Hannah Drake

Colorado

Why You Should Visit the Garden of the Gods

TravelHannah DrakeComment

While we were in Colorado last month, we hopped in the car after church to go to Colorado Springs and spend time with my dear friend Tia and her boyfriend Jason. We first stopped for lunch at Trinity Brewing, which turned into longer lunch that expected, but Luke, Tia, and Jason enjoyed a few beers while I sipped on cider. 

We headed into the park later than we probably meant to, but the clouds were rolling in which made it so much cooler than it had been, probably scared off a few people (making it easier for us to find a parking spot), and clearly created beautiful lighting. We didn't have much of a plan, other than to wander around and the rest of the group was patient with me while I snapped like 200 photos. (Don't worry, they're not all in this post.)

So what is Garden of the Gods, you want to know? When I was younger, I had heard about it, but I don't ever remember going. That probably explains why I basically pictured it as being a second Hanging Gardens of Babylon. I thought it would be closer to a forest than a desert and I figured if the gods had anything to say about their garden, it would definitely be lush and green and there would be vines dripping from above. Right? Wrong.

Instead, this is Garden of the Gods. And boy am I glad because, as you know if you read my US Bucket List post, I've been wanting to go somewhere with otherworldly rock formations. Somewhere dry and dusty.

So Garden of the Gods is a free park and a National Landmark as of 1971. It was first called Red Rock Corral by the Europeans until two surveyors came across the site. One of the surveyors, M. S. Beach, suggested that it would be a "capital place for a beer garden". The other, Rufus Cable, seemingly awestruck by the landscape, replied, "Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods."

The Garden of the Gods' red rock formations were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago. Archaeological evidence shows that prehistoric people visited Garden of the Gods about 1330 BC. At about 250 BC, Native American people camped in the park; they are believed to have been attracted to wildlife and plant life in the area and used overhangs created by the rocks for shelter. Many native peoples have reported a connection to Garden of the Gods, including Apache, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, Lakota, Pawnee, Shoshone, and Ute.

In 1879, Charles Elliott Perkins and William Jackson Palmer, purchased 480 acres of land that included a portion of the present Garden of the Gods. After Perkins' death, his family donated the land to the City of Colorado Springs in 1909, under the condition that it would remain free and open to the public. Palmer had owned the Rock Ledge Ranch, which was also donated to the city after his death.

Colorado Springs is definitely worth visiting and Garden of the Gods is just one of its wonderful attractions. Although it's free, there is limited parking and operational hours. You can check online to see when they'll be open, as their hours change throughout the year.

It's a really great place if you're looking for an easy hike (perhaps even called a walk), or with a large group, children, elders, or people with disabilities. While you can "off road" a bit, much of the park is paved with wide walkways with fencing.

There are 15 miles of trails to explore in the park, some of which can be found online, though you can pick up a map with all the trails shown at the visitors' centre.

You may also spot some wildlife, but sometimes it's hard with the crowds. While we were leaving the park with Tia and Jason, I saw a deer butt off the side of the road while it ate some grass, but no one else saw it before we hit the curve. 

You are able to bring dogs on a lead, though there is one designated area where they can be off the lead.

You can even rock climb or mountain bike, but I recommend checking the site for regulations first.

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Colorado Restaurant Bucket List

TravelHannah Drake

Las Palmeras is a hidden gem in Longmont. There are a few different locations, but the taqueria is my favorite, just for the breakfast burritos. I think these are the best breakfast burritos around. And they're only $2.50! It's worth it. The service is a little touch-and-go in terms of friendliness, but they're usually nicer than they aren't. They also recently took away their credit card minimum of $5.00, but the burritos hold up well in the fridge if you pop them in the (toaster) oven the next day to warm up. The best part is they open at 6:00 on weekdays, so it's the perfect pre-work stop for breakfast.

Once upon a time, Lulu's was my favorite post-church dinner spot, especially in the summer. There's a great BBQ place in Longmont, but nobody does burnt ends like Lulu's. They're greasier, fattier...just how they should be. I normally get them with a side of coleslaw and sweet potato tots. Maybe that balances out the grease? If they've already run out for the day, instead I'll get an order of the BBQ nachos without jalapeños, with brisket. Insanely good! On summer nights, it's great to sit outside at their long picnic tables or play cornhole in the back. Rumor has it they're expanding since the restaurant next door closed. (After dinner, it's just a short walk down Pine St. to Sweet Cow for ice cream!)

Motomaki is my go-to lunch at work. I used to work a double on Wednesdays and that would be my treat. During my break, I'd walk over there, get lunch, then come back and watch Netflix and eat in the office. It's a great alternative to a more traditional sushi restaurant, with a decent price, and good quality fish. I figured out that if I were to substitute the California mix on the Shrimp Tempura Roll for sushi salmon, I'd save a few bucks, which was great since I think they load up the bowls especially with California mix. They're friendly and fast. But they're popular and the lines can get pretty long during lunchtime when it's also more difficult to find a parking spot.

The Old Mine is my absolute favorite spot. I don't even remember the first time I went there, who I was with, or why I was going. But it has since become a great weekend spot (especially in the summer) and a pretty central place to meet up with a lot of my friends. I love The Old Mine so much because I'm not a beer person. I know, blasphemy in Colorado. I'm more of a cider gal and nobody does it better than The Old Mine! They've also started canning recently, which means hopefully means their cider will be available across the state and maybe even nationwide eventually! This was the first place I tried BBQ pizza and I haven't looked back since. The Old Miner with their classic jurassic pork is the best pizza of my life. A lot of people from my church hang out there so I'm bound to run into someone, not to mention the staff always remembers me. Bonus, last time I was there I saw that they had expanded into the ice cream shop that was next door so they have even more indoor seating. But their back patio is simply the best.

Rosalee's is a newer place on Longmont's Main St. and seems to be making a lasting impression. I remember when they first opened and they ran out of dough their opening weekend! It's since become a hotspot in "downtown" Longmont and known for their fantastic pizza. I always start with the garlic knots, because duh. And I always go with a big crowd because their pizzas are huge. Opt for the rounds, because the squares are thicker crust and nobody wants that. They have local beers and ciders on tap and when it's nice out, a great patio out back.

Years ago my best friend and I tried every sushi place in town. Sakura was crowned the winner. The prices are reasonable, the sushi is great, and the staff is fantastic. The owner always sends over a special roll on the house for us to try and when I've seen him around town, he recognizes me. They have so many great rolls to chose from, but my absolute favorite is the Lucky 7 roll, since it's a shrimp tempura roll (my favorite) with salmon (my favorite) on top. I took my dad there a few years ago for his first sushi and we got so much they brought us a boat! I'll never forget that. I'd take Sakura over every sushi restaurant in Boulder!

There's an endless debate on the best brunch in Boulder, and I'm Team Snooze. (A lot of people like the local restaurant The Buff, but I don't at all.) Snooze has multiple locations across Colorado, and now Arizona, California, and Texas. I think it's the best brunch ever. My family celebrates a lot of birthdays there, but I'll take any excuse to go. Just be prepared to wait in line because they don't take reservations. Skip Snooze on busier Sundays, like Mother's Day, because you're sure to wait over an hour. Still, it's worth the wait.

Torchy's Tacos migrated up from Texas and boy am I glad it did! The first time I went, I tried their Taco of the Month--I think it was called The Washingtonian--and it was the best taco I've ever had. The Crossroads does the trick now though. The tacos are pretty filling, so 2 is probably plenty. They have really great, unique options, plus their guacamole is to die for and apparently their queso is pretty good to. I always get a frozen strawberry margarita, but I believe they have a full bar, and I know they have decent drink specials. They've expanded in Colorado already and opened a location in Westminster that is closer to home, but the Broadway location is still my favorite and makes for easy exploring nearby afterward.