Destination Denver

We are already in September… How is that even possible? Not only are the days just continuing to fly by, but so is the time to accomplish all the goals you’ve been working on this year.

*Hint* Maybe now’s a good time to check in with where you’re at? *Hint*

(with your goals that is)

One of the goals I shared in February Fresh was that I wanted to visit and explore a new state. I always love to travel and go on trips, but thinking realistically, I knew I wasn’t going to have the funds or time to plans some huge worldly vacation, so instead I kept it simple and had a tremendous experience crossing Denver, Colorado off the list. 

I know we just celebrated Labor day but here I am still daydreaming about my trip over the Fourth of July to Denver. For years I’ve been hearing people express their love for the state of Colorado, but me being one who doesn’t participate in Winter Sports and has never really experienced the mountain life was skeptical that I’d enjoy a trip like that. Now I can proudly say, I was so wrong and the only though I left with was, “Why didn’t I come to Denver sooner.”

Have you been to Colorado before? If so leave me a comment of your favorite city or activity to do in Colorado! I just might have to plan another trip back! 

So how did I decided to finally commit to going and seeing this state I thought I had no business being in? Simple, one of my best friends from college moved there after we graduated and to visit a friend is worth it no matter where the destination. My group of college gal pals decided we’d all plan a trip together so that we could catch up and see what’s going on in one another lives. It’s an interesting experience making friends in college, knowing nothing about one another but before you know it you spend every day of the next four years living together. Then you graduate and all go your separate ways and start on the next chapter of your life. 

For me, it’s been a challenging adjustment seeing us all go separate directions and into different time zones. At the same time though, I always look forward to our next phone call filling one another in and as we learned in Denver, it’s really fun having a good excuse to go and visit somewhere. 

So, we booked it—a trip to Denver over Fourth of July weekend. Honestly when we were thinking about doing it over a holiday weekend obviously there’s a perk of having extra free days off from work, however I thought the flight would be crazy expensive. Denver’s airport is a huge hub though for a lot of connections making it actually pretty affordable. Also having a place to stay is always nice and helps cut down on the budget as well. If you don’t have someone to stay with, I always recommend checking out Air BnB’s because you can find some unique places and amazing deals like this one.

Plan Your Own Long Weekend Getaway:

With this itinerary inspired by our Summer trip to Denver

Day 1:

Day 2: 

  • Grab brunch at Snooze in Denver’s Union Station Downtown (Don’t forget to make a reservation beforehand!) 
  • Drive out to Idaho Springs, Colorado and hike St. Mary’s Glacier! (Work off all that breakfast you just ate.) 
  • Catch a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater

Day 3: 

  • Drive up to Boulder, Colorado and walk around downtown.
  • Hike and explore the Flatirons
  • Treat yourself to some Sweet Cow ice cream (dairy-free options available!) 
  • Catch a Rockies game at Coors Field

Here’s the breakdown of our trip!

Day 1:

Our first day all together (July 4th) we explored the West Highlands neighborhood where our friend lives. It turns out that Denver is a big fan of observing the Fourth of July because a lot of businesses including restaurants and breweries were all closed for the day. We ended up at a local barbeque restaurant for lunch and followed by going to the Great Divide Barrel Bar and other breweries the rest of the night. Denver is known for their craft beer scene, and other than a lot of them being closed there was still plenty to go around. Whether you’re a beer connoisseur or not (which I’m not) you’re sure to find at least one you’ll like. Knowing we had Day ahead of us we called it a night after having dinner with a few fireworks, and it was a good thing we did because is stormed the rest of the night. 

Day 2: 

We started off the day heading to downtown to Denver’s Union Station which is a must-see place when visiting. It’s the most beautiful train station I’ve ever been to and that’s saying a lot since I’ve been to NYC’s Grand Central Station. It’s surrounded by so many unique and adorable shops and restaurants. Our Brunch club reconvened at Snooze, an a.m. eatery and it wouldn’t be brunch without a Bloody Mary and a coloring page! 

After our morning fuel we made our way up into the mountains where we did the famous Saint Mary’s hike just outside of Denver. One thing to keep in mind when taking on this hike, the parking lot was ridiculous! Of course, it was extra packed considering it was a holiday weekend but it’s also extremely rocky and you’re going to need a bigger car! While our SUV made it work it would have been preferable to have something a little bigger. The hike itself was perfect! A moderate uphill (or should I say mountain) It’s about a mile and a half hike round trip and features a few views that are worth climbing for. Once we got to the top, we were greeted by a beautiful glacier fed lake and a mountain top full of snow even though it was a warm 60-some degrees. On the way back down, we took a little detour to see the waterfall—what a rush that was. 

