Living in Denver has many perks — this vast city has so much to offer in terms of events, activities, cuisine, and a number of neighborhoods. Even with all the excitement, sometimes you want to escape the big city and explore a bit more. Luckily, some of the best surrounding mountain towns that Colorado has to offer are just a short drive from Denver. Here are the top five towns to visit the next time you’re ready for a day trip out of the city:
In the midst of Summit County, Frisco has a lot of charm. Though this town is often overlooked when compared to the surrounding ski towns, Frisco is a gem located only about an hour from Denver. This spot is an outdoor paradise for visitors who want to adventure. In the winter, you can avoid the resort-town chaos and head to Frisco Adventure Park. Not only can you can tube, cross-country ski, and snowshoe here, but you can also take a beginner ski or snowboard lesson in a low-key environment. Best of all, they offer enchanting sleigh rides where they lead you on a cozy sleigh through a magical forest landscape and treat you to live music under the stars. You can choose between a scenic hot cocoa ride with fresh cookies or a longer dinner sleigh ride with three courses. Looking for something a bit warmer? The Gathering House glassblowing studio and gallery in town offers free glass demonstrations on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday afternoons from 2-6pm, as well as hands-on classes that you can sign up for.
While known as a premier alpine getaway with one of the largest ski resorts in the U.S., this authentic mountain town has even more to offer. In about an an hour and a half from the Mile High City, you could spend the early part of the day skiing the pristine slopes at Breckenridge Ski Resort, locally known as Breck. After you finish your ski session, you can explore Main Street which is lined with all kinds of great shops and restaurants. If you’re not looking to ski, but still want some outdoor time, sign up for a dog sledding tour from Good Times Adventures. On the trails of the Swan River Valley, you’ll get a firsthand look at how dog sledding works while experiencing the beautiful Rocky Mountains.
Located just about an hour south of Denver at the base of Pikes Peak is the exciting city of Colorado Springs. This city is the second most populated in Colorado (second to Denver). With both nature and culture to offer visitors, this city has many options to keep you entertained for a day. One must-see is the stunning Garden of the Gods landmark, made up of majestic red rock formations. After a day of exploring, check out Edelweiss Restaurant, a lovely restaurant serving up authentic German plates. Just a few minutes outside of downtown Colorado Springs, you can cozy up to a crackling fireplace and enjoy one of their delicious old-world German dishes like Schnitzel, Bratwurst, and Sauerbraten.
4. Estes Park
If you’re looking to get out of Denver for a day, journey northwest up to Estes Park, a nature lover’s heaven. Less than an hour and a half from Denver, the town of Estes Park is the headquarters for the Rocky Mountain National Park. Want to summit, but not up for a strenuous hike? You’re in luck. The Estes Park Aerial Tramway offers daily tram rides up to the summit of Prospect Mountain where you can enjoy views of the Rocky Mountain National Park, the Continental Divide, and the village of Estes Park below. Another place to check out in Estes Park is Elkins Distilling Co., makers of genuine Colorado whisky. The distillery has a unique character and carefully crafted cocktails to enjoy after a mountain adventure.
If you’re a Denver local, then you’ve likely ventured the half hour drive up to Boulder, an eco-conscious, outdoor-loving city. One quintessential outdoor landmark in Boulder is the famed Flatirons, where your hiking is rewarded with gorgeous views of the city below and a stunning mountainscape. Once you’ve gotten your fresh air for the day, consider spending your evening at Fox Theatre. Known for being one of the best rock venues in the country, it’s the perfect spot to catch one of the many great bands rolling through town.
The next time you find yourself wanting to get out of the Mile High City bustle, cure your restlessness by venturing to one of the many unique surrounding towns and experience a different side of Colorado. From the beautiful drive to the towns themselves, these trips make a perfect weekend adventure.
Denver is full of exciting things to see and do in all seasons. Especially in the winter, the bustling city seems to sparkle with freshly fallen snow, and it’s hard to remain bored in a place with so much excitement. With all of this activity comes a need to rest, recuperate, and venture outside the city occasionally. Luckily, there are many nearby options for you to explore and enjoy in the chilliest of months. Here are a few day trips just a short drive from Denver to help you rest and relax this winter:
For many people, Colorado is associated with craft beer. If you’re looking for a brewery to make a day trip out of, Avery Brewing Company should be on your list. At only a 40- minute drive from the Mile High City, this great brewery is located in Boulder, CO. Here, you can relax and sample some of the best craft brews around while getting an inside look at the process. Reserve a spot at one of their free daily tours and learn firsthand about the art of creating unique craft brews. Though they have a lovely patio for warmer months, on a chilly winter’s day you can cozy up in their huge indoor space with some delicious food and a vast selection of beers. Two favorites for the winter months are Chai High and Old Jubilation Ale. Both ales are brewed with chai spices, hazelnut, and toffee flavors that’ll delight your senses.
Looking to stimulate your senses with some visual entertainment? Foothills Art Center is one of those hidden gems of a museum that’s well worth a visit. With seven different rotating exhibits year-round, each visit is bound to inspire. The museum itself is gorgeous, housed in a historic, Gothic-style church, and is filled with an excellent variety of both 2D and 3D art. At under a half hour from Denver, Foothills Art Center rests in the charming downtown area of Golden. As the museum is on the smaller size, you could spend an hour or two absorbing the exhibits and spend the rest of your day exploring Golden’s many shops and restaurants. However, if you’re looking to get your hands dirty and delve into your own creativity, the center offers occasional art workshops and classes. Check out their Cloudscapes pastel workshop led by Kathy Beekman in February or one of their future workshops, like watercolor painting workshop, and embrace your creative side.
Maybe you’re not looking for a strenuous hike, but you still want the incredible views. Plan a day to take a ride on one of the many scenic byways in the area, specifically the serene Peak to Peak scenic byway. This lovely drive can be accessed in less than an hour from Denver. It begins in Central City and winds north for almost 60 miles, all the way to the beautiful Estes Park. This drive was designated in 1918 and is the state’s oldest scenic byway. As you cruise down the roads, you’ll pass through Arapaho National Forest, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, as well as Rocky Mountain National Park. Be sure to pull off at Panorama Point to enjoy the majestic views of Mount Evans, Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Roosevelt National Forest. You’ll want to leave at least 2 hours to complete the drive, depending on how much you stop off. Some towns make fun detours along the way, and, of course, Central City and Black Hawk, where you’ll begin your journey, can be fun to explore as well.
4. SunWater Spa
Just over an hour from Denver lies a slice of paradise in Manitou Springs. At SunWater Spa you can absorb the tranquil atmosphere by booking a day of relaxation treatments like their aromatic “Tree of Life” massage which encapsulates the senses with aromas of cedar, fir, and pine. They also offer more unique services in Thai Yoga Therapy, rooted in ancient healing practices of Yoga, Ayurvedic Medicine, and Buddhist spiritual practices, as well as Watsu and Aqua Cranial water therapy treatments. Follow one of these therapeutic sessions with an immersive soak in one of their cedar pools, all filled with the healing mineral waters directly from the famed Seven Minute Spring. If you’re looking for something with a bit more movement or spiritual practice, they also regularly offer yoga, movement, and meditation classes and events. Come renew yourself for a day at this beautiufl spa and leave rejuvenated.
Maybe you’re looking to unwind after the holiday bustle, or maybe you simply need to escape your house in the midst of a long winter. Regardless of your reason, take a day to get out and explore while still treating yourself to some relaxation. It’s easy to hunker down in Denver for the winter, but the surrounding areas have a great deal to offer all year round.