It started with two hours of sleep, a half-empty bottle of lemonade, and a Ben Howard playlist. Three hours later, I boarded the plane, chai latte in hand, ready to take on the world – well, Colorado at least.
I had just enough time to catch up on some blog posts and homework before my dad’s plane landed. I sat in the airport, feeling completely at home, my fingers gliding over the keyboard. Weird fact: I love airports. Most people find them annoying and chaotic, but there’s an unmistakable sense of possibility and wonder that hangs in the air.
I met my dad at the airport with a giant hug; it had been two months since I’d seen him and even longer since our last road trip. I wondered how this could possibly top the last one, but the promise of mountains, fall, and Ben Howard threatened to take its place as the best road trip.
An hour later, after waiting at the rental car place, we were ready to fuel up on some good food. The night before our trip, my dad had fallen asleep on the couch only to wake up to the show Diner, Drive-Ins, and Dives, just as it was discussing Biju’s, a little curry shop in Denver. It wasn’t even 24-hours later that we were standing at Biju’s register giving the cashier our order. I stuck a forkful of coconut curry in my mouth, anticipation levitating in my stomach. I had been to Colorado before, but never in the fall. This weekend – filled with one of my favorite states, seasons, artists, and people – made me giddy with excitement.
It was only a 40-minute drive to our Airbnb, a little cabin located in the small town of Kittredge. The log cabin walls and warm blankets were welcoming, but we only had a few days, so we dropped our bags and headed out the door. We started small, exploring Kittredge and the neighboring town of Evergreen, hitting up all the small-town stores, before moving on to Red Rocks. As expected, a line of cars stretched out from the town, indicating that a concert was about to start, but that didn’t take away from the awe of it. I had been to Red Rocks once before, and yet it seemed to stretch on forever, leaving me breathless. The image still hung in my mind as we made our way to Morrison, the town just outside of Red Rocks.
“Morrison Ciderfest,” I read the blue banner aloud.
“Wanna check it out?” my dad asked, turning the car into the parking lot where the banner hung. We stayed just long enough to get some bracelets, listen to some music, and admire the guys in dinosaur costumes. After all, it was getting late, and we had a big day ahead of us.
As any good morning should, mine started with a chai latte from what is now my favorite cafe, Muddy Buck. Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for my bank account, it’s over 1,500 miles away from Tallahassee. If it wasn’t, it’s likely that its brick exterior and twinkly lights would have drawn me in almost every day.
We had decided to check out some stores in Morrison.
I had been looking at jewelry when I heard my dad call from the other side of the store, “Taylor, come check this out.” I put the necklace down, looking up to see him standing next to a tall coat hanger that was covered with hats of all shapes, sizes, and colors. “Thoughts?” I asked as he placed a light brown trilby on my head. He shook his head, eyeing the rack for a more suitable choice. I beat him to it, taking the red floppy hat off the hook and placing it lopsided on my head. I arched my eyebrows, gauging a response. He nodded his head teasingly. “Not,” I laughed, placing the hat back on the hook.
We arrived at Boulder later to be serenaded by a twentysomething guy in tap shoes. I smiled, making my way to the first bookstore in sight. I browsed the shelves, practicing every ounce of self-restraint I had. This restraint was also needed for the next three stores we visited, especially in Island Farm. It was the rustic wood farmhouse feel that drew me in but oversized sweaters, leather journals, and hipster jewelry that made me want to stay. It was like two of my favorite stores, Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie, had merged into one big heaven. I shuffled through the racks, willing the three-digit price tag to morph into something a little more affordable.
“Hey, come look at the deer in our yard.”
I sat up in bed, placing my feet on the hardwood, careful to avoid that dreadful creaking sound that would surely send the doe running. I approached the door like a hunter stalking its prey – except, you know, in a loving vegan way. My desire to move to Colorado intensified as I watched the doe nibble on the grass. As if intimidated by our gaze, it pranced on to a better feeding ground, and we went inside to get ready for our next adventure.
It was an hour later when we had our next encounter with wildlife on our way to the thrift shop. “Whoa,” dad gasped slamming on the brakes. A big brown blur sprinted across the street. My jaw hung open as three smaller blurs followed it. We had never seen an elk before and had to google it to make sure it wasn’t a moose or really big deer. We were still excitedly discussing it when we pulled into the thrift shop.
My eyes glazed over the racks, catching on a rich brown leather sleeve. I pulled it out, holding it up to my dad for approval. “Try it on,” he encouraged. I slipped my arms into the soft, worn sleeve and instantly fell in love. Needless to say, I only took it off to pay for it. Our thrift shopping had been such a success that we decided to continue in Idaho Springs. While we might not have gotten as much in Idaho Springs, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the quaint town; with its music, antiques, and cafes, what’s not to love?
I looked at the clock on the dashboard; it was time. I couldn’t believe it. We had booked this trip months ago, and now in a matter of hours, we would be seeing my favorite artist, Ben Howard, perform live at Red Rocks. Having arrived early, we decided to explore the gift shop. Three tour buses lined the street, and my heartbeat quickened. My heart still hadn’t calmed when we passed them again, this time with souvenir stickers in hand. Having killed an hour, we still had one more hour before the gates opened, so we hopped in line and nibbled on some dried pineapple. It wasn’t long before my dad had managed to strike up a conversation with the twenty-year-old guy in front of us. Friendly talks of home, college, and football helped to tick down the time, inching closer and closer until finally, it was time to enter the massive canyon.
And just like that the crowd cheers and the music starts. I got lost: lost in the shining stars, lost in the surrounding rocks that swallowed me whole, lost in the soft strum of the guitar. It was a moment I wanted to stay lost in, but as all good moments do, it came to an end; although not without saying goodbye to my favorite cafe first. Though I don’t know if I’d call it a goodbye since after a trip like this there’s no way I won’t be back for more.
Hidden Gems of Colorado Mountain Towns
Boulder was already one of my favorite cities, and this bookstore café pushed it even further toward the top of my list. I stepped in, my eyes gravitating toward the endless wooden bookshelves, only to shift to a marble bar where a barista stood hurriedly filling cups. If you’re anything like me, a tea drinker and an avid book reader, I would recommend checking out Trident on your next trip to Boulder.
Idaho Springs, Colorado
It’s jaw-dropping guitars, friendly staff, and quirky t-shirts aren’t the reason this music store made it on my list. Instead, it’s the Banjolele, a banjo that plays like a ukulele, that sealed the deal. I had never heard of one before, let alone seen one, but that didn’t stop me from instantly wanting to learn how to play it.
While Muddy Buck will forever remain my favorite place in Evergreen, Da Kind Soup is a close second. Perfect for the cold weather, pick out your favorite soups to bring home to eat with a good book. Not only is the staff incredibly friendly, but they also have a wide range of vegan options that stretched from Coconut Dahl to Pumpkin Rice and Lentil Soup!
Its unique hat selection isn’t the only vintage collection on display. Browse through their wide selection of costume jewelry and collectibles, while immersing yourself in its eclectic vibe. Despite the numerous hats I tried on, we opted for a small statue of a lady in a red dress that doubles as an essence holder.
Let me know about your favorite weekend trip in the comments!