This is a great year to visit one of our state’s National Parks. After all, the National Parks Service is celebrating their 100th birthday on August 25, so why not celebrate by visiting one of Colorado’s four National Parks this summer?
Great Sand Dunes National Park
I’ve been to Great Sand Dunes National Park several times and early in the summer is the best time to go because Medano Creek will still be running rapidly through the dunes. Later in the year it becomes just a trickle.
This place is surreal. On our first camping trip there, as we arrived in the dark, a meteoroid fell to earth, lighting up the world around us for a few seconds. Therefore my first glimpse of this park was by the light of a meteor.
We also had a bear visit our campsite on one occasion and I saw my first Great Horned Owl at Great Sand Dunes National Park, so we have lots of great memories of this park.
The sand dunes at this park are the tallest dunes in North America and there are loads of activities to do here including sandboarding and sand sledding, free ranger programs, hiking, photography and more. When you go, don’t miss Zapata Falls. Located on BLM land just outside the park, this waterfall provides a respite from the hot summer sun.
Where to stay: You can camp inside the park or at an area campground. Alamosa is also close by and offers many lodging options. As well, the Sand Dunes Swimming Pool & Hot Springs in Hooper, offers camping and lodging.
Mesa Verde National Park
Whereas Great Sand Dunes National Park has an otherworldly feel, Mesa Verde feels like visiting another time – a very ancient time.
Mesa Verde is under visited by Coloradans and that’s a shame because the park is fascinating on so many levels; architecturally, historically and geologically. An individual could spend a lifetime studying this place, and some do.
The park offers a glimpse into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo who made this area their home for from AD 600 to 1300. There are 5,000 known archeological sites in the park as well as 600 cliff dwellings, and these sites are some of the most notable and well preserved in the United States.
The ancient people who settled here lived a very different life; much of it vertical as they climbed up and down from their elaborate cliff homes. You can do the same when you visit and I highly recommend booking a guided tour of Balcony House.
Visit Mesa Verde Country is a great resource for those planning to explore this area of Colorado.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
We visited the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park for the first time in fall 2015, and it did not disappoint. In fact, it seriously impressed us. The scenery is staggering – literally. I felt a little wobbly at certain overlooks.
The birds soar below you at this National Park, which doesn’t happen in very many other places. We arrived at the park early in the morning and managed to hike two different trails before noon. I’ve written extensively about our visit here.
The history of the canyon is fascinating and I encourage you to chat with the knowledgeable park rangers at the Visitors Center.
Where to stay: Montrose is just 20 miles away and offers an array of hotels and a friendly downtown.
Rocky Mountain National Park
This is the most well-known and most visited National Park in Colorado. My favorite time to visit the park is in early July when the wildflowers are at their peak. Heading over Trail Ridge Road on our way to a wedding in Grand Lake several summers ago, I kept screaming for Ryan to pull over so that I could photograph wildflowers.
Visitors could spend an entire day in the park photographing the vast variety of wildflowers. See some photos I took here.
Of course, most people visit this park to see the wildlife, which is also plentiful. Our most exciting sighting was a large coyote that ran in front of our car high up on Trail Ridge Road. Elk can be seen just about everywhere in the park – if you’re after moose, you’ll have better luck on the west side of RMNP closer to Grand Lake.
For a listing of all of Colorado’s National Parks, State Parks and historic sites visit www.nps.gov/state/co/index.htm.
This article also appearing in Summer in Berthoud, a Berthoud Weekly Surveyor publication.
Over the years in Colorado, I’ve watched festivals thrive and I’ve watched festivals die and I know what works and what doesn’t. I even helped create a festival and that experience gave me valuable insight into what it takes to produce an event.
Today, I’d like to share with you some free advice. If you are taking part in the organization of a fest this summer, take heed.
Successful festivals do three things really well, but above all, they pick a theme and stick to it. The biggest mistake a festival can make is not sticking to their theme.
The right location can go a long way in setting the overall mood for your festival. If your event takes place in mid-summer, holding it in a parking lot with minimal shade is a bad idea. Parks are almost always preferable; they provide shade overhead and grass underfoot.
Second, you need to spend time thinking about (and drawing out) your festival’s layout. Walk the site and draw a map. Visualize lines of sight. Will there be enough room for folks to line up for beer? Are the portapotties too close to the food? Can people easily move through your event?
One piece of advice is to put your beer in a central location. This way, while people are waiting in line they still feel like they’re part of the festival. It’s even better to situate your beer tents in a place where those in line can watch the festival entertainment without being in the way. This is fantastic if you can pull it off.
This goes back to theme. If you’re running a German festival the music should be German, the food and drinks should be German and the decorations should be German.
I always encourage festival organizers to keep vendors authentic as well. If you’re running a medieval faire, no attendee will be excited about a Comcast tent. Sorry Comcast. They will be interested in weapon makers and artisans.
It’s tempting to take money from any vendor who is interested in setting up their booth at your event, but the truth is that these types of businesses (cell phone companies, etc.) detract from your theme, and too often I see them start taking over formerly great festivals.
If you’re hosting an art event, think about the kind of person you’d like to attract. A heavy metal band may not be the right musical choice, but a classical guitarists might be just right. If you’re organizing a cultural event stay true to the culture you’re celebrating. Tacos should be served at Cinco de Mayo, not barbecue.
Take if from someone who covers events for a living, Coloradans have a lot of choice when it comes to what they will do on any given weekend. Dozens of festivals occur across the state during the summer months and it’s important for festival organizers to make their festival stand out. Keeping these three things in mind, as well as your festival theme, will go a long way to ensure that your event continues to thrive year in and year out.
Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer is a Colorado festival and travel writer and founder of HeidiTown.com. She spends her days promoting Colorado and her nights drinking Colorado craft beer. If your organization would like Heidi to speak about festival marketing or the importance of tourism, contact her at TheMayor@HeidiTown.com.
Last week I was a speaker at a tourism conference in Pagosa Springs, and it was a good reminder of the total awesomeness of this Southwest Colorado town.
Pagosa Springs should be on your must-visit list this summer and here are five things you need to do once you get there.
1. Float the river in Pagosa Springs
The best way to take advantage of a river that runs directly through a town is to float it. The San Juan River is the source of all good stuff in Pagosa Springs and is a big summertime attraction.
The best time to float the river is in July and August when the water levels are lower. Bring your own tube or check out this Pagosa Springs’ website for how to go about floating the San Juan River. Continue reading
While on magazine assignment in Steamboat Springs earlier this spring, we got a taste of Steamboat’s growing beer scene and we liked it – a lot.
It had been several years since we’d spent time in Steamboat and lots have changes have taken place in that short period of time. The town is now home to two breweries with a third on the way (Mountain Tap Brewery). And Yampa Valley Brewing Co. is now open in Hayden, just a short drive away.
There’s also a brand new beer bar that’s outstanding, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Continue reading
My Facebook wall has been full of tropical vacation photos for several weeks. I even have a friend on a private yacht in the Caribbean. If this is the case for you too, it’s rather depressing, right? I mean, who doesn’t want to be on a yacht in the Caribbean?
If you’ve got cabin fever, I’ve got a solution and no, it’s not robbing a bank. It’s called a mini-vacation, and while I’m not promising that this outing will be as exciting as snorkeling in Grand Cayman or zip lining in Costa Rica, it will brighten your day.
1. Take a Walking Tour
Not every town has a guided walking tour, but you’d be surprised at how many towns have a printed version of a walking tour. They are usually available at your local visitor center, museum or at the chamber of commerce.
I once took a walking tour of Fort Collins, a town with which I am very familiar. It was a night walking tour, but it wasn’t about ghosts, but rather the town’s history. Despite having walked Fort Collins’ streets many times (even at night), during the tour I felt like I was in a brand new town. Continue reading
On our last trip to Colorado Springs, we experienced two very unique lodging properties – an historic hotel and an historic vacation home – and we enjoyed both.
Lodging in Manitou Springs, Colorado – The Cliff House at Pikes Peak
On our first night we were booked at The Cliff House at Pikes Peak, one of the region’s most distinguished and historic hotels.
We’d stayed at The Cliff House many years ago, and since that stay, my husband has always named The Cliff House as one of his favorite Colorado hotels.
We arrived in town near lunch time so our first stop was at Manitou Brewing Company. This brewery not only serves up noteworthy craft beer, but also gourmet food. I daresay this is the most foodie brewery I have ever visited. Continue reading
I’ll be the first to admit that I used this title as click bait. I knew that those of you with favorite taco shops around Colorado were going to click the link, and if you didn’t see your favorite taco listed you would school me on taco greatness.
Here’s the thing. “Best of” lists about food are crap and I can say that because I’ve written one in the past. Everyone has a different set of taste buds, not to mention we are influenced by things ambiance and the people we were dining with.
With that being said, I shall reveal three of the most memorable tacos I’ve eaten in Colorado. I’m sure I’ve had other delicious tacos, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind, and whether that makes them the “best” or not, I refuse to be the judge. Continue reading
There is nothing, not even free beer, that makes me more excited than a wildlife sighting, and we had one of the best ever this past weekend in Steamboat Springs at our vacation home, Angler’s Cabin.
We arrived back to Angler’s Cabin, a Moving Mountains property, in the early afternoon to find that we had visitors – visitors of the moose kind. A mamma moose and her two yearlings were taking a break in the front yard of our home, within inches of the front windows.
We carefully went indoors and began snapping photos and watching these lazy moose. They stuck around for awhile, eventually making their way to the back (street side) of the house where the munched on anything they could find.
Seeing these moose made an amazing stay at Angler’s Cabin even more memorable. Continue reading
Founded as a resort town, Colorado Springs has long been a center for arts and culture. While Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows were taking place in Denver, Colorado Springs was hosting writers and artists.
I believe this predilection for the finer things in life is one reason the city has so many museums. Visit Colorado Springs has 24 area museums listed on their web site, making this city a must-visit for museum fanatics.
A Visit to the Money Museum in Colorado Springs
The Money Museum is all about money. It features one of the most complete U.S. gold coin collections ever assembled, including many one-of-a-kind specimens, and the History of Money exhibit will show and tell you how your “change has changed” over the years. We, however, visited this museum to see their Olympic Games exhibit which will run through March 2017. Continue reading
It had been a decade since I last went bar hopping in downtown Colorado Springs and wow, has the downtown changed. On a Friday night the sidewalks were full of revelers.
We started at Brooklyn’s on Boulder, one of downtown Colorado Springs’ newest hot spots, but you wouldn’t know it from the front of the building; there are no neon lights, no band posters hanging on the window. In fact, the first thing we saw was a line of nice ties. Yes, men’s neckties.
We went inside and knocked on the door marked “Employees Only.” A dashing man in a suit opened it and ushered us inside. Brooklyn’s is a modern day speakeasy that’s owned and operated by Lee’s Spirits, a maker of fine gin. All drinks at Brooklyn’s are made with Lee Spirits’ gin.
The prohibition style, low-lit speakeasy was buzzing with an early evening crowd. The bartenders here are artisans who aren’t afraid to light things on fire. My martini was divine. Continue reading