In general, I’m a planner, but every year Christmas sneaks up on me and I’m always floundering to find the perfect gift at the last moment.

I know that you enjoy buying Colorado-related gifts, because we live in the most awesome state in the union, and keeping it local is what we’re all about around here. So I thought I’d share a few of my favorite Colorado things that would make perfect gifts at Christmas or at any time of year.

This is not a sponsored post. If I mention a specific business it’s because I truly love them and their product. So without further ado here are a few of my favorite Colorado products that make great last minute gifts.

Brewery Swag

Nothing says “Colorado” like a gift from one of our many local breweries. Whether it’s a cuddly hoodie or a simple beer opener, if it’s got their favorite Colorado brewery label on it, you’ll be golden this Christmas.

City Star Brewing swag

Or why not introduce your friends and family to a new brewery. If you’re traveling around Colorado, stop in at the local brewery (you were going to anyway) and pick up some swag or a logo emblazoned growler for the beer lover in your family.

You really can’t go wrong with brewery swag, and don’t forget to fill up that growler on your way to your next holiday party – it will make you the popular kid for an evening.

Get Cheesy

Because who doesn’t love cheese? We have some amazing Colorado cheese makers and you can find a big selection at the Cheese Importers in Longmont, but even King Soopers carries some Colorado-made cheeses.

Avalanche cheese Colorado. HeidiTown.com

Enjoying Avalanche Cheese & fresh bread at Delicious Orchards in Hotchkiss, Colorado.

Your best bet is to go to the producer directly. Some, like MouCo in Fort Collins, sell directly from their website. Other cheese-makers, like Avalanche from Paonia, Colorado, give you a list on their website of where to find their delicious product.

For the Wino (that’s me)

I don’t want to leave out our Colorado wineries, after all, I’ve met quite a few of the owners of these fine establishments over the past couple of years and you won’t meet a nicer group of folks.

This fall, wearing my freelance writer hat, I stumbled across one of the coolest wine products while interviewing What We Love The Winery in Boulder. This is one of those products that will make my fellow wine lovers say, “Why didn’t I think of that!?”

wine pouch from What We Love The Winery in Boulder, Colorado. HeidiTown.com

Michael Hasler, owner of What We Love, has created a wine pouch, perfect for hiking, skiing or going to the game. It’s like a Capri Sun, but for grownup, and unlike that fun children’s drink, this pouch is reusable. You can use it for regular wine, but it was specifically made for What We Love’s Decadent Saint Mulled wine and comes with pouch warmers to keep it warm for up to 7 hours, making it the perfect accessory on one of the Mayor’s cross country ski outings. Brilliant, right?

So there are my picks for last minute Colorado Christmas gifts, and if you haven’t bought me anything yet, feel free to use this list. :-)

Denver for the holidays

December 16, 2014 — 2 Comments

I visited downtown Denver during the holidays for the first time 14 years ago.  I  had just moved to Littleton from Washington State with my then boyfriend, now husband, who had grown up in Colorado. We visited Larimer Street, and with its canopy of lights and dressed up storefronts I fell in love with Denver during the Christmas season. We have made it a tradition to do at least one or two trips to the Mile High City every December since then.

Ice skaters at Skyline Park in downtown Denver, Colorado.

Ice skaters at Skyline Park in downtown Denver, Colorado.

If you head to the big city over the next couple of weekends, here’s a few things that I recommend you check out.

Stroll down Larimer Street

Downtown Denver is beautiful during the holiday season. Twinkling lights cling to the trees and lamp posts on the 16th Street Mall. Skyline Park comes alive with the sound of laughter as folks enjoy the free ice rink. It’s free if you bring your own skates and just $2 to rent a pair. But my favorite area is Larimer Street. There’s just something sweet and romantic about this Denver street during the holidays.

Larimer Street lit up for the holidays. in downtown Denver. HeidiTown.com

Perhaps the prettiest street during the holidays in Denver, Colorado.

