Discover USA: Grand Junction, Colorado
Join Budget Travel as we continue our new series Discover USA. Discover USA explores states, counties, cities, and everything in between. Each week we will explore a new US destination to help you find things to do, itinerary ideas, and plan where to go next.
This week, we invite you to Discover what Grand Junction, Colorado has to offer. Grand Junction is known as the hub of Colorado's wine country. Grand Junction is a place where vibrant music, farm-fresh cuisine and a lively art scene converge with countless outdoor adventures.
There is a reason why Food + Wine Magazine recently called the Grand Junction area of Colorado, “the new Sonoma with its charming vineyards and stellar dining.” Shaded by the majestic beauty of the red rock cliffs and mesas that surround Grand Junction, the area is home to nearly 30 wineries and vineyards that serve up some of Colorado’s best wines.
Visitors can sample local wines at Carlson Vineyard’s new downtown Grand Junction tasting room or at the Zesty Moose, and Two Rivers Winery and Chateau, located near the Colorado National Monument which offers wine tastings, lodging and incredible views as guests stroll through vineyards.
Highlands Distillery produces great handcrafted spirits utilizing local ingredients and mixes up fun regionally inspired cocktails. While there, stop by neighboring Belli Fiori Lavender Farm and check out their specialty, small-batch aromatherapy, culinary, and body care products.
New to the Grand Junction scene is Moody’s Lounge. Tucked away on the mezzanine level of the historic Kress building, their 1920’s inspired cocktail lounge offers an intimate space with an ample selection of handcrafted libations and delicious bites
- Kulina Lani Organic Sourdough Bakery. Born in Colorado, raised in Hawaii and returned to its roots with a lifetime of sourdough experience, Grand Junction’s new Kulina Lani Bakery produces beautiful bread, pastries, sandwiches and pizzas for any occasion made with natural fermentation that feeds body and soul. Their whole grain sourdough breads are made from wheat purchased locally from organic farms in the Grand JUnction area and milled in-house.
- Grand Junction is home to James Beard award semi finalist Josh Nierenberg and his restaurants Bin707 and Taco Party, which is undergoing a major expansion in spring of 2022. Nierenberg has recently partnered with Ramblebine Brewery on a custom menu of perfectly paired bites under the new BlockParty GJ brand and collaborated with local winemaker, Carlson Vineyards, to create the custom High Desert Wine Lab label, which is the house red and white wine for Bin707 and Taco Party.
- Hog & The Hen - This is an adorable deli and specialty bodega on Main Street with the best selection of cheeses in GJ. Whether you want to make a DIY cheese & charcuterie plate for a night in, or get a top-notch sammie to take on the road while you explore the National Monument, this is the spot.
- Chef Theo Otte’s cuisine, fun wine flights and cozy ambiance at 626 on Rood never disappoints.
- The Glorious Fig hosts monthly curated dinners that are centered around the chefs’ curated menus celebrating the flavors, produce and flowers of each season and take place in The Fig’s intimate dining space.
- Devil's Kitchen - Recently opened on top of the Hotel Maverick, this rooftop restaurant has regionally inspired craft cocktails and menu options. Upscale, yet super approachable.
Arts and Culture
- Outdoor Art: Grand Junction is home to a wealth of art, especially in its outdoor spaces. From its massive sculptures when you enter the city to the public art in its parks, to a year-round outdoor sculpture exhibit known as Art on the Corner, and the murals along the Riverfront Trail, Grand Junction has a vibrant art scene that you don’t even have to go indoors to experience.
- Colorado National Monument Ranger Walks: When John Otto first witnessed the rugged red rock canyons south of Grand Junction in 1906, it was love at first sight. His passion sparked him to create Colorado National Monument and serve as the park’s first custodian. Today, students K-12 can study geology, ecology and cultural history along ranger-guided field trips and earn a Junior Ranger badge in the process.
- Dino Dig: The largest multidisciplinary museum between Salt Lake City and Denver, Grand Junction’s Museum of Western Colorado engages with its dinosaur expeditions, extensive educational programming, and historic and cultural trips and tours. For a dino fix, kids can dig for bones and search for tracks in the 150-million-year-old badlands of the Morrison Formation. One-day “101” sessions include transportation between Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita and the quarry, field instruction and Paleo lab tour.
