Prepare to fall in love with Colorado. From the Rockies’ to the ski resorts nearby to breathtaking landscapes, Colorado has something for everyone. Johnny and I quickly fell in love the moment we saw the mountains and I know you will, too. Here is our Colorado travel guide with things to do in Colorado Springs and Denver whether you love the great outdoors, great food or anything in between. We spent 48 hours in Colorado, flying in early Monday morning and flying out the same time Wednesday. If you’re heading to the area for the weekend, this is the perfect guide for you.
We’ll share suggestions on what to do, where to eat and ideas for where you can stay! I’m breaking it down by Denver and Colorado, then into categories. Hopefully, this will inspire your next trip there!
THINGS TO DO
SAPPHIRE POINT OVERLOOK
Technically not in Denver, but less than a two-hour drive and absolutely worth it! This was our very first stop and truly made us fall in love with Colorado. I would not consider this a hike but a scenic brisk walk. It’s definitely kid and senior-citizen friendly, too! The trail is pretty flat and even if you stick to it, albeit narrow. I give this spot a 10 out of 10 because for barely any work, you are handsomely rewarded. It’s also a great way to ease yourself into the high altitude in Colorado. The trail is a loop and after a quick walk, you can see sweeping views of Dillon Reservoir, which is also referred to as Lake Dillon but it’s a reservoir. Take tons of pictures as the view is breathtaking. There are tons of chipmunks, so keep that in mind.
We arrived early in the morning and stayed for about two hours. Even though it was July, the weather was cool and there was a slightly chilly breeze. If you’re optimizing for great photos and avoiding the heat and harmful UV rays, I recommend arriving before noon or after 4 in the afternoon.
There also is a bathroom, but naturally, there isn’t any plumbing and when I went, there was a solid half-inch of a bleach/Lysol mixture on the floor, giving me an instant headache.
PRO TIP: TAKE SWAN MOUNTAIN ROAD UP TO SAPPHIRE POINT FOR THE BEST VIEWS!
RED ROCKS PARK AND AMPHITHEATRE
A Colorado Travel guide with things to do in Colorado Springs and Denver would not be complete without Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre! I feel like driving anywhere in Colorado is scenic, but the drive up was spectacular. Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a geological phenomenon. It’s the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world. It’s a dream venue for artists and fans alike and I’m sure concerts here are just breathtaking.
Unless you’re fortunate enough to watch your favorite band play here in the evening, I recommend going early in the morning! You will catch people getting in their morning workout at about 6,400 feet and might be inspired to join. In addition to a breathtaking concert venue, there is a park with trails you can hike or bike.
PRO TIP: IF YOU’RE IN A HURRY, DON’T FORGET TO GO AROUND THE BACK SIDE OF THE VENUE TO SEE THE ROLLING HILLS FOR A QUICK PHOTO!
While we didn’t make it to Union Station this trip, we went about five years ago and really enjoyed the area. A 100-year-old historic landmark, a Colorado travel guide would not be complete without a stop here. There are plenty of delicious restaurants to eat at and the famed Tattered Cover Book Store to shop at. The exterior is stunning and a perfect backdrop for photos. Plus, you can also stay at The Crawford Hotel in Union Station, too!
PRO TIP: MAKE A RESERVATION AT THE COOPER LOUNGE. YOU CAN ENJOY AN EXQUISITE MENU COMPLETE WITH COCKTAILS WHILE TAKING IN THE VIEWS OF DOWNTOWN DENVER FROM ABOVE.
GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK & PRESERVE
Unfortunately, we did not have time on our trip to go here, but this was highly recommended by some of you and my close friends! All of the photos taken here look epic. When Johnny and I come back to Colorado and have more than 48 hours, we’ll definitely try and make it out here! It looks like there is also a small beach, too!
WHAT TO EAT
DENVER BISCUIT COMPANY
Our first real meal in Denver upon driving back from Dillon. This came highly recommended so we wanted to give it a try. The food was delicious but I have to admit, these were not the best biscuits we’ve ever had. This will hit the spot though and they also had slices of pizza available, too!
WE ORDERED: VEGETARIAN BISCUIT POT PIE & THE BEELER
NEW SAIGON RESTAURANT AND MARKET
We loved it so much, we went back twice – sort of. We ate at the restaurant with a fellow blogger friend for dinner and it was divine! Johnny and I are pretty picky about Vietnamese food, but New Saigon was on point. We like to order more unique dishes that are harder for us to make at home since Vietnamese food takes hours, sometimes days, to make. Everything was absolutely delicious and it was nice to see a variety of people in the restaurant.
Connected to the restaurant is a market where you can order bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwiches), coffee, other pastries and Vietnamese delicacies. If you’re running short on time, I highly recommend popping in and getting the sandwiches and coffee to go! My favorite sandwich is the shredded chicken while Johnny likes the “dac biet”, which means special.
WE ORDERED: BO LA LOT, BEEF WRAPPED IN BETEL LEAVES AND YOU CAN ROLL IN RICE PAPER YOURSELVES.
