Travel Series: Destination Colorado
Colorado, the cool, beautiful, and laid-back sister state to Nebraska, welcomed us back with open arms on our recent travels, and we were without a doubt happy to return.
This time around, our President Paige Zutavern planned the trip in a unique way, combining a family vacation and a company retreat. The first part of the trip was spent with her husband and sons, and the second was spent with her team. It turned out perfectly, and we highly recommend this approach to other business owners who have precious free time to spare and can appreciate anything that involves making the most of it.
With the unseasonably warm weather that we’ve been experiencing across the Midwest, the absence of snow in December was indeed odd, but right on cue, a little bit graced us during our stay thank goodness! Despite the difference in surroundings, the natural splendor of the mountains was still as stunning as ever, and we had the opportunity to visit a lot of fantastic local venues during our stay in the Avon area and on to Denver. As many of us here in Nebraska enjoy making the journey to Colorado, and do so often, here are some of our recommendations based on our most recent adventures!
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Nozawa Sushi | (970) 949-0330 | nozawas.com
Nozawa Sushi has been a staple in the Vail Valley area since 2002. Definitely a hidden secret in Avon. It’s the only sushi place we noticed in the area, making it a very popular spot as evidenced by the great crowd when we dined there. The presentation of the sushi, as well as their Asian entrees, is a thing of beauty alone. They have a large selection of sushi available, some standard rolls and others that are custom. We found everything we ordered to be delicious. Our group was a mix between sushi lovers and newbies who had never tried it before, and everyone was pleased with what they ordered. The classic “sushi boat” is a great way to try a wide variety of sushi, and during their daily Happy Hour it’s a steal. As for the entrees, we ordered a good mix – Curry Shrimp, Broccoli Stir Fry, the salmon and chicken versions of their Teriyaki, and the Famous Sesame Chicken. All were on point. To top it off the sushi was absolutely delicious and unbelievably low-priced for the quality and quantity! Although the quality of the fare and the service are incredible, Nozawa Sushi is not necessarily a fine dining establishment but rather a nice, casual place to grab a bite to eat.
Vail Sports | (970) 479-4415 | vailsports.com
Our agenda for our first full day was, you guessed it, skiing! Vail is one of the best in the area, and completely lives up to the hype. The first order of business is always getting the gear, and we had a wonderful experience at Vail Sports. If you need equipment or clothing while in Vail make sure you stop here first! Vail Sports is located right at the base of the mountain in beautiful Vail. We visited the Arabelle location, and the customer service was incredible; they not only help you find the right sizes in everything, but taking a page from the old-fashioned courtesy handbook, they even take your boots on and off for you. There are also numerous locations to choose from depending on where you’re at on the mountain, which is quite convenient. Speaking of boots, the gentleman who was helping us also gave us a great piece of advice that we’re passing on: Instead of walking from the rental office to the lift in the heavy boots, bring slip-on shoes that you can easily stash in your backpack. Problem solved! Among the service we found great value in that are offered for free are the overnight storage of skis and baskets you can store your personal items while you’re skiing.
Vail Ski Resort | (970) 754-8245 | vail.com
Hailed as the ultimate Colorado ski resort, we find it to be quite nice and always have a great time here. Vail Ski Resort is a world-class resort catering to those who like to enjoy a wide variety of terrain and features that many other resorts dream of. When the snow is good there is no better place to be. Unfortunately our trip was at the beginning of the season, so with little to no snowfall at that point, there were only two of the 27 lifts open. That being said, it was the only disappointment we encountered as one that was completely out of their control. We still had fun and got in plenty of passes down the mountain. Again, our crowd was mixed with experts and novices, and because of this, we noticed what a fantastic place Vail is for beginners. The bunny slope presents a good challenge as far as the learning curve goes; it isn’t too intimidating but it’s not too mundane either. The gondolas will also bring you back down the mountain if you’re not comfortable with skiing it, which isn’t always the case. They offer what seems as never-ending terrain for all skill levels! There’s also great variety with the more difficult slopes, so you really never get to the point where you’re bored of it. Not only does Vail offer some of the best slopes in the area with iconic, beautiful scenery, but they also offer some of the best shopping and dining as well. Make sure to take a moment to truly explore the village and take in the views. Vail definitely lives up to its reputation and then some–we highly advise this resort for new visitors and seasoned travelers alike.