- Learning made fun: Kids can jump feet first into an interactive, hands-on day of fun at the Dinosaur Journey Museum. Visitors can feel what it's like to be in an earthquake, and uncover dinosaur bones from the Jurassic era. Another spot for fun learning opportunities is at the EUREKA! McConnell Science Museum, where along with more than 100 exhibits designed to make the wonders of science accessible to children of all ages, kids can check out exotic saltwater tanks, and meet Charlie the chinchilla.
- Avalon Theatre: Built for the residents of Grand Junction by local publishing giant Walter Walker in 1923, the Avalon Theatre was and still is one of Western Colorado's largest performing arts halls. The Avalon Theatre features a foreign and independent film series; dance, theatrical, lecture and variety shows; and private functions.
Explore the Outdoors
Outside of Grand Junction, Powderhorn Mountain Resort, open through late March, sits on the edge of the Grand Mesa, the world's largest flat-top mountain. The area enjoys a reputation for outstanding tree skiing and diverse terrain. Spend the morning on the slopes, then head into town where visitors can ride the area’s famed singletrack pretty much any day of the year. One of the most famous riding areas is the TabeguacheTrailhead, better known as the “Lunch Loops.” Just six miles from Downtown Grand Junction, the trails were named by locals who can bust out of work and get an awesome ride in during lunch.
Winter brings plenty of snow to the Grand Mesa, which stands taller than 11,000 feet at its peak elevation. Three networks of cross-country ski trails crown this enormous, flat-top mountain. The Skyway trail system offers pristine classic and skate-skiing routes for every level and a warming hut just 100 yards from the trailhead. The Country Line trail system is ideal for beginner and intermediate skiers, while the Ward trail system on the south side of the Mesa is best suited for intermediate to advanced skiers. The Grand Mesa Trails also offer great snowshoeing and fat biking.
The Colorado National Monument is a semi-desert land that sits high on the Colorado Plateau. More than just a monument, CNM’s spectacular canyons cut deep into sandstone and granite, aptly referred to as a mini Grand Canyon. Popular trails include Devil’s Kitchen, and Coke Ovens that are great options for a shorter hike; while No Thoroughfare and Liberty Cap trails will keep you out and about for a longer excursion.
Grand Junction boasts four year-round golf courses to enjoy beer, birdies and sunshine. Both Tiara Rado andThe Redlands Mesa Golf Course have breathtaking views of the Colorado National Monument accompanied by rolling terrain and fresh mountain air.
Biking and Bird Watching on the Audubon Section of the Colorado Riverfront Trail: Easily accessible from Downtown GJ, there are over 200 species of birds that visit the Audubon Section during various times of the year. A few of the easier birds to spot are bald eagles, blue heron, osprey, several varieties of hawks and ducks.
Storied Waterways: The confluence of two of the largest rivers - the Colorado and the Gunnison - makes Grand Junction a paradise for those seeking out water-based activities. With multiple parks along the rivers and adjacent lakes like the James M. Robb-Colorado River State Park and Highline Lake State Park, jet boating, wakeboarding, paddle boarding, windsurfing, and more are all available to visitors. Getting out on the Colorado River is easy with many put-in areas, as well as guides to take guests on rafting, canoeing or kayaking trips.
Hike to The U.S. Second Largest Concentration of Arches at Rattlesnake Canyon: Outside of Grand Junction you can find a collection of 35 natural arches tucked away in Rattlesnake Canyon. These soaring spans, protected in the 123,400-acre McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, form the world’s second largest concentration of arches in the world. The Rattlesnake Canyon Arches are one of Colorado’s most spectacular wonders, but also one of its best-kept secrets.
Visit the Wild Horses of The Little Bookcliffs: Spring is a beautiful time to explore the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Preserve that encompasses more than 30,000 acres of rugged canyons and plateaus, and is home to roughly 100 wild mustangs. It is one of only three ranges in the U.S. set aside specifically to protect wild and free roaming horses.