The day was still far from being done. We headed bag to get ready and transition into our big event of the trip—a Red Rocks concert. That night we went to see the Avett brother play at Red Rock Amphitheater. I can promise you, it’s an experience I’ll never forget! First things first, if anyone ever tells you it doesn’t rain/storm/hail in Denver, they’d be wrong! However, sometimes the unexpected can somehow make something that much more special. As we’re waiting in line to get into the concert, it starts to downpour. Before long the rain turns to thunder, lighting, and eventually hail. After the storm clears and the weather delay was over. We were left with a double rainbow and a stunning sunset. Seeing a concert in the Red Rocks is unlike any concert I’ve ever been too. The sound quality is outstanding, and the view is even better. As the concert went on, we laugh, we sang along, we made so many memories, and we got pounded with more and more rain. Ponchos quickly became our new best friends and the best money ever spent. 

Day 3:

The previous day was so jam packed, we all agreed we needed to take it easy. We walked to the Cozy Cottage, a little house with a beautiful patio that has been converted into a café. I’ve got to say; it was so nice being in an area and community that it so walkable again. That’s one of my least favorite things about LA and the area I live in specifically is you can’t really walk anywhere. 

After brunch we drove to Boulder to visit another friend from college’s stopping grounds. We explored their downtown ped-mall area and checked out another brewery, Oskar Blues, of course!  (The Boozy Sparkling Waters are delicious and dare I say better than a White Claw.) 

Day 4:

It was an early morning check out for all of us as we all headed to the airport to go back to our respective cities. The trip was full of scenic views, fresh air, delicious food, tasty beer, and best of all—reminiscing with friends. We’re all making arrangements to visit one another throughout the next year so stay tuned for another LA weekend and Chicago land visit. It also didn’t take me long to make it back out to Denver for a second time—more on that coming soon! 

Lessons from the trip:

  • Staying in touch with friends (especially across the country) is hard but extremely worth it. Make sure to make an effort to keep the people that matter most in your life actively in your life no matter the distance. And yes, that means sometimes that means just booking a plane ticket.
  • Denver is an incredible city. Although I don’t necessarily see myself living there, it surprised me in every way. It has a little something for everyone and while that little something is most likely being outside or drinking beer—what’s not to love? 
  • I’m inspired and might even…maybe…be considering…. thinking about… learning to ski. There I said it and now I can’t take it back. 

Again, share with me your favorite places in Colorado or anything that should be added to my to-do list for the next trip. I’d love to hear about any memories you have from any of your trips! Comment below!

Born to Blossom

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This Spring, I witnessed something truly spectacular, my first Super Bloom in California. This year we received so much rain in California that it caused the wild flowers to bloom like crazy throughout the whole state. Everywhere you went was covered in green grass and the hills, road sides, mountains and even the deserts were transformed and painted with vibrant colors. I’ve never seen anything more beautiful.

 

Last fall, you may recall the wild fires that devastated part of Malibu. At the time, I had not returned to Malibu since the fires until I had some visitors come to town and we decided to check things out. We hiked the Escondido Falls trail and I couldn’t believe how the land that was burnt to a crisp only a few months earlier has already grown back to be more beautiful than ever.  All the rain also presented us with a wonderful water fall and the most pleasant morning hike!

In Late March and Early April, the Painted Ladies butterflies were also migrating through Los Angeles and everywhere you went, including the park across the street was fully surrounded by thousands of these butterflies.

Being stuck in traffic has also never been better. On beautiful breezy afternoons, driving through the Valley suburbs with your windows down, your car quickly fills with the scent of fresh Jasmine or other flowering trees that line the street. No tree can quite compare to the Japanese Cherry Blossom that blooms right down the street from me at the local Japanese Garden sanctuary.

The most incredible view of all though, had to have been to see the California Poppies in full bloom in Antelope Valley. These State flowers create such vivid fields of orange that they’re almost blinding to look at. The fields are overwhelming and truly worth the hordes of people that drove to see them.

When we visited the poppy reserve, we made a whole day out of it and also visited the town of Lancaster. We walked their BLVD and ate at a delicious Mexican cantina, Don Sal, and also visited the Prime Dessert Woodland Preserve (which is free and open to the public!) where we saw the Joshua Trees blooming (a lot less exciting visually, but still a unique experience) and jack rabbits easily mistaken for cayotes even!

As California prepares to enter “June Gloom” in just a few weeks, I’m going to hold on to these incredible memories as much as I can and try my best to look forward to a little more rain and the beauty if brings with it.

Malibu Mission

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What to do when you’re in Malibu?  I’ve had a lot of followers asking about where and how I met Stanley the Giraffe. The answer is a trip to Saddlerock Ranch and signing up for a Malibu Wine Hike. The suggestion for this activity came from my good friend Jordan, and I’m so glad she suggested it.  I knew my boyfriend was coming to visit and we were looking for some ideas on unique things to do in the area. Malibu Wine Hikes was the perfect solution and I think we would all continue to recommend this adventure.

