Jack Rabbit Hills Farms located in Western Colorado is a simply marvelous place that produces some of the best, award winning wines and spirits. Lance Hanson, the owner, is serious about biodiversity and organic farming, going far and beyond industry standards and employing a method that makes use of all material located on the farm.
The result is an ecosystem that works naturally together without the use of pesticides or forced fermentation. While yields may be less then conventional methods, the wines and spirits here are completely natural, a quality you can taste in the product.
If you ever find yourself in Montrose, Colorado and want to see an amazing feat of nature, you should definitely take a detour to visit the Black Canyon Of The Gunnison, the nations least visited National Park. Called the Grand Canyon of Colorado, it is an amazing sight to behold.
Big enough to be overwhelming, still intimate enough to feel the pulse of time, Black Canyon of the Gunnison exposes you to some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock, and craggiest spires in North America. With two million years to work, the Gunnison River, along with the forces of weathering, has sculpted this vertical wilderness of rock, water, and sky.
From Denver you drive over the Continental Divide, an impressive geological feature that dictates which way the water flows in the United States, either towards the East Coast or West. After which you immediately start to see an amazing change of scenery, as tears in the evergreen furs reveal bright yellow trees, and you know you have arrived in it’s namesake, Aspen Colorado.
Aspen is an art focused town, so a trip to the Anderson Ranch Arts Center is kind of a must. Founded in 1966 this 5 acre ranch hosts some of the most prestigious Art internships in the world, offering hundreds of courses in intensive artistic endeavors. Visitors are welcomed to tour the ranch to see their rotating exhibitions and facilities, or have lunch in their world class café.
Coming down from the Snowmass area into town, we stop to check into our hotel, the Aspen Meadows. The rooms here are utilitarian. Simple clean functional, as their intent is to get you to go outside. The Meadows you see isn’t so much a hotel as a mental space. Designed by artist Herbert Bayer, the meadows is a cultural space based on the principles of Bauhaus design, where mind, body, and spirit come together as one. Here everything was designed to get you moving, and get you talking. Colors are intended to spur imagination, and the art you find built into the property is meant to be experienced, walked through, and climbed upon. With a health club, world class restaurant and two art galleries it is a very unique place to stay.
Properly inspired it was time to explore Aspen’s greatest asset, nature, so we made our ascent to the famed Maroon Bells mountain range which you can do by car or take a mountain bike. Yeah, an E mountain bike, which can be easily rented at the base of the mountain and within minutes you can find yourself barely pedaling up some of the most absolutely beautiful country you have ever seen. While you will be hard pressed to stop often to take snaps of the insane colors that pour down off the mountain, the main event will simply blow your mind. At the apex you will find the base of the Maroon bells, and ridge so perfectly framed by the valley it looks like it was etched out of the sky by hand. While this hour long trek will certainly amaze you, downtown Aspen has it’s own natural beauty that’s nothing to sneeze at.
John Denver Sanctuary park is a stunning place, perfect for a picnic, or to meander through it’s winding trails reading inspiring saying etched into the rocks. perhaps most fascinating is that this is actually a water treatment plant if you can believe it, and by far the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen, complete with completely regulation height basketball courts to play in.
Venturing into town, walking down cobbled streets it is easy to fall in love with Aspen’s charm. A stop into Kemosabe is required to whines the birth of some of the finest cowboy hats in creation, or perhaps pick up a Colorado sized flask for your next ride to Maroon Bells. Next ducking into the Hotel Jerome is recommended. Build in 1880 this historic landmark drips with opulent history and is a great place to explore it’s well appointed lobby to have a drink or even do a spot of work. Don’t forget to see their prized original Adam Sandler Water Boy Film Poster located in the lobby. Outside the fun continues in a patio scene that looks like a Renoir painting and while a drink poolside might entice you, the real deal is inside their historic J Bar. It’s hard not to get a feel for the old Aspen here, especially if you order an Aspen Crud, which is a milk shake originally designed to be a way to serve booze during prohibition. If old timey lactose long drinks aren’t your thing you could check out Jimmy’s for their world famous espresso martini, or go where the locals go and hit up the Red Onion for 10 buck pitchers of Coors which is considered a local beer here.
Well libated it was time for dinner at the exquisite Bosq where Chef Barclay Dodge creates one of a kind experiences with buttery burrata, savory salmons, titillating turnips, and crazy corn that shouldn’t exist here on earth.
With all these beautiful experiences tucked lovingly in my heart, it’s no wonder so many call Aspen their paradise destination. While it was hard to leave it’s refined mountain culture, there was lots more Colorado had to discover. Until next time Aspen.
Let’s get this out of the way: it is still dangerous to travel, and if you don’t have to, then don’t put yourself, and more importantly others at risk.
While everyone is hurting, and tourist destinations especially feeling the brunt of this lock down, it is a double edged sword to even mention tourism these days. Yes, the economy is important for people to survive, but so is their health. That said, what I found in Denver was inspiring; everyone very conscious of the world condition and doing their absolute best to minimize risk, while still being able to offer access to this amazing city. Open air electric tour busses, timed museum tickets, and tons of fantastic outdoor dining all offer some protection that allow tourism to happen safely.
