I haven’t spent a great deal of time in Eastern Colorado, but after an early summer trip to Fort Morgan, I will remedy that situation. The towns scattered across the Easter Plains may be small, but they are bursting with Americana and good old fashion charm.

We spent just one night in Fort Morgan; we were in town for Glenn Miller SwingFest, a celebration of the town’s most famous son.

Northeast Colorado, Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer. HeidiTown.com 7

As we traveled back towards the mountains I couldn’t help but notice the splashes of color on the side of the highway. I mentioned it so frequently that my husband took the hint and brought the car to a screeching halt near a particular big bunch of wildflowers.

Wearing flip flops, I picked my way cautiously through the prickly brush to where the white flowers were fluttering like paper in the wind. If you’ve driven in Colorado, you’ve probably seen these before. I had to look up the name and I’m fairly certain they are prickly poppies.

Prickly poppies in Northeast Colorado, Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer. HeidiTown.com 1

Prickly poppies.

There were also these brilliant yellow cactus flowers.

Yellow cactus flower in Northeast Colorado, Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer. HeidiTown.com 2

After I had my fill of snapping wildflower photos on the side of I76 we drove on, exiting on Hwy 34 towards Greeley. About 12 miles west Ryan suddenly made another unscheduled stopped. He’s seen an historical marker and wanted to check it out. We were in a moseying sort of mood after all.

The marker stood before a dilapidated building surrounded by fencing. The sign indicated that we were in Dearfield, Colorado, a ghost town with just a few buildings still standing, albeit crookedly.

Dearfield was a planned community established in 1910 as an agricultural colony of African Americans. The first settlers moved to town in 1911, and by 1920 there were 200 residents. There were also two churches, a school and a restaurant and plans to build a canning factory and college. Those plans, however, were never realized. Unfortunately, Eastern Colorado was part of the Dust Bowl.

Sunflower in the ghost town of deerfield, in Northeastern Colorado. HeidiTown.com

Slowly the citizens began to leave in search of greener pastures. By 1946 Dearfield’s popular had fallen to just one hearty soul. Despite the sad story, the town is still a symbol of western pride and empowerment for many African Americans and today the site is the property of the Black American West Museum.

This is what’s left of Dearfield, Colorado today. While the buildings are in bad shape, they are still home to things like old wash machines and chairs. I got the odd sense that folks had simply gotten up one day and walked away.

Dearfield Colorado old sign. HeidiTown.com

Building in the ghost town of Dearfield, Colorado. HeidiTown.com

A dirt road in the ghost town of Dearfield, Colorado. HeidiTown.com

The ghost town of Dearfield, Colorado. HeidiTown.com

scary sign in the ghost town of Dearfield, Colorado. HeidiTown.com

Wildflowers in the ghost town of Dearfield, Colorado. HeidiTown.com

ghost town. Dearfield, Colorado. HeidiTown.com

chair and old wash machine in the ghost town of Dearfield, Colorado. HeidiTown.com

The view from the TV Mania Hyper Suite on the 14th Floor of The Curtis Hotel in downtown Denver, Colorado. HeidiTown.com

The view from the TV Mania Hyper Suite on the 14th Floor of The Curtis Hotel in downtown Denver, Colorado.

I haven’t been to hundreds of cities, but I’ve visited enough to know that Denver is my favorite. The city has a laid back vibe; not chill like our Colorado mountain towns, but it’s not uptight or pretentious. I don’t have to worry about my un-manicured nails or that my handbag doesn’t entirely match my outfit.

We don’t put on airs in Colorado, and that goes for our capital city too.

We love overnight visits to the Mile High City and for our 12th wedding anniversary in May we decided to go out, Denver style. We booked a room at The Curtis Hotel and had tickets to Porgy & Bess at the Colorado Symphony.

