Visiting Beaver Creek, Vail and Boulder, Colorado on a Budget
Boulder is quite well known in the FI community, as it’s close to Longmont, where MMM lives. We heard great things about the city, its festivals and artistic souls, its food scene and microbreweries, so we decided to add it to our itinerary and spent three nights there.
Our 12-day Itinerary
To summarize our trip, we did a big loop clockwise starting with Denver and drove over 500 miles.
Here’s how our itinerary ended up. We only booked the first four nights in hotels before arriving, and played the rest by ear based on our tentative plan.
Location (by letters on map)
|1-3||A, G) Denver – starting and ending point|
|3-4||B) Colorado Springs|
|4-6||C) Buena Vista|
|7-9||E) Glenwood Springs|
Getting to Boulder
Our last leg of the Colorado journey involved the longest drive, so we decided to make a few stops along the way. It takes three hours to go from Glenwood Springs to Boulder, which is hard on the tush, so we stopped in Beaver Creek and Vail along I-70 East. They are both ritzy ski towns with hefty price tags, which is not for us FI-minded people, but passing through them during the low season is easy and free.
You go through a welcome gate when you arrive to the Resort area. They give you a map and explain where you can park. It’s free for a limited time and during off season. This cute resort town has a nice shopping area, where you can walk around, grab a bite and people-watch. The stores had “sales”, but everything was still too expensive. Ahhh, the life of the rich – it’s fancy, but so expensive.
We ended up grabbing lunch at Coyote Cafe, one of the restaurants in the outdoor shopping mall.
Yumminess score: 7/10. It wasn’t anything to write home about, but served our needs.
Our second stop along the drive to Boulder was in Vail. This is the ritzy of the ritziest ski towns. Not our scene, but I figured we’d just check it out and see what all the hype is about. We got lucky with free parking at the main garage because there was a beer festival going on that day. Otherwise, you have to pay or park far away.
The town itself is very cute. It reminds me of old European towns, except everything looks new here. Nonetheless, it’s a great place to walk around, people-watch and grab a snack. We weren’t hungry yet, however, I made room for dessert after finding an organic soft-serve ice cream stand. Hmmmm.
When I looked at hotels and vacation rentals in Boulder, I found that the popular city comes with steep price tags. So, we did the responsible FI thing and stayed slightly outside of the town. From our recent travel hacking, we racked up some Marriott points from credit card sign up bonuses, so we stayed at the TownPlace in Broomfield, CO. The total stay was valued at $432. This small suburban town is about a 15-20 min ride from Boulder on the highway.
It was a bit too far, in retrospect, but I am glad we saved a lot of money and had a place with a kitchen. While Boulder was nice, it wasn’t worth the $200-$300 per night hotel prices I saw.
This was our first time staying at a TownPlace. It was pretty spacious, with decent continental breakfast and great customer service. The beds weren’t up to my standard though, so I hope they’ll invest in some mattresses. 🙂
There are plenty of outdoorsy things to do in the Boulder area, especially if you have enough time to drive up to the Rocky Mountain National Park. As our time was limited and we were “hiked out”, we focused on the local attractions in the area.
We made it to Chautauqua! Not to the annual FI bloggers meet up, but to the trail. This trail is right outside the city of Boulder and offers a hike up to the Flat Irons. That’s the grey triangular rock formations you see on the picture below. We made an amateur mistake though of starting our hike around 11 a.m.
By this point, the sun was high and beaming and since the first 30 minutes or so are exposed in the sun, we quickly ran out of steam and took a detour around the plains. Plus, after seeing the gorgeous Maroon Bells and Hanging Lake Trail, this view, while nice, didn’t seem worth the “sweat-a-thon” it’d require to ascend.
Boulder seems to have a festival almost every week and we encountered one randomly during our weekend there. There were street vendors, live music performances, and plenty of local beer to sample. This trip was done before we committed to one year of no drinking so we did enjoy the local craft. It was pretty hot in the sun, so if you do the math: cold beer+hot sun+dancing+artsy people=lots of tipsy moments and amazing people watching. The highlight was the skinny old guy dancing in his roller skates, captured in the video below. Make sure to watch it! 🙂
Dance like nobody is watching!
Indulging and savoring
We tried a few places while in town. If you park near Pearl Street Mall and walk along Pearl St., there is a high concentration of restaurants, shops and bars. Only pedestrian traffic is allowed on Pearl St. for several blocks, which makes for a better al fresco dining experience.
This was a great recommendation by a local we met and it totally hit our Mexican food craving spot.
Yumminess score: 9/10. Everything we had was well seasoned, flavorful and finger-licking good.
After the festival, we were craving some fatty pasta, so we checked out a local Italian favorite.
Yumminess score: 8/10. The Fettuccine Alfredo totally hit the tipsy spot, but who knows how good it’d taste if we were sober. This is a potentially biased review. 🙂
Boulder is a great cultural spot, with great eating options and people-watching. If you want to see stunning views, check out the other posts on our Colorado adventures: