72 hours near Denver, CO

It’s been about a year since my bestie and I packed up her little car and set out for a road trip. Our final destination? Denver, Colorado. Neither of us had ever been to Colorado and jumped at the chance to plan out a long weekend trip with not a ton planned out. I came up with a rough itinerary leading up to the week we left that was done through searching Instagram and getting recommendations from a few family members who have lived in Colorado.

We really only had a couple days in Denver, as we stopped and stayed a night each way there and back in North Platte, Nebraska (a choice we don’t recommend repeating—no offense to any Nebraskans, but wow it’s literally just farmland and city life is scarce).

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We hit the grocery store before leaving Minnesota and stocked up on cheap essentials for sandwiches and other road-trip-friendly food. Since we were in Airbnbs for the week, we were able to do lots of our own cooking. This definitely kept the trip more affordable!

This is everything we managed to do (a lot!) in our 72 hours in the Denver area.

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I had my first ever Airbnb experience while on this trip, and we were lucky enough to snag this gorgeous space for half the price a hotel would have cost. Also, come on, those WALLS. That CEILING. If you’re interested in cute digs while passing through the Denver area, I’ve included the Airbnb listing here.

RITUALCRAVT

images via @ritualcravt on Pinterest

images via @ritualcravt on Pinterest

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After settling in to our Airbnb, we went to look at crystals, because, why not? This shop has strong witchy vibes and is super calming to be in. While I kept my browsing to the rocks and crystals, the shop was actually very aesthetically pleasing and overall it was a fun place to check out that you don’t find in the Twin Cities.

Sonder Coffee

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I STILL follow this shop on Instagram because it’s that lovely of a place. Between the interior, the wide variety on the menu and the amazing service, their offerings are so good that if they were to open a location in Minnesota, I’d be first in line to get in. Our barista was super open to offering recommendations and was beyond nice.

Piatti Denver

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I’m convinced this restaurant gave me one of the best meals of my life. We knew we wanted to do at least one fancy dinner while on the trip and this Cherry Creek restaurant fit the bill. The people and the food were Italian, meaning the food had to be wonderful and so was the experience. I ordered a fettucine dish with pork-ricotta meatballs, tomato sugo and basil. kisses fingers. The beverage menu also featured a Riesling, and a glassful went perfectly with the food. While it was a spendy dinner, the experience of slowing down, having one of our signature Taylor-And-Mariah-Discuss-The-World conversations, and savoring the whole experience was totally worth it and really made it a highlight of the trip.

Wendell’s Cafe

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The next morning we headed to Wendell’s, another lovely Instagram find, for some brunch. We got seats outside in Denver’s prime sunshine and took lots of photos while enjoying great food. If I lived in Denver, Wendell’s is one of the places that would be my go-to breakfast place. The offerings were varied, too (Mariah opted for pancakes while I opted for every savory item you could possibly stick on a plate). Pricing was pretty standard, and better for the quality of food than a lot of brunch places I’ve tried in the Twin Cities.

Downtown Denver

image via goodlifeexplorers.com on Pinterest

image via goodlifeexplorers.com on Pinterest

Downtown Denver is so great. It’s super walkable, meaning you can head down there, find a parking spot (or uber from your accommodations, which is the route I’d recommend) and you’re all set. There’s a bus that will take you up and down the street for free, so Downtown is perfect for a full-day trip or just a few hours. Besides doing some souvenir shopping, we were able to hit a couple of unique places, including a Krispy Kreme (are these even around anymore?) and ink! Coffee, a shop that specializes in nitro cold brew and I have to say, their coffee was a great intro to the nitro coffee world.

Hudson Hill Denver

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This craft coffee and cocktail bar is a gorgeous spot right in Denver for late afternoon drinks or getting some work done. I love the plants that hang in a tangled, botanical mess over the bar. Mariah and I actually stopped here and worked on a housing application while we sipped. I got a lavender-infused latte that managed to be both calming and caffeinating.

Estes Park, CO

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Holy Moly, I want to move here. After driving in the mountains for about an hour, you come across a booming metropolis, including McDonald’s and landscaped intersections, jutting out from the literal side of a mountain. WHAT. So cool. It started pouring rain as we got here, so we decided to stop and explore. There were lots of little shops and restaurants to peruse, and we bought even more crystals.

Rocky Mtn National Park

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I would recommend reserving a good portion of your day if you’re planning to hit the national park. It’s actually about 2 hours outside Denver, so by the time we got there, it had started to get dark. We weren’t able to do any hikes or anything, which was a let-down, but there were still gorgeous views by car and lookout and we were geeking out at the mountains the whole time. Plus, it makes the ultimate backdrop for an impromptu photo shoot (see below).

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We hit this park on our final day in the area before heading back to Minnesota. Located near Boulder, this day park is probably underrated. It offers mountain views and natural water features as well as rock climbing and hiking options galore. We couldn’t resist finding rock perches and soaking our feet in the freezing river water (I’ll recommend that you be CAREFUL because of currents and sharp edges and such). Especially if you’re headed back north or east, this park is a great way to end a trip to the area.

Some other cool spots we wanted to get to on the trip but didn’t:

Lula Rose General Store (coffee, goods)

Garden of the Gods (nature, approx. 1.5 hours from Denver)

Boulder, CO (40 min from Denver)

Want more recommendations for what to see and do in Denver or Colorado state??? Check out my Pinterest roundup.