With tons of mountain trails open year-round and a quick shot to the Eldora ski resort, we’re not going to lie; we think Boulder is the perfect little snow globe for a winter vacation.
But more adventure awaits just beyond the Boulder bubble. With the ski slopes to the west, it’s an obvious option to head toward the hills. But here’s something less expected. For this trip, drive east.
Whether you live in Boulder and are looking for a quick weekend staycation or you’re visiting and seeking a fast day trip, here are a few of our favorite winter escapes less than an hour away from home.
If you’re a local, we can see your face now: head cocked like a confused puppy, nose wrinkled. Why would you leave beautiful Boulder for (swallow) Aurora, 45 minutes to the east? Who in Colorado vacations east?
Forget what you think you know about this (very overlooked) metro city. Aurora has grown into herself over the past few years and is officially a worthy weekend destination.
Stay at the stunning Hyatt Regency Aurora-Denver Conference Center. This is one of the metro area’s newer hotels, with a sleek, modern design, ultra comfy beds, spacious rooms and a rooftop pool. (Sadly, the pool is closed in the winter.) Relax by the fireplace in the lobby with a cocktail from Borealis, the contemporary, on-site restaurant.
Then, spend the day exploring the Stanley Marketplace, a short 10-minute drive away. The Stanley Marketplace is an ultra-hip, hyperlocal marketplace on the Denver-Aurora border. It boasts more than 50, unique, local merchants, including Infinite Monkey Theorem, the Denver Biscuit Co., Rosenberg’s Bagels, Comida, even a donut shop that sells CBD and gluten-free donuts. Get your nails done, visit the barber or salon, do yoga or Pilates, shop for clothes and pick up educational kids toys (or let your kids create something from scratch in the youth makerspace).
The Stanley has been fully open for about a year. It used to be an aviation facility, and you can see the echoes of its past life as you walk throughout. You can even rent a former hangar for special events. Infinite Monkey is located in the old break room for the factory employees; its easily one of the coolest taprooms in the country, with vintage furniture and decorations throughout.
Start your day dining at Annette Scratch to Table, a James Beard nominee that was named one Bon Appetit’s best new restaurants in 2017. It’s a quaint, personal space, and the service feels like family. Everything (literally, everything) on the seasonal menu is drool-inducing, but we recommend the spiced curtido with black beans, arugula, manchego, cilantro and cream. Always order the biscuit of the day with jam, too.
Always. Get. The. Biscuit.
After filling up on coffee and house-cured bacon, continue to wander through the Stanley until you find Zero Market, an oh-so-Boulder shop with sustainable, zero-waste products. This unique store makes and sells its own lotions and potions, so bring your own containers and fill up, bulk-style, preventing unnecessary waste.
Wrap up the day with a sweet treat from Miette et Chocolat; the owner was the longtime pastry chef at the Brown Palace.
In the evening, head to another historic building (a former airplane tower) converted into a hip business. Punch Bowl Social Stapleton is just a few minutes away (you could even bike or walk the mile and a half). Creative, tasty, alcoholic punches are the specialty here, but there’s so much more — on the menu and in the massive, multi-level building.
For fun, rent a private karaoke room that can hold up to 10 guests, play arcade games, go bowling and play tabletop games, like Jenga. There’s bocce ball, shuffleboard, ping pong, giant Scrabble, Bonzini, foosball, card games, board games and cornhole galore.
For food, expect from-scratch comfort food, like chicken and waffles, roasted poblano baked mac and cheese, green chorizo fries and sriracha peanut fries, a burger on Texas toast loaded with griddled bologna and cocoa-dusted carnitas tacos. There are healthy choices, too, like the Superfood Grain Bowl with crispy farro and quinoa, kale, radishes, sprouts, pickled chiles, mushrooms, a poached egg and miso-ginger vinaigrette.
Aurora has never tasted so delicious.
We could spend a full weekend browsing the shops and restaurants in Cherry Creek, less than an hour away from Boulder. And our favorite place to stay there is at the Halcyon. If the weather is nice, take a bike, longboard or Vespa, which you can borrow for free from the hotel’s unique Gear Garage. Borrow an old-fashioned camera, and the hotel will develop the film and mail you the pics.
But what’s really got us jazzed this winter is the Halcyon’s new Robes on the Rooftop program. This hotel has a heated, rooftop, outdoor pool and hot tub that are open year-round. Warm up in the hot tub, then wrap up in your bathrobe and snuggle around the fire pit with a hot toddy or hot cocoa. Every Friday from 4-6 p.m. in the winter, the Halcyon will have a “Hot Handler” on deck to help keep you warm. The handler will push a cart of hot tea, hot toddies and other warm beverages, and when you’re in the hot tub, he or she will place your robe and slippers in a warmer to keep them toasty. The rooftop will be packed with cozy blankets, games, relaxing music and stunning views of the city skyline.
Then retreat to your unique room, decorated with impressive artwork and an in-room record player to help you wind down the night.