The storefronts are decorated by local artists each year who are commissioned by Larimer Square to trim the fronts of many boutiques with fantastic holiday flair.

Pop into Tamayo and warm up with some delicious tapas or a top shelf tequila while you’re in the area. This restaurant has been around for a while, but we just recently discovered its charms and we’re hooked.

Brilliant at the Denver Art Museum

The trees aren’t the only thing sparkling this holiday season in downtown Denver, and that’s because inside the Denver Art Museum you’ll find a jewel exhibit that would make Elizabeth Taylor swoon.

Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century is a world-exclusive exhibit featuring stunning jewelry, timepieces, and precious objects created between 1900 and 1975. The show runs through March 15. I have reservations to see Brilliant in early January and will write a full post about it then. Please note that you must buy tickets in advance for this popular show.

Do the Denver Christkindl Market

Don’t miss the Denver Christkindl Market at 16th and Araphoe in Skyline Park. It runs through December 23, and it isn’t only a place to do Christmas shopping; you can also enjoy the sights and sounds of a Christmas under the Holiday Tent. Sip on beer, gluhwein or schnapps and sit back and enjoy live music and dancers.

Denver Christkindl Market Heidi selling schnapps under the holiday tent.

A gal named Heidi selling schnapps under the Holiday Tent at the Denver Christkindl Market.

An Art & Culture Weekend

This upcoming weekend (December 19-21) is official the Mile High Holidays Art & Culture Weekend. There’s an array of things to do from a Children’s Christmas Tour & Tea at the Byers-Evans House Museum to the Annual TUBACHRISTMAS at Skyline Park. See the entire lineup of events HERE.

And don’t forget that New Year’s Eve is a fantastic time to be in the Mile High City. See what’s in store by clicking here.

Do you have a Denver holiday tradition in your family? Tell us about it in the comment section!

Breckenridge, is one of the Colorado ski towns with which I am most familiar, and it’s a personal favorite. It is a unique ski town because the ski area and the town blend together making it easy for skiers and non-skiers to enjoy the offerings of downtown Breck.

Breckenridge, Colorado decorated for the holidays. HeidiTown.com

Downtown Breckenridge, Colorado alight with the glow of the holidays.

Breckenridge Arts

While in town, visit the Breckenridge Arts District (see map of all locations here). Be sure to stop by the Tin Shop at 117 E. Washington Avenue. Here you’ll find an artist in residence. This program brings artists from around the world to ply their trade in Breckenridge for one week to one month.  Last winter, I stopped by and met artist Jonathan Clark of Houston. He made cool art with office supplies.

The Tin Shop guest artist residence and studio in Breckenridge, Colorado.

The Tin Shop guest artist residence and studio in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Jonathan Clark, artist. At the Tin Shop in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Jonathan Clark, artist. At the Tin Shop in Breckenridge, Colorado.

A full calendar of all the artsy things to see and do in Breckenridge can be found at BreckArts.com.

Breckenridge Eats

We tend to get stuck in restaurant ruts and it’s no different when we travel. Our two favorite dinner places in Breckenridge are Fatty’s Pizzeria and Giampietro Pasta & Pizza. Fatty’s is popular with locals and you’ll be treated like one when you visit, and their pizza is pretty darn awesome.

We’ve been going to Giampietro’s for years before the founding of HeidiTown. Here it’s all about the ambiance. You’ll snuggle up to your neighbors in this small, authentic Italian eatery, but the food is worth being a little cramped. Order whatever they’ve got as a special – you won’t be disappointed.

Breckenridge Drinks

Breckenridge is an idea place for folks who love booze. There are two breweries, Breckenridge Brewery and Broken Compass Brewery. I know the buys at Broken Compass and they are making damn good beer. There’s also Breckenridge Distillery serving up one of my favorite Colorado whiskeys. I recently tasted their smokey chili vodka and it’s delicious.

Beer at Breckenridge Brewery. HeidiTown.com

Beer at Breckenridge Brewery.