We’ll keep going back to Vail Ski Resort over and over, because it’s admittedly one of our favorites. We would recommend this resort with pleasure to anyone looking for a world-class level skiing experience.
Blue Moose Pizza | (970) 845-8666 | bluemoosepizza.com
It’s common to run into Nebraskans on travels across the United States (we’re everywhere!), but it seems like in Colorado there’s a lot more fellow Cornhuskers with whom we cross paths. This was the case again when we dined at Blue Moose Pizza, as one of its owners is a Nebraska native! You might actually recognize the name of this restaurant as it’s been one of our featured destinations in the past, and you’d better bet we’d been craving it ever since. The menu has great variety, with plenty of unique (and healthy) topping choices as well as offering their pizza whole or by the slice, which is a nice convenience. They have a superb variety of ingredients and specialty pizzas to try, and they also offer other fare such as homemade soups and salads, sandwiches, calzones, and Italian entrees. The best part about their pizza is their Blue Moose traditional crust, which has remained constant since they first opened in 1995! A local pizzeria with more of a restaurant & bar vibe, we found it to be an atmosphere we like a lot. It’s low-key, but still has that special feel to it, and the fare is as fresh as it is flavorful. In addition to the excellent quality of their food, their prices are very reasonable for being located in a predominantly tourism-oriented area.
We very much recommend this lively Italian eatery, which provides a fun and casual dining experience for all ages and all kinds and sizes of groups.
Copper Mountain Ski Resort | (970) 968-2318 | coppercolorado.com
We also paid a visit to Copper Mountain Ski Resort, which is set up a little bit differently and has personality all its own. It’s charming and very tourist-friendly while also being frequented by many locals who love the sport, so there’s a level of speed and convenience that gets you right out onto the slopes without much further ado. In our experience, the rental process was very streamlined, which is appreciated by those who prefer a more self-guided approach. The steps are laid out and you’re directed through the process quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately we ran into the same challenge with the lack of snow, as there was only one lift open during our visit that we would have considered attempting given our collective skill level. For someone completely new to skiing, the bunny slope here is rather unintimidating, but it’s a good starting point nonetheless. With the transition from the bunny slope to the blue being too severe for our group, we sadly weren’t able to enjoy the full experience, but we can say confidently that we’ll be back to give it another shot because we liked it so much. One thing to note about Copper Mountain Ski Resort is the closeness between the shops and venues and the slopes – everything is right there. It’s a unique layout that takes a lot of the hassle out of the back and forth, and it adds a lot to the village-esque ambiance too. Center Village at the bottom is great, with various equipment shops for you to rent from if needed, as well as restaurants and gear shops. We rented boards from Copper Sports – good prices and very friendly staff. We were also told the shuttle system at Copper is highly efficient and well run.
If you are looking for a relaxed, fun atmosphere with an abundance of great people and options that accommodate your equipment needs and skill level, we highly recommend that you visit Copper Mountain!