We’d never stayed at The Curtis Hotel before, and I don’t know why because first, it’s conveniently located across the street from the Denver Performing Arts Center and second, it is rad. There are thirteen themed guest room floors. Themes include everything from a musical floor with a suite dedicated to Jimmy Buffet, to a Sci-Fi floor with a suite dedicated to Star Trek.

The hotel just completed an extensive $5 million renovation, and each of the 336 rooms has received a makeover, right down to the bedding. We were booked in the TV Mania Hyper Suite and were greeted by a wall of talk show hosts caricature – you know – those big funny heads that street artists like to draw. Our room was so big we could have hosted a dance party, and the theme was everywhere, right down to the tiny black television patterns on the white curtains.

TV Mania Hyper Suite at The Curtis Hotel in downtown Denver, Colorado. HeidiTown.com

TV Mania Hyper Suite at The Curtis Hotel in downtown Denver, Colorado.

After checking into our slick and modern room, we headed out for a pre-show drink. We’ve been on a mission to discovery new places, so we stopped at Tamayo, a restaurant we’d walked by a hundred times without stopping. At Tamayo we sipped fancy tequila and feasted on fabulous Mexican tapas of ceviche and tamales.

Tamayo has great Mexican tapas during happy hour. Downtown Denver, Colorado. HeidiTown.com

Tamayo has great Mexican tapas during happy hour. Downtown Denver, Colorado.

The Colorado Symphony show was marvelous. Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess did not disappoint, however, the show opened with Andrew Litton conducting Beethoven’s Concerto in C major for piano, violin and cello, “Triple Concerto.” I’m in love with stringed instruments, so I was truly swept away by this magical part of the evening.

Afterwards, we grabbed a quick drink at The Corner Office Bar at The Curtis Hotel. They feature a great late happy hour menu that starts at 9 p.m. We ordered up the lemon edamame and drinks before deciding to hop on a rickshaw and head towards Union Station.

We wanted to hit up Morten’s Steakhouse just before they closed for the evening. We hadn’t been there in years, but still remembered that their late night bar bites include a filet mignon sandwiches and truffle fries. We got there just in the nick of time. Sated, we walked back to hotel where our comfy king sized bed awaited.

This was definitely a Denver wedding anniversary to remember.

Thank you to The Curtis Hotel for their hospitality. We especially loved the cool library where you can check out books for free during your stay! 

CONTEST NOW CLOSED.

Did you hear about the #COmetoLife social media campaign early this month? Visit Colorado gave away a bunch of gift packs and then they gave away a trip to Colorado. If you weren’t a winner do not despair, Visit Colorado provided me with a pack to give away to one of my HeidiTown citizens.

Colorado Come To Life Logo

As a thank you, you should go like Visit Colorado on Facebook. You can also follow them on Twitter.

Go do that now. I’ll wait for you…

Did you do it? Good.

Whether you live in Colorado or long to visit this amazing state, this gift pack is for you. It’s a special, Colorado branded Osprey backpack filled with Colorado goodies such as a USA Pro Challenge fleece, socks by SmartWool, a sweet CO logo water bottle that will be the envy of your friends, sweet treats from Honey Stinger, and more.

CometoLife Colorado gift pack

Photo courtesy of Visit Colorado on Facebook.com.

Trust me, you want this gift pack.

As a Colorado lover, you need this gift pack.

And, it’s super-duper easy to enter this contest.

If you are lucky enough to be from Colorado, tell me your favorite Colorado summertime activity. As you know, my favorite summer activity is attending festivals, from Keystone Wine & Jazz to All Arts Fest in Steamboat Springs. What activity makes you #COmetoLife each summer?

If you are from out-of-state, tell me why you’d like to visit Colorado. I can’t make that happen, but I can give you a taste of the pure awesomeness that is the Centennial State by giving you this backpack. Do you want to go river rafting on the Arkansas River or canyoning in Ouray? Perhaps you just want to soak your cares away at one of our many natural hot springs. Tell me how you’d like to #COmetoLife in Colorado and you’ll be entered.

