For a Fun, Affordable & Less Pretentious Vacation in the Colorado Rockies, Skip Aspen - Visit Leadville Instead
I returned recently from a short trip in the Colorado Rockies and I just had to share one of my favorite places to visit here with you. Just about everyone has heard of places like Aspen and Vail, but few seem to know about Leadville.
Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the country at an elevation of 10,152 feet, but that's not why you should visit. If you don't care about celebrity spotting or high-end shopping, and would rather enjoy a more laid-back, less pretentious, significantly more affordable destination in the Rockies, this is where you should go.
The streets are lined with magnificent Victorian buildings and homes, in fact, 70 square blocks of the downtown area are designated as a National Historic Landmark. There are museums to explore, mines to visit, interesting shops and a few outstanding restaurants, including my new favorite, Treeline Kitchen which not only has incredibly delicious food, including lots of healthy options, but rooftop seating, live music and a fire pit. Afterward, you can enjoy a Guinness at the famous Silver Dollar Saloon, an authentic Irish pub that dates back to 1879, or O2 by Period Brewing, which serves up some fantastic creative cocktails as well as oxygen for those suffering from the high altitude, which can happen pretty easily when you go from sea level to over 10,000 feet.
Don't drink too much though, because getting out in the mountains is really a must. The trailhead to one of my favorite hikes is about a 30-minute scenic drive from downtown near Turquoise Lake via Hagerman Pass Road. In the summer, you'll be surrounded by colorful wildflowers and dramatic mountain peaks as you trek up to the ruins of Douglass City. It's hard to believe it was once home to eight saloons and a dance hall, complete with pianos - getting all of that up here seems practically impossible, but they did - and, you'll see multiple foundations that remain of the buildings that were once here.
Back in Leadville, you can also visit one of the most famous mines in the U.S., the Matchless Mine, which was estimated to have produced $7.5 million during the peak of mining operations. The crash of 1893 devastated the Matchless Mine and the once very wealthy Tabor Family who owned it. Upon Tabor's death, his widow, Elizabeth "Baby Doe" Tabor, returned to her home here where she remained in isolation until passing away in 1935. Today, you can tour her cabin as well as the hoist house and headframe.
If you're looking for budget-friendly accommodation, there are a number of them here, including Super 8, and even the historic Delaware Hotel has rooms that start under $100 a night. There are lots of Airbnb options too, from entire vacation homes to private rooms at the cozy Happy Hippie House - while it's 420 friendly, many guests come just to enjoy the fun ambiance, and it has a great location just steps from downtown.
So, what's next?
In just a little over a month, I'll be heading to Greece! Choosing which islands to visit wasn't easy, so in my next post I'll highlight some of the most recommended by frequent travelers to the Greek Islands.