Creative Life Travels: Fort Collins + Rocky Mountain National Park – Part 1

Snooze breakfast

Another vacation and new place in the world was checked off of my travel list over Labor Day weekend – Fort Collins, Colorado (known as Foco to the locals) and Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park.

We made the decision to travel over Labor Day weekend a month or so beforehand. It was an off-the-cuff trip that started with me saying “we should visit Colorado over the holiday weekend so we don’t have to use an extra day of vacation.” We’re pretty diligent about how we spend that paid time off; being travelers (and not having kiddos) every hour is precious and doesn’t go to waste. My philosophy is that the world is big and filled with beautiful places and this life is short, so I’ll just never be that person that holds onto my vacation time. Maybe if life circumstances change, but not now.

That one little comment planted the seed and within 2 days we’d decided to take a road trip and have an adventure!

From Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where we live, to Fort Collins it’s about 11 hours and 15 minutes. Figure in the stops for gas, food and breaks, and you’re looking at around 12 hours total. We decided to drive overnight on a Thursday so we wouldn’t be wasting an entire day in the car. Full disclosure; I’ve done this before when travelling to Colorado, and it’s not fun. But in hindsight I can’t stand wasting a vacation day on it, so I usually suck it up and do the overnight drive.

fort collins
Right before setting out for our overnight road trip from Cedar Rapids to Fort Collins.

DAY 1

We arrived around 5:30am on Friday and crashed for a 3 hour nap before getting up to head out. Fort Collins has over 150,000 residents, is home to Colorado State University, and is a very bike friendly city. There aren’t many options when wanting to stay right downtown by everything, so we opted for the Best Western University Inn based on recommendations from family and friends. The University Inn is in a great location that is just a mile from the downtown area.

Our hotel had beach cruisers available to rent for only $15 per day, so we decided to rent bikes and hit up all of the breweries that Fort Collins has to offer that afternoon.

We own road bikes at home and are often biking places, so the experience of riding a cruiser completely threw me off at first. There are no gears, your brakes are you pedaling backwards, your handlebars have a completely different placement, and the overall feel of riding a cruiser is just different. Not bad different, just different in the way that I needed a few laps around the hotel parking lot to get used to it.

 

fort collins
The beach cruisers rented from our hotel.

It didn’t take long though, and I was loving the cruiser. It was perfect for a flat town like Fort Collins!

Our first stop, post lunch, was at the brewery Funkwerks, a local Colorado brewery specializing in Saisons. Being more of a wine and vodka girl, the brewery stops were really more for Dylan, though I do like beer just fine. Funkwerks changed my world! I loved their beers! Particularly this one infusion they had on tap – Chipolte Pepper Infused Raspberry Provincial.

I was so so sad that it was a tap-only beer, but I do understand that breweries have to have special beers for their taprooms.

Funkwerks
Outside of Funkwerks Brewery.
Funkwerks
The great lineup of flights from Funkwerks Brewery.

From there we peddled to Horse & Dragon Brewing Company where my cousins came and met up with us. It was wonderful seeing them, plus there were so many dogs at this brewery which immediately made my heart happy as I have an extremely soft spot for dogs both young and old.

Horse & Dragon Brewery
Outside of Horse & Dragon Brewing Company.
Horse & Dragon Brewery
Cute adirondack chairs on the patio of Horse & Dragon Brewery.
Horse & Dragon Brewery
The puppy hanging out at Horse & Dragon Brewing Company.

We had planned to do some hiking in the area around Fort Collins on Sunday, but after chatting with my family decided to make the 40 miles drive to Estes Park to hike at Rocky Mountain National Park instead. With the mountains being so close, we changed our hiking plans on the fly – that’s what adventure is about!

We ended up staying at Horse & Dragon a bit longer than we initially planned, but so is life! My cousins wife picked us up and we went to New Belgium Brewery, the OG of breweries. I know that people have varying opinions of New Belgium beer, but they’ve been in the game a long time, and their brewery is very cool. I’ve heard the tour is a ‘must do’ and hope to get that done someday when I go back out.

New Belgium Brewery
The campus-like front yard of New Belgium Brewery.