Book Lover’s Guide to Fort Myers & Sanibel
When traveling to Fort Myers, Florida, visitors can transport themselves into the setting of their favorite books, allowing them to feel like they’re a part of their favorite stories. Free from the sky-high towers that line much of Florida's coast, Sanibel and Captiva have a long history as a retreat for artists looking for solitude and inspiration from nature. In this book lover’s paradise, visitors will be inspired by the work of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Randy Wayne White and more, who have not only taken up residence in the destination, but also based novels on the many attributes of the destination. Below is a book lover’s guide to visiting Fort Myers’ islands, beaches and neighborhoods..Gene's Books - Courtesy of Visit Fort Myers Known as the "Seashell Capital of the World," Sanibel Island's shell-lined beaches and laid-back lifestyle served as the inspiration for author Anne Morrow Lindbergh's 1955 novel Gift from the Sea. A profound work reflecting on the lives of modern American women, Lindbergh used seashells as the framework for her meditations on youth, love, solitude and motherhood. Anne took her time on the island to reflect on the life of the American woman in the mid-20th century, highlighting how moments of solitude can be powerful for self-reflection, which still resonates with her readers after over 65 years. Like Anne, visitors may find peace and inspiration from the spectacular shells scattering the beaches. Fort Myers’ very own award-winning author, Randy Wayne White, has penned many New York Times best-selling novels from his home on Sanibel Island. He’s best known for his series of crime novels featuring the retired NSA agent Doc Ford, with most of the stories set right in Fort Myers and Sanibel. Just as his novels were inspired by the islands of Fort Myers, Randy opened Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille, inspired by the main character of most of his novels, known as a tropical adventurer. Travelers can visit locations in Fort Myers, Sanibel and Captiva, and dine at the famed restaurant today, allowing them to be transported right into their favorite mystery. For those searching for a new read, Gene’s Books in Sanibel is an independent bookstore with five different locations, two locations on Sanibel Island. The original storefront, the Mystery Cottage, is a vibrant blue and yellow clock tower filled to the brim with signature stacks of mysteries from around the world. The success of this book store led to the opening of the four other buildings, all separately categorized with books varying from American Fiction, World Literature and History, to Science Fiction & Fantasy.
Martha’s Vineyard has a reputation for its beautiful beaches, traditional New England architecture, and for being a summer vacation destination for the rich and powerful. The island is known for being a vacation destination for ex-presidents, as well as being the filming location for Jaws over 40 years ago. You would be forgiven for assuming that Martha’s Vineyard is a destination too expensive for those of us that travel without the means of the wealthy. But you would be wrong. The secret to Martha’s Vineyard is that it has quite a few hotels, campgrounds, and hostels that provide reasonable budget accommodations. There are two tricks for getting these deals: book early, 6-12 months in advance, and book during shoulder-season, which are the months just before and after summer. We’ve assembled a list of our favorite options of stays on the island. $ - Under $100/night Tisbury - Martha's Vineyard Family Campground campmv.com Open May - October With several cottages, also offers space for tents and RVs. Clean, very safe, family friendly campground. Expect to pay $54-60 per campground per night. West Tisbury - Hosteling International Martha's Vineyard capecodhostels.org Open April - October Private and dorm rooms available, Families and non-members welcome. Rates range from $40-150 per night. Oak Bluffs - The Madison Inn madisoninnmv.com Open May - October, this 14 room property is located in the heart of the town center, close to all the fun, the beaches and the food! Rates as low as $79. $$ - Under $200/night Edgartown - Ashley Inn ashleyinn.net 1860 Whaling Captain's home is open year round and is an easy stroll to the town center, beaches and attractions. A charming stay for couples, friends and families. Rates as low as $125/night in the off-season. Edgartown - The Edgar Hotel edgarhotelmv.com Open year-round and recently renovated with all the modern comforts you need, a relaxed Island atmosphere you'd expect and a popular on-site bar and restaurant. Rates as low as $153/night. Oak Bluffs - The Narragansett House narragansetthouse.com This 13 room property is located in the