Photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch

Best Day Trips From Boulder

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Travel is different now. But it’s not dead.

Even if you’re not comfortable hopping on an airplane and partying at a mega-resort in Mexico, there are still tons of ways to explore the world and scratch that travel itch. As the world tries to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, road trips and day trips closer to home are more popular than ever.

Here are some of our favorite weekend getaways from Boulder — featuring destinations that are private and intimate, as well as other ways to adventure safely. Not to mention, a quiet and peaceful vacation is always desirable, regardless of the state of global health. You can do any of these trips over a summer or fall weekend.

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs is about an hour and 40 minutes from Boulder and just under 100 miles away, making it ideal for a weekend getaway. There’s endless fun in the Springs, from the country’s only mountainside zoo (feed the giraffes!) to natural wonders galore. For example, the Cave of the Winds is a jaw-dropping, underground cave system, and then above ground, the Garden of the Gods is a collection of huge red rocks reaching toward the sky. The latter, fully outdoors (go early on a weekday when it’s least busy), is a top attraction if you’re cautious about crowds.

Stay here: Stay at the luxurious Broadmoor, which boasts multiple different intimate lodging offerings.

First, the Brownstones’ residential-style accommodations have mountain views and private, gourmet kitchens. There are four floors of space, and everything you could need to feel like you’re home away from home.

Or stay at the Cottages (our favorite), right on the golf course. These elegant, private properties have between one and eight bedrooms, massive patios and fireplaces. You can stay the weekend here, order room service, dine on your patio and barely have to interact with another human.

For more private lodging, also ask about the Estate House (great for groups) and the totally isolated Fire Tower Suite at Cloud Camp — total seclusion several thousand feet above the city atop Cheyenne Mountain.

Eat here: The Broadmoor has various restaurant options, including outdoor dining at the Lake Terrace Dining Room. Overlook the lake for an extravagant Sunday brunch.

Do this: There are two new things not to miss (depending on your level of comfort in public places).

First, this spring, the Broadmoor is scheduled to open the newly renovated Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway. This historic railway dates back to 1891 and remains the highest railway in the country and the world’s highest cog train. Ride up to where the song “America the Beautiful” was inspired. (The train capacity will be capped at 50 percent.) If you don’t want to ride the train and are up for a challenge, you can hike up to Pikes Peak on the 13-mile Barr Trail. There is also a mountain bike path.

Boulderites will also love Colorado Springs’ new U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum. The museum has timed tickets and attendance caps, as well as other safety precautions. This 60,000-square-foot museum is all about this country’s best athletes, their stories, the artifacts and inspiration.

Denver

For a close-to-home staycation, Denver’s less than 45 minutes (less than 30 miles) from Boulder. Every corner of Colorado’s capital is filled with adventure, but for a bit of a hidden gem that won’t be as crowded as the 16th Street Mall, head to the quirky Dairy Block micro-district. The Dairy Block is still walking distance to LoDo (and two blocks from Union Station), but it’s off the beaten path.

Photo courtesy of The Maven

Stay here: The award-winning Maven Hotel is the heart of the Dairy Block. The hotel feels like a private art gallery, with more than 400 pieces of original art by Colorado artists throughout. Rooms are spacious, with high ceilings, oversized windows and balcony options.

A more laid-back, family friendly option is a weekend at the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center. There are ways to make even a big hotel like the Gaylord more private, while still enjoying the on-site, seasonal activities that make it so fun. Request a suite with a full kitchen, and limited pool reservations are required.

Eat here: The patio at the Kachina Cantina, a tasty southwestern grill connected with the Maven (no need to drive). Take in the sunshine outside with a margarita and chips.

Also, check out nearby Poka Lola, with specialty sodas made with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.

Do this: Dairy Block is host to all kinds of fun events, like Drag Queen Bingo Brunch in the alley. This spring, look for a “Local AF” pop-up, outdoor market featuring the likes of sustainably made fanny packs, zero-waste fashion and vegan candles. Later in the year, look for the “Glamp AF” pop-up for stylish outdoor gear.

While in Denver, visit the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which has ticketed, limited capacity. New this year, running through Labor Day: an intriguing exhibit about the mystery of Stonehenge.

