Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Colorado Tour: Awards Show Version

As I mentioned in my last post, we've just returned from a two week vacation in Colorado. We flew into Denver, rented a car, and had a driving tour of the state, starting with a few days in Denver followed by a leisurely drive to Glenwood Springs, and then proceeding to Aspen, Alamosa, Colorado Springs, and Rocky Mountain National Park, before ending with one night in Boulder.

I'll come back and link to the full write up each stop as I write them, but first, I want to continue the tradition of writing an awards show version of the vacation. (Here are the awards show versions of  last year's New Zealand trip, our 2012 Texas vacation, and 2011 California road trip.) These posts have become part of our travel routine now- once we get to our gate at the airport, I get out my purse notebook and we write our list while we wait for our flight. It is a great way to distract the kids (and me) from the wait, and to wring a little extra enjoyment from the vacation.

Best hotel: Without a doubt, the grown ups choose Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs. It is not that our other hotels were bad- all of our hotels were good, and a couple were great. But the room I booked at the Hotel Colorado was amazing. I like to book a suite whenever I can, so that Mr. Snarky and I can sit up and talk over beers after the kids are asleep. The Hotel Colorado had a two bedroom suite at a price I liked, so I booked it. It turned out to be the "penthouse suite" and had a huge balcony running the length of the three rooms, looking out over the hot springs and the town.

The view from our balcony
Plus, it was a great old historic hotel. We were delighted.

Pumpkin preferred the Misty Mountain Lodge in Estes Park, for its twin beds and play area, and Petunia preferred the Hotel Boulderado in Boulder, for its pure fanciness.

Favorite stop: For me, it was Glenwood Springs, for the great hotel, laid back vibe, and the fun we had in the hot springs. Pumpkin agreed with me, mainly due to the hot springs (which were really a giant warm swimming pool). For Mr. Snarky, it was Estes Park, for the beautiful surroundings and the town that reminded him of some New Zealand tourist towns. Petunia picked Boulder, because she really liked the fancy hotel- complete with an elevator operated by an attendant!- and the Dora game on the computer in the library.

Favorite thing: The kids both chose the frog slide in the water park at our hotel in Alamosa (I told you the hotels were good on this trip), although for Pumpkin, getting to visit family in Denver was just as good. I loved visiting my family, too, but I have to pick the tundra hike I did in Rocky Mountain National Park. We had a great day for our visit, and although it was sprinkling lightly when we got to the tundra, there was never any hint of thunderclouds (which would have sent us scurrying back to our car- rightly so, it tragically turns out).  The two deaths in the park occurred below the elevation at which I walked on the tundra, one and two days after we were in the park. We were lucky to visit on a day when no thunderstorms happened, as we would not have gotten out of the car if there were thunderclouds overhead. (This is not to imply that either of the two hikers were to blame for what happened- thunderstorms can form rapidly at that altitude.)

Anyway, the kids didn't want to walk in the sprinkles, so I had a short walk on the tundra path alone, enjoying the amazing sight of fields of sunflowers with snow covered peaks in the background. It was almost magical.

Tundra! Wildflowers! Mountains!
Mr. Snarky's favorite thing was much more down to earth: it was the 4th of July parade we saw in Aspen. He says he feels like he finally saw a proper 4th of July parade. It was also the first 4th of July parade I can remember seeing, for what its worth.

Best playground: The pirate ship playground in Vail. I'd picked Vail as the stopping point for afternoon snack based on reading about this playground, and we weren't disappointed.

Favorite local beer sampled: My favorite was Dale's Pale Ale at Oskar Blues in Lyons, although we also tasted a surprisingly awesome kiwi blonde beer at the San Luis Valley Brewing Company in  Alamosa- it was a part blonde, part pale ale, with kiwifruit added to the brew. The kiwi taste was subtle and such a good addition that Mr. Snarky asked about the recipe. The brewmaster happened to be onsite, so he actually got the recipe, and intends to try to replicate it. The only reason I didn't choose it as my favorite is that I only had a sip and therefore can't say how the taste holds up in drinking an entire pint. I was driving that night, and couldn't have another full pint.