The winner will be chosen AT RANDOM on Friday, July 25 at noon. So leave a comment today!

Please note that you must leave me an email address that you check frequently. The winner must respond within 48 hours or the runner up will be contacted.

Never want to miss another giveaway as cool as this on HeidiTown.com? Subscribe here.

Good luck!

 

Keystone Wine & Jazz fest 2014 logoThere’s something about wine and jazz  - they seem to be a natural fit. Perhaps it’s all the notes; flavor notes and C notes. Okay, so that’s just silly, but these two wonderful things really do pair very nicely.

I was first introduced to the wine and jazz combo at Copper Mountain back in 2012, and since then I’ve had my eye out for other wine and jazz festivals that I can squeeze into my schedule.

When I read about Keystone Wine & Jazz Festival, I figured this was the perfect excuse to escape the heat of the Front Range summer and head for the hills for some music and delicious vino.

Keystone Wine & Jazz Festival is Saturday, July 19 and Sunday, July 20, 2014 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in River Run Village.

Photo from KeystoneFestivals.com.

Photo from KeystoneFestivals.com.

There will be more than 300 wines to sample as you meander your way through the attractive village. Your $60 one day festival pass gets you unlimited tastings and five Wine & Jazz gourmet food tickets for Saturday or Sunday.

In addition to tasting wine, you’re invited to enjoy various seminars on wine throughout the weekend.

Of course, during this wine adventure you will be entertained by jazz musicians including local favorite, Dotsero throughout each day of the festival. I got to see Dotsero at the Breckenridge Wine Extravaganza early this year and they are a super fun band.

Thanks to Keystone’s amazing (and free) transportation system, you can imbibe and not worry about driving. Just catch the shuttle and it will take you directly to your Keystone hotel or condo.

I’m attending this event with a girlfriend and we’re excited to be staying at a SummitCove.com condo. They are running lodging and ticket packages for two to Wine & Jazz starting at just $321. I stayed at one of their properties during TBEX, a blogger and travel writer conference that was held in Keystone several years ago. You can read about that wonderful Keystone experience here.

Purchase your tickets to Keystone Wine & Jazz Festival at KeystoneFestivals.com.

I’ve lived in Colorado for 14 years and this was my first trip over Trail Ridge Road. It wasn’t for lack of trying. We’d twice planned to drive the road on my birthday, only to be thwarted by snow closures. It turns out the famous road tends to close for the season either on my birthday, October 10, or a day before.

Thankfully, we were invited to a wedding in Grand Lake over the 4th of July weekend, so we had a wonderful excuse to travel Trail Ridge Road.

The view from Trail Ridge Road in early July. Rocky Mountain National Park. HeidiTown.com

We got to Rocky Mountain National Park ahead of the crowds and just a few miles into the park I was frantically asking Ryan to pull over so I could photograph wildflowers. There were flowers everywhere. Yellow, white, blue… I was in heaven.

yellow flowers at Rocky Mountain National Park. Wildflowers in July. HeidiTown.com

As we began to climb, the traffic thickened a bit. We stopped occasionally at lookouts to take photos and wander with the rest of the masses to ooh and aww over the scenery. Continue Reading…

Photo courtesy of Candlelight Dinner Playhouse.

Photo courtesy of Candlelight Dinner Playhouse.

For six years, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown has been the place for top-notch dinner theater in Northern Colorado. I enjoy the venue because inside this expansive and luxurious space I am transported to another place and time.

Sometimes I’m transported to Bangkok (The King & I) or a steam liner (Anything Goes) or the mighty Mississippi (Big River, the Adventure of Huck Finn). In their newest production, the audience is transported to Neverland, complete with a flying Peter Pan, ticking crocodile and dancing Indians.

