My first trip since COVID, Denver, Colorado, and … wow. Just wow.

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.

Denver, the city with the least oxygen but the most love in the continental United States is definitely a magical place. I recently got to explore this and a few other Colorado gems, so lets get to the highlights.

First we descended upon the prim and polished Cherry Creek neighborhood which is full of shopping, fun eats, and our hotel, the Moxy.
This hip little Marriott owned boutique play-and-stay is a faithful rendition of your favorite hipster hotel right down to the reproduction vintage phot booth in the lobby.

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.

Completely stuffed, we decided to be carted around in style while not leaving even one carbon footprint. Introducing ETUK Denver’s premiere fully environmentally friendly tour company sponsored by Bud Light Selzer which is White Claw for people with day jobs. These Denver made, fully electric Tuks come with heated seats and fantastic views of the city. In no time we were whipping around downtown taking in all the sites as our guide pointed out some of the finer features Denver had to offer, like the Cherry Creek pedestrian bridge perfect for morning runs, the decadent Cruise Room located in the Oxford Hotel, the lovely Larimar pedestrian mall and the opulent Performing Arts Center, which proudly showcases two giant Botero sculptures (which are miniscule compared to Denver’s giant blue peeping tom bear who’s origin story is so long winded and wildly convoluted I wont bore you with it but look it up).

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.

From delicate amuse bouche, to savory pork belly appetizers, and perfectly grilled Colorado rack of lamb to decadent deserts this my friends is the perfect way to end a perfect trip to the great city of Denver Colorado. Onward onto Telluride, possibly the best place to visit during COVID!


Rs

Possibly the best place to travel during COVID. Telluride, Colorado.

Let me make this clear: YOU SHOULD NOT TRAVEL RIGHT NOW IF YOU DON’T HAVE TO.

That said, I just got back from an absolutely extraordinary trip to Colorado where I visited pretty much the best the state has to offer in the short week I was there. Exploring first Denver with it’s hip RiNo arts district and luscious brunches down at Snooze. Then over to Aspen to see how the other half do it up staying at the strange and wonderful Bauhaus resort “The Meadows” and eating at the exquisite very farm to very table Bosq. Finally, driving through Grand Canyon’s rival Black Canyon and depositing myself in the fabled little mountain town of Telluride, which simply blew my mind.

Now I mention COVID travel because, well, it’s on my mind. As a travel professional this was the first trip I’ve taken since the quarantine, and didn’t quite know what to expect. It’s still not completely safe to travel, and I’m sure any destination is weary of people coming into their bubble. That said, I also hear the horror stories of how businesses are failing (entire countries to some degree) because tourism has taken a nosedive. It is a unachievable balance; do you lock down for health safety, or perish economically because you are locked down?

What I found in my time in Colorado was a well functioning, safe and friendly vacation wonderland that immediately brought back the glory days of 2019, albeit a bit more muffled by facewear. Colorado folk are generally extremely welcoming, kind, and considerate, and no matter what city I found myself in I found everyone behaving correctly, conscious of safety and health standards. While all was expectedly concerned about COVID, employees and owners were thankful they were able to operate, and had customers to keep their way of life at the very least sustained. I found wonderful adaptation here that limited the chance of COVID spread; open air eTuks instead of closed tour busses to show you the best of Denver, eBike rentals to visit the glorious Maroon Bells in Aspen, and of course, all the hiking you could ever want in Telluride.

While each area of the state had some magic to offer, it was Telluride that personally took my socks off. It is first and foremost an overwhelmingly beautiful place on earth. Dramatic and bright with color, full of life, and all of natures glory. Then, the town itself is a little piece of magic. Authentic, rustic yet refined, accessible while still being special. You will find no big chains in Telluride by design, there are no McDonalds or Walmart’s or Starbucks (if you can believe it). This town keeps it’s identity sacred, and that, especially in this day, is unlike any other major travel destination I’ve been too.

The folk that call this town home are viciously guarded not only about this identity, but of keeping Telluride, well, Telluride. While everywhere I went during my trip I was greeted with open arms (at 6 feet distance), you definitely get a sense that tourism is a bittersweet element to their existence; while no one wants their home’s identity absorbed by tourists, it does make up 79% of all their jobs, an estimated 87% of their entire economy. The thing they are guarded against makes their existence possible.

Who can really blame them? When you arrive in Telluride you feel like you are in an honest Shangri-La, some mythical mountain valley paradise, where the booze is local, the weed legal, and the food world class. Really however Telluride’s riches lie above the valley, in nature, where you can hang, sorry, hike, the first Via Ferrata in the United States, 600 feet off the valley floor, or if you prefer, race through gold lined trails in a Razr ATV to see the best of nature in fast forward. Telluride my be best known for its skiing, but summer for me is when it really shines, when the town is at its most friendly, and the colors and activities of the outdoors call to you.

While the world locks down and shores up against the pandemic, Telluride is poised to deal with it while letting you enjoy the best nature has to offer. Streets have been blocked out to allow outdoor seating, restaurants and bars are safely serving, even the gondola is running with teams of teens disinfecting between each use . Beyond the streets you can loose yourself in nature with as much mountain biking, hiking, climbing, kayaking as your heart desires, then find yourself back at your lux apartment at the Madeline Hotel in time for a quick steam before happy hour (which is anytime I found out, happily indeed).

The biggest take-away, and the greatest endorsement I can give is that while I was there, I forgot it was 2020. I forgot about the election. I forgot about COVID. I forgot about the world coming to a halt. In Telluride the Earth is still turning, beer is pouring and people are thriving. That said, as you will see in the comments, they really don’t want you to come. But they kinda do. Maybe not. Oh who knows. You should probably just stay home and let COVID win. Also, don’t forget to vote, as if that mattered.

Rs