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Experience Authentic Travel, No Passport Required

Several years ago I was told I “wasn’t really a travel writer” because I didn’t travel internationally. This conversation, which occurred over email, stuck in my craw.

Dictionary.com defines travel as, “to go from one place to another, as by car, train, plane, or ship: take a trip; journey: to travel for pleasure.

This definition does not include, “must have passport with at least 3 stamps.”

I believe it was the advent of the “travel blogger” that changed people’s perspective on “traveling” and “travel writing,” but just because I don’t trot the globe doesn’t mean I’m not a traveler, and this goes for you too.

HeidiTown Travel Expands our Horizons, Cripple Creek

This leads me to the heart of my discussion. One does not have to visit South America or Paris, France to experience the transforming power of travel.

Travel bloggers love posting the following quote by Mark Twain:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

When travel bloggers refer to this quote, I believe most are inferring that the type of travel necessary to gain this level of enlightenment requires boarding a plane with a backpack stuffed with charcoal pills and wanderlust. Continue reading

Featured Festival: Rio Frio Ice Fest in Alamosa, Colorado

Where can you watch a fire and ice bonfire, run a 5K on a frozen river, celebrate a 167-year-old mountain expedition, take a polar plunge and so much more? At the Rio Frio Ice Fest in Alamosa, Colorado in the beautiful San Luis Valley.

Featured Festival, Rio Frio Ice Fest & Rio Frio on Ice 5K race. HeidiTown.com

A lot of HeidiTown stories came from our 2016 trip to Rio Frio Ice Fest, and I guarantee if you attend, you’ll have more than a few stories to tell too.

And if you want an even better story, participate in this festival. This will not only provide you with stories, but also bragging rights. After all, how many people can say they’ve ran a 5K on a frozen river? Let alone on the famous Rio Grande River.

The Rio Frio Ice Fest kicks off on Friday, January 27 with a party at the Grover Theater. This year’s festival theme, Tropical Beach, will be alive and well at this fête and throughout the weekend.

Saturday is chockablock with events starting with the Rio Frio on Ice 5K at 9 a.m.

Register for the Rio Frio on Ice 5K here.

Rio Frio on Ice, 5K at the Rio Frio Ice Fest in Alamosa. HeidiTown.com

The Rio Frio on Ice was my first 5K (read about my entire experience here). I’ve been known to start a lot of things on ice. My first-ever climbing excursion was also on ice. And while the elevation kicked my butt (Alamosa is at 7,500 feet above sea level) I had a blast, and best of all, I did not come in last in my age category.

You don’t have to run during the entire length of the Rio Frio on Ice – I walked and jogged the course, but if I can finish this race, you can too.

Overall Winners of the 2016 Rio Frio on Ice 5K, Amy Carpenter and Enrique Salcedo. HeidiTown.com

Overall Winners of the 2016 Rio Frio on Ice 5K, Amy Carpenter and Enrique Salcedo.

After the 5K, it’s time to celebrate your accomplishment. Attendees can enjoy all sorts of activities in downtown Alamosa such as live ice sculpting, contests such as a kids’ costume event with a Tropical theme, an evening fire and ice bonfire and Grub n’ Pub, a ticketed dining and drinking tour of the town. Ryan and I loved Grub n’ Pub so much that I wrote about it.

Grub & Pub in Alamosa during Rio Frio Ice Fest. HeidiTown.com

Rio Frio Ice Fest doesn’t end on Saturday. Stick around on Sunday for the pancake breakfast, Fremont Parade, Polar Plunge and Fremont Haunt, a coffin race with a twist. The Fremont Expedition (1849) lost a lot of men along the Rio Grande River in the San Luis Valley as they tried to make their way back to New Mexico. The Fremont Haunt competition re-enacts a portion of these tribulations.

Fremont Haunt coffin race at the Rio Frio Ice Fest in Alamosa. HeidiTown.com

Fremont Haunt, 2016

Rio Frio Ice Fest represents an opportunity to explore Alamosa and the surrounding area. It also offers attendees the opportunity to experience first-hand what Alamosa has to offer. It’s a truly immersive event, and I think this is what makes it so great. You don’t just see Alamosa, you experience it to the fullest during Rio Frio Ice Fest.

