You would think that being born and raised in Denver, I’d have seen everything the metro area has to offer. Not even close! Even the parts I’m very familiar with have hidden gems that I’m only just discovering. One such place is the city of Golden.
I know Golden well–my grandpa worked for Jefferson County for most of my childhood, and we’d often visit him at work, have a picnic lunch in Parfet Park, and then go shopping at the old Foss Drug. Attractions like Heritage Square and Dinosaur Ridge factored hugely into my childhood, and our dance recitals were held at School of Mines.
Now that I have kids of my own, I’ve made it a priority to explore our home state together, show them all my favorite places and discover some new ones. So when VisitGolden.com invited the five of us for a fun weekend, we couldn’t wait to start planning our adventure! We had so much fun and discovered so many cool things to do, that we’re planning another day trip (or two!) this summer. If you’re thinking of a staycation this summer, here’s everything you need to know:
Where to Stay:
We stayed at the Table Mountain Inn . It’s a boutique hotel on Golden’s main street, exquisitely decorated in a bright and rustic Southwestern style. It’s pet-friendly, with suites and adjoining rooms for families to choose from. We found it to be very comfortable and homey. We especially appreciated the covered parking during a rainy weekend, and there’s a great little independent coffee shop across one street, Starbucks across the other.
Also nearby is The Golden Hotel. It’s a stately inn located right on the creek and near the historic district, with modern lodge-style decor. They’re currently offering a special Family Fun package starting at $169/night, and live music on Thursday nights.
Where to Eat:
We enjoyed dinner at Table Mountain Grill & Cantina, which is located right inside the Table Mountain Inn. Very, very good Mexican/Southwest dishes, and an impressive wine list. I highly recommend the Green Chile Mac & Cheese!
There are several other restaurants in the downtown area, and everything is within an easy walking distance from either hotel.
- Old Capitol Grille: The building served as the former Capitol when Colorado was still a territory, and serves pub fare as well as soups, salads, steaks, and more.
- Woody’s Wood Fired Pizza: Featuring an all-you-can-eat pizza and salad buffet with their famous beer cheese soup, this is the place to eat great food on the cheap, and watch the game!
- Windy Saddle: Coffee shop serving lighter fare including sandwiches and breakfast burritos, smoothies, plus wine and local craft beers.
- Higher Grounds: Coffee shop with a cafe menu including espresso drinks, chai, homemade biscotti, and quick breakfast/lunch options
- Snarf’s Sub Shop: Award-winning sandwiches, plus soups, salads, and gluten-free options
- d’Deli: Old fashioned sandwich shop with over 120 ingredients including uniquely Colorado meats like smoked elk and corned bison.
- Grappa Mediterranean Bistro: Perfect for a date night or special occasion, Grappa is an upscale bistro serving Spanish, Italian, and French dishes prepared by renowned chef Maurice Couturier. Gorgeous views of the Rocky Mountains and Clear Creek make it an ideal romantic night out!
- Sherpa House Restaurant and Cultural Center: Authentic Himalayan cuisine and culture, in a traditional Sherpa home. Many vegetarian, dairy- and gluten-free options.
What to Do:
There are so many things to see and do in and around Golden, that we had a really hard time narrowing it down to two days! The best part is, many of the attractions are free or very affordable, and there’s a lot of opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy the beautiful foothills setting.
We began our staycation by exploring the historic downtown area just outside our hotel. Washington Avenue is the main street, instantly recognizable by the Welcome Arch as you pull into town. There are lots of shops–jewelry, outdoor gear/clothing, cycling, toys, clothing and accessory boutiques, ice cream, consignment, art galleries–really something for everyone!
Next we walked just over the bridge, into Clear Creek Whitewater Park. This is a man-made section of Clear Creek designed to provide varying rapids for kayakers, canoers, and stand up paddleboarders. This particular day, an outdoor sports festival called The Golden Games was happening, and we got to watch some kayakers and SUP’ers warm up for a competition. Pretty much any summer day, you can watch these brave souls or arrange an adventure of your own with a local outfitter.