heart if the town center, steps from food, beaches, shopping and fun. Rates from $144/night. Tisbury - Vineyard Harbor Motel vineyardharbormotel.us Open year-round and located on the harbor, each of the 40 rooms is an efficiency unit. Rates from $159/night. Tisbury- The Driftwood of Martha's Vineyard thedriftwoodmv.com Year-round B&B with farm-to-table options, quiet area close to town center. Rates from $150 during off-season and $300 during peak. Tisbury - Look Inn lookinnmv.com Comfortable old farmhouse located in historic district close to shops, restaurants and beaches. Rates from $175-200 per night. $$$ - Over $200/night Aquinnah - The Duck Inn duckinnonmv.com Cozy, year-round, 5-room property is perfect for a true getaway. Located in the western most side of the Island, visitors will enjoy amazing views, easy walk to the beach, fireplaces and divine hospitality. The Duck Inn is pet friendly, but contact them for specifics. Rates as low as $145 but go up to $335/night. Edgartown - The Edgartown Commons edgartowncommons.com Located steps from downtown this budget friendly property has 34 units are apartments (studios, one and two bedrooms) with kitchens, to make it easy for an extra long getaway. Open May - October. Rates from $215/night. Tisbury - The 1720 House 1720house.com Open year-round this 6-room was named one of Yankee Magazine's best small New England Inns. Steps from the beach and town center. Rates from $150 in the off-season and $250 in peak. Oak Bluffs - The Pequot Hotel pequothotel.com Open May - October A Charming small hotel is one block top beaches and a short stroll to shopping and dining. Rates from $200/night. CARD WIDGET HERESponsored by Martha's Vineyard
Join Budget Travel as we continue our new series Discover USA. Discover USA explores states, counties, cities, and everything in between. Each week we will explore a new US destination to help you find things to do, itinerary ideas, and plan where to go next. This week, we invite you to Discover what Cheyenne, Wyoming has to offer. Cheyenne is known for its spirit of the old west, railroad history, rodeos, and western hospitality. Culinary Cheyenne has a wide variety of restaurants, ranging from Asian cuisine to buffalo burgers nestled in historical settings to modern delights. The town is also home to several craft beverage producers creating a variety of libations. Chronicles Distilling Courtesy of ChroniclesDistilling At the edge of downtown, this distillery serves unique infused whiskeys and vodkas. Chronicles Distilling is a Veteran Owned Family Distillery, run by two Marine Corps Infantry Veterans and Brothers, named Aaron and Chase Lesher. Chronicles Distilling produces corn based spirits, distilled in-house, that are bottled and sold for sale to go, as well as used to make cocktails for sale in their bar on the main level. All furniture and equipment have been built by Aaron and Chase Lesher. Free tours and samples are given to anyone who would like to learn about distilling and what Chronicles has to offer. Wyoming’s Rib and Chop House Steaks and fresh seafood are served in a casual yet refined environment in the only official steakhouse downtown. You can also enjoy locally-brewed Accomplice beers alongside your dinner. Voted One Of The 50 BEST Restaurants in America by MSN Lifestyle! The Metropolitan Courtesy of themetdowntown.com Featuring a menu of chef-inspired dishes, the Metropolitan’s mouthwatering brussels sprouts and bison pasta are nothing to balk at. New American cuisine awaits in one of the classiest spots in town. Accomplice Beer Company Courtesy of accomplicebeer.com Accomplice Beer Company is housed in the historic Cheyenne Depot, and is a unique brewery concept with self-pour taps and a newly expanded food menu including such favorites as kale salad, baby back ribs, chicken wings, and brewery sliders. The self-pour taps allow customers to sample a variety of beers without having to purchase a full pint — giving customers complete control of their journey into Accomplice craft beers. Arts and Culture Visitors looking for Western-themed art and a variety of cultural activities will not be disappointed when they arrive in Cheyenne. The city offers numerous galleries and museums to view beautiful and historic Western and indigenous art. Cheyenne Artists Guild hosts numerous art shows throughout the year. The historic Van Tassell Carriage House is the home of the guild, established in 1949 and is Wyoming's oldest continuously operating artists' association. Cheyenne also has an active community theatre, two ballet companies, a regionally acclaimed symphony orchestra, a chamber choir, and several music venues for numerous live performances. Terry Bison Ranch Courtesy of Terry Bison Ranch One of Cheyenne's most unique attractions! Take a tour on one of Terry Bison Ranch's