There are lots of great watering holes in Breckenridge, including Fatty’s, but we always end up at the bar at the back of The Motherloaded Tavern with the rest of the fun Breck crazies. The Gold Pan Saloon, a Breckenridge tradition since 1879, is another place where a lot of locals cozy up to the bar. You may even run into Ullr himself here.

Cross-country ski in Breckenridge

While I no longer downhill, I love to cross country ski and my favorite course in Colorado is the Breckenridge Nordic Center. I have fond memories of swishing through the snowy forest here. They have good trails for all levels, so whether you want a leisurely cruise or you want to sweat, this place has got you covered. They also seem to work round the clock to keep the trails well-groomed.

Breckenridge Festivals

One of the reasons that I love Breckenridge so much is that their festival scene is spectacular. There’s always something happening here, whether it’s a beer festival or town party, like Race of the Santas and Ullr Festival, which I’ve covered for the last two years (see pics here). This winter I’ll be covering the International Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge January 27 through February 8, so watch HeidiTown’s Facebook page photos.

Heidi & John Forsberg, aka Ullr. Photo by Ryan Schlaefer at Ullr Fest 2014

The Mayor & Ullr at Ullr Festival 2014 in Breckenridge, Colorado.

The best place to keep track of what’s happening in Breckenridge during the winter or summer is GoBreck.com.

ColoRADogs logoBefore I introduce you to this month’s recipient of HeidiTown Gives Back, I want tell you a story.

When I was a little girl we lived in a rural area of southern Oregon. Our house and our neighbor’s house were the only homes on a quiet, dead end street. My little brother and I spent our days exploring the nearby sand dunes (probably a sand pit) and playing in our huge yard. We were never alone on these daily adventures – we had two guards – our dog, a fearless cockapoo named Fluffy, and Daisy, a big brindle pit bull that belonged to our neighbors.

Daisy was a sweetheart and she would have laid her life down to protect us, and we adored her. Daisy was my first introduction to pit bulls, a breed that today suffers from discrimination in places like Denver and Aurora, Colorado.

ColoRADogs, the recipient of this month’s HeidiTown Gives Back Campaign. I chose this organization because of their fight to repeal breed-specific legislation in Colorado and their desire to educate the public.

Pit bull puppy from Coloradogs on Facebook

Every dog was once a puppy. They learn how to behave from their human owners. Photo courtesy of ColoRADogs on Facebook.

Pit bulls and other power breeds, even German Shepherds, the breed I own, are often the targets of breed-specific legislation.

ColoRADogs trademarked the phrase, “Responsible ownership is not breed specific.”

Contrary to popular belief, pit bulls spend a lot of time smiling. Photo courtesy of ColoRADogs on Facebook.

Contrary to popular belief, pit bulls spend a lot of time smiling. Photo courtesy of ColoRADogs on Facebook.

They believe that everyone has the potential to be a great dog owner. Some just need a helping hand, whether that’s with basics like food, or with behavior intervention or simply by an encouraging message in a society filled with negative ones. ColoRADogs stand for breed equality – that is, every dog (and their owner) should be treated as an individual. I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment.

They also believe that education is important to their cause; their website reads, “When people know better, they do better.”

soldier hugs his dog from Coloradogs on Facebook

Nothing is better than a dog hug. Photo courtesy of ColoRADogs on Facebook

ColoRADogs isn’t only an advocacy group, they are also a rescue organization, and while they rescue all breeds, they have a soft spot for pit bulls.

The ColoRADogs website is a wonderful resource and you can learn much, much more about what this organization does by visiting.

ColoRADogs.org

Like them on Facebook here!

Follow them on Twitter & Instagram too.

 I hope that you will consider donating to their cause today. After all, it’s #ColoradoGivesDay!

