Technically, there’s no ”wrong way” to vacation. It’s all about preference. However, I have a few recommendations for things you should and shouldn’t do when visiting Colorado, especially for the first time.
Staying in the suburbs
Or, staying in the city. Let me clarify – your hotel/rental house can be in the suburbs or the city, as long as you get out and see more than that area. There is so much more to Colorado than your grandmother’s house in Lakewood or the 16th Street Mall in Denver. There are many public transportation options to get out of the city and the suburbs and see more of what Colorado has to offer. Do you usually visit Colorado to ski? Take a break from the mountains and visit Boulder, Denver, or Colorado Springs. Only stop in Denver for work conferences? Stay a few extra days and venture into a nearby mountain town like Vail or Breckenridge.
The RTD Flatiron Flyer allows you to travel easily from Denver, Westminster, Broomfield, Louisville, Superior and Boulder while the RTD LightRail will get you just about anywhere you need to go in Denver and the surrounding suburbs.
Going to the mountains on the first day
Give yourself time to get acclimated. You’re at 5,280, a mile above sea level. That alone will take some getting used to and you may experience headaches. Read my post on How To Prevent Altitude Sickness for more details. I have experienced altitude sickness firsthand, it is far from pleasant and may ruin your trip. It’s just not worth the risk.
By your second or third day, you should be fine to head to the mountains, but remember to drink plenty of water. A beautiful, scenic drive is Trail Ridge Road. The views are incredible, just be prepared for some hairpin turns, and roads with cliffs on either edge. This drive isn’t for the faint of heart.
Note: Our Toyota Echo handled Trail Ridge Road in the fall. Your rental car should do just fine.
Getting their workout in at the hotel gym
Working out at a hotel gym in Colorado? Don’t do it! Even if you aren’t staying in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, Colorado is known for its surplus of trails and bike paths. Why plug away mindlessly on a hotel treadmill when you can go for a jog along Cherry Creek Trail in Denver? If you have a full day open, consider a more intense workout at Red Rocks, especially if you are unable to attend a Red Rocks concert while you’re in town. Unsure of what trails are available near you? Visit AllTrails.com to help plan your trip.
I also have this fun list of Colorado Hikes For People Who Get Bored Easily, many of which are at a lower altitude so you won’t be breaking the, “first day elevation rule.” Colorado is such an active state. Drive through Denver and count how many joggers and bikers you see. I bet it’s more than you will see in any other state!
Visiting in the “ugly” season
The first time my husband visited me he came in March. He later told me that he thought Denver was the ugliest city he had ever been to. Well, Mr. California, you came at a bad time. Most days in winter and spring are mild (30-50 degrees), dry and brown. There are few (if any) leaves on the trees. The city just looks cold and sad. Visit Colorado in summer or fall and experience incredibly pleasant weather, vibrant green grass and colorful trees.
The photo above was taken in our Denver apartment complex in the fall. If you visit Colorado in September or early October, you are bound to see the beautiful fall colors. Click here to see all of the unique ways you can witness Colorado’s fall foliage on your trip.
Eating at chain restaurants
Don’t tell me you came to Colorado to order the Chili’s Mix and Match Fajita Trio! You are here to experience something new, try a food that Colorado is known for. No, you don’t have to get rocky mountain oysters, but I applaud you if you do. If you’re a meat lover, I recommend Buckhorn Exchange for various forms of game. Colorado buffalo burgers are pretty rad, and definitely worth a taste. If you’re looking for an insane view of Denver’s skyline, try Linger or Avanti downtown.
Personally, my favorite burger joint in Denver is TAG Burger Bar. You can’t go wrong with anything on their menu, in my opinion.
Doing things you could do at home
“Sweet! Now I’ve seen giraffes in Connecticut AND Colorado,” said no one ever. If you absolutely insist on visiting a zoo in Colorado, make it the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, they let you feed the giraffes. Otherwise, leave your zoo, nature and science museum and water park visits for home. Instead, opt for visiting unique-to-Colorado attractions. Be sure to take a drive through the mountains. Or, stop in the Molly Brown House and Museum to learn more about the famous “Unsinkable Molly Brown” from the RMS Titanic.
If you’re considering zoos and museums, I’m guessing you have young children to entertain. Consider bringing them to the big blue bear outside of the Colorado Convention Center and hitting up 16th Street Mall to see street performers and play on the interactive sculptures and displays. For a more comprehensive guide to 16th Street Mall, click here.
Hey, if you are a Lakewood lovin’, treadmill runnin’, zoo aficionado, more power to you. But my advice is to enjoy the state you are in as much as you can, get out of your comfort zone and try something new!
Thanks for reading,