First off, the word “hike” is being used pretty loosely (we both did the entire hike in Sperrys). It’s more of a nice walk through a beautiful vineyard that’s rested among the Malibu Canyons. Along your walk you’ll get to explore beautiful scenic views, rows of grape vines, a unique garden, and romantic event and venue spaces (you may even spot the Bachelor mansion). The highlight of this trip though, is of course all of the friends you’ll meet along the way.

There was about 10 of us in our group all of different ages and backgrounds, but most were all from the surrounding Los Angeles area. Now the hikes we did were group hikes, but if you have a big enough group, you can book a private hike as well.

The other friends I was talking about though, are the main attractions- an eclectic family of exotic animals. On your hike you’ll make plenty of new friends when you stop and feed goats, llamas, alpacas, donkeys, zebras, and even Stanley the Giraffe. On the hike you’ll spend quite a bit of time interacting with the animals and you’ll get to learn more about them as well as the history behind the ranch’s owners, the ranch, and the vineyard.

Be sure to have your cameras ready and fully charged because there are tons of photo ops along that way that you won’t want to miss. It’s truly an experience you’ll never forget and is definitely worth it.  Once you’re done with the hike you’ll get to go up to the wine tasting area and sample 5 of the most popular Saddlerock wines (a $20 value included!)

Tips & Tricks of the Day:

Whether you’re from LA, just here visiting, or have a special celebration coming up, Malibu Wine Hikes is the perfect way to celebrate and enjoy the area. Our hike was $65/person for about 4 hours of fun.  I booked our hike about 3 weeks in advance. Just be aware that the spots can fill up fast since it’s such small groups. The hike itself took about two hours then we spent about two hours in the wine tasting area.

***things we didn’t know but wish we did***

You can stay after in the wine tasting area as long as you’d like. On the weekends they often have live music playing and it’s a very hip and trendy spot to spend a day or afternoon. They also sometimes have a food truck, BUT you can also bring in as much food and non-alcoholic beverages as you like. Tons of people had gourmet picnics set up and one group even had pizzas delivered.  You and a group of friends could easily make a day out of it (plus if you’re worried about driving so far and drinking, it’s not as expensive or uncommon as you’d think to just take an Uber especially from the valley.) Regardless of doing the hike or not though, the only way to get to the wine tasting area is by trolley or shuttle from the main parking lot.  The main parking lot address is associated with Saddle Rock Ranch and the same parking lot for the Wine Hikes and safaris.

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Other things to keep in mind:

Check the weather before you go.  Since it’s deeper in the canyons and at a higher elevation than the beach it tends to be warmer and sunnier.  In the event it rains, or the weather is horrible (extremely unlikely) they do have a rescheduling policy that might work for you. You’re definitely going to want to make sure you wear plenty of sunscreen.  There’s very little shade along the path and bringing sunglasses is also a smart idea. You’ll also want to bring a water bottle with you.  They do have filling stations along the way, but they don’t have any bottles or cups available at the time we went.

As far as what to wear, I wore jean capris, a light weight sweater, and Sperrys (you have to wear close toed shoes for the hike). I was waaaaay too hot in my outfit, but I managed just fine. If you’re most comfortable in workout gear, I would suggest you wear that.  If you want to dress up a little more and be more fashionable for photos, you’ll be fine just make sure you can move freely and be prepared for about a  two-mile walk.  The reason why people would want to look cute for the hike besides photos, is because the wine tasting area is extremely trendy and very LA. To me, going can even feel like being part of a fashion show. There’s always a very diverse group of people there though, and of course other people will be in casual hiking clothes as well so just wear whatever you will be the most comfortable in.

When you look to book your trip, you might also come across the Wine Safaris. They’re at the same location and you’ll see many of the same things, but you’ll miss out on the exercise and won’t get to interact with the animals quite as much.  But for larger groups, it still looked like an extremely fun experience.

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Extend your Day:

If you drove (or even if you didn’t) you can always extend your day before or after your hike and go to one of Malibu’s beautiful beaches.  We went to El Matador before our hike (one of my favorite beaches in the area.) I love El Matador because it’s very scenic due to its stunning rock outcroppings.  Again, it also makes for great photo opportunities.  Don’t worry though the sand is still perfectly soft and not rocky at all.

When visiting El Matador beach, you can pay to park for pretty reasonable fees in the lot, but if the spots are all full you can park a little farther away along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) for free.  (I haven’t got a ticket yet for doing that and everyone else does it, so I think it’s fine!) 

It is a bit of a journey to get down from the parking area.  You’ll have to trek down a pretty steep slope and then make your way down a few flights of stairs, so I’d think twice before you bring too much stuff to carry. The view is amazing, and you never know what you might see, perhaps a pod of dolphins swimming in the distance, a few surfers catching waves, or you may just find the lost swing.

Malibu Wine Hikes and beaches were great suggestions and I am more than happy to recommend!  Please let me know if you sign up for a Malibu Wine Hike and feel free to ask any more questions.  I’m always taking recommendations and suggestions of what to do next for my Things To-Do List at dayofjae@gmail.com!