HeidiTown Gives Back is a campaign I started in January 2012. Each month a Colorado nonprofit of my choosing receives a free ad space and a write-up here on the blog, along with occasional mentions in social media throughout the month. This is my way of using my platform to try to do a bit of good in this crazy world. To be considered email me at TheMayor@HeidiTown.com.

The Denver Christkindl Market is underway at Skyline Park in downtown Denver and this lively European style Christmas market has become a tradition in our house and something we eagerly look forward to every holiday season.

Why do we love it?

Truly Unique Shopping

Tired of strolling the mall for the perfect gift? The Christkindl Market has vendors selling goods that you won’t find anywhere else. I’m not much of a shopper, but even I love browsing the Christkindl Market. Last year I found a gorgeous German lace scarf for my mother and colorful nesting dolls for our niece. Need a cuckoo clock? They’ve got those too.

Denver Christkindl Market at night

The Denver Christkindl Market comes alive after dark. Twinkling lights add to the festive mood. Photo courtesy of the German American Chamber of Commerce – Colorado Chapter.

Unique Food & Drink

As fun as it is to shop at the Denver Christkindl Market, I really go for the food and drink. Glühwein, a traditional German mulled wine, is my favorite and it flows freely under the Entertainment Tent at the market. My husband, Ryan, prefers the German beers that are also sold under the tent.

The food is another delightful treat at the market. I’m obsessed with Chef Neuhold‘s salmon, so I get the same dish every year, but there are many traditional German and European foods to be eaten here. You can also indulge in pastries galore and of course, there are always pretzels bigger than your head from Styria Bakery.

Christkindl Market mulled spiced wine

Glühwein, a German mulled wine that’s perfect on a chilly winter evening.

Unique Entertainment

No trip to the market is complete without a stop in the Entertainment Tent – this is, after all, where they serve the wine and beer – and on a cold day it’s toasty inside the tent.

As most of you know, I love a good German polka number and a bit of dancing. It’s under the Entertainment Tent where my favorite summer party, Biergarten Festival, and Denver Christkindl Market, come together. Some of the same lively bands and dancers make an appearance. Dance troupes such as the TEV Edelweiss Schuhplattlers and the Chalet Dancers entertain the crowds. And bands like Rick Borger and the Average German Band and Steve Rock keep the crowds dancing.

dancing at Dever Christkindl Market

Dancing under the Entertainment Tent at Denver Christkindl Market.

Head to Skyline Park this season and start making your own Denver Christkindl Market memories.

Entry to the market is FREE and it runs through December 23, 2014. It is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Skyline Park is located at the 16th Street Mall and Arapahoe Street.

DenverChristkindlMarket.com

Join the DCM on Facebook here.

On Twitter @denvchristkindl

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Featured Festival spots on HeidiTown.com are paid advertisements. Interested in having your festival or event considered for a feature? Email TheMayor@HeidiTown.com.

As some of you know, I have retired from skiing. My career was short and not very sweet. I learned as an adult and despite having amazing instructors at several Colorado resorts, I could never learn to get off the chairlift without falling. This little chairlift problem kept me up at night for weeks before I had a scheduled ski trip.

I wanted to love the sport of skiing – I so badly wanted to be one of those fashionable people swishing down the slopes, but I had to face the facts – I wasn’t ever going to be that person, and so I finally called it quits. But I am here to tell you that you don’t have to ski to have a great time at a Colorado ski resort.

In the past, I highlighted things to do in Steamboat Springs when you’re not skiing, and that gave me the idea for a series of winter posts about what to do at various ski resorts around Colorado when you’re not skiing.

Ice rink Vail Village. HeidiTown.com

The ice rink at Vail Village.

I will share with you some of my favorite discoveries, such as sitting slope slide at the Derailer Bar at Winter Park Resort enjoying Colorado’s best bloody Mary while watching ski races. It was like having front row seats to the show. Another great experience was exploring art galleries in Vail Village and chatting up surprisingly friendly gallery owners.

Telluride Ski Resort gondola ride to town. HeidiTown.com

Riding the gondola from the ski village to town in Telluride, Colorado.

