Trip Report: Denver/Boulder, Colorado

And we are off to Denver – October 9-12

I am joining my cousin Micah and a few of his friends for a couple of days in Colorado for the the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). We booked the trip back in June (before I put all the plans together for my Europe/Asia trip). October has become a very hectic month with the trip to California, this trip to Denver, and a short haul trip to Buffalo. Not to mention the 2 weddings and all the planning and packing for my 7 week trip overseas.

I booked my flight and 1st night hotel (see below) through JetBlue. I thought about using points, but for a relatively short flight like this I decided to just go for cash. Cost of this flight was $308.70 (all included). I saw a few other flights that were a bit cheaper, but I really like JetBlue for domestic flights, when applicable. It is honestly just a more enjoyable experience, IMO.

Flight to Denver from JFK:

I arrived at the airport right around 8:30pm for my 9:30pm flight. The place was empty (smiley face for me)… Although I really didn’t need to, I used the “even more speed” (priority) line to go through security. There was no one in the normal line, but hey, I had the priority, may as well use it.

Got through ID check just fine but for the second time this month TSA decided to do a second check on my baggage. I should have known this would happen because it happened on my way to California too. I have these glass orbs/balls that I use for photography. I guess they raise a “red flag” on the X-ray machines. So they pulled my bag and did the explosives check on it. Not a super big deal because I wasn’t in a rush, but I think next time I will remove them preemptively.

Other then that, I was at the gate around 8:45pm. (15 minutes from drop off to gate, not bad for JFK).

We had a flight delay because our plane was coming in from an international run. They had to do some kind of customs check on it. Flight boarding delayed from 9:00pm to 9:20pm. Actual board time around 9:35. I was able to board with pre boarding. Again, my little secret. Take off time around 10:45 with an assurance from crew that we will make up for time in the air.

O yea, I am in 1D (first row aisle) with an empty middle seat next to me in the front row. Gotta love when that happens.

From Airport to Hotel: 

The transportation from the airport to the hotel was a bit of a pain. The cab to the hotel (as there was no other options) coast around $45-$50 (OUCH).

I arrived at the hotel (a Comfort Inn and Suites) where I’d be staying just for a few hours (approx 6). The hotel was fine. Room was nice, bed was comfy. It’s what I’ve come to expect from the Comfort family of hotels. They are surprisingly good (consistent) quality hotels.

Micah and his buddy Andy picked me up from the hotel around 9am and we headed over to the hotel we’d be in for the next couple of nights.

Embassy Suites – Downtown Denver

According to Foursquare this Embassy suites is the largest (or perhaps second largest) of the chains hotels in the states. It’s a pretty nice location (although local parking was pretty expensive [$30+/night!! valet or $20-$25/night in the lot across the street]).  I got us some free waters after check in as a Hilton Honors member (no cookies :( ) and we were set.

Micah had to head to the office for a few hours so Andy and myself went over to Red Rocks to do some exploring.

Red Rocks

This was a pretty cool spot. After visiting the main ‘spectacle’ at the concert venue/auditorium we spent a couple hours on one of the trails. It was nice to get out and get some fresh air and the hike took about 2 hours.

silhouettes-denver-red-rock

Great American Beer Festival

This is what we were there for. The GABF. We had a GREAT location literally across the street from the convention center so that was good. We walked across the street and got on line. It was super long but we had reassurances from the staff that once the doors opened (at 5:30) we would get in pretty quickly. We got on the back on the line around 4:45 and waited. One thing we will be sure to remember for next year is to bring food necklaces. Apparently you are not allowed to bring food in, but if it’s on a necklace, you are.

We saw people with basic pretzel necklaces. Then it started to get absurd. We saw a guy with an ENTIRE sourdough roll around his neck while others but pretzels, string cheese, bags of chips, jerky and more all on their single necklace. This is certainly something I would set up before I go again.

The actual festival was pretty cool. TONS of beer (obviously) with brewers/breweries from all over the country. One of the interesting things is that the big brands (coors, budweiser, etc) had very small booths (just 10×10). They didn’t overshadow the local/small brewers which I thought was great. The convention center was tremendous and I was surprised how easy it was to get to the tables to speak to the brewers and try the beers. That was a pleasant surprise for sure.

