Many of my friends are going through large life changes or transitions this year. Some are going to grad school, graduating from grad school, starting new jobs, getting married, having babies, or moving to new cities. I get together fairly regularly with three of my college roommates who still live in the area, and out of the four of us, one just graduated from nursing school and started her new nursing job, and one recently moved to Florida. To celebrate our last bit of time together before new jobs started and friend moved away, we took a girls trip to Colorado! Get ready for a photo overload!

Despite living together all throughout college, we had never been on a trip with just the four of us. After looking at timing and prices, we settled on an early June trip to Denver, a place none of us east coasters had ever visited. We stayed in an Airbnb across the river from Coors Stadium, which was a convenient location for everything we wanted to do. My biggest realization, and what I want to lead with because I don’t feel like it is talked about much, is that people group Denver with the smaller towns and areas outside of the city (Boulder, Golden, Red Rocks, etc). When people say, “Denver is great!,” they probably mean, “Denver and the fun areas around it are great, but make sure to rent a car.” It was fun to explore Denver, and we took a great and very informative walking tour, but I was surprised to find that it really isn’t very big, and most of the adventurous activities are a short drive away, but a drive, nonetheless. We were all looking forward to seeing Red Rocks (we almost signed up for Yoga on the Rocks in Red Rocks Amphitheatre – how fun would that have been?!), so we already had a rental car scheduled for Saturday anyway, but decided to add on even more places once we saw how close they were.

After a few delays (thanks, Frontier), a plane, a train, and a walk, we arrived at our Airbnb around 1:00pm MST. We spent most of Thursday afternoon exploring by foot and quickly found that one of the best parts about Denver is the amazing food scene, and that Denver loves its ice cream. I’ve listed some of the best places we tried and our favorite dishes below. On Friday, we took a 2-hour walking tour before we spent the evening in a fun area of town west of Coors Stadium. Prior to that evening, we hadn’t seen many young people around town. Once we passed the stadium though, we realized we had just been in the wrong part of town because clearly they all hang out at the plethora of bars and restaurants west of the stadium. The Rockies were playing and there was a great energy and buzz as people geared up for their Friday night fun and moseyed down the streets in the warm, but arid weather.

Our food picks:
Hearth & Dram – happy hour cocktails, house cured charcuterie board, beet gnocchi (Don’t be deterred by the beets – even the beet-haters of the group loved this one! It tastes like smoky, cheesy gnocchi pillows that melt in your mouth.)

Milkbox Little Man Ice Cream in Union Market (try the salted oreo paired with vegan chocolate)

Denver Central Market – ice cream from High Point Creamery(amazing!), bowls, cheese boards (so fun!), burgers, pizza, and more

While Denver was fun, new, and different, the most exciting part of our trip was Saturday when we left the city. Our first stop was Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Park where we admired the famous music venue and all of the people exercising. There were so many fit people running up and down those stairs that we, not yet acclimated to the mile-high elevation, could barely walk up without panting. Red Rocks was gorgeous and so different from anything we have on the east coast, or even the other places I have visited in the western part of the country. The orangey red rocks jut sharply out of the earth, but despite their smooth, dry edges, still have green trees growing all around them. How does this happen? I was awed by this for our entire “hike” along the park’s trail.

After Red Rocks, we stopped in the cute little town of Golden for lunch before heading up to Boulder. The towns were only about 20-30 minutes away from each other, which made them all easy to get to in one day. As we arrived in Boulder, we were greeted by the Flatirons, a set of rocky mountains protruding out of the green fields. We stopped for another short hike and some time to relax and people-watch in the little community at the bottom. Past the Flatirons were the Boulder’s cute main street and the University of Colorado at Boulder. The wide pedestrian street was lined with restaurants and shops, and on a Saturday night in the summer every one of them was bustling. Like Denver, Boulder had some great restaurants and fun places for happy hour appetizers. We grabbed dinner and spent a few hours walking around the shops before our last stop of the trip – the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The university wasn’t initially on our list of things to see on our trip, but we saw the matching terracotta rooftops from our hike in the Flatirons and had some extra time to kill before heading back to the airport. It was a great way to fill our time, and I would suggest a walk around the beautiful campus to anyone already visiting the area. Every building was made of the same materials and looked like they went so well together, even though they weren’t all built at the same time. Boulder is clearly an active campus, as bike racks and skateboard stands lined the pedestrian paths and paths for jogging and cycling snaked between the different areas of campus. We walked from the football stadium to the main quad, and as we reached the center of the manicured grassy lawn, the Flatirons appeared from behind the red buildings, surrounded by a fiery pink and orange sunset sky. All four of us UNC roommates who love Chapel Hill and UNC’s campus so dearly could see how students who visited Boulder would be enticed to come to the university.

If you’re still with me, thanks for hanging in there! Hopefully you know a bit more about Denver and its neighboring areas, or at least that you should go to Denver for the food scene and drive out to Red Rocks, and Boulder for the adventure, and Golden and Boulder for the charm. I have so many memories with these friends during very transitional times in our lives, and am so glad to add this fun girls trip to the list.

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