Or, the time in Telluride when I visited many of the downtown shops that are just a gondola-ride-over-the-mountain from the ski village and popped into Last Dollar Saloon where I was treated like a regular. I’ll share about my wonderful experiences in Breckenridge, one of the best places for a non-skier because the resort and town blend together seamlessly.

Downtown Breckenridge, Colorado in the snow. HeidiTown.com

Downtown Breckenridge is a quintessential Colorado town that just happens to have an amazing ski resort too.

Even if you do ski, like my husband, you don’t spend all your time on the slope when you visit a Colorado ski resort so this series is for you too. As posts are posted, I will add a link to this article.

Steamboat Springs when you’re not skiing (posted 12/18/13) *the inspiration for the series*

Things to do in Breckenridge when you’re not skiing (posted 12/11/14)

As I was thinking about my Thanksgiving post, I realized that I had some sparks of insight during this past year that made me grateful for some of the amazing things about Colorado that I’d been taking for granted. And I thought that this was the perfect time to come clean and reveal some of those things that hadn’t properly excited me until this year.

Rocky Mountain National Park

I live very near Rocky Mountain National Park, and I grew up going to Yellowstone National Park, and I think it’s the combination of these two things that have caused me to take RMNP for granted.

This summer, however, I drove Trail Ridge Road for the first time on our way to a wedding in Grand Lake in early July. The wildflowers were in full bloom and I kept asking Ryan to pull over so that I could hop out and take photos.flowers on top of trail ridge road, rocky mountain national park, colorado. HeidiTown.com

close up of wildflowers on trail ridge road, rocky mountain national park, colorado. HeidiTown.com Continue Reading…

There are few things I love more than wine, chocolate and cheese and I am not alone. That’s why you should get yourself to Ouray, Colorado for this annual December affair.

The event was founded by Faith Parry who has a passion for Colorado-owned businesses. She, along with Jennifer Loshaw, saw Wine, Chocolate & Cheese Festival as a way to support small Colorado wine and food businesses as well as bring visitors to Ouray.

“I wanted to have an opportunity to showcase the fabulous things we have in Colorado,” says Parry.

Ouray Wine, Chocolate & Cheese Festival. HeidiTown.com

She also wanted to encourage folks to shop local for Christmas presents instead of heading outside of Ouray to the big box stores.

Originally, the event featured Colorado wine and chocolate, but Colorado cheese was added the second year in order to bring something savory to the table. Last year, the event expanded again to include Colorado arts and crafts and Colorado distilled spirits – making it a real Colorado party.

Ouray Wine Chocolate & Cheese Festival. HeidiTown.com

Swing City Express, a 9-piece swing band will provide festive music for Wine, Chocolate & Cheese Festival this year. Guests are encouraged to dress up too – this year’s theme is Winter Wonderland.

Each year the festival helps out a local nonprofit and this year that organization is Art Partners, promoting youth development and building a sense of social responsibility and self-esteem. They serve Delta, Montrose and Ouray.

While this event attracts people from the region, there’s no reason folks on the Front Range can’t make a trip to the Ouray around Wine, Chocolate & Cheese Festival. After all, it may be tiny, but Ouray is full of fun – it’s a HeidiTown favorite! You can check out their two amazing museums, sip suds at two locally owned breweries, shop at the town’s many unique stores or just soak in the hot springs pool all day.

Ouray Colorado in the winter. HeidiTown.com

If you are more adventurous, check out the Ouray Ice Park – right now it’s set to open on the weekend of the festival. Read about my experience there.

“Ouray is a magical place in the winter,” says Parry. “Christmas lights shine against the sparkle of the snow. It’s a quaint snowy town nestled in a canyon surrounded by towering mountains. And there’s fantastic festivities almost every weekend from Thanksgiving to mid-January.”

Tickets for Wine, Chocolate & Cheese Festival are just $20 and available online. Better yet, stay at a participating Ouray hotel or bed and breakfast and receive a discounted ticket for only $10. Buy tickets and see list of participating lodging establishments here.