Featured Festival Rio Frio Ice Fest, Fire & Ice Bonfire. HeidiTown.com

Fire & Ice Bonfire at Rio Frio Ice Fest.

Rio Frio Ice Festival

Alamosa, Colorado

January 27-29, 2017

Register for the Rio Frio on Ice 5K here.

RioFrioIce.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.

These Colorado Winter Festivals Will Make You Feel like a Kid Again

I love things that make me feel like a little kid again; things like magic, 50 pound bags of popcorn at Costco and fresh snow. There’s something nostalgic about being truly awed, and as we get older that feeling happens less frequently.

Three Awe-Inspiring Colorado Winter Festivals, Kids Ski Joring Leadville CO 5 - by Lake County Tourism Panel

Crystal Carnival & Ski Joring Weekend in Leadville. Photo provided by the Lake County Tourism Panel.

However, these three Colorado winter festivals are sure to amaze even the most stoic adult. And if you bring along the kids, they’ll have memories to last a lifetime.

Telluride Fire Festival

January 20-22, 2017

TellurideFireFestival.org

The fire arts seem to have gained popularity over the last five years or so. Fire performers combine the entertainment style of Cirque de Soleil with the power of combustion. It’s sort of like magic because most of us have no idea how they do what they do.

FractalTribePerformer#2ByRyanBonneau (1)

Photo provided by Telluride Fire Festival. Photo by Ryan Bonneau.

Telluride Fire Festival is in its third year. It takes inspiration from Burning Man, and has been created by an incredible group of dedicated people in Telluride.

I attended the first-year event and I can tell you from personal experience that Telluride Fire Festival will make you feel like a kid again. From 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, spontaneous fire performances occur around town. From art cars to fire-breathing sculptures, it’s truly spectacular. Best of all, these events are free.

Additional ticketed events and workshops take place at various venues around town throughout Telluride Fire Festival. Explore their event calendar to learn more.

International Snow Sculpture Championships

Sculpting Week – January 24 to 28, 2017

Viewing Week – January 28 to February 5, 2017

GoBreck.com

I had heard about this Breckenridge event for years before I actually attended it in 2015, and I can honestly report that it lived up to the hype. The sheer scope of these snow sculpture is astounding, but then when you see the detail the artists are able to render in snow, it’s downright incredible.

Walking among these giant, snowy effigies gives me that spine-tingly excitement that’s a reminder of childhood.

Three Awe-Inspiring Colorado Winter Festivals_CarlScofield

International Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge, Colorado. Photo by Carl Scofield.

I recommend attending the International Snow Sculpture Championships towards the end of the sculpting period when the artists are finishing up their sculptures. Watching the sculptors work gives real insight to the difficulty of this competition. I also encourage you to visit once at night too. Darkness adds a certain level of magic to this event.   

Crystal Carnival & Ski Joring

March 3-5, 2017

LeadvilleTwinLakes.com

Last, but certainly not least, I can almost guarantee that you’ll verbalize some “oohs” and “ahhs” at Crystal Carnival in Leadville. The ski joring competition at this festival is one of the most hair raising events I’ve ever witnessed in person and I’ve watched ice climbing.

Three Awe-Inspiring Colorado Winter Festivals, Ski Joring Leadville by Lake County Tourism Panel

Crystal Carnival & Ski Joring Weekend in Leadville. Photo courtesy Lake County Tourism Panel

The ski joring competition at Crystal Carnival is the real deal. This isn’t a stunt performance for the crowds. These are real cowboys, cowgirls and skiers who come to Leadville to compete for real cash prizes and bragging rights.

Leadville’s main street, Harrison Avenue, is transformed into a snowy raceway for the ski joring competition that occurs throughout Crystal Carnival weekend.

I recommend checking the schedule and arriving early so you can get a good spot to watch, preferably around the jumps.

