My family has been to Colorado for several times. We LOVE its nature. Besides, there’s so much to see and to do there. So, when my friend from Ghana invited us to her place in Lone Tree (about 30-minute south of Denver), I instantly said yes. Less than a week (with a minimum preparation) later, we’re off to our Colorado One Week Unplanned Trip adventures.
Visited: July 2016.
Our Accommodation: Olympus 132, Lone Tree, CO. (Airbnb)
- Visited Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs. (Day 2)
- Visited Space Foundation, Colorado Springs. (Day 2 & Day 6)
- Visited Mount Evans. (Day 3)
- Visited 16th Street Mall, Denver. (Day 4)
- Visited Fish Creek Falls, Steamboat Springs. (Day 5)
- Visited Florissant Fossils Bed National Monument. (Day 6)
Colorado One Week Unplanned Trip – The Beginning
Day 1 – Joshua, TX to Lone Tree, CO
After texted back and forth, arranged this and that (including asking the girl next door to water our plants), we left at 10.30 one Monday morning once my husband done with his meeting. We decided to drive straight to Colorado without spending a night in Amarillo like we used to.
To save time, I also packed our lunch. When you stopped at a restaurant for lunch or dinner, it would add another hour each easily to your driving time. Even though we gained an hour going west (Mountain Time), we still didn’t want to get there late at night. Especially when Google maps said it would take 12 hours from our house in the south of Ft. Worth, TX to her house in Lone Tree, CO.
Like I said, it was less than a week preparation. So, when my husband asked our itinerary, I said I don’t have any. I only read a little about Mount Evans and my friend said something about Steamboat Springs. In the meantime, my husband found a National Monument called Florissant Fossils Bed near Colorado Springs. Then we agreed we would decide what to do or where to go once we’re there.
Finally, after 13-hour drive (we stopped at a restaurant for supper), we arrived at my friend’s house in Lone Tree around 10.30 p.m. When I walked into our bedroom in the basement, I was surprised to see how my friend welcomed us like a hotel guests. Bottled water on the side table, towels neatly folded in a cylinder shape, the toiletries… I was like, it’s just us, Patty. You didn’t need to do this.
When I went back upstairs and talked with her until 1 in the morning, she mentioned to me that she turned the bed rooms downstairs to Airbnb. No wonder! I told my husband about it the next morning. He said it explained when our son came to him before going to bed, wondered why there was a house rules in his bedroom.
Colorado One Week Unplanned Trip – What We did, Where We Went.
Day 2 – Colorado Springs: Garden of the Gods and Space Foundation
Today we decided to visit Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. Last time we went there, my son was 5 years old. I wanted him to experience the place again and I know how much he likes climbing rocks.
The drive from Lone Tree to Colorado Springs wasn’t that far. It was about an hour thru I-25 S to the south, but the traffic was quite busy. While driving along the road, my husband spotted a Space Foundation sign and we decided to check it out after the park. It sounded interesting. Was it a museum, an education center, or just an office? we wondered.
Garden of the Gods.
Garden of the Gods is the #1 attraction in Colorado Springs. It features the outstanding red rock formations that are as much as 300 million years old. You can do hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, rock climbing, or just driving around the park. It is a public park, so admission is free.
As usual, Garden of the Gods was busy and crowded in the summer. We only made a couple of stops because parking was a problem during high season. Besides, the temperature was in the mid 90! It was too hot even for Texan like us.
Next stop was Space Foundation. Apparently, it’s a museum and we could use our membership card from Ft. Worth Science and Children’s Museum. So, we got in there for free. Yay! (It’s free for ages 2 and younger; $2 for ages 2-4; $5 for ages 5-17; $10 for adults; $7.50 for 65+ and college students with ID).
The Space Foundation Discovery Center is the region’s only space, science, and technology attraction. It is opened in late 2012, but by the end of July 2016 they already achieved a landmark goal of welcoming more than 100,000 visitors!
My wannabe astronaut son found his home here! He enjoyed every exhibits and presentation provided by the museum. Moreover, they offered 2 classes on Saturday that made him fly to the moon:
- Robotic Class using LEGO NXT equipment and MINDSTORM software to simulate lifelike Mars rover missions, and…
I was happy, too. Each class ran for an hour-long that cost only $5 each! There’s no way I can get the price like that at the Ft. Worth Science and Children’s Museum. So, we’re set for next Saturday morning to noon.