- Allegro Coffee (Cafe)
- Avanti (Rooftop Bar)
- Bigby’s Folly Craft Winery
- Blue Pan Denver (Pizza)
- Denver Milk Market (Local Food Hall)
- Duffey Rolls (Dessert)
- El Five (Mediterranean)
- Finn’s Manor (Bar)
- High Point Creamery (Ice Cream)
- Larimer Square (Historic Block)
- Little Man Ice Cream (Ice Cream)
- Postino (Wine Bar)
- Root Down Denver (New American)
- Steuben’s (American)
- The Universal Denver (Breakfast)
- Voodoo Doughnuts
THINGS TO DO
GARDEN OF THE GODS
Offering jaw-dropping views of towering sandstone rock against bright blue skies, Garden of the Gods is a must when it comes to things to do in Colorado Springs. Bring your best activewear and get ready for an adventure as you explore the magnificent views of the red rock formations. What I enjoy about Garden of the Gods is how there is something for everyone. You don’t have to be an expert hiker or rock climber to enjoy the views here. You just need a little gumption.
Johnny and I actually went here twice in one day, ha! While our noon-time hike offered brilliant blue skies, the sun was harsh and it did get a bit hot. I say a bit because compared to Texas heat, this didn’t bother us in the slightest. When we went back in the afternoon it was cloudy and cooler. However, we did get rained on, ha! I recommend morning or late afternoons if possible.
PRO TIP: THE FIRST MAIN PARKING LOT MAKES IT LOOK LIKE YOU’LL NEVER GET A SPOT. WE GOT SPOTS BOTH TIMES AND SO DID OUR FRIEND. JUST BE PATIENT!
UNITED STATES OLYMPIC TRAINING CENTER
Where some of America’s glory puts in blood, sweat and tears to make sure the Star-Spangled Banner gets played. Not all of the United States’ Olympic athletes train here but a good number of them are based here. The OTC provides housing, food, training and recreational facilities for more than 500 athletes on the complex. Athletes must be selected to train there by their national governing body. Boxing, cycling, figure skating, gymnastics, paralympic judo, pentathlon, shooting, swimming and wrestling are the resident sports at the Olympic Training Center.
Did you know all Olympic athletes pay out of pocket for their training? They don’t receive much help from the government yet represent us on international stages. Most Olympic level figure skaters pay upward of $100,000 to train at the level required of them. If you can find it in your heart to help, I highly encourage you to donate here.
I highly recommend getting a tour of the training center. I can’t recommend a package since my friend and Olympic athlete Karen Chen gave us a tour. However, it’s pretty cool to see the gym where all the athletes work out and train and the grounds. You’ll be walking where a lot of glory has walked and continue to walk before.
PRO TIP: DON’T FORGET TO SWING BY THE TEAM USA SHOP TO PICK UP SOME SWAG.
Simply 12 miles west of downtown Colorado Springs, you’ll find Pikes Peak, also known as America’s Mountain since it inspired Katherine Lee Barnes to write America the Beautiful. It’s the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. I went to Pikes Peak forever ago, when I was much younger and in Colorado Springs for a figure skating competition. There are several options to get up there from biking to hiking to driving.
PRO TIP: DRIVE THE 19-MILE PAVED ROAD. IT’S WINDY AND WINDING SO BE SAFE. YOU’LL GET GORGEOUS VIEWS.
WHAT TO EAT
In 2014, we ate here for the first time and it felt like heaven. Snooze is a Colorado staple and atop our list of things to do in Colorado Springs and Denver. There are locations in both cities, so there’s no excuse to not eat here. At Snooze, they believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day and they strive to bring you delicious eats with great service. Pretty much everything is delicious but we recommend the quinoa oatmeal, any of their pancakes or benedicts… honestly anything on the menu.
WE RECOMMEND: GET THE PANCAKE FLIGHT AND MAKE SURE IT INCLUDES THE PINEAPPLE UPSIDE DOWN PANCAKE, WHICH WILL MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE IN HEAVEN!
THE RABBIT HOLE
What looks like an entrance to the subway is an entrance to a delicious meal and great ambiance. On a Tuesday night, I was able to secure a reservation for four at 8:15 by calling right when the restaurant opened at 4 in the afternoon. The food was delicious and our server was attentive. Johnny ordered mussels as an appetizer and then we both split the seafood pasta. To our surprise, the kitchen actually split our dish into two so we had our own plates. Our friends ordered the scallops and truffle tricolor cauliflower mac & cheese. All of the dishes were great and we would definitely go back again!
PRO TIP: MAKE A RESERVATION! IT’S NOT HARD EVEN THE DAY OF.
- 3.14 Sweet & Savory Pi Bar
- The Broadmoor
- The Golden Bee (Gastropub, located in The Broadmoor)
- Manitou Incline
- Marigold Bakery
- Skirted Heifer (Burger Bar)
For our Colorado trip, Mazda graciously let us drive their new CX-9 and it was perfection. The driving dynamics are sharp and perfect for all the winding mountain roads during our mini road trips. We’ve driven a Mazda in Seattle and Virginia Beach but never a CX-9. This car is comfortable, spacious and has a third row! However, we opted to lay it flat for our luggage. We love how this car handles and the auburn leather seats were a nice perk for us. Adaptive cruise control is very handy and I loved having it when we drove from Denver to Colorado Springs!