My friend Hope recently visited me for girls getaway. It was a whirlwind weekend showing off some of my favorite spots and trying a few new places in Denver, Colorado. Here’s how to spend a 3-day weekend in Denver.
First Stop: Barr Lake
Hope landed about 7:30am and instead of b-lining into to city, we took a detour to Barr Lake State Park. The boardwalks and gazebos in the wildlife reserve make for a primo place to spot birds, including bald eagles. You also get to enjoy a great view of the Rockies in the distance. It was super windy and chilly so we cut our walk short and opted for a leisurely brunch instead.
Brunch: On and Off
I had been wanting to try On and Off Cafe, a fairly new quaint cafe in the Highlands we walked to from my condo. Perusing the menu, I honed in on shrimp and grits, my favorite Southern dish. Hope went for the House Omelette. We devoured our dishes. My shrimp and grits were topped with scrambled eggs. They were so good.
Afternoon: Going Wild at Denver Zoo
Since she works for San Antonio Zoo, Hope wanted to visit the Denver Zoo. That’s were we spent most of the afternoon. I hadn’t been to the zoo in ages so I was delighted to spend a few hours strolling around the zoo. The Toyota Elephant Passage is my favorite area of Denver Zoo. It’s a unique habitate of ten acres and where you can see elephants, rhinos and tapirs. We saw all three! I even feed a couple of stingrays some shrimp in the interactive experience of Stingray Cove.
Hope wanted to buy some hiking boots which gave us to stop into REI’s flagship store in Denver. If you want to get lost in an outdoor adventure’s paradise in a store, this is it. Hope found a great pair of hiking boots that she broken in the next day.
Happy Hour: The Family Jones Spirit House
My neighborhood is highly walkable so we walked to happy hour at The Family Jones Spirit House. The main distillery is in Loveland, but this stylist tasting room is an easy walk from my condo. For spring they have moss accents on the walls and the chandelier looks like a giant bird’s nest. The plush blue velvet booths give it a luxe vibe. We both went for The Cesar. It’s made with Jones house gin, lime leaf infused lemongrass Jones, ginger and lime. It’s refreshing and went down way to easily. We both ordered a second one as we noshed on cheese plate. The pickles are to die for!
After our happy hour we headed to Dimestore Delibar for an early dinner. We had made a reservation for the rooftop but didn’t get it. Food was still delicious though as we dined on the patio. I went for the pesto gnocchi. This quirky eatery has great outdoor seating and even has a market filled with unusual finds from cheese to candy.
Saturday: Day Trip to Rocky Mountain National Park
On Saturday we hit the road to Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park. First stop was at Barking Dog Cafe in Lyons for lattes and breakfast burritos. It was such a lovely morning we sat outside in the sunshine enjoying a leisurely breakfast. We stopped at the Estes Park sign then headed into Rocky Mountain National Park via the Fall River Road entrance. It’s my preferred entrance into the park and usually not as crowded as the Beaver Meadow entrance. We stopped at some scenic views, hiked a little in Hidden Valley, stopped in Moraine Park (one of my favorite spots in RMNP) and saw some elk as we left out of Beaver Meadow entrance. There’s almost always elk around near that entrance.
Afterwards we strolled along Elkhorn Avenue, Estes Park’s Main Street, popping in and out of boutiques and shops. For a late lunch we sat out on the patio at Casa Grande and split some nachos. Hope got to indulge with a margarita but since I was driving I stuck with an Arnold Palmer (half tea, half lemonade).
We did a quick chance back in Denver and headed off to one of my cousins for dinner. It was the first time in months that I had seen them. We spent hours gabbing and dining on the wonderful homemade naan pizzas my cousins Pam and Ryan made.
Sunday Funday: Exploring LoDo (Lower Downtown)
We stayed up way too late laughing with my cousins and opted to sleep in on Sunday. Both of us love to walk so we started the day exploring LoDo on foot including Confluence Park, Union Station and Larimer Square. LoDo is Denver’s lower downtown.
Hungry for brunch, we snagged a patio table at Urban Farmer. A mimosa paired beautifully with the avocado Benedict.
From there we headed over to the Dairy Block. Once home to Windsor Dairy, it’s now home to fun eateries and an eclectic array of shops and boutiques. A couple of our favorite shops were the The Vintage Label and Alchemy Works. Then we relaxed for the rest of the afternoon soaking up a little sunshine, laughing and chatting as we tasted wines at Blanchard Family Wines. It was a perfect Sunday Funday.