Day 3 – Mount Evans
When people looked for day trips around Denver, Mount Evans Scenic Byway is one of the recommended things to do. It is the highest paved road in North America, rises to a height of 14,130 feet above sea level.
From Lone Tree to the entrance of Mount Evans, it took about 2 hours. We traveled on CO-470 W and I-70 W to CO-103 S in Idaho Springs. From Idaho Springs, we continued south on CO Hwy. 103 to the junction of CO Hwy. 5, the entrance to Mount Evans. The fee is $10-$40 per vehicle, depending on how many people in the car. Or, you can use your National Park Pass for a free entrance.
The scenery all the way to the summit of Mount Evans was fantastic. Even though the road was a bit narrow closer to the top, it is so worth it to visit. Don’t forget to bring your jacket even when you’re visiting in the summertime.
Day 4 – 16th Street Mall, Denver
Today we decided to go ‘flat’. No more extreme elevation gained like yesterday. First, we went shopping to Asian Supermarket in Aurora. Then continued to Denver, to 16th Street Mall.
The 16th Street Mall is a pedestrian and transit mall in Denver. It is 1.25-mile long, home to over than 300 locally owned/chain stores, over 50 restaurants, and Denver Pavilions. If you don’t feel like walking, you can take the free shuttle bus, dubbed the MallRide, travel up and down the 16th Street Mall every few minutes.
While we were there, we saw a sign of The Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Denver Branch. They offered free tour, so there we went. Then we veered off a bit to the northeast, met the Blue Bear at the Convention Centers.
It took around 45 minutes from Lone Tree to 16th Street Mall in Denver, depending on the traffic.
Day 5 – Steamboat Springs
It was quite long from Lone Tree to Steamboat Springs, especially with road construction on US-40. The 3-hour drive turned to almost 4-hour. But the view was beautiful, so it helped a lot.
By the time we got to downtown Steamboat Springs, it’s already noon. We found Sumatera, an Indonesian restaurant. Too bad, they only opened from 5 p.m.
After lunch, we drove to Fish Creek Falls and enjoying the park for a couple of hours. It took only a ¼-mile walk from the parking to the falls. We walked as close as possible to the falls, then spent time along the rocks while watching chipmunks peeking at my backpack. The fee to the park is $5 per vehicle for a daily use.
From Fish Creek Falls, we went back to downtown Steamboat Springs. We found a unique jewelry and fossils store that has my ammonite. We talked and admired the collections like we were in the museum. Fortunately, the store clerk was nice. She knew we couldn’t afford the fossils (thousands of dollars and there’s one priced $196.000,00!), so she let me take pictures of them.
Day 6 – Colorado Springs: Space Foundation and Florissant Fossils Bed National Monument
It’s finally here, the morning my son had been waiting for. We went back to Space Foundation for him to join the Robotics and Minecraft classes. The Robotics class was awesome, but I was disappointed with the Minecraft class. I thought they would give the children some tactics but it’s just a free play for an hour instead. My son and the other kids there enjoyed it much though.
After lunch, we continued to Florissant Fossils Bed National Monument. Here we saw petrified redwood stumps and detailed fossils of insects and plants. We learned about a very different prehistoric Colorado.
But, we didn’t get to stay for long though. Summer storm was hovering above the park. We had to run to the Visitor Center at the end of our Petrified Forest Loop, once flash of lightning and thunder started.
On the way home to Lone Tree, we saw multiple rainbows beautifully painting the sky. Apparently, summer storm happens almost everyday at the higher elevation just for a moment and then leave the sky with striking colors rainbows. It’s just magically wonderful!
Colorado One Week Unplanned Trip – The Ending
Day 7 – Lone Tree to Home Sweet Home in Texas
It’s time to say goodbye to Colorado and to my good friend Patty and her family. Thank you very much for your hospitality! Till we meet again. We knew it’s not the last time we visited them and Colorado. (Psst… We’ve already got an invitation from her for this summer).
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