custom-built trains to see ostriches, camels, a huge bison herd, and actually hand-feed the bison! Tours are every day except Christmas Day.You can also go on a guided trail ride and seasonal Sunday lunch train. The train is designed from an old-fashioned dining car and stops to let you visit with a herd of bison. ATV Tours of the Ranch are available as well! Cheyenne Botanic Gardens Courtesy of botanic.org The Cheyenne Botanic Gardens exists to cultivate growth and enrichment in the community of Cheyenne by providing a treasured garden space for enjoyment, celebration, and education. Come experience the dazzling variety of award-winning, curated displays of plants, shrubs, and trees from around the world in the brand-new Grand Conservatory; enjoy family-friendly activities in the Paul Smith Children’s Village; or take a walk through the community vegetable garden and greenhouse. Grand Conservatory and Paul Smith Children's Village. Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum Housing one of the largest collections of horse- drawn carriages in the nation, this museum tells the story of the west, specifically the history of our own Cheyenne Frontier Days. Nelson Museum of the West Courtesy of nelsonmuseum.com The Nelson Museum is dedicated to the preservation of fine Cowboy and Native American objects as well as fine Western art. Home to a collection of nearly 6,000 artifacts encompassing Western history, including cowboy and Native American relics. Cheyenne Artists Guild Provides numerous art shows throughout the year. Located in the historic Van Tassell Carriage Barn (National Historic Registry), The Cheyenne Artists Guild is the oldest continuously operating, nonprofit arts organization in Wyoming. Explore the Outdoors Cheyenne is the gateway to Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest and offers countless outdoor pursuits. Outdoor adventure awaits with three key scenic and distinct areas—the Pole Mountain and Vedauwoo areas within Medicine Bow National Forest, and Curt Gowdy State Park. The destination is a convenient outdoor mecca with a vast array ready-to-discover adventures for all levels from the casual nature lover to the avid outdoor enthusiast featuring mountain biking, hiking, climbing, snow-shoeing, Nordic skiing and more. Pole Mountain Previously administered by the War Department for military training, the area is now home to single-track hiking, running, fat biking and mountain biking trails along with Nordic skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. Curt Gowdy State Park Courtesy of wyoparks.wyo.go Sitting among the picturesque foothills of the Laramie Mountains, the area features granite towers, rocky soils and timbered slopes. Two small reservoirs form the heart of the park, with fishing boating and more! The park also features more than 35 miles of EPIC-rated single-track mountain biking and hiking trails. Vedauwoo Recreation Area Courtesy of heyenne.org Some of the most beautiful natural sculptures you will see are found just 27 miles west of Cheyenne in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. Defying gravity up to 500 feet in the air, these ancient rock formations were created by ice, wind and water. The Native Americans named this area Vedauwoo (pronounced Vee-Duh-Voo), which means "Land of the Earthborn Spirits." You'll see why they believed it was a spiritual place when tons of rock seem to balance on inches of space. Pine Bluffs Recreation Area A rustic system of trails in the eastern portion of the county, Pine Bluffs Recreation Area trails through sandstone bluffs and prairie grasses. There is also a golf course and disc golf course like you’ve never played before! CARD WIDGET HERE
If you’re ‘of a certain age’ as I’ll confess to being, your first exposure to hot air ballooning was likely the classic movie The Wizard of Oz. Prior to that, the only objects I was aware of in the sky were the airplanes that flew frequently over our home in the San Fernando Valley. In the movie, the wizard arrives to rescue Dorothy via a balloon, and though things don’t go quite as planned, that incredible vision of flames shooting up into a huge, colorful ball, a wicker basket rocking back and forth below it, never left me. It was many years later when I finally saw a hot air balloon in real life. I’d moved to Sonoma County, California and discovered, to my delight, that hot air balloons were fairly common in the area I was living in. There were several companies which offered flights over the spectacular vineyards, orchards, and rural landscape I now called home, and their occasional appearance on the horizon was like seeing a rainbow: ephemeral, almost surrealistic. Courtesy of Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic / Dan Golden Several years into living here I was fortunate to be