One of my favorite things about being a Colorado travel writer is stumbling across roadside restaurant gems. I honestly never know when or where it’s going to happen.

We’re always looking for a good place to grab a meal, so if you know of a hidden roadside gem, please leave me a comment below. Without further ado, here are a few our our favorite roadside finds.

Villa Grove Trade, Villa Grove, Colorado

We discovered this place a couple of years ago on our way home from Durango and stopped there again a couple of weeks ago.

Villa Grove Trade in Villa Grove, Colorado. HeidiTown.com

You can’t miss Villa Grove Trade as it is one of the only places in Villa Grove, Colorado.

This place isn’t fancy. It’s a quirky restaurant with a small market that sells all sorts of artsy knickknacks that look as though they’ve been collecting dust for some time, but we don’t stop here to shop, we stop here for the sandwiches.

Made fresh-to-order, these sandwiches are like the ones I make at home, except better, and for less than $6, they are a deal to boot. Plus, the folks who work here couldn’t be nicer.

Trading Post Restaurant, Kit Carson, Colorado

The snow was starting to fall in earnest when we decided to stop for lunch on our way home from the High Plains Snow Goose Festival in Lamar this past February.

Hungry, we’d driven through two small towns without finding a restaurant, so when we saw the Trading Post Restaurant we were ready to eat.

Left my calling card at The Trading Post Restaurant in Kit Carson, Colorado. HeidiTown.com

I left my calling card at The Trading Post Restaurant in Kit Carson, Colorado.

As we went inside I instantly thought that this was a place where my late-grandfather would have felt right at home. The restaurant is reminiscent of another place and time, as is a lot of Southeastern Colorado.

Ryan ordered a hamburger and I ordered a patty melt. These two simple items were some of the best roadside food we’d ever eaten. It will be hard to pass up the Trading Post Restaurant if we happen to drive through Kit Carson again.

The French Bistro, Craig, Colorado

Northwest Colorado is the oddest place to find a top-notch French restaurant and yet it is now home to The French Bistro run by a French family who recently moved to Craig for the cowboy lifestyle.

Located on Highway 40 just outside of Craig and next door to the Wyman Museum, we would not have found this place on our own. Rachel Wattles, owner of the Horse & Hen Bed & Breakfast in Hayden, had recommended that we check it out.

The French Bistro in Craig, Colorado. HeidiTown.com

It’s easy to miss. Drive slowly as you are heading east out of Craig, or keep your eyes open as you pass the Wyman Museum as you are coming into Craig from the east.

Inside, The French Bistro feels a bit like a French grandmother’s living room, a grandmother who has a penchant for western décor, but is also homesick for France.

We worked our way through three amazing courses at The French Bistro. Starting with escargot dripping in butter, we moved on to two large French entrees – beef stuffed duck for me and chicken in a white wine sauce for Ryan. We ended our gluttonous evening with French desserts.

If you ever find yourself near Craig, Colorado, do yourself a favor and stop at The French Bistro. Your taste buds will thank you.

I grew up riding horses, but I am no cowgirl. I used to ride my girlfriends’ horses and ponies and they routinely bucked me off. Today, I’m a bit of a nervous rider and horses know it.

Ryan and I stayed at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch in Loveland, Colorado back in March, during their “Spring into Spring” weekend. While best known as a ranch where guests stay for a week, Sylvan Dale now offers weekend stays; the perfect opportunity for Front Range folks to check out this amazing place.

Our stay included all meals and ranch activities such as a guided nature hike, campfire songs and a horseback ride.

The Sylvan Dale Horses getting the afternoon off. Playing cowgirl at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch. HeidiTown.com

The Sylvan Dale horses get the afternoon off.

Our trail guide was Lonnie, who has been at Sylvan Dale for years. It was just Ryan and I on the ride and as we mounted our respective horses, big Buckaroo for Ryan (phew) and Jiminey for me, I could feel the usual tension rise in my shoulders and hips as I tried to settle into the saddle and act natural. Continue Reading…

In honor of Throwback Thursday, also known as #TBT on social media, I’m going to write about my childhood visits to the country’s National Parks. The fact is, I think that Smokey the Bear beats Mickey Mouse any day of the week.

