It’s been said that Colorado is one of the largest adventure playgrounds for adults in the United States. From living in Denver the last few months, I can verify this firsthand. There is certainly no shortage of adventure here, whether you’re a foodie, a fitness freak, or a fan of great, live music.
I think the best part of living in Denver, though, is getting to explore so many of the small, picturesque towns in the Rocky Mountains. My favorite so far is a town called Morrison, located just about 30 minutes outside of Denver.
When friends and family visit, we always make sure to take them to check out Morrison. So if you’re planning a trip to Denver (or anywhere in Colorado), I’d definitely suggest checking out Morrison. Here’s my reasons why:
RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATRE
Red Rocks Amphitheatre (or just “Red Rocks”, as the locals would say) is a must-see if you’re planning on visiting Colorado. Quite simply, it’s an outdoor, open-air amphitheatre (aka music venue) surrounded by large, beautiful, red rocks. During the daytime and on days that there are no concerts scheduled, Red Rocks Park is open to the public for sight-seeing, hiking, and various other fitness activities.
A quick, little history: John Brisben Walker (a magazine publisher and automobile entrepreneur) opened Red Rocks in 1906. Back then, the area was formally known as the “Garden of the Titans”, however, the locals always referred to it as “Red Rocks”. Now, the Amphitheatre is owned by the City of Denver, and can hold just shy of 10,000 people.
Performances have been held at Red Rocks for more than 100 years now. If you’re lucky, you’ll be in Colorado during the summer season to catch a show at this world-famous venue. Notable shows include: Stevie Knicks (1987), The Beatles!!! (1964), Jimi Hendrix (1968), U2 (1983), Coldplay, Kenny Chesney, Mumford and Sons, and The Grateful Dead, among many others.
If you can’t make it to a show, don’t fret, it’s definitely still worth the day-trip from Denver. Many people use the large staircase (138 stairs!) to do fitness activities like cardio or yoga. There are tons of dog-friendly hiking trails and sight-seeing opportunities to check out in the park surrounding the venue. Plus, there’s a small cafe and museum where you can have lunch with a beautiful view and check out some posters and pictures from old Red Rocks concerts.
THE ATMOSPHERE (& FOOD!) IN DOWNTOWN MORRISON
After you’ve had your fun at Red Rocks, you should head into Morrison’s downtown area. It’s a short walk and an even shorter drive from the Amphitheatre. If you’re looking for good food, cold beer, and some of the nicest locals you’ll ever meet, this is the place to be.
The main road that runs through the small downtown area is called Bear Creek Avenue. This where you’re going to find most of the good restaurants, bars, and shops that Morrison has to offer.
My personal favorite is a locally owned bar/restaurant called Mill Street Eats. Luckily for us, it was the first place we tried when visiting Morrison for the first time. My dog, Sawyer, was with us and we needed to find a place that would allow us to sit and eat outside with him. Mill Street has the perfect creekside patio to dine with your pup. Dogs are even allowed in the back bar area (unless it’s really crowded, like before/after a Red Rocks show).
My boyfriend, Ryne, and I always enjoy the most delicious burgers, tater tots, and hot wings from Mill Street. It’s the perfect, greasy comfort food to devour after a long hike. Paired with a beer, there’s nothing better. The owner, Dave, is hilarious and also really nice. He once came to our table to bring Sawyer a (free) cut-up hot dog and a big bowl of cold water to drink. Before he left, he introduced himself, small-talked a little, and then handed Ryne and I business cards that said absolutely nothing except for his name, “dave”, lowercased, in the center, in small print.
Oh, did I forget to mention… there’s ice cream at Mill Street. Blue Bell ice cream. As a New Orleans native, I just about died when I saw it on the menu for the first time.
There’s chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, cookies and cream. There’s sugar cones, waffle cones. There’s shakes, there’s malts. And it’s all delicious.
If you’re looking for something a little more sophisticated, try the European-American cuisine at Cafe Prague. From roast duck to Hungarian goulash, Cafe Prague says they have something that everyone will love, even your kids! When the weather is nice, they also offer outside patio dining.
HIKING IN THE SURROUNDING AREAS
If you’re driving in from Denver on I-70, Morrison is going to be one of the first mountain towns you hit. You’ll pass through downtown, see Red Rocks Park, and then have the option to either turn around and head back to Denver, or head further into the mountains.
If you have the time, I highly suggest checking out Morrison’s neighboring towns. Just 4 miles west of Morrison is the small town of Idledale where you’ll find Lair o’ the Bear Park. Now, when I visited Lair o’ the Bear, it was February, so the trail and the creek were covered in snow. It was still an incredibly beautiful hike, but it’s probably a bit prettier and easier to visit in the warmer months. There’s a quick, 1.3-mile hike you can do on Bear Creek Trail or if you want a higher vantage point, try the Bruin Bluff Trail.
After passing Idledale, you’ll hit Evergreen, which is a town so full of gorgeous views that it deserves its own blog post. Alderfer/Three Sisters Park offers nearly 15 miles of trails for hiking, bouldering and cycling. If you’re feeling really adventurous, try the 9.4 mile round-trip hike to Bergen Peak at Elk Meadow Open Space. When you get to the top, you’ll be at an elevation of nearly 10,000 ft and you’ll have a beautiful view of Mt. Evans!
Like I said at the beginning of this post, Colorado is a playground for adults, and if you’re going to visit, you should make the most of your time here!
(P.S. If you live in or have visited Morrison, CO, please feel free to comment about your favorite places that I didn’t mention!)