to explore the city a bit.

There was lots of construction, so we didn’t hang out down there too long, just grabbed some cupcakes and a juice. Despite the outdoor exercise we actually spend a couple hours at Nick’s friends’ gym where he got to fight/train with some of his old buddies and I even got a bit of instruction on kicks. After that we all headed back for a quiet dinner with our hosts. I slept good.

The next day, Nick and I headed to Boulder since I’d heard so much about it and was curious to see what it was all about.

Turns out we timed our visit perfectly as there was some kind of huge festival going so that every square in the city and the entire park at its center was filled with vendors, performers, demonstrations and games. Apparently there was a big race that weekend, that followed, so the city was packed!

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We even saw a unique Boulder activity… river tubing.

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This guy couldn’t get enough of those icy-cold rapids.

We only stayed in Boulder for the morning, opting to head back to Denver, walk around a bit and prepare for a night on the town.

A group of us headed towards the Coors Stadium downtown, where all the bars and clubs are located. Rooftop bars proved to be very popular which gave us a great opportunity to get some excellent people watching in. It was a pretty fun night.

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Our last full day in Denver, we ventured out to the Great Divide (a local brewery) for a little bit, but then stuck close to home and hung out by the pool with some folks for most of the afternoon. We wrapped the day up with a walk and a nice dinner.

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It’s amazing how people utilize all the space here. Parks with people playing games and having picnics, bike paths, and a practical ongoing party on the sandbars of the river.

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The active people everywhere and the prevalence of workout/casual clothing were two of the things that jumped out in Denver. People are much more comfortable biking places than driving too, which I was so envious of. There are some great places to ride in Tampa Bay, but you can’t use it as a mode of transportation like you can in Denver.

All in all, this was such a wonderful experience. The people and place were incredible and I can’t wait for my next trip back!

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