Heidi & Wesley at Yellowstone National Park. HeidiTown.com

My brother & I at Yellowstone National Park in 1990.

My dad religiously took two weeks off every June to take our family on a road trip adventure that did not include mouse ears. Instead of visiting the destination that declares itself to be “the happiest place on earth” we explored places where happiness is not measured in ice cream cones, but in moments of unadulterated nature. Continue Reading…

Contest now over. Keep tabs on HeidiTown’s Facebook page for another Front Range Rally ticket giveaway happening there on May!

Yesterday I promised that if HeidiTown’s Facebook page could reach 3000 fans this week I’d give away tickets to Front Range Rally.

Front Range Rally LOGO 2013

We blew past that goal in under three hours!

So I’m keeping my promise and giving away a pair of tickets to Front Range Rally ($80 value).

What is Front Range Rally? Well, it’s only the best beer festival in Northern Colorado. And why do I give this fest such high honors? Here are four reasons:

1. 50 craft breweries (more than 130 unique beers)

Beers on ice at Front Range Rally. Dancing in my head photography. HeidiTown.com

2. Twelve food trucks

Continue Reading…

The Taste of Loveland gets bigger every year and 2015 is no exception. In fact, due to the many breweries that are involved this year, the event has changed their tag line from a “Wine & Food Experience,” to a “Wine, Beer & Food Experience.” Several distilleries will be there too. Taste of Loveland Colorado I haven’t been to the Taste of Loveland in several years, but in the past I’ve had a ton of fun (and food) at this event. Around 30 restaurants share tastes from their menus and even the grocery store King Soopers puts out a spread of cheese that would make a cheese lover cry with delight. Taste of Loveland, Colorado. HeidiTown.com Some of this year’s participating restaurants include 4th Street Chop House, Next Door Food & Drink and Pelican Lakes Restaurant and Bar. With nearly 50 wine/beer and distillery vendors, places like Wing Shack booth are sure to be popular. What goes better with beer than wings? Nothing, except maybe cheese. And if you’ve got a sweet tooth, B. Sweet Cupcakes has got you covered.

With so much delicious booze at this event it’s no wonder that the Taste of Loveland is working with Trunk Drivers to get folks safely home this year. This business will drive you home in your own vehicle. They will be located at the main entrance in red t-shirts. For information on pricing and reservations, visit TrunkDrivers.com. Taste of Loveland, Colorado 2. HeidiTown.com The Taste of Loveland raises money for the Foothills Service League which helps fund efforts by Foothills Gateway, Inc. and the Namaqua Center. Foothills Gateway improves the lives of people with cognitive disabilities and their families. Namaqua Center transforms lives through recovery, renewal and respect by providing behavioral health prevention, intervention and treatment services in Larimer County.

The Taste of Loveland is April 23, 2015 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Rocky Mountain Center for Innovation and Technology (former HP/Agilent Complex at Taft Ave. and 14th Street). Get your tickets today at FoothillsServiceLeague.org.

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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 my regular readers know, we try to check out as many museums as possible while traveling around the state. While on magazine assignment in Northwest Colorado, we decided to stop at the Wyman Museum in Craig, just 16 miles west of where we were staying in Hayden.

A stop at the Wyman Museum in Craig, Colorado. HeidiTown (4)

The museum’s collection was started in 1949 in Elks Springs, Colorado by Lou Wyman. He started the collection with a 1932 Lincoln that he paid $15 to obtain. Three years ago, a M47 American Tank joined the collection; it cost a bit more than the 32’ Lincoln, but Wyman had to have it. This tank was the highlight of Ryan’s entire day. Continue Reading…

This month’s recipient of HeidiTown Gives Back is near and dear to my heart. Many years ago, when I was a fairly new freelance writer, I had the opportunity to write about this Loveland-based nonprofit and I have been a fan ever since.

Hearts & Horses Logo

I believe in the healing power of animals, and so does Hearts & Horses. This therapeutic riding center, established in 1997, has grown over the years and today around 180 riders ride here each week.

Animals do not judge, they do not ask questions and they love unconditionally; Hearts & Horses harnesses this incredible nature of animals to make a difference in the lives of humans.