Mr. Snarky's favorite beer was the Great Divide Rumble IPA. We couldn't get visit the brewery (which is in Denver), but he enjoyed this beer on tap and in the bottle on several nights.

Favorite meal: My favorite meal was the beer-cheese soup I had at the Glenwood Canyon Brewpub. Mr. Snarky's favorite meal was also in Glenwood Springs, and the truly awesome Pullman restaurant. He raved about his meal for days. In fact, if anyone gives him a reminder, he raves about it now.

When asked, Petunia said her favorite meal was the mac-n-cheese she had just about everywhere, while Pumpkin chose the pretzels she had at several brew pubs.

Best chill out: Dinner and drinks with my cousin and her family, in their backyard.
Best tourist attraction: I picked the Glenwood Springs hot springs, which were well done and a lot of fun for everyone. Mr. Snarky picked the Pikes Peak cog railway. I agree with him that this was a cool ride, and I'm glad we did it- but he was the only one who really enjoyed the time at the summit. I had problems with the altitude, and the kids were too cold.

Best random great thing: Both Mr. Snarky and I chose things from our visit to Alamosa, and perhaps we should just say that Alamosa was the best random great things, because it certainly was a great stop and neither of us really knew what to expect. My specific thing was walking into Calvillo's Mexican Restaurant for dinner to discover that a wonderful duo were performing Mexican folk songs. The man singing lead had an amazingly good voice, and he was expertly accompanied by a woman finger-picking melodies on guitar. Mr. Snarky's specific thing was the light streaming in the windows in the brewpub the next night. The Great Sand Dunes National Park (the reason for our visit) was pretty cool, too.

Biggest bummer: It was cloudy the day we went up Pikes Peak, so while the view was beautiful (it is amazing to be so far above the clouds and not be in an airplane), we missed out on the expansive view for which it is famous. Also, the previously mentioned problem I had with the altitude: I lost my peripheral vision. It was replaced by shimmers. That was very weird.

Best kid moment (both kids): Discovering a love of hiking on the Grottos trail near Aspen, closely followed by discovering a love of climbing on rocks at Garden of the Gods.

They climbed up there. (For the record: the matching dresses thing is THEIR idea.)
Best parenting moment (Daddy): Getting the kids Junior Ranger activity books at the Rocky Mountain National Park- these kept the kids interested in the sights and hikes, and they were both thrilled to get their Junior Ranger badges at the end of the day.

Best parenting moment (Mommy): I can't really come up with one. Maybe it was having a large purse that could carry snacks, wipes, and little notebooks to color in, and being willing to lug it around everywhere we went. Maybe it was creating our trip plan document ahead of time, with ideas for playgrounds, restaurants, and rest stops. Neither of those is really a moment, but it is the best I can do.

As usual, you can expect a bunch of posts with details of the trip. Apologies to those who find them boring, but I love going back to reread them years later. Anyway, you don't have to read them. I've got a bunch of other posts I want to write, too, so the blog won't be mutating into a pure travel blog, even temporarily.


  1. I love your travel posts! And Colorado is one of my favourite places to visit. I haven't seen much outside Boulder and RMNP, so I'm looking forward to reading your detailed posts.

  2. Anonymous8:36 AM

    Awesome post. I am very interested in your trip plan document idea. What format is it? What do you put in it? Could you please share a template? We have recently started travelling with my 1.5 yr old and realized I need to plan things a little more!

    1. I'll do a future post on how we plan for a trip. It is WAY more that we did before we had kids, but we find that the upfront effort pays off in a far more enjoyable vacaton.

    2. Anonymous9:40 AM

      Awesome! Looking forward to it. On another note, have you considered a 'Donate' button on your Tungsten Hippo site? So far all your recommendations have been spot on and I greatly enjoy reading the books. However I tend to read the books over on scribd rather than buy via amazon / kobo. I would love the option to once in a while show some appreciation :)


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