One thing that you’ll notice (but not remember) is that the check in desk is actually the bar, a feature that I suggest be standardized in all hotels, and DMV locations. You immediately get that Denver is a beer town as the hotel is attached to a beer garden, you get beers in the elevator, and even beers waiting in the room for you. The rooms are cool and modern, with great views and great loo’s. There is a definite nod to being funky fun, from the bath product, to the verbiage and even the funky windows. It’s a functionally smart hotel that makes maximum use of it’s minimal footprint with a surprisingly ingenious array of furnishing trickery.
Overall we were super comfortable in our new lil’ home but it was time to explore this cool city, so we headed to the famed Union Station in the heart of downtown Denver. Truly a charming and stylish building inside it’s art deco / beaux arts beauty will impress you making it a great place to chill out or check out the fun and funky art. One fun fact is that there used to be a great big arch at the entrance that said Mizpah, or welcome in Hebrew, and while the arch is no longer with us, Union Station now has Snooze, a must brunch place for anyone visiting Denver.
In this colorful-retro-casual brunch hot-spot you will find long waits for one of their coveted outdoor tables, and for good reason. The breakfast here is an event from their decadent flavor bomb pancakes to their elaborate savory eggs benny which require, for health reasons, one of their loaded Bloody Mary’s to make it all go down right.
Then across the street from a legendary house of ill repute, we got to adventure into the Brown palace. Despite a very unfortunate name, the Brown Palace is a very cool place to take in, with a simply cavernous atrium that will leave you spellbound. Denver’s old world origin charm drips from the walls to the floors here as you can see in every aspect of the lobby’s attention to architectural detail meant to impress even the most snobby of Easterners. Here’s a pro tip: head up to the top floor to get an entirely different view of the Brown Palace and test to see if your brunch at Snooze is still in your stomach. Perhaps the most interesting facet of the palace is its water fountain, where you can drink, get this, actual Denver artesian water from the original 1892 well dug 750 feet below the hotel. That’s something.
Leaving the old-school charm of downtown Denver we popped over to the River North or hip RiNo district famed for it’s abundant world class street art and super hobo-chic restaurants and cafe’s. A trip to RiNo isn’t complete I’m told without hitting up the Denver Central Market which is located in a beautiful reclaimed warehouse. Chuck full of anything you could possibly want to eat or drink, this is a great place to explore and even throw back a few before picking something up for dinner. Don’t forget dessert either. I mean look at these things! Do you eat them or wear them?
From RiNo We headed cross the Platte River to the hip Highland district, which has some very photogenic spots, like Happy Camper, which is like an Instagram post that serves food. With its giant disco ball, garden nooks, and dripping bokeh it’s hard not to get a bunch of likes. There is also little man ice cream, which besides mixing up the craziest flavors, is housed in the largest milk pail I’ve ever seen. Photo ops aside we were here for lunch and to check out Avanti which is a collective eatery.
What’s a collective eatery you ask?
Well its like you die and go to comfort food heaven. This place is a foodies paradise, with amazing dishes from around the world to make it super easy to forget about your diet. Add in a killer space with lots of seating both indoor and out to nosh on you new favorite nibbles and you got it made. South American arepas, Kimchi scallion pancakes and Southern spicy fried chicken all washed down with local amazing beer will definitely satisfy.
Full on good eats, we decided to take in some culture at Denver’s world class art museum. This institution boasts some of the most outrageous exhibitions, this one was called simply Light which allowed for some amazing artist interpretations of what light means to them. From Keith herring triptychs to skull riding cryptic this was a visual wonderland that gave good cause for Colorado’s stance on legal mamajuana. Minds properly blown it was time to take a quick trip out of the city to visit the infamous Red Rocks Amphitheater, which is by far the most beautiful naturally occurring theater I’ve ever seen in my life. When not rocking out, locals use this breathtaking location as a giant gym. Try that at Madison Square Garden.
It is a truly stunning place that will simply take your breath away, so unique and majestic, and when you consider its just a 20 minutes drive from downtown, it’s a no brainer to fit it into your itinerary.
As the sun set on the queen city of the plains, we submerged ourselves once more into downtown for dinner. Sure you could keep it low key and hit up Duffy’s Cherry Cricket who’s no frills charm is overturned by their delicious burgers and boozy milkshakes but we decided to class it up a bit and check out Rioja on Larimer. This class act of fine dining is one of the best restaurants to experience Denver’s cultured cuisine.
The Little Nell is big on luxury, and is no wonder why it is notoriously the best resort in Aspen, if not one of the greatest hotels in the world. I got the chance to stay in their signature slopeside suite and was simply blown away at how amazing it was, from the finely appointed room, to the level of personalized service, and ridiculous proximity to the slopes. You could literally walk off your deck and onto the slope, and ski right back to your bed. Now that’s what I call perfection.
Besides amazing accommodations, they have one of the best restaurants in town, and a hidden underground speakeasy lounge that is not to be missed. For me, Aspen is built around the Little Nell, that has been there from the beginning, and has secured itself in time with perfecting a guest experience to the end.
One of the most premiere and exquisite resorts in the world is located in the little Colorado mountain town of Aspen. The Little Nell has a fantastic history to it, and is at its core the heart of the Aspen community. It is also one of the most luxurious and expensive resorts in the world. I got to stay there one perfect winter weekend and I quickly experienced why the Little Nell was big on exclusive opulence.