The itch to travel has not shut up ever since I took my first major solo trip to Montreal, Canada in May 2018. Since then I’ve done several trips, big and small. I decided last minute to take a plane to Denver, Colorado to spend my birthday. Like my trip to Portugal, it was last minute (even more so) and I just went with my gut. I didn’t want to spend hundreds on an international flight and there are still many places in the U.S. I have yet to explore.
Since I’ve never been to that side of the country before, I thought visiting Denver would be a great choice. So I booked my plane ticket, a bed in a hostel and began putting together a Google Doc of my intended itinerary. If you’d like to read about my time in Denver, Colorado for my birthday, keep reading.
JFK to DEN
I flew from JFK to the Denver, Colorado airport. My flight left early and was quicker than expected. I was set to get there at around 11:30 at night but was in Denver at just after 10 p.m. Sounds great, right? My flight was short and I got to Denver early. Yeah, well knowing that I wasn’t going to get to the hostel until the early hours the following morning I didn’t make my reservation until that day. Additionally, check-in for the hostel wasn’t until 3 p.m. the next day.
Yup. So I stayed at the airport in Denver from 10 p.m. until around 6:30 a.m. I was exhausted and didn’t get any sleep on the plane and minimal sleep that day. Once I arrived to the hostel around 7 a.m. I was told what I knew that I couldn’t get a room until 3. Little did I know, I wasn’t even allowed to stay in the common areas/lobby until noon! So I had to find something to do for another five hours and let me tell you I was EXHAUSTED. Not to mention my phone was nearly dead.
First Few Hours
I decided to get some food at Sam’s No.3. It was packed and they definitely wanted me in and out in a hurry. The food came out in literally 2-3 minutes. But not in an impressive, “wow they’re so efficient” kind of way. More like, it felt (and tasted) like they heated up some food they had lying around and gave it to me. The waitress was friendly but definitely seemed a little annoyed or stressed when I order another item (I still ate my first part, but I was hungry) because again, they were trying to get people in and out. Perhaps when it’s less crowded the food, and service, is better.
I did some more non-eventful exploring but honestly I was so tired I was just counting down the hours until I could get back to the hostel, charge my phone, shower and most importantly, SLEEP.
Hostels in the U.S. definitely don’t compare to hostels in Europe. They’re typically smaller and not as nice, but double the price (or more). I chose Ember Hostel due to the price, location and the good reviews regarding cleanliness. When I was finally able to check-in, I was given a tour of the place which has a Victorian-esque vibe to it with the wood, dark, rich colors and vintage decor pieces. The vibe of the hostel was great.
But what’s most important are the bedrooms and bathrooms. At Ember Hostel in Denver, Colorado the bathrooms are located outside the rooms. The showers and toilets are in separate stalls (except on the first floor) and it seemed there were more showers than toilets. However, they each had a lock that displayed whether it was vacant or not and were quite clean, so good job Ember!
The beds were the classic “train car” style and I personally stayed in an 8-bedroom female dorm for around $40 a night. Ouch! Not because it was a bad place, but again European hostels (and South American & Asian hostels I’ve heard) are a fraction of the price. Still, the room was very large and spacious which I was pleasantly surprised with because the house didn’t seem huge to me. The room had A.C., a full-length mirror, outlets in each bunk and overall was very comfortable. You have to scan your room card each time you enter the room.
Besides my room and the awesome common area near the check-in area, I didn’t explore the hostel much. But there is a hot tub and in the basement, a kitchen. That first night though once I was able to check-in I showered and fell asleep, I was DONE for the day and it wasn’t even 5 p.m. But I wanted to save my energy for what I had planned next.
Red Rocks Amphitheater
On to the highlight of my trip, Red Rocks! I follow several influencers on Youtube and Instagram from Denver. Several of them post videos doing workouts on the Red Rocks steps and it looked amazing. So I woke up early and took an Uber (can be quite expensive depending on the time you go) to get a workout in.
If you feel uninspired with your fitness, Red Rocks will definitely kick you into gear. So many people were working out and half of them looked like personal trainers. From people my age, to middle-aged, elders, children to a woman with one leg – the active lifestyle of Colorado is evident. People I came across were also quite friendly. I even met a young woman around my age who went to the same college as me and is essentially from the same city in New York as me. What a small world!
Red Rocks is dog friendly, so get ready to see a bunch of fit puppies!
The day before leaving I decided to do a hike. I used this website to select the Trading Post Trail. It is 1.4 miles. There are harder trails. But as a novice I decided on one of the easier routes because I was unsure about the altitude. At first, I thought the hike was easy. A little rough and bumpy, but nothing I couldn’t handle. As I travel more, I’d definitely want to look into hiking boots to use instead of my sneakers.
Once I started on the incline though I felt the altitude. I tried catching my breath. I had to take a small break. Even so, it wasn’t that bad. However, to save my battery and make use of the rest of the day, I said so long to Red Rocks.
I went to Tattered Cover several times during my stay to finish reading Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It was fantastic. The book and the bookstore. While there I also found a discounted Caraval by Stephanie Garber, one of my favorite reads from the summer. Overall, I really enjoyed the atmosphere and selection from this bookstore. Like many indie-bookstores, the prices were higher so I didn’t purchase much. But if you have the extra money and would like to support a local business, this is a great option.
All in all, I really enjoyed my brief stay in Denver, Colorado. I met some great people from those in my hostel to Uber passengers to an awesome Uber driver. I definitely would love to visit, especially in the winter! Have you been to Denver? What did you think of the city?