Beaver Creek

After the snow melts, the ski town of Beaver Creek feels like a magical, peaceful escape from reality. Beaver Creek still has the mountains and outdoor activities that make ski towns so fun in warmer weather, but it’s smaller than some popular towns like Aspen. It’s a little farther from Boulder than Denver, at just over two hours and 120 miles up Interstate 70, but still close enough for a quick one- or two-night staycation.

Stay here: Add another layer of intimacy when you stay at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch. The lobby and outdoor terrace are spacious; request a private residence with a full kitchen. Bonus: This elegant resort, built on sprawling open space, is pet-friendly and even has its own hotel dogs (the newest is a Saint Bernard puppy, Bachelor).

If you want even more privacy, book a private residence through Moving Mountains. This local, family-run company manages luxurious, independent properties (from sprawling villas to penthouses), and it recently expanded to Beaver Creek and Vail. Think of it like a high-end Airbnb concept, plus a concierge to help you plan and coordinate special features, like a private, in-room chef or pre-packaged meal kits with a QR code to video instruction.

Moving Mountains says it has seen an increased demand for family gatherings and vacations from people who want to get out in a safe and private way. The model is based on the European “catered ski chalet” service, except in Colorado, it’s offered year-round.

Photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch

Eat here: Eat outside on the terrace at WYLD, the Ritz’s on-site restaurant. No need to leave the property for some of Beaver Creek’s best plates.

Do this: The Ritz offers guided hikes with a naturalist, which are small-group, outdoor explorations to learn about the wildlife and history of the area. Also ask about art classes, photography hikes and the Edge of the Wild package (May 27-Sept. 6), which includes three nights and a resort credit to use toward a guided mountain hike, mountainside dining and more.

Granby

A two-hour drive west will bring Boulderites to the small mountain town of Granby, in Grand County, not far from Winter Park Ski Resort. A small town like Granby (population: 2,000) is ideal for travelers who crave new scenery and adventure without crowds. Explore the Arapaho National Forest and spend the weekend in nature.

Stay here: Snow Mountain Ranch. Book a dog-friendly yurt or a private cabin with a fireplace.

Eat here: Order take-out dining from the resort’s on-site restaurants or get groceries delivered to your door. The Buckboard Grill is a good option on site for pizza, salads, sandwiches and snacks.

Do this: No need to plan. Just show up and play. The cool thing about Snow Mountain Ranch is it’s packed with free, family-friendly activities, many of which are outdoors. We’re talking mini golf, lawn games, biking trails, fishing, guided hikes, private pool sessions, campfires, disc golf, visits to historic sites and even Hanging With Huskies, where you can play with dogs from the ranch’s dog sled team. Don’t miss the summer tubing hill.

Frisco

Less than two hours from Boulder (about 80 miles away), you can explore the charming Summit County destination of Frisco — another one of the smaller mountain towns with a population around 3,000. At the foot of the 10,000-foot Mount Royal, outdoor activities are central to a weekend in Frisco. There’s biking, stand-up paddleboarding, golfing, fishing and Thursday night concerts in the park, to name a few. It’s easy to spend a weekend in Frisco barely seeing the indoors.

Stay here: For a socially distanced home base, rent a condo with Summit Mountain Rentals. This property management company has a great selection of options (including family-friendly and pet-friendly) and offers the comfort of private spaces. For example, the Casa de Montagne is a high-end log home that’s tucked in the trees but also walking distance to Main Street.

Courtesy photo. Main Street, Frisco, Colorado, Summer

Eat here: Frisco has a great selection of outdoor dining options. Rising Sun Distillery has a new tasting room and expanded outdoor seating, complete with international street food and views of Mount Buffalo. Or enjoy innovative comfort food outside by the fireplace at Tavern West Restaurant.

Do this: Not many towns at 9,000-feet-plus also have an alpine lake, but Frisco’s got Lake Dillon and the Frisco Bay Marina. Spend solitary time on the lake while canoeing, kayaking, sailing and more. If kayaking is your jam, check out the Frisco Kayak Park on Ten Mile Creek.

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