taken to a hot air balloon festival in the county. It was dawn-thirty in the morning when we got there, but like my first exposure via that iconic movie, the whole experience left a lasting impression on me. The colors of the dozens of balloons: being able to see inside them, and see the flames shoot up into them up close, the way they were lit up before the sun came up. I even was lucky enough to ride in one during the event, and though I’d always considered myself having a fear of heights, it not only felt safe, it was magical. Fast forward to today and I find myself as the event coordinator for the very balloon festival I went to all those years ago. I now know that was one of the earliest years of the event, as I’m writing this to tell you about the 30th annual Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic. After a two-year hiatus, due to the pandemic, the Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic will finally get to have its 30th anniversary on June 4th and 5th, and we’re hoping to make it a very special celebration. Courtesy of Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic The big news for the Classic is the venue change. For the previous twenty-nine festivals, it was held in Windsor, in most recent years in a large park. But attendance grew so much that parking became an issue and it seemed apparent they needed a new location. This year the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, California will be the new home, and with it comes a world of possibilities for growth and spaciousness, not to mention ample parking for cars and RVs. It’s right off the freeway, easy to find, and fully dialed in for an event like this. So what is an event like this? First of all, brace yourself for the fact the gates open at 4am. That’s not a typo. I know you retirees out there might not be in the habit of getting up before the birds have been chirping for an hour or two, but you should consider making an exception on this occasion. Why would anything start at such a sleep-shattering hour? Reason one: Because it’s calm. Wind is not the best friend of the hot air balloonist. The more peaceful the air, the more maneuverable the balloon, and dawn is the peak launching time. Reason two; the visual experience has no match. Before the main launch, which happens as the sun’s coming up, there’s what’s called the “Dawn Patrol.” While it’s still dark, the balloons are lit, creating a magical glow which, especially up close, is awe inspiring. The launch itself is equally gasp-worthy, when as many as three dozen balloons go up in unison, including colorful and clever specialty-shaped balloons, with characters from cartoons, the movies, and other realms. The whole event could very well be compared to a fireworks display. Courtesy of Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic / Will Bucquoy Attendees get to talk to balloon pilots, get up-close to experience tethered balloons, and see first-hand what it takes to inflate and launch them. Tethered ride tickets will also be for sale so visitors can experience a hot air balloon ride without leaving the ground. A few lucky people will have the opportunity to make an Instant Sponsorship which allows them a full ride on a hot air balloon during the event. They’ll be able to wave to the crowd on the ground as they lift off with the pilot on a 30-45 minute ride through the skies with dozens of other hot air balloons. Courtesy of Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic There’ll be lots of family activities, unique gifts and goodies, and we guarantee plenty of delicious food, coffees, beers, champagne and mimosas. This is a 501c3 non-profit event, with the focus of educating and keeping the sport of hot air ballooning alive. Hot air ballooning goes back to the late 1700’s and has a remarkable history in the world of air travel. Events like these are scarce in our country and almost non-existent elsewhere in the world. This is an ideal family festival. Kids are fascinated by hot air balloons, especially in this day and age of computers and special effects. The science behind them is ancient and the magic eternal. Not only is this festival a great reason to travel to Northern California in early June, it’s the perfect opportunity to get a full day or weekend of the unmatched beauty and deliciousness of Sonoma County. By attending so early in the morning you’ll have the rest of the day free to explore the stunning landscape from mountains to the ocean, shop, wine taste, eat out, and do all the things you’d like to fit into a vacation day, but often don’t get up early enough to do. June 4th and 5th, 2022 4am-10am each day at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds: 1350 Bennett Valley Rd in Santa Rosa California. https://www.schabc.org/ for more information. See you there!