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park | (970) 945-4228 | glenwoodcaverns.com
Located atop Colorado’s gorgeous mountains in Glenwood Springs is Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. We jumped on the Iron Mountain Tramway and enjoyed a relaxing, scenic ride on the tram as it carried us up the mountain to the entrance of the park. Being one of the few visitors to the park that morning, we were able to explore and take full advantage of all the fun attractions. We highly recommend purchasing the Winter Fun Day Pass which allows you to take advantage of the tram, cave tours and attractions. It’s well worth every penny and allows you to experience all Glenwood Caverns has to offer! We were fortunate to experience nice weather during our visit to the park considering it was December, which allowed us to truly enjoy being outside with the beautiful mountain views and walking to each attraction. We immediately noticed how well the park was kept up during the winter. The park staff were extremely friendly and always willing to help guide us in the right direction or to check in to ensure we were having a great time. Our first stop was the Soaring Eagle Zip Ride; we soared 625 feet down with an incredible view and brisk mountain air blowing in our faces. Next, we stopped by the 4D Motion Theater where we experienced a combination of thrill-ride and digital animation of the Extreme Rats Race movie. The special effects were a little too intense for us, with moving seats, gusts of air, and sprays of water. Next time, we’d leave this attraction to the kiddos. Being the largest show cave open to the public in Colorado, we knew we couldn’t pass up the cave tours. The guided tours each lasted about 40 minutes and both offered something a little different. The Historic Fairy Caves was a great place to start. Our very experienced guide led us on a quarter-mile underground walk while educating us on the history, layout and geology of the cave. He was extremely knowledgeable of the cave and quirky- which we appreciated two-fold! Between cave tours we strapped in our individual cars on the Alpine Coaster. We didn’t let our initial fears get the best of us, we buckled our seatbelts and we were off! We twisted and turned around curves and bumps of the 3,400-foot track while enjoying the Colorado scenery. What makes this year-long coaster unique is the individual cars that allow you to control your own speed, so whether you’re looking for a rip-roaring ride or more of a slow and steady scenic view, you’re golden! This is a ride not to be missed! We ended our day with the King’s Row Cave Tour. This underground room located 150 feet below the surface proved to be the most highly decorated we’d seen. Staged light shows and black lights showed the cave’s beautiful formations that have been developing for millions of years. Spectacular! From the cave tours to the roller coasters; Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park has entertainment for all ages, which makes it a great stop for families! We can’t wait to go back to enjoy the seasonal rides and attractions.
Iron Mountains Hot Springs | (970) 945-4766 | ironmountainhotsprings.com
After a long day at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park it was time for some relaxation at Iron Mountain Hot Springs. This classy hot springs resort allowed us to rejuvenate in our choice of 16 different mineral-rich pools, ranging in temperature from 98 degrees to 108 degrees. Immediately after walking through the front doors the environment is welcoming and relaxing. The spa music makes you feel calm and cozy. If you need a break from the hot springs or if you’re traveling as a family, Iron Mountain Hot Springs also offers a 75-foot-long family pool and whirlpool spa. It’s the best of both worlds! We loved the natural setting and variety of pools and temperatures. The grounds are beautiful which made for a peaceful and scenic atmosphere for us to unwind in after our day. We spent the morning riding rides and exploring the caves and then used the afternoon to relax our muscles and soak in the tranquil hot springs on the edge of the Colorado River. With both being located in Glenwood Springs, and open year round, it was a no brainer to get the combo pass so that we could do both!
Castle Peak Grille | (970) 748-4848 | castlepeakgrille.com
After a full day’s itinerary, we were happy to find Castle Peak Grille to be a lovely, relaxing place for dinner that, as a bonus, was also festively decorated for the holidays. (The scenery also included a lot of Colorado Buffalo football fans, as our visit coincided with the conference championship, but luckily they were all nicer than their reputation based on the longtime rivalry in the past with our beloved Cornhuskers would have us believe!) Caste Peak Grille is an American Bistro featuring elevated comfort foods, an attractively priced wine list, innovative cocktails and the coldest beer in the Vail Valley. Our server greeted us warmly and was wonderful throughout our entire stay. They had an impressive menu for us to select from. We sampled a few of their signature “Amazing Cocktails,” and indeed they were, as each has a unique twist. The Jamaican Mule involved strawberry-infused rum and their version of a Blood Mary garnish was an assortment of pickled veggies that complemented the drink nicely. The dinner menu offered a great selection, and there was also a list of featured dishes to choose from, so our only predicament involved making the final decision on what to order! For appetizers, we chose the Crab and Arti Dip and the Mixed Fritti, which included fried shrimp, calamari, peppers, and onions. Delish! For the main event, based on awesome recommendations from our hosts, we selected the Shrimp Carbonera, Chicken Parmesan, Flat Iron Steak, and Lamb Gyro. The food was innovative, delicious and high on the comfort scale. The portions were very generous and allowed us to leave with leftovers to savor over the days to come!
We were impressed to say the least, and based on our very first experience dining here, would go back in a heartbeat. We look forward to our return in spring and will hopefully be able to take full advantage of their outdoor patio to take in the views of Vail Valley.