Ouray’s Wine, Chocolate & Cheese Festival

December 13, 2014

6 to 9 p.m.

Ouray Community Center at 320 6th Avenue

ChocolateWineFest.org

Follow this fest on Facebook

Ouray Wine Chocolate & Cheese Festival

 

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Featured Festival spots on HeidiTown.com are paid advertisements. Interested in having your festival or event considered for a feature? Email TheMayor@HeidiTown.com.

 

There’s nothing more cheerful than a Christmas tree and no better way to ring in the holidays than by putting up the tree, but Christmas is about so much more than decorations and presents – it’s a time to reflect on our blessings and to assist those who may need a helping hand.

Tree for All logo

Tree for All is one of three fundraisers held annually by the Foothills Service League to benefit Foothills Gateway and Namaqua Center for Children. Since 1972, Foothills Gateway has been improving the lives of thousands of people in Northern Colorado with cognitive disabilities and their families. They help people conquer challenges and achieve their maximum potential.

Foothills Gateway, Inc.

For more than 35 years, Namaqua Center has provided care, treatment and healing to Northern Colorado’s most vulnerable children. Many of these children have lived through trauma and may have severe behavior challenges or have diagnosable emotional disturbances. Namaqua offers children-centered, community based programs to help give families the individualized support they need to raise healthy and happy children.

Tree for All will be held on Sunday, December 7, 2014, at 11:00 a.m. at The Ranch First National Bank Building in Loveland, Colorado. This event is an opportunity to celebrate the season and help two great organizations at the same time.

I call that a “win/win.”

Crowd shot at Tree for All, Foothills Service League. HeidiTown.com

For just $40/ticket participants can browse 50+ uniquely decorated Christmas trees that will be raffled off during the event. A beautiful brunch will be served, live entertainment will be provided and there will be door prizes, a cash bar and parking lot shuttle services.

multiple trees at Tree for All, Foothills Service League. HeidiTown.com

The Christmas trees are decorated by local businesses, organizations and individual donors and let’s just say that these folks get very creative.

Just take a look at this Cat Themed “Christmas Tree” pictured below.

Cat Christmas Tree at Tree for All by Foothills Service League. HeidiTown.com

Tickets to Tree for All can be purchased at Cloz to Home (120 W 4th Street, Loveland), Rowe’s Flowers (863 N Cleveland Avenue, Loveland)

or online at FoothillsServiceLeague.org.

This is your opportunity to do something good for your community this holiday season and have fun doing it!

Here are a few more lovely Tree for All trees from past years.

Tree for All, Foothills Service League. 2 HeidiTown.com

Tree for All, Foothills Service League. HeidiTown.com

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Featured Festival spots on HeidiTown.com are paid advertisements. Interested in having your festival or event considered for a feature? Email TheMayor@HeidiTown.com.

Luxor on the Vegas strip. HeidiTown.comI rarely write about travel outside of Colorado, but even the Mayor leaves the state occasionally, but when I go on vacation, I will likely write about it.

My husband decided that he wanted to spend his birthday in the sports book in Las Vegas, so after a five-year Vegas hiatus, we booked a trip.

Here are some of my Vegas tips, tricks and observations. Please feel free to leave yours in the comment section. Since I wasn’t on an official HeidiTown trip, I didn’t take my real camera, so please enjoy my below average phone photo editing skills.

Objects on the strip are farther than they appear

Some of you probably know about “false peaks,” a phenomenon that I have experienced several times while climbing Colorado’s mountains. It’s the peak you think is the summit, but it’s actually concealing the summit behind it. This is similar to the hotels along the Las Vegas strip. At first these ginormous buildings seem fairly close, but as you walk towards them it’s as if they somehow move farther and farther away. On our first night I think I may have walked five miles (in flip flops), resulting painful blisters that I’m still sporting. Continue Reading…