Morrison, Golden offer all that shimmers in the Denver suburbs |

Morrison, Golden offer all that shimmers in the Denver suburbs

Kim Fuller
Special to the Daily
Red Rocks Amphitheater is a natural, geologically formed open-air theater overlooking the Denver panorama. The park itself is great for hiking and is open from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m. daily during the season, unless a concert is scheduled.
Courtesy of Visit Denver |

On the road

We love Summit County, but sometimes, you just need to get out of town. Occasionally in the Summit Daily, we’ll recommend a destination or special event somewhere else in the state, only a tank or two of gas from home.

Sometimes, the most cherished places are tucked away, nestled among archaic rocks and in the shadow of rolling foothills. Colorado has a knack for keeping its hideaways coveted, honoring certain places with a little space, while embracing the charm of an area’s ever-evolving heritage.

State visitors and stay-cationers will enjoy a few days exploring Morrison and Golden — meccas of history, recreation, hospitality, museums and music — both just 20 minutes west of Denver.

Make the most of Morrison

From its roots as a railroad town in the late 1800s, Morrison (, 303-697-8749) has always been a gateway to other destinations. The quaint town is best known for its proximity to the world-renowned Red Rocks Amphitheatre and surrounding open space park. Often passed through and overlooked, Morrison is a small gem in a land of red rock, and it’s most definitely worth a stop.

“There is just so much to do in this area,” said Angela Bernhardt, innkeeper at the Cliff House Lodge in Morrison. “Besides Red Rocks itself, there’s Bandimere Speedway, Bear Creek Canyon for paddleboarding, horseback riding, trail hiking and biking, and Heritage Square is right up the way.”

Bernhardt said Morrison is a perfect place to get away, and you don’t have to go far to get there.

“Morrison is a very central location in the foothills, and you don’t feel like you are in the city,” she said. “We are so secluded in this little area; there are people who have driven by for years and had no idea Cliff House exists.”

The Cliff House’s eight cottages (, 303-697-9732) are all themed, so you may be staying in the Rose Retreat, Camelot or the recently redone Honeymoon Cottage, among others, each with a private hot tub and the cozy comforts of home.

“We are trying to make this more of a resort kind of getaway,” said Bernhardt, of what her and her husband, Daniel, have been working on with the Cliff House bed and breakfast. “We want to give people the ability to experience Colorado’s culture.”

Along with its comfortable accommodations and delicious homemade breakfast, the Cliff House offers yoga classes, massage and acupuncture. The B&B’s roots run strong, as its central lodge on the property is a historic mansion, built by George Morrison in 1864.

Enjoy your stay

Just steps from Cliff House is Flights Wine & Coffee (, 303-697-0492). The beautiful garden seating area has a fire pit, and the indoor lounge has a bar area and fireplace. The establishment boasts more than 100 wines available by the bottle and more than 35 available daily by the glass. If you’re in the mood for beer, there are plenty of options, and the light-eats menu will complement your beverage of choice.

If you’re craving live music, head to Red Rocks Amphitheatre (, 720-865-2494), a natural, geologically formed open-air theater overlooking the Denver panorama. The theater is known for its acoustics, as well as the top-tier performances that it brings into the area, year after year. The show season generally runs from Easter through early October. The park itself is great for hiking and is open from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m. daily during the season, unless a concert is scheduled.

For more on the story of the area, don’t miss the Morrison Natural History Museum, and take a trip up to Dinosaur Ridge (, 303-697-3466), with more than 300 dinosaur tracks that were discovered in 1937 when the Alameda Parkway was being constructed. Take a walk on the trail on your own, or join a guided tour.

A Golden getaway

Golden (, Golden Visitor’s Center, 303-279-3113) may not seem like much as you pass by from a lane on Interstate 70, but weave into the historic downtown to check out a vibrant community and learn about the area’s rich history.

Gold discovered in Clear Creek the mid-19th century gave Golden City its original name, and the booming town became a popular stop for miners seeking their fortunes. Golden continued its growth through the decades and became an industrial epicenter of the state, with metal plants, flour mills, the Golden Paper Mill, coal mining and beer brewing.

The history of the West lives on in downtown Golden, but a contemporary current is definitely moving through. Locals and visitors alike can enjoy fun shops and eateries, a dynamic array of museums, scenic drives and a whole lot of recreation.

There are 8,000 acres of recreational open space surrounding Golden, and Clear Creek runs right through town (, 303-384-8000). Fishing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding are available to experts and through guide companies such as Golden River Sports. Take a hike or mountain bike on North, and head up Clear Creek Canyon for world-class rock climbing. Also, Golden’s Earth Treks Climbing Center is the largest of its kind in the state.

Golden resident Briann McCarthy said she moved to the area a little more than a year ago. She grew up in upstate New York and went to college in Boston.

“I absolutely love it here,” McCarthy said. “You’re close to everything. You have Boulder close, Denver close, and in five minutes, you’re in the mountains; we also have all the open space parks.

“Golden hasn’t grown too much, so it still feels like a small Western town. There are small shops and great restaurants. It’s perfect if you’re outdoorsy and even it you’re not. I think if offers a lot for everybody — for young adults, college students and families.”

Make a stay of it

The misconception about Golden is that you can do it in a day, but give yourself at least an overnight. Two hotel hot spots are located right downtown, and each offers a unique charm. The Table Mountain Inn is an adobe-style boutique hotel, boasting some rooms with balconies over Golden’s main street, Washington Avenue, and a delicious Southwestern grill and cantina.

The Golden Hotel offers guests classic comfort, with a complimentary local shuttle, free high-speed Internet, an in-house restaurant and plush bedding and robes. Bring the pooch along because pets are welcome, as well. Visit the hotel’s Bridgewater Grill (, 303-279-2010) on Thursday evenings in the summer to sit outside along Clear Creek and enjoy live music. Try the lamb burger and, if you’re feeling like some spice, a bottle of Twisted Pine Billy’s Chilies ale.

The list of attractions in Golden is long. Some favorites include a visit to the world-famous Coors Brewery (, 303-277-2337) for a tour and some drafts, a walk along the Clear Creek Trail to see kayakers rolling in the whitewater park, the summer seasonal alpine slide and array of shops at Heritage Square (right near I-70) and a drive on the 40-mile Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway.

Check to see what’s playing at the Miners Alley Playhouse, and if you’re in Golden on a Friday, walk through the First Friday Street Fair. On Saturdays during the summer, don’t miss fresh eats and sweet treats at the farmers market just west of the Golden Library on 10th Street, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Peak your interests

With nearly a dozen museums in the area, your days are still golden if it’s really hot or rainy outside. Quench your personal interests at any or all of them, including the Golden History Center, Colorado Railroad Museum, Golden Oldy Cyclery & Sustainability Museum and the Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum, among others.

If you’re up for a drive, the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, as well as the Lookout Mountain Nature Center, are fun and informative family destinations. At the Foothills Art Center, “Toulouse-Lautrec et la Vie Moderne: Paris 1880-1910” is running this summer through Sunday, Aug. 17.

The Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum (, 303-996-2755) is a must-stop for anyone curious about the living legacy of mountaineering in Colorado and beyond.

“It’s technically the only dedicated mountaineering museum in the country,” said Shelby Arnold, museum director. “So even though it’s local, it’s a national museum.”

Arnold said you don’t have to be a climber to appreciate the interactive and interesting exhibits, from a crevasse installation in the stairway, gear displays from famous climbs and walls displaying captivating photos and video documentaries to a large-scale model of Everest, mountain prose and poetry, safety precaution information and search-and