The Crawford Hotel | (844) 432-9374 | thecrawfordhotel.com
After our successful road trip to Denver from Beaver Creek we pulled up to The Crawford Hotel – Denver Union Station where we would be staying that evening. This historical station dates back to 1881. Located in the heart of downtown Denver, it combines Denver’s main transport hub with hotel accommodations. Some of the building’s original features, such as the ornate iron staircases, high ceilings, brick walls and Victorian design, exuded the feel of luxury. The staff was exquisite and the perks were endless. Our room had a rustic chic feel with wood floors, brick walls and glam decor. Our in-room mini iPad welcomed us with an individual message, which made us feel right at home! We were given a complimentary scoop of ice cream from Milkbox Ice Creamery, a cup of coffee from Pigtrain Coffee Co. and a select craft beer from the Terminal Bar during LoDo Hour. It doesn’t end there! We also had an espresso maker in our room, Voss water in the fridge, high end bathroom toiletries, plush bath robes and much more! The three hotel floors overlooked The Great Hall at Denver Union Station, which made us feel right at home in the hustle and bustle of downtown Denver. We were in walking distance to anywhere we wanted to go or any place we wanted to see. We spent the evening exploring Downtown Denver and instead of walking back to the hotel in the brisk Colorado air we were provided courtesy transportation back to the hotel in none other than a luxurious Tesla™. Talk about riding in style!
From the plush bath robes to the free complimentary amenities we were impressed with it all. It was an amazing experience and we would recommend The Crawford Hotel to anyone planning on visiting Denver.
Machete Tequila & Tacos | (720) 612-7698 | machetedenver.com
To start our night in Denver we walked to Machete Tequila & Tacos where we were greeted with friendly smiles and a welcoming vibe. Located in the heart of Downtown Denver, across from the Union Station, the restaurant offers authentic and delicious Mexican fare. There was a great crowd and seemed like the place to be for dinner. In addition, the place was perfect for a quick bite before our night out on the town. This fairly new Mexican restaurant offers hand-crafted margaritas and street-inspired tacos. They did not disappoint! Our group is not new to Mexican food; in fact it is one of our favorites, which means we have enjoyed a number of Mexican dishes in our day. We started with the Guacamole and Quesos Fundidos. You’d be missing out if you didn’t order the guac, it was delicious. Drinks are made with fresh squeezed juices, on the spot muddled veggies and fruits, and agave nectar to name a few. Our food was artistically crafted and delicious built from loads of from scratch ingredients. At Machete we enjoyed beer, signature margaritas, tacos, quesadillas, and one of the best chile relleno we have ever had! The presentation was great and the service was amazing. Great music, astounding food, awesome vibe, hip atmosphere, and friendly staff.
We left full- and are planning our next visit as we are already craving their amazing food.
Comedy Works | (303) 595-3637 | www.comedyworks.com
With some of the best Mexican food in our systems we were ready to laugh off our dinner at the best comedy club in Denver. Comedy Works is a magical land filled with laughter and hilarity! Located downtown in the very popular Larimer Square is Comedy Works. Shortly after entering the venue we were given a pouch to lock our phone in and carry with us until the show ended. This not only protects the acts from being recorded but also ensures you, as a viewer, enjoy the show to the fullest extent. We appreciated the “unplugged” setting of the show as it allowed you to focus solely on the comedians and the experience in its entirety. The theatre is aged with exposed brick walls with a real charm to it. Our group was seated right on the main stage. Literally. It was a very intimate way to experience the show. We can confidently say we had the best seats in the house. Although there didn’t seem to be a bad seat in the house! The wait staff took food and drink orders and delivered them throughout the show, so you didn’t even have to get up. The employees were friendly and brought our drinks or food in a timely manner. There was an emcee, two opening acts and then the main performance by the one and only Matt Iseman, better known as host of the Emmy-nominated show American Ninja Warrior. Each comedian brought their own unique style and sense of humor to the stage, one of which referenced North Platte, Nebraska, which made us feel right at home!
We had such a great time at Comedy works!
Needless to say, this trip was one to remember and set the bar high for our return to Colorado. In fact, it will likely become something that we do seasonally every year from here on out as we’re also hoping to experience what this area has to offer in the spring. Stay tuned for more of our Rocky Mountain adventures, and if as fate would have it you’ll be travelling to Colorado in the near future, consider all of these destinations Strictly Business approved and recommended!