Other events take place during Crystal Carnival including a night mountain bike ride in the snow called the Mineral Belt Mayhem, and there’s usually an evening dance at the local Elk’s Club with a live band. However, the highlight at this festival is definitely the ski joring, so don’t miss it.

Colorado’s Most Picturesque Winter Towns

A Note from the Mayor: This article first appeared in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor where I work as a reporter-at-large. The original title was “Explore Colorado.”

Colorado is a beautiful state. Even the towns that dot the Eastern Plains have their own sort of nostalgic charm. However, there are a few towns that really sparkle when blanketed with a fresh layer of snow. Here are the towns that I consider to be three of the most picturesque winter towns in Colorado. 

Crested Butte

Coloradans have a long time love affair with Crested Butte. And while it’s not quite the same quaint place it once was – according to Zillow the median home price is $995,000 – it still retains an authenticity that residents and visitors love.

Crested Butte, Colorado, photo by Trent Bona.

Picturesque Crested Butte, Colorado, photo by Trent Bona.

Crested Butte sits on the border of where ranch land merges with the mountains. The town, which is located a short (free) bus ride from Crested Butte Mountain Resort, is full of colorful Victorian buildings, many of which house fantastic restaurants.

The town was incorporated in 1880, and had a population at that time of 400. In addition, approximately 1000 miners lived in the surrounding area. One of Crested Buttes’ most popular winter festivals, Al Johnson Memorial Uphill/Downhill Telemark Ski Race, is a celebration of Al Johnson, a mail carrier who traveled between the mining communities in the Crested Butte area in the late 1800s. Continue reading

Why You Should Visit Ouray, Colorado this Winter

There’s big news in Ouray. The 80-year-old hot springs pool is getting a major facelift and this is incredibly exciting. Unfortunately, this means the pool is closed this winter and it’s a big draw to Ouray at any time of year.

Why Visit Ouray, Colorado this Winter. Downtown Ouray in December. HeidiTown.com

However, the pool closure is no reason to postpone or cancel a trip to Ouray. No way! Not only are there other places to soak, there is so much to do and see in this charming mountain village. Here are just a few suggestions from someone who has been to Ouray multiple times during the winter months – me.

Ouray Ice Park

Even if you don’t ice climb, the Ouray Ice Park is worth visiting. It’s surreal in its beauty and if you happen to be lucky enough to watch someone climbing there, it’s impressive.

Courtesy of the Ouray Chamber Resort Association and Michael G. Seamans

Courtesy of the Ouray Chamber Resort Association and Michael G. Seamans

It’s easy to give ice climbing a try in Ouray, especially during several winter events. The Ouray Ice Festival, which occurs January 19-22, is an excellent way to become acquainted with the sport. This festival isn’t just for experts. There are presentations and clinics for every level, live music and more. It’s a party with ice climbing as the highlight. Continue reading

Best of HeidiTown 2016, Colorado Festivals & Travel

I used to call this annual post “Top 10 HeidiTown Highlights,” but I’m going to change it up this year because everyone loves a “Best Of” list, right? It’s a hard post for me to compose because every year seems to bring with it many incredible Colorado experiences. This makes it hard to boil an entire year down to ten major highlights, but every year I do it.

Trinidad, it's not what you think

Having a blast at Cardango, the ArtoCade’s evening, adults-only party.

This was a big year. I turned forty and we traveled a lot – to every corner of the state and the middle parts too. One of the major highlights was visiting Trinidad, Colorado (1) for ArtoCade, an art car extravaganza. This town blew us away. I love being surprised (in a good way) about a new place and I’m truly excited about the future of this friendly, quirky community.

Best of HeidiTown 2016 Colorado Travel & Festivals. Trinidad, Colorado

Trinidad, Colorado. so much potential!