We spent about 4 hours drinking (they hand you a glass with a 1 ounce marker on it which is how much each sample is supposed to be) and they had some  food booths there as well. They were giving out free pretzels and other small snack items which was good and the variety of beer was astounding. They had everything from light to dark, ipa’s to hefs, pumpkin beer to apricot beer, and more.

I didn’t get nearly as drunk as I thought I would. I don’t know if I ate too much or just have a high tolerance from all my time playing flipcup in college. Whatever it was I found myself just more full and bloated then anything else.

We got the heck out of there around 9 and headed back towards the hotel. There was a pool hall/bar along the way and we decided to grab some food and hang for a bit.

 

Embassy Suites

The hotel was great and the suites were substantial. The beds were comfortable and there was a pull out, queen size, couch in the ‘living room’. The only problem I found with the room was an occasional issue of low water pressure. Nothing to make a stink about.  We got free breakfast the next morning which certainly hit the spot. It was a hot buffet along with an omelet station. Can’t go wrong with that.

[The hotel also featured a free happy hour (drinks and snacks) on friday afternoon. This was a pleasant surprise and a nice little pregame for our dinner).

Boulder

Friday we went out to Boulder. The plan was to do some hiking, grab some lunch and lounge around. After talking to some locals we decided on Mt. Sanitas. There were 4 of us and we were reading to get some hiking in. We checked out the map and decided on a 4 mile hike. We could see the top of the mountain (or so we thought) and it didn’t look too bad. Well, an hour later, we hit the real top of the mountain. It certainly wasn’t an easy hike, made a bit more difficult by the altitude. Everyone else on the trail seemed to be doing just fine and we felt a bit emasculated when we saw a girl in her early twenties carrying a baby on her back hiking down.

It took us about 1 hour to get to the top. We had a pretty good pace and stopped several times along the way to take in the scenery (or maybe to catch our breath). When we finally reached the top we were further embarrassed when 2 men probably in their late 60’s early 70’s  came up behind us checking their watches and noting a 35 minute ascent to the top.

Mt. Sanitas Boulder Colorado Hike

It was about 1.8 miles from bottom to top and then a different route down clocking in at about 2.4 miles and another hour. The trip down was certainly easier. The altitude wasn’t a major issue for us but we definately felt it on inclines during the hike.

We got a recommendation for lunch from a nice couple we met at the top of the mountain who had their two huge St. Bernards with them. Rio grande was located right on the main strip in Boulder. The food was ok, nothing to write home (or here) about. We hung around Boulder for a few more hours and then went back to Denver and the hotel for a nap, a shit, and a shower before dinner.

Buckhorn Exchange

So this is supposed to be the oldest bar in all of Denver. Judging from the liquor license with the number “1” on it, I’d say that classification holds true. They have tons of different types of proteins including Elk, Bison, Quail and more. The “ambiance”, if you can call it that, was like a man cave. Tons of stuffed animals all of the walls and photos of people that had visited the place over the last 100+ years.

In my opinion it is extremely over priced and the food is subpar. We got some rocky mountain oysters for appetizers (typical touristy move, they were fine). We all got different proteins (pretty much everything except the quail). I thought it was so so. The elk was dry and the bison was too well done (even though I asked for it medium rare, more towards rare). I wasn’t really expecting much from the place as I had check reviews before we went. However, it was a cool experience and I think that is all it was meant to be.

Traveling Home

I had to start getting over to the airport. We got back to the hotel right around 11pm (my flight was set for 12:59am). I grabbed my bags, hopped in a cab and off I went. I got to the airport only to realize my flight was delayed. No worries, it was only about a half hour. I got on board, talk my normal front row seat on Jetblue and popped a couple sleeping pills and hoped for the best. The flight was only a 3.5 hour flight so I was too confident I’d get a ton of sleep. I slept on and off and we arrived back in NY right around 7am. One more cab to bring me home and my trip was complete.

It was a fun, albeit short, trip overall.  Id be happy to go back to the beer fest again although it’s not something I’ll be highly motivated to do or something that I’ll be dying to go to again .

 

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