Winter Break in Denver, Colorado
It is that time of year when the semester is finally over, and everyone on campus packs their bags for home to spend the holidays with family and friends, and end the cycle of insomnia known to students as exam week. There is no better place to escape your weird uncle and crazy grandmother during winter break than Denver, Colorado. The “Mile High City”, as it is called, is a large metropolitan city and a snow capped mountain frontier. It is also the location of many local microbreweries, art and music festivals, and downtown shopping, bars, and restaurants. Whether you go to enjoy the city or to visit the nearby slopes, hiking or bike trails, Denver is the destination for outdoor adventures and sports, especially in the winter months.
Skiing and Snowboarding:
Let’s face it, the only problem with skiing in Denver during winter break is that everyone else had the same idea, meaning the slopes are packed, and ski resorts and lodges can be expensive in peak season. Loveland is one of the closest locations. It is about an hour outside of Denver, and also one of the most affordable, since it is a smaller ski area without fancy hotels and resorts. Helpful ski instructions for beginners and separate slopes for the more experienced make Loveland a good destination for a mixed skill level group. The more exclusive ski resort areas include Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Copper Mountain, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, and of course, Aspen. These areas tend to have fine dining and exciting nightlife.
Monarch Mountain is a several hour drive from Denver, but in a direction away from the crowds and the heavily trafficked interstate 70. Cooper is also about a two hour drive, but offers excellent skiing lessons. Both Monarch and Cooper are some of the more affordable and less crowded areas. Winter Park can be a quick day trip from downtown Denver by way of the Ski Train, which is a beautiful and scenic way to avoid the traffic of the interstates heading toward the slopes. Leaving out of Union Station in the area of Denver known as Lower Downtown, or LoDo, the railway travels to all the major ski areas on the weekends. It climbs several thousand feet into the Rocky Mountains, and passes through Moffat Tunnel, the sixth longest tunnel in the world, traveling under the Continental Divide. Visit Colorado Skiing for coupons and lift passes to the slopes.
Parks, Hiking, and Bike Trails:
The city of Denver has some of the most extensive parks, hiking, and bike trails, some paved and some off road. Bicycle rentals can be found at several locations throughout the city near the bike trails. A couple of the best trails are the Greenway Trail and the Cherry Creek Bike Path. The Greenway Trail is about thirty miles long and winds along the South Platte River. On this path you will pass by the historic Riverside Cemetery, kayaking at Confluence Park, the downtown Denver Aquarium, Hudson Gardens, and the Chatfield State Recreation Area, where the trail ends. At Chatfield there is swimming, sailing, and even horseback riding, along with continued unpaved bike trails. The Cherry Creek Path runs along Cherry Creek and is the most popular for biking and jogging. The path travels behind the Cherry Creek Shopping Center and continues to Bear Creek Bike Trail, which goes from South Platte River to the small town of Morrison, where the Red Rocks Amphitheatre is located.
Morrison is a picturesque mountain town, perfect for a quick stop at a café or ice cream parlor. Some of the best hiking trails in the Rocky Mountains are in Boulder, which is an hour or so drive from Denver. If you want to enjoy the outdoors without the trekking or biking several miles, Denver has a number of parks within the metro area. City Park is similar to New York’s Central Park, with its many gardens, lakes, and even a golf course. It is also where the Denver Zoo is located, and holds a breathtaking view of the downtown skyline and the Rockies. Washington Park is one of the other most popular parks in Denver because of its recreation center, trails, and various sports complexes and fields.
Coors, Microbrews, and Brewpubs:
After all that outdoor adventuring, you will want to kick back with a cold one. Believe it or not, there is more beer brewed in the city of Denver than any other city in the country. The Coors Brewery, which is located a few miles outside of downtown, happens to be the largest brewery in the entire world. For beer connoisseurs, there are free tours offered of the beer made from the Rocky Mountain spring water, including a free sampling. The largest beer festival in the United States takes place each September in Denver, known as the Great American Beer Festival, in which thousands of beers, ales, and lagers are sampled. Denver is the host of eighteen different microbreweries and several brewpubs, which are restaurants that brew their own beer in large steel barrels. Most of the brewpubs will offer a “sampler” of a few of their own brews to taste.
Some of the top brewpubs in Denver include the Rock Bottom Brewery, Wynkoop Brewing Company, and Breckenridge Brewing Company, to name a few. Rock Bottom Brewery is on 16th Street Mall, which is a large outdoor promenade of shopping, restaurants, and of course brewpubs. Across the street from Union Station is Wynkoop Brewing Company, which was actually the first brewpub in the state. For dueling pianos and a hip club feel, visit the Denver Chop House. My Brother’s Bar on 15th Street is the oldest bar in Denver, and was once the hangout of famous author Jack Kerouac. The nightlife in Denver has expanded from LoDo into several other areas. There are the trendy rock and roll bars like Rockbar in East Colfax, the laid back Mexican themed bars and restaurants like Lola in the East Highlands, and the country bars with mechanical bulls like Grizzly Rose. The Funky Buddha is one of the more modern clubs in South Colfax, or SoCo. Expect to see go-go dancers in body paint and hear the beats of techno and hip hop music. Hapa has great sushi and a happy hour from 10 p.m. til midnight on Thursday through Saturday.