I still cannot believe last week was real. Patrick and I just got back from an amazing adventure in Colorado! This trip had been over a year in the making and it is SO crazy that it’s already over!
If you know me personally or have been following me on social media, then you know that Patrick and I have been together since we were 15 and we hung out in the same friend group in high school! We are still very close with our high school friends to this day, and about a year ago, we were texting in our group chat when someone suggested we plan a big vacation! After throwing around a couple of ideas of where/when it was decided- July 4th week 2018 in the mountains of Colorado!
Patrick and I decided to go a couple of days early and spend some time just the two of us before meeting up with the whole group. Here’s our day-by-day recap of everywhere we ate, stayed, and played!
After landing in Denver, Patrick and I made the 1.5 hour drive to Manitou Springs (an adorable mountain town right outside of Colorado Springs!). Our first order of business was checking into our hotel– The Cliff House. This place was ADORABLE and 10/10 recommend if you’re ever in the area. My favorite part was they had fire pits at their outdoor bar where we enjoyed a wonderful glass of wine each night after exploring.
After checking in, we got back in the car to check out Pike’s Peak right up the road. This involved a 19 mile drive directly up a mountain with almost 8,000 feet of elevation gain and a 35 degree temperature change! The views from the top were absolutely incredible! I could’ve stayed up there taking in the beauty all day. We even tried the famous Pike’s Peak donuts which due to being made at such a high altitude were extra fluffy! We took our time driving up and down and stopped along the way to take in all the views.
For our first Colorado dinner we wanted something local and fun so we went to check out Manitou Brewing Company. We hung with the locals, sipped good beer, and enjoyed their incredibly delicious pork belly tacos!
The next morning we headed to Garden of the Gods. This was a place I had heard about for years and was so excited to see in person! The huge red rocks were breathtaking!
Our favorite part of this day was when we took a little 3 mile hiking loop up a nearby trail so we could see the entire park from above.
We ended the day by enjoying cheese and chocolate fondue + a wonderful bottle of wine at the Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant. It was a quick walk from our hotel and such a cozy space!
The next morning we checked out of our hotel and headed towards Boulder! There we did a quick (but strenuous!) hike around the flatirons before checking into the Art Hotel in Denver for the night. We had a laid-back night to just relax before our friends were scheduled to arrive the next morning.
On our 4th day in Colorado, (which also happened to be July 4th!) all of our high school friends arrived! It was such a fun reunion– the first time we had all been together since my wedding 14 months prior. We headed to brunch at Earl’s in downtown Denver before hitting the road for Winter Park– a little outdoorsy/ski town in the Rocky Mountains.
We arrived at our cabin and everyone took off exploring the place. You know those scenes in America’s Next Top Model when the contestants move into the mansion and everyone runs around like a crazy person to see all the rooms? Yep, that was us. This home was incredible! (You can rent it here!) It included 5 bedrooms (one of the rooms had a 3 story high bunk bed!), floor to ceiling windows overlooking the mountains, a hot tub, and HUGE living space. We made ourselves right at home and spent the day catching up with everyone!
In the spirit of Fourth of July, we grilled hamburgers and hotdogs for dinner. There were a couple of raging forest fires throughout Colorado during our time there, so a strict fire ban was in effect and sadly, we were not able to watch any fireworks. So we were in for a nice surprise when Mother Nature gave us the most gorgeous sunset!
Later that night, all 12 of us ended up cramming into the hot tub once the sun fully set and we could not get over how clear the sky was and how many stars we could see– we all agreed this was much better than any fireworks show.
The next day we were determined to go on a scenic hike in the Rockies. We opted for the Second Creek to Twin Cones trail just up the road. Unfortunately, we didn’t keep a great eye on the weather and a thunderstorm storm rolled in about a mile into our hike forcing us to turn back. Despite making it less than halfway, we could not get over the incredible views (and lack of oxygen when hiking at that altitude!).
This day ended with taco night back at the house around the huge 12 person dining room table enjoying another incredible sunset.
We went hiking again and this time on the Jim Creek Trail! This trail had scenic wildflowers and forest views.
After the hike, we swung by Hideaway Park Brewery to try a couple local beers before a smaller group of us went to Red Rocks Amphitheater to hear Umphrey’s McGee play. (Admittedly, none of us had even heard of Umphrey’s, but we reallllly wanted to see a concert at Red Rocks so decided to go anyways!) We had a blast– what a cool experience in one of the most iconic music venue’s in the world!
Day 7 was our last full day in Colorado. We went zip-lining at Devil’s Thumb Ranch and enjoyed the local Rodeo! I had been to a Rodeo before, but nothing like this! It was my first time seeing Mutton Busting– where little kids ride sheep to see how long they can hold on as the sheep take off at full speed across the ring- it was quite the experience!
Our final night was filled with bittersweet good-byes. We reminisced about our time together and began planning the next time we will hopefully all see each other again. These friends mean so much to me and I felt so lucky to have had this time with them!
We woke up early, drove back to Denver, boarded flights, and all made our way back to our different corners of the country– Atlanta, Boston, Washington DC, Baltimore, Austin, and New York City.
Since our time at Oakton High School everyone has taken very different paths in life and everyone is chasing their dreams. I’m so proud of these sweet friends and everything they’ve accomplished these last 10+ years.
I am so so grateful that our friendships have remained strong and we have all cheered each other on over the years! I cannot wait until we are all back together again soon!