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Road Trip from Denver, Colorado

Somehow, I think I have managed to burn out on New Year’s partying. Long gone are the days where I opt to pay exorbitant prices to attend an “all-inclusive” New Year’s party among throngs of hundreds, if not thousands, of giddily drunk comrades. I even know the exact year I ruined it for myself– Japan in 2013, and I’ve never been the same since. These days, I’m driven by the desire for genuine experiences, for sizzling street market food, for the unbearable anticipation during the days leading up to a big trip. In my world, New Year’s is no longer about seeing notoriously famous DJ’s; it’s about accepting the intangible force of self-reflection. It’s a time that I ask myself, “where have I been and where am I going?” Most importantly, it’s a moment where I align my aspirations with reality. This year, I chose colossal mountains, frozen lakes, and unfamiliar roads from Denver, Colorado. I have a feeling 2017 is going to be a thrilling ride.

 

Settle in with a bag of spicy Cheetos, your favorite pair of sunnies, and an epic playlist (I’m a fan of Spotify and Pandora).

I was delighted to discover two fried eggs over my fried rice. This was a wonderful meal to kick off my trip in the Denver area.

Onefold, Denver

2 miles from Denver city center

I haven’t been able to shake this meal from my mind–  crispy duck fat fried rice with bacon, green onions, garlic, soy sauce, and a hint of chili oil topped with two fried eggs. As I swooned in my food heaven, Nas’s “Doo Rags” wafted thoughtfully through the narrow restaurant galley, mingling with sounds of pops and fizzes on the busy griddle. Every patron at each table held a different story with deep conversations humming around me. Indulge in a Vietnamese iced coffee and know that you can’t go wrong with any choice off of their menu.

It might be difficult to choose just one restaurant on Larimer Street.

Larimer Street, Denver

1 mile from Denver city center

Larimer Square holds a modern revival of restaurants fit for foodies of all types in a charming historic setting. Stop into The Market for a portabello mushroom pocket from the hot deli.  Take a rest in a cozy corner at one of their many tables and grab a piping hot drink on your way out. Restaurants and shops span much further down the street, so keep exploring until you find the right fit. Need a noodle fix? Try Aloy Thai’s khao soi for an authentic taste of Thai homestyle cooking in the center of America.

There’s a little something for everyone at Union Station!

Union Station, Denver

1 mile from Denver city center

This is a place for people, by people. Union Station artfully blends eateries, shops, transportation and even flower stands in a tastefully revived classic setting. It is a fully functional train station that is a haven for greetings, goodbyes, and wanderers alike. Indulge in an ice cream shake at MilkBox and get lost in the pages at the Tattered Cover Book Store as the trains harmoniously rumble on.

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater is nestled in a setting with naturally occurring acoustics.

Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater

17 miles from Denver city center

Terrain changes quickly as you make your way out of the Denver city center. Within just a few minutes of driving, the landscape changes from buildings to impressive rock formations. Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater has something for everyone! It beckons families, friends, concert attendees, musicians, and even exercise cohorts to complete stair climbs and enjoy bask in its stunning natural setting. It’s not every day you come across a stage where you can walk across the same floor that Daft Punk, The Beatles, or Jimi Hendrix once stood. Take a journey through musical and geological history in the visitor center.

Echo Lake is completely ensconced in thick, green trees.

Echo Lake

46 miles from Denver city center

The road to the top of Mount Evans is typically closed from September or October to May. If you happen to be visiting the area during the winter, you can still check out Echo Lake for a great view of the mountain. During this time of year, the lake freezes over creating a sparkling effect and frosty winter backdrop ensconced by a stretch of thick trees. Dress warmly, as the winds can be gusty and powerful. Try snowshoeing around the lake or stop for a quiet moment sitting on one of the many benches facing the lake.

Stunning views of the surrounding peaks at the Garden of the Gods.

Garden of the Gods

68 miles from Denver city center

Before you enter the main park, make a quick detour to spend some time in the visitor center for a crash course on its impressive topographical history. Here, you will learn about the rich evolution of how these ancient sedimentary beds that have been tilted vertically by forces caused by the uplift of the Rocky Mountains and Pikes Peak. There are over 15 miles of trails in the park, including the 1.5 mile Perkin’s Central Trail paved loop that is great for all ages. You can also explore the rest of the park by car, as there are pull off points along the way for photo opportunities.

Taking in the fresh air at the 14,110-foot summit of Pikes Peak.

Pikes Peak

98 miles from Denver city center

Very few roads will take you all the way to the summit of a 14,110-foot mountain. While the drive is not for the faint of heart, it can also be done with just the right amount of courage. Take your time to drive carefully up the mountain. A sweet reward of world-famous donuts and hot chocolate at the Summit House Restaurant awaits you at the top. This is the ultimate angel’s view of Colorado Springs and surrounding areas. Check the official Pikes Peak website for up to date information on road closures, particularly during the winter season.

Play with a piece of history at the Penny Arcade in Manitou Springs, CO.

Manitou Springs

75 miles from Denver city center

Not so keen on driving to the summit? Take the Cog Railway-– the world’s highest cog train that will take you right to the top. The train depot is located in Manitou Springs, which holds a variety of kitschy gift shops rife with souvenirs for every kind of person. Try tasting one of the eleven naturally occurring mineral springs that are open to the public (I tried the variety in the lobby of the Creekside Cuisine, which was a little different than your average bottle of sparkling water). Wander through Anna’s Apothecary for a handmade collection of soaps, herbal remedies, and beauty products. Brush up on your skee ball skills at the well kept and vintage Penny Arcade nestled slightly behind the main avenue. The sounds of prize sirens, whistles, bells, and whooshing make for a grand finale to an entirely lovely day visiting Pikes Peak.

 

I woke up on the first day of the New Year feeling invigorated, well-rested, and most importantly, aligned with my intentions the next 365 days. This will be a year of discovery, self-awareness, appreciation, and reverence for this mysterious planet we all call home.

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