Another standout experience was staying at a Never Summer (2) yurt near Cameron Pass last winter with our old dog, Xena. We’d never stayed in a yurt, let alone during winter and it was terrific. I loved the smell of the wood burning stove and the feeling of total peace as I snuggled into our yurt’s queen bed. I didn’t even mind having to use the outhouse, something I usually hate with a fierce passion. Continue reading

A Holiday Shopping Extravaganza in Ouray, Colorado

I’ll be the first to admit that I love online shopping. I’m also going to admit that when I visited Ouray this past weekend for Wine, Chocolate & Cheese Festival, I had no intention of Christmas shopping while in town except to maybe find something for my nieces at Ouray’s excellent toy store.

Kristopher's Culinaire and Hotel Ouray, Ouray, Colorado. HeidiTown.com

Khristopher’s Culinaire below Hotel Ouray.

After a satisfying breakfast at Backstreet Bistro, now located on 7th Avenue, we crossed the street to O’Toys. We’d browsed this toy store before and knew that they had a lot of great stuff for kids.

The new owners have taken a keen interest in getting to know the products they sell, and Tina helped us pick out the perfect gifts for our pre-teen and post-toddler nieces. We also picked up a new card game that’s been a hit in Ouray. It’s called Happy Salmon and is chaos your family will love. Continue reading

Whisky, Lights, Pinball – a Holiday Outing in Lyons, Colorado

Lyons, Colorado is one of our longtime haunts; after all, we’ve been visiting for more than a decade. It’s home to one of Ryan’s favorite destination, Lyons Classic Pinball, and anytime we’re in town some pinball must be played.

Whiskey, Lights, Pinball, Spirit Hound Distillers. HeidiTown.com

Last Friday, we had a new destination in Lyons – Spirit Hound Distillers. They’d invited me for a tour and we’d gladly accepted. Spirit Hound has been open for four years, and I’m embarrassed to say that this was my first visit.

The distillery has obviously been embraced by locals as the place was packed on a Saturday evening.

We weren’t just here for a tour, but to taste some spirits, including their holiday drinks made with their recently released barrel aged rum. Ryan had a warm chocolatey rum drink while I had my first-ever hot buttered rum – I highly approve. Continue reading

Fort Collins for Christmas

Considering a holiday getaway this month? Fort Collins is an excellent Colorado Christmas town. Downtown sparkles with thousands of lights and from Old Town Square to Oak Street Plaza Park, the atmosphere is merry.

Fort Collins for Christmas

This past weekend, we did one-night getaway in Fort Collins to experience the city’s holiday offerings. Before exploring the festive scene we checked into the Fernweh Inn & Hostel on Mulberry, just blocks from the excitement of downtown Fort Collins.

Some people, including my husband, Ryan, have an aversion to any place with hostel in the name. The word makes him worried that he’s going to have to share a bathroom or wash dishes to earn his keep.

Fort Collins for Christmas, the Fernweh Inn & Hostel in the snow

Fernweh is a modern-day, American hostel which offers private rooms as well as bunk rooms. Our private room, “The Loft,” was a virtual suite because the space occupied the entire upstairs of this historic, Victorian home. There was a full bathroom in the room complete with large, soaking bathtub and multiple beds, making it perfect for a family or friends. Continue reading

Gift Guide for Friends with Good Tastes (In Food)

Know someone who loves food? Instead of buying them a cookbook or newfangled kitchen item, how about buying them a foodie experience?

Colorado has blossomed with food tours over the last several years, and I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing several of these delicious excursions.

Local Table Tours

LocalTableTours.com

This company was started by a Boulder food blogger who has traveled extensively in the United States and abroad. Today, Local Table run tours in Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins. In Denver, they do a tour at The Source, a Taste of Highlands and in downtown (Taste of LoDo and Union Station).

Gift Guide for Friends with Good Tastes

Photo courtesy of Local Table Tours.

Their Boulder-based tours including A Taste of Boulder, Cocktail Tours, Coffee & Chocolate Tours and May through October they offer tours at the Boulder Farmers’ Market.

In Fort Collins, tasting tours include a Cocktail Tour, Waffle & Chocolate Tour, Artisans at Scotch Pines Tour and, the one I experienced this past summer, the Jessup Farm Tasting Tour. Continue reading

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