Our first 24 hours in Denver were my favorite part of the trip.
We arrived in Denver, CO, around 3PM. After a VERY long, uneventful wait at the rental car place, we hopped in our spiffy maroone Ford Escape and drove about 20 minutes into downtown Denver, where our hotel was.
It was a-mazing. The amenities were wonderful, including a fully equipped gym, spa, top-floor cocktail lounge and rooftop jacuzzi overlooking the city.
Source Next time we go, I’ll remember to pack a bathing suit for 30-degree weather .After getting settled in the hotel, we were both starving, since the time change caused us to miss lunch. We were both in a burger-and-fries mood, so we let our trusty iPhones lead us to Cherry Cricket , a famous little place in the town of Cherry Creek that has been featured on Food Network shows such as The Best Thing I Ever Ate and Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels , and the Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food . They serve a variety of craft beers, delicious build-it-your-way burgers, fresh made soups, chowders and chili’s, and perfectly crispy fries. We started by sharing a bowl of Green Chili, something neither of us had ever really had, but we would soon realize is a staple in Denver. It had chunks of tender pork and spicy green chiles, served with a warm tortilla on the side…which was helpful for my burning mouth.I was torn on which toppings to put on my burger, but my interest was piqued after reading rave reviews about their cream cheese topped burgers- yes- cream cheese, on a burger. I ordered the Little Cricket Burger (1/4 pound), topped with herbed cream cheese and caramelized onions. Well, it was delicious. But I couldn’t eat the whole thing because it was so rich. Corey had the regular 1/2 pound Cricket burger with green chile strips on top, which he said were great because they weren’t spicy, they were sweet.After we ate, we walked around Cherry Creek, peeking in store windows as we went. It was such a cute area, and it looked so Christmasy at night. It actually reminded us of our beloved Winter Park- just, bigger and better. Source The next day, we woke up very early (thank you, time change) and headed to try out the hotel’s gym. How funny is it that I had to go on vacation to get back into a workout routine? Nursing school has really messed up my workout mojo, but more on that later.We had plans for a hike later in the morning, so I focused on cardio and a quick upper body strength workout. My treadmill overlooked downtown, and it was so beautiful to watch the sun rising over the mountains throughout my workout. After we worked up a good appetite, we showered and got dressed and walked down the street to a breakfast place we had spotted the night before. I had to laugh at myself, because of all the things to order, I picked the Polish sausage and eggs! Random. But really good! It had a variety of choices for side items, such as the “mini cakes”, french toast, biscuits and gravy…or, I could be a good girl and “Lo Carb It”, meaning sub out those sides with cottage cheese and tomato slices, which is what I did. I was happy with this decision, because I didn’t want to feel full and heavy before our hike.Corey, on the other hand…didn’t mind this feeling at all and ordered one of their famous breakfast burritos. The Denver Burrito came filled with ham, green peppers, onions, eggs, AND homefries, and then smothered in cheese and green chili. He was very happy.After breakfast, we drove about 30 minutes away to Golden, CO, where our first hiking trail awaited us. We began the hike in Matthews/Winters Park on Morrison Slide, which runs into Red Rocks Trail. We stopped to take pictures about 45 minutes in, thinking, “Look at us! We’re so high up!”…we didn’t realize we still had a long way to go to reach the top! But when we did…it was well worth it. I have a feeling I’ll be looking at this picture during many stressful times in the future, to remind me of how peaceful and beautiful life can be.Look at me, getting all sentimental. Enough of that!Our total hike was just about 3 and a half miles, and my boo-tay was feelin’ the burn. When we finished, we drove over to the famous Red Rocks Ampitheater . I had never even heard of this place, and being the concert-lover that I am, I’m ashamed! It is indescribable. Can you imagine seeing a concert there? The summer line-up for next year looks AWESOME.I can’t think of a better graduation gift for two music-loving, soon-to-be-summer-graduates (*cough cough* MOM *wink wink* DAD *elbow elbow*AREYOULISTENING) I digress.Once we finished taking in the glory of Red Rocks, we got back in the car and drove back to Cherry Creek, where I had noticed an interesting-looking restaurant the night before, called True Food Kitchen. I honestly would have been happy to try everything on the menu. All the ingredients were as fresh as it gets, and the different combinations sounded great.We started with a bowl of the Daily Market Soup to share. It was tomato-based, and filled with fennel, carrots, and house-made sausage. While enjoying the soup, we noticed the menu had a list of “Natural Refreshments” that sounded interesting. Now, normally, I would never order juice to have with my meal, because…if you haven’t heard, I hate fruit juice…but, hey- when in Rome. I had the Cucumber Refresher, made from cucumber juice and honey lemonade. It was surprisingly sweet and very “refreshing”, indeed. Corey had Andy’s Elixir, which was much more interesting. It appears to be carrot juice, but it’s actually made from agave, soda and Sea Buckthorn. Oh, come on- you don’t know what Sea Buckthorn is?! Well, me either. A quick Google search reveals that Sea Buckthorn is a type of berry that is very difficult to harvest, and has many different uses, ranging from natural cosmetics and skin creams to preventative medicine. Its high content of saturated and polyunsaturated fats make it useful for cosmetic purposes, and the actual juice of the berry itself is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties. See? Now we’ve both learned something today.For our meals, I was instantly sold on the Farmer’s Market salad, which was made up of kale, Romaine, carrot, beet, broccoli, radishes, avocado and a champagne vinaigrette. I added goat cheese for some extra tang. I loved this salad. However, Corey’s choice was even better! He had the Autumn Ingredient salad, filled with roasted cauliflower, brussels sprouts, squash, and mulberries in a pomegranate and horseradish vinaigrette. Once we were filled to the brim with vegetable goodness, we spent some time walking around Cherry Creek before heading back to the hotel.After a quick nap, it was my favorite time of day. Happy hour!Our hotel was home to a beautiful lounge on the 27th floor, called Peaks . The views just can’t be beat. And the drinks weren’t bad, either .We got there at sunset, which was just perfect. I was totally immersed in the Christmas spirit, what with the cold weather and overlooking the city lights, so I just had to order the specialty Snowman drink when I saw it on the menu. We decided to walk through downtown, since we hadn’t explored it yet at night time. We were starting to get hungry, too, so we kept our eyes peeled for a good dinner spot.Well, I guess I didn’t peel mine fast enough, because next thing I knew, Corey was dragging me down a random staircase to an underground Vietnamese restaurant to eat his all-time favorite food- pho- at Pho 16th Street Vietnamese Grill. I never know what to get at these places, so I just copied Corey and got the “combination”, which had chicken, beef and eggroll (?) on top of the standard noodles. It was OK, I guess. I just don’t understand this food. BUT…Corey was very happy, and said that he thought it was delicious. And I was happy to get our mandatory pho stop for the trip out of the way! I could lie and say we ditty bopped into a trendy nightclub and partied the rest of the night away, but it was one of those nights where nothing sounded better than warm pajamas, a huge hotel bed and a Christmas movie!