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Fourth of July Weekend - Colorado Style

My friends and I decided that we want to visit a city that we have never been (in my case, haven't explored), so one of us put together a "Random City Generator" where we put some of the top places in the USA that we had an interest in going. A few months ago, we hopped on a video call and picked our city which landed on Colorado Springs, Colorado!

I have already been to Colorado Springs, but it was about 15 years ago and I mainly spent my time at the Olympic Training Center attending a Paralympic Academy. It was a great experience and the reason that I no longer use a walker (I was motivated to teach myself how to use crutches because I didn't want to show up there with a cumbersome walker). That changed my life more than anything I can think of.

Back to the main topic for this post, Colorado! We decided that Fourth of July weekend would be a great time to go because we could turn our trip into a long weekend and that is exactly what we did. We arrived on Thursday night, about 2.5 hours late, and eventually made it to our Airbnb in Denver at about 2AM. We decided to all work remotely that day, so it was an early morning as we were in a different time zone and wanted to work east coast hours. I woke up, took my first call of the day from the Airbnb, then headed into my company's office in Boulder (about 45 minutes away from our Airbnb). Our office was beautiful, had an amazing view and I was able to connect in person with one of my colleagues that I have never met before, so the day was a success. We all logged off around 3PM Mountain Standard Time and headed to a "speakeasy" called Millers and Rossi which had great, unique cocktails. It was themed like a tiki bar in the front and had very unique, artsy décor once you got into the main bar area. After about an hour, we headed to a restaurant named El Five, a tapas restaurant at the top of a building that was consistently recommended as a must do because it had great food and views of an even better sunset! The reservations I got were about an hour before sunset and we sat a table along the window with prime views of the sunset..

After stuffing ourselves to the brim with tapas, we headed to a Bierstadt Lagerhaus, which had oversized games like jumbo cornhole with giant beanbags, human sized Connect Four, and Jenga that was about three feet tall.

The following morning, we checked out of our AIrbnb and headed for Colorado Springs! After a two hour drive and lots of traffic, we arrived at Pikes Peak - something that I visited when I was in Colorado Springs many years ago and really wanted to go back and see. While we would have preferred to take the train up the mountain, it was sold out so we drove the 19 miles up the windy road which peaked at over 14 thousand feet! The scenery from the top was breathtaking and you could definitely feel the altitude.

At the top of the peak, there was also a monument with the words to "America the Beautiful" inscribed on it. The views inspired the song by Katharine Lee Bates!

That evening we decided to go to a very unique food hall, COATI, for dinner. It had about five or so food stations and bars inside it and it happened to have a silent rave that night, which is something I've only done once before in my life and really enjoyed it! The silent rave ended around midnight, so we went back to our Airbnb because we had a relatively early morning the next day to drive around the Garden of the Gods.

I had a pretty unique bout of altitude sickness the following day where I struggled to keep anything down, including water, but didn't let it stop me from enjoying the day. I powered through our drive, and even went on a hike. I did take a nap at one of the stops while my friends all went on a hike, which really seemed to help. The scenery around the Garden of the Gods was quite beautiful and the rocks all had unique names like Kissing Camels or Balanced Rock.

That evening, we went to a quaint town called Manitou Springs which is near the entrance of Pikes Peak. I still wasn't feeling that great, so I tried to have an ice cream which I seemed to be able to keep down. I still wasn't feeling great, though, so I went back to our Airbnb relatively early and slept for about 14 or so hours. They say the best thing to do for altitude sickness is sleep and hydration, so that is exactly what I did. By the following morning, I was feeling much, much better and eased my way back into a more normal diet. We went to a cafe called "The Perk" which had a really good breakfast sandwich, walked around a bit and I decided I was feeling good enough to have a milkshake - that hit the spot!

After the milkshake, we made a quick visit to the Olympic Training Center. I really wanted to go back and check it out. Unfortunately, you needed to go on a guided tour which would have taken an hour and we would have had to wait 40 minutes for the next one, so we decided to just visit the gift shop (I bought a USA Paralympics T-Shirt) and depart for Denver.

That evening, we headed to the world famous Red Rocks Amphitheater to see a concert. When we picked a place in Colorado, we decided that we 100% wanted to see a show there no matter what. We bought tickets for the one night we were free to see a band we had never heard of, it was an EDM group called Zeds Dead. While it was not our type of music, we still had a really good time in the venue and got a kick out of some of the outfits people had on. Apparently Zeds Dead has quite a cult following! It did rain, even though there was no rain in the forecast, so we got drenched because it is an outdoor venue. That didn't stop us from having a great time!

About halfway through the performance, I decided to go up to the top of the venue where there was ADA seating to enjoy the show instead of trying to see over people's heads which was a really nice option as I really was able to take in the atmosphere.

Because we weren't fans of the artist, we left the venue early to beat the traffic which was a really good move because it would have taken forever to get out. The venue was pretty high up from where we parked, so it was quite a hike. On the way up, we took a shuttle part way, but walked most of the way down including hundreds of stairs!

We grabbed breakfast at a place called Pete's Diner the following morning which served giant portions too big for any normal human to eat before going to the Denver Botanical Gardens. The gardens are something that is on the top things to do list in Denver and were quite impressive.

I had an earlier flight out of Denver than most of my friends, given that I prefer to not do redeyes, so I left the gardens before the whole group did. One of my friends dropped me off at Union Station which has a train directly to the airport (about 40 minutes) and is completely free for all of July and August - this saved me about an $80 Uber! I made it to the airport with ample time to spare and was able to go to a different terminal for about an hour to visit the Amex Centurion Lounge before heading to my terminal, sitting in the Delta SkyMiles Lounge for about 45 minutes and heading to my gate to go home.

The weekend was a quick one, but definitely worthwhile. I can't wait for our next "Random City Generator" vacation. I am sure it will be loads of fun!

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