SlapDash: Five Colorado places to go during mud (sorry, shoulder) season in Vail!
Red Rock Amphitheater courtesy of Red Rocks Twitter account.
SlapDash by Jill Alfond
Hi Vail! Tis the season … of closed restaurants and cranky natives. Here are some quick, easy, iconic Colorado trips to restore some mud-season sanity (budget-friendly and easily kid/teen approved):
- Film on the Rocks; Red Rocks Amphitheater. We had to include a mini-Denver vacation and there is nowhere better than this place. I know, you’ve been to a gazillion Red Rocks concerts. This is a great way to … give it a go! Film on the Rocks, presented by the smarty pants collective at the Denver Film Society, provides a full night of fun for just $15. Bring a picnic, your blank, sit back and enjoy a very cool night at this iconic venue. This summer’s lineup includes a healthy mix of cult faves and blockbusters: “Star Wars – the Last Jedi”, “Heathers”, “Big Lebowski”, “Happy Gilmore” and “Black Panther” (any many more; just check the calendar). Each film is proceeded by a concert and a local comedian, (thank you, Comedy Works!).
Eat: Don’t fight it, just go. Morrison Inn, Morrison, Colorado
Stay: Closest hotels to Red Rocks
- Great Sand Dunes Monument, San Luis Valley — a Colorado gem! Thirty square miles of pure magic. North America’s largest sand dunes. An adrenaline junkie paradise. Hike up and get your fix coming down. You can ski, snowboard, fat bike or surf. On sand!!! This is not the time to DIY — rent the equipment there!
People trek from all over the world to see it, so if you haven’t, you need to. Maybe you’ve already seen the Dunes, but have you seen the Dunes under a full moon? You don’t want to miss that.
The park is open 24 hours a day, so sunrise, sunset, and moonlit skies are all yours. Highest point at 750 feet is Star Dune — (#stardune to post the amazing summit photos). In the summer, enjoy the natural beach created by Medano Creek snowfall.
Stay: Choose your own adventure — from campsites to the fabulously fancy Zapata Ranch, and in between, there are plenty of options
Eat: The Oasis
PS, since people will ask when you get back, you might as well check Crestone off the list while you’re so close (20 miles from the National Park). The unlikely spiritual Mecca is so completely unexpected, it almost makes sense. This tiny town in Southern Colorado with more than two dozen ashrams, monasteries, temples, retreat centers, stupas and labyrinths is something to see.
Don’t Miss This! The UFO Watchtower: Come on by the UFO WatchTower® for some interesting chit chat about ufos, aliens, abductions, paranormal, and just about everything else in the cosmos!
- The Wild Animal Sanctuary, Keenesberg, CO Maybe you haven’t been, or maybe you haven’t even heard of it. By the numbers, here is what you can expect. A 1.7-mile elevated footbridge that explores the 400 acres of lions (61 of them), tigers (65) and bears (108 black and 31 grizzlies), hanging out with mountain lions, wolves, lynx, servals, bobcats, leopards, ostriches, an emu and a camel. These animals are rescued from unsafe conditions, which, surprisingly, in most cases, result from people wanting “exotic animal pets.” There are 4,000 tigers living as “pets” in private homes just the state of Texas, which is more tigers than exist in the wild throughout the world. When those situations go inevitably wrong, TWAS gives them a home in their sanctuary, which has grown to over 9,000 acres of natural habitat. Take a look: https://www.wildanimalsanctuary.org/about-us
Mesa Verde National Park, Four Corners, CO, Like the cobbler’s children with no shoes, it’s easy to ignore what is right under your nose. Did you know we have ancient ruins and cliff dwellings right here in Colorado? Do this as a weekend trip and take the ranger-guided tour of the ancient ruins of the Pueblo people who made this their home from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300. You’ll walk away with an understanding of the history in our backyard. To date, only a tiny bit of the archaeological sites have been uncovered, but plenty are open to tour. And while you’re there, you’ll want to see the Ute Mountain Tribal Park on a Ute tribal member-guided tour. Wall paintings and petroglyphs abound, but the 600 cliff dwellings are what you need to see. Jaw dropping and perfectly preserved. The park HQ is 20 miles south of Cortez.
Stay: Hotels, B&Bs
Try: Don’t miss the Balcony House: 60 foot open rock face climbed by 10 foot ladders, and upon exit, you’ll feel accomplished!
- Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs, Steamboat Springs. What’s not to love? 104-degree natural mineral pools amid a little western settlement with (almost glampy) cabins, riverside campsites and your own train caboose. You can flit between springs that are close to the source (hot) and closer to the river (cooler). Get primal! You can make your own pools by moving rocks around to your liking. Great all year long, but somehow nothing feels quite as satisfying as a good soak looking at frozen nature. PS, after dark leave the little ones home — adults only and clothing optional!
SlapDash is the brainchild of longtime friends Jill Alfond and Nicole Kaldes who, by the numbers, have a combined 40 years of writing experience, 100(ish) missed flights each, have spent thousands of dollars in change fees and have encountered too many characters/experiences to count.
SlapDash isn’t your average travel site, which is exactly why we started it — because travel writing has become, well, a bit too serious. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” but here at SlapDash we find travel a bit more entertaining because, let’s face it, nothing ever goes as expected. If you’re like us and not 100% perfect, SlapDash is for you. Think of us as goop for imperfect humans, where you’ll find discoveries, actually helpful, insider tips, city guides, shopping recommendations, funny sh*t, characters we’ve met and real — but really irreverent — travel stories to hopefully inspire your next trip.
We’ve been hilariously botching travel since high school. Learn from our mistakes.
Feedback? Burning questions? Want us to go somewhere and eff it up so you can learn from us?
Say hello at SlapDashMe[at]gmail.com.
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