By the time we were done at New Belgium we were totally beat. The 3 hour nap had caught up with us and we were hungry and exhausted. And feeling good from all the beer. We headed back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep so we could have a great second day.

DAY 2

We awoke on day 2 with a solid eight hours of sleep, and lots of excitement; we were not only on vacation but our beloved Iowa Hawkeyes had their first game of the season, and we had a great bar recommended to use by my family to watch the game.

First thing was first though, we needed breakfast and we were heading to Snooze, a diner-type restaurant that everyone I talked to recommended. And I mean everyone.

It was also Tour de Fat bike ride day, which if you’re not familiar is a New Belgium annual bike ride where thousands of cyclists dress up in their finest costumes and bike through Fort Collins, consuming lots of drinks, and just generally having a great time. The area was packed, great for people watching, and while we were nervous about our wait at Snooze, which is located in the heart of where the ride was, we only ended up waiting around 15 minutes for our table.

New Belgium Tour de Fat Bike Rike
Tour de Fat Bike Ride.

Our breakfast was outstanding. It was also International Bacon Day so I ended up getting a meal from their special bacon menu – Savor the Bacon Benny (tender Belly bacon on a bacon cheddar potato cake topped with poached cage free eggs, horseradish hollandaise, espresso bacon jam and fresh chives), and Dylan got The B.E.A.T. Sandwich (tender Belly Bacon, fried cage free egg (sunny-side up!) organic arugula and sliced tomato served with bacon-tomato aioli on a toasted ciabatta roll and avocado).

Snooze breakfast
Snooze’s Savor the Bacon Benny breakfast.
Snooze breakfast
Snooze’s B.E.A.T. Breakfast Sandwich with avocado.

Then, because we were on vacation, we decided to share a pancake flight. And believe me, if you saw this pancake menu, you would have been just as gluttonous as we were. Our flight of 3 consisted of:

  • Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes – Buttermilk pancakes with caramelized pineapple chunks, housemade vanilla crème anglaise and cinnamon butter.
  • Blueberry Danish Pancakes – Buttermilk pancakes topped with blueberry coulis, sweet cream and almond streusel surrounding a center of lemony cream cheese filling.
  • Peach Cobbler Pancakes – Buttermilk pancakes filled with fresh peaches and almond streusel then topped with vanilla cream and whipped raspberry mascarpone.

Holy mother of pancakes, these were melt-in-your-mouth amazing. I never order pancakes, or generally anything sweet and indulgent like this for breakfast. It was worth the wait and the extra calories.

Snooze breakfast
The Pancake Flights from Snooze. From the top – Pineapple Upside Down, Blueberry Danish and Peach Cobbler.

Oh, and the mimosas! They had a variety of juices that you could add to your champagne so I tried an apple cranberry combination – amazing! By the time we were finished we were happy, full and ready to make our way…..next door! Yep, seriously. Low and behold the bar that my cousin recommended to watch the Hawkeye game at was next door to Snooze – The SteakOut Saloon.

When we walked in the bar it was packed (remember me telling you about that little bike ride Tour de Fat?). Somehow the vacation gods were shining down on us and the table right in front of the main TV was open. We settled in, arm-to-arm with CSU’s finest, and grabbed a drink to wait to for the game.

We had a great time watching the Hawks win, then headed out to find dinner, making a quick stop at an underground cocktail bar called Social for a proper whisky sour. I’m not traditionally a whisky drinker, but anyone that can make a proper one (hello egg whites!) has me hooked, and this place was fantastic!

We had one quick drink there, then decided to go to Cafe Vino, a wine and tapas bar highly recommended to us that resides in an old house, for dinner. It was very very dimly lit and the photos I took could not be salvaged, but the food was wonderful! I highly recommend the Braised Colorado Beef Short Ribs – Blackberry BBQ sauce, red cabbage-carrot slaw, creamy lemon poppy seed dressing, potato chips, bacon-potato salad. Simply wonderful.

After dinner we turned in to get some sleep for our trek up to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our adventure in the mountains + a local Foco restaurant makes a mistake and gives us the best customer service in return!

If you haven’t read about my previous travels I recapped our June vacation’s here:

Cheers!
Heather

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