The Twelfth Street Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places–it’s a fun little walk for architecture junkies like myself. There are several homes typical of those built by the pioneers who settled the area. Surrounding Twelfth Street are several more blocks of homes and buildings in other styles–art deco, Victorian, Craftsman–I could just walk around and swoon over cute houses all day!
What do an 1872 Gothic church and an 1892 Queen Anne home have in common (besides being REALLY old?) They’ve both been converted into the Foothills Art Center, a beautiful gallery space that houses a rotating collection of art work from world-renowned artists. Through May 31 you can catch the “Passion For Glass” exhibit which includes works by Chihuly, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and artisans from around the world. Coming up in June is “Ansel Adams: Masterworks” (Note: Not for younger kids or those who would have a hard time with art gallery etiquette i.e., quiet, walking slowly, not touching the displays)
After our self-guided tour of the Historic District, and a delicious filling dinner, we went walking along the creekside path. Fun giant-sized metal sculptures of Colorado wildlife dot the path, and when the water is a little warmer and running a little slower, it would be so refreshing to dip your toes in! At the north end of the path is Clear Creek History Park, a collection of buildings from Golden’s pioneer days and early 20th century. You can peek inside the old school house, feed the chickens, and explore what life might have been like 100 years ago. It’s free to walk around, and it’s open every day from sunrise to sunset.
Following a relaxing night’s sleep in our hotel rooms, we were rarin’ to go. We started our day with a drive to Red Rocks Amphiteater, where we hiked up the rows of seats. We really wanted to go down on the stage but they were setting up for a concert that evening. Inside at the visitor’s center, there are pictures lining the walls of performers throughout Red Rocks’ history–The Beatles, Stevie Nicks, Sting, the list goes on! Check out the timeline of concerts for each year, and see how it’s grown. Watch video footage of past shows, admire autographed memorabilia, and see the wall of concert posters.
Next we drove up Lookout Mountain for a picnic lunch and hike. There are basically two routes to drive to the top: Buffalo Bill’s Grave, and Boettcher Mansion. The Buffalo Bill route will take you to the famous cowboy’s burial site and museum, as well as an amazing view of the entire front range. The Boettcher Mansion route will take you to the historic home turned event center. If there’s not a wedding or private party going on, you can go inside the mansion, but the outside and the grounds are the really impressive part. There’s also the Lookout Mountain Nature Center and Preserve adjacent to the mansion, where you can learn about Colorado flora and fauna, and grab a guide to over a mile of hiking trails on the preserve.
To end our fun-filled staycation, we drove to Colorado School of Mines and learned about gems and minerals at the Mines Geology Museum. This free museum is run by student volunteers, and though it is small it is absolutely full of stunning examples of some of the world’s rarest and most beautiful “rocks”. Touch a real meteorite, see an Apollo moon rock, explore a mine, and check out some cool fossils. Kids can grab a scavenger hunt at the entrance, and return it completed for a free souvenir!
There were so many other things we wanted to see and do, but we just ran out of time! Such as,
- Learn about mountain climbing at Bradford Washington Mountaineering Museum
- Explore the history of the city of Golden at Golden History Museum
- See beautiful examples of quilting at Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum
- See the world’s largest single-site brewery (free samples!) at Coors Brewery Tour
- Ride the Spruce Goose at Colorado Railroad Museum
- Follow in the dinosaur’s footsteps at Dinosaur Ridge
- Catch a show at Miner’s Alley Playhouse
There’s something fun around every corner in Golden, for every interest and age group. We certainly enjoyed ourselves and I know your family will, too! Start planning your adventure at VisitGolden.com and tell them, Colorado Moms sent you!
This post was sponsored by VisitGolden.com. We were provided overnight accommodations and passes to visit several attractions during our stay. No other compensation was made. All opinions, text, and photographs are my own.