Thanks to Frommers and Trip Advisor, we just returned from a terrific trip! In our family, when you are a fifth grader you get to go on a getaway just with Mom, so my husband and teen were home and my artsy, thoughtful 11 year old and I were alone. We wanted to share some highlights:
Hands Down Best: Cocktails and Canvas. Boy, I want to franchise this spot! Picture 60 people, mostly adult women but men and some preteens were also there. Each of us was given our own canvas and paint palatte, and the goal was to paint a picture best described as a "retro owl.." A simple concept, but this spot is packed every night because the owner//teacher is practical, fun, funny, and the product you end with is a great souvenier! Drink a little wine- wield a little brush - listen to some great fun music - could not be beat. Be sure to make a reservation - they were booked for all but one night when we called the first day of our trip.
Close Runner Up: The Train to Pikes Peak. Far exceeded my expectations - sort of like hiking to the top of the mountain without the sweat and granola. Clean, peaceful, excellent guide, and great way to spend a full half day. If I had to do it again, I would have suggested that we spend the night in Colorado Springs or Manitou Springs - I was sad that we had to leave immediately after the ride because of a drenching (and I mean drenching!) thunderstorm and a hotel in Denver . By the way, Colorado drivers in my opinion are much better drivers than CA - they actually all slow down for bad road conditions. No kooks among them!
Other Really Fun Experiences:
Il Posto: This restaurant was near our hotel, which was at the City Park end of town. We knew it was Italian, but didn't read enough reviews to realize that this is not pizza and lasagna - this is very very gourmet food. We were a little intimidated by the menu, which had numerous ingredients we had never heard of, but decided to stay as I was starved and my daughter just wanted a simple plate of pasta. OMG. As it turns out, I ordered chicken stuffed with fresh interesting sounding locally grown ingredients, but they accidentally delivered.....buffalo shoulder. My "not really hungry "daughter took one look at the mystery entree and ate half before the waiter came back to tell us what it was - tasted incredible. The risotto was amazing as well - if we had had another night in Denver, we would have returned just for risotto and dessert, which looked fabulous as well.
Other Highlights: The Molly Brown House, Inside Out Tour (a scavenger hunt /history tour - fun but pick your time carefully as you walk a couple miles and it was HOT when we did it) the City Park for some peaceful downtime, the Denver Art Museum, the cafe and wine bar next to the museum with an awesome salad bar and games to play over lunch), and Pismo Art Glass - a lovely store in Cherry Creek North where my daughter invested in her first fine art.
I did a couple of really smart things this time that I will repeat:
1 - I xeroxed five copies of the dining map in my Frommers guide before we left. Since my 11 year old was navigating, each morning I highlighted the routes that we would take to our chosen destinations - very easy way for her to help me navigate. A true brainstorm, and when we were ready to eat we had some ready suggestions.
2 - On the plane and before we left, I wrote all the fun ideas on individual post it notes (shopping spots, restaurants, etc) with a page number in the Frommer's guide. I had my daughter rate them with stars and then we made a tentative schedule for the week. As our agenda changed each day, we simply moved the post it notes around. This way, we were loosely prepared for whatever decisions she made (as I let her decide EVERYTHING - great not to share the power!)
3 - I decided ahead of time that if she wanted to read a book in the park, we would read a book in the park. It is really easy to get caught up in the we must do one more thing trap and end up in a death march through too many places - we successfully avoided that, and spent some great downtime in the hotel, at the City Park, and at Tattered Cover.
Thanks Denver and Trip Advisors - it was a great trip!