Hippotherapy at Hearts & Horses therapeutic riding center. HeidiTown.om

All photos courtesy of Hearts & Horses.

Hearts & Horses has programs for people with disabilities, veterans and at-risk youth. Their programs for adults and children with disabilities are well-established and success stories abound. Watch a beautiful video about this program here.

Changing Leads is their most recently added program and is directed towards at-risk youth through organizations such as Reflections for Youth, the Matthew’s House, etc. Watch a moving video about how Changing Leads is changing lives.

Changing Leads at-risk youth program at Hearts & Horses therapeutic riding center. HeidiTown.om

The Hearts & Horses for Heroes Program is for wounded service personnel and veterans. See a video of this program here.

Hearts & Horses Heroes Program. HeidiTown.com

There’s also an Alzheimer’s program and I warn you, the video may result in a few shed tears.

See a list of all programs and services at Hearts & Horses here.

A benefit for Hearts & Horses is being held on Saturday, May 2, 2015 in conjunction with the Kentucky Derby. KM2 Farms is hosting Derby Fest at Tony’s Bar & Rooftop in Fort Collins, Colorado from 2 to 6 p.m. Keeps tabs on the event by following Hearts & Horses on Facebook.

You can visit Hearts & Horses online at HeartsandHorses.org.

Our second day at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch in Loveland, Colorado, we woke to the sounds of birds chirping cheerily in the trees outside our cabin. Trees play a large part in the history of Sylvan Dale, in fact, a lot of the trees around the cabins have dedications.

One tree is dedicated to a couple who met at the ranch many years ago; there has been more than one love affair that started at Sylvan Dale. Four generations later, the family that blossomed from that love still comes to the guest ranch every summer.

Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch in Loveland, Colorado. Nature Walk. HeidiTown.com

Be sure to ask the story of the Sylvan Dale’s apple trees when you visit.

Breakfast was French toast made from Sylvan Dale’s famous cinnamon bread.  While I’m more of a savory and spicy food person, Ryan’s favorite breakfast item is French toast and he gave these an A++. Chef Scott grilled them up fresh while we munched on fresh fruit and yogurt and fueled up on coffee.

We needed fuel for our day ahead which included a nature hike with Dr. David Armstrong, Susan’s husband, and a horseback ride. Continue Reading…

Contemplating a road trip this spring or summer?

Here’s why road trips rule.

1. There are no lines, no purse checks and you can leave your shoes on.

2. You can sing at the top of your lungs and no one but the dog thinks you’re crazy.

3. You can take your dog along. Dogs rule!

Ten reasons road trips rule. HeidiTown.com

4. You can stop for breaks; stretch your legs and breathe real, clean, fresh air.

5. You can stop to eat real food. Diners rule!

Ten reasons road trips rule. diners. HeidiTown.com

6. You can pull over on a whim and take in the view.

The vista from Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado. Ten reasons road trips rule. HeidiTown.com

7. Your seat does not have to remain in an upright position.

8. You can play the slug bug or alphabet game. The slug bug game is awkward on a plane.

9. You can have long philosophical conversations about any subject without strangers thinking you are completely insane.

10. The fastest route is rarely the most interesting.

Sometimes it’s not about the destination, but the journey itself.

~Unknown

Want to get away from it all, but don’t want to drive far? Check out Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch in Loveland, Colorado. Just one hour north of Denver, once you arrive at Sylvan Dale you’ll feel a million miles from civilization. In fact, you may feel as though you’ve time traveled to another century.

Hello from Sylvan Dale guest Ranch in Loveland, Colorado. HeidiTown.com

Hello from Sylvan Dale guest Ranch in Loveland, Colorado.

We had the opportunity to spend a night at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch during their “Swing into Spring” getaway weekend. Traditionally a guest ranch where guests stay for a week at a time, Sylvan Dale has recently added short-term stays to their offerings.

When we arrived, Susan Jessup gave Ryan and I a tour of the property. She knows the ranch really well; after all, she grew up there. Her father bought the ranch in 1947, and Jessup’s love for the place is palpable. And it’s easy to see why – after less than 24 hours on the property, we had fallen in love with Sylvan Dale too. Continue Reading…