Explore Colorado

A Day in Colorado’s Quirkiest Town

Nederland, Colorado, has a plethora of outdoor adventure and a carousel of happiness. There’s more coffee shops in a two block radius in this small town than you’d find in five blocks in New York City. It’s quirky, offbeat, and well, just weird. It’s where you go if you want to really get off-the-grid. Remember the story from the mid-90s of the frozen dead guy in a shed? That’s in Nederland and yes, Bredo Morstoel is still there on ice in a Tuff Shed. There’s even an annual festival called “Frozen Dead Guy Days” in March.

Every time I go to Nederland, I always feel like I’m stuck in time, yet lose hours in some sort of strange time warp. I hadn’t been in ages so when my friends Nancy and Adeina and I were deciding where to go for a snowshoe adventure, I suggested let’s go to Ned.

We took the beautiful Boulder Canyon route up to Nederland. Walking around town we popped into a shop then went in search of coffee and quick bite before snowshoeing. On our way to the visitors center, we stopped by the cute wooden bridge to snap a couple of pictures.

The lady at the visitors center suggested coffee in the train cars and then said we should take a whirl on the carousel of happiness. Coffee in a train and a carousel of hand carved wooden animals – absolutely have to check out both. The train cars are just across the street from the visitors center and the carousel is next to them. I knew instantly we were going to love both.

As soon as we walked into the Train Cars Coffee and Yogurt Company, I was delighted with its quaintness. Adeina and I both ordered coffees and Nancy went for a hot chocolate. While reading the board I noticed mini doughnuts are their specialty so I ordered 6 with cinnamon sugar so we could each have two. While sipping our hot drinks and nibbling on mini doughnuts with cinnamon sugar going everywhere, I noticed the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper on the table next to us. I alway enjoy reading the paper – just don’t get to do it enough these days. So I perused the pages including reading each person’s horoscope and laughing over the comics.

Next stop was next door at the Carousel of Happiness. I’ve exploring the mining and train history of Nederland before, but had no idea there was a handmade carousel. As we walked in and got our “ticket to happiness” all three of us were giddy with childlike wonder. It’s a spinning sensation of color as all kinds of animals from a cheetah to a swan whirl around the wheel.

When it was our turn, we each scurried around to find our animal. I was immediately drawn to the giraffe but it doesn’t going up and down so I climbed up on the colorful rooster. Nancy decided on the moose and Adeina went for a classic horse.

“Magic begins at the sound of a gong,” said the guy running the carousel. With a “gong” we were spinning around laughing as we tried to take selfies and pictures of each other as we went up and down and the carousel spun around.

Take a ride on the Carousel of Happiness in this short video

It’s a magical ride for just a dollar. All three of us laughed and marveled at the woodwork of one man. There are 56 hand-carved animals painted in a menagerie of colors spinning around on a restored 1910 Looff carousel to the music of a 1913 Wurlitzer band organ. It’s all the creation of Scott Harrison who dreamed of building a carousel while he was stationed in Vietnam. A self-taught woodworker, it took him 26 years to hand carve the 56 animals, 35 of which can be ridden. He still carving in his home in Nederland. What a wonderful gift of joy for the rest of us!

Next we headed to lunch at Happy Trail Cafe. Looking at the menu board, going for tacos was a no brainer. I went for the taco lunch special so I could try the Roast Veggie with roasted peppers, cilantro, goat cheese, and purple cabbage and the Bean and Corn with black beans, corn, cilantro, goat cheese, purple cabbage, and jalapeño. You can get chipotle crema on your tacos but I opted to go without since I’m not a huge sauce fan. The tacos were delish! Adeina and Nancy needed to rent snowshoes, which you can do at Happy Trails.

Needing to work off lunch, we headed to Brainard Lake for snowshoeing. It was the first time for Adeina so we took it fairly easy. We decided on the Sourdough Trail and did an out and back trail for about a 2-mile snowshoe. I was so excited to be back out snowshoeing that I literally jumped for joy, which is not easy to day in snowshoes!

The rolling trail took us through tall pines the entire way. Before turning around we hit a good hill to get the heart pumping. Normally Brainard Lake area is windy, but somehow we got a little to no breeze afternoon during our snowshoe. Guess the weather gods were on our side because the weather drastically changed a few hours later.

On the way back to town, we pulled off to snap some pics of the snow storm moving in.

We decided to make one last stop in Nederland for a warm drink. Plus, we were continuing our quest to see which coffee place has the best coffee. As we walked into New Moon Bakery and Cafe, I was wide-eyed when I spied the baked goods. I had to taste one of the gluten free puddles since peanut butter and chocolate are two of my favorite things. Instead of coffee, all three of us went for hot cider with a splash of caramel. So good and a delicious way to end our day in Colorado’s quirkiest town.

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