We saw the play on the Thursday before the Fourth of July, and the place was packed with folks of all ages. Having missed the last show, we were interested to see what new items had made it onto the menu, and we weren’t disappointed. Since Neverland is a tropical place, the chef designed entrees with a Jamaican flair. Continue Reading…

When writing about breweries, writers often concentrate on the beers, and while that’s an important topic, sometimes the broader experience is worth writing about. In my travels around Colorado, I get the opportunity to visit a lot of breweries, and there are certain moments that stand out, so I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

Trivia at City Star Brewing - HeidiTown.comWinning Trivia Night (twice) at City Star Brewing, Berthoud, Colorado

I freelance for the Berthoud newspaper, so I have had the great pleasure of writing about City Star since they opened in 2012. The brewery is one of my preferred watering holes. I love their inviting taproom and their gold medal Bandit Brown is a favorite.

While every visit is a good experience, my favorite City Star Brewing memory is winning trivia night, not once, but twice. Fun isn’t a strong enough word to describe trivia night at City Star – it’s a hoot, and my face always hurts the next day from overusing my laugh muscles.

Trivia night at City star is Wednesdays if you want to come take me on.

Playing Liars Dice and other games at Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, Loveland, Colorado

Like City Star, I’ve known the guys at Grimm since before they opened their doors back in 2010, and have had the great pleasure of writing about them a lot over the years.

I have spent many a memorable hour in their taproom, but the happiest memories are playing games there with friends. A night of Liars Dice resulted in more laughter than I thought was humanly possible.

They have a great game collection, good stuff like Catan and Small World. They even have a Sunday Taproom Special of $1 off pints if you are playing a game. Continue Reading…

People with Compassion for Pets logoThis July, the recipient of the HeidiTown Gives Back Campaign (free ad space and blog post) is People with Compassion for Pets, my giving circle.

Giving circles are groups of individuals who pool their funds in order to give a larger amount to a charity. As part of Change Gangs, our group is rather unique. Here’s how it works.

Each month we each donate $25. It’s automatically deducted from my bank account, so I don’t even have to remember to write a check. The money is pooled in an account and then, each quarter we award the money to a particular pet nonprofit, but not just any nonprofit. Each member may, if he or she chooses, nominate a pet charity to be considered for the award. Continue Reading…

The Agricultural Heritage Center at the Lohr/McIntosh Farm

I am nostalgic for farm life. I don’t know why. I did grow up in a small town where black and white cows outnumbered people, but I did not grow up on a farm. Perhaps I was a farmer’s daughter in a former life. I have no idea, but when I walk into a place like The Agricultural Heritage Center in Longmont, Colorado, I become wistful.

The Agricultural Heritage Center in Longmont, Colorado. HeidiTown (4)

The Agricultural Heritage Center is on the property of the former Lorh/McIntosh Farm, on Hwy 66, just minute outside of Lyons, Colorado. I’ve driven by many times, but this time, on a whim, I pulled into their parking lot. Continue Reading…

Biergarden Festival Denver logoWhat haven’t I written about Biergarten Festival? It’s one of my favorite Colorado summertime festivals, and in fact, I’d say it’s in the top three.

For me, Biergarten Festival ticks all the right boxes because it’s an authentic German summer party with all the proper accouterments. It’s truly fun for everyone, from the smallest member of your family to the oldest.

Why do I look forward to Biergarten Festival? Well, let me lay it out for you in a nice succinct list.

1. The music. While I don’t listen to German polka music as a matter of course, I do enjoy it, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to this event. It’s happy music and it gets folks dancing; young folks, old folks and barely walking folks. I also love the German dance troupes who entertain the festivalgoers throughout the festival.

boys dancing at Biergarten Fest in 2011. HeidiTown.com

2. The beer. What’s not to love about a good German beer? After all, I’m pretty sure the Germans invented the stuff. They serve up Paulaner beers at Biergarten Fest and if you think that means there’s just one type of beer to drink, you’re wrong. Paulaner makes all kinds of styles and there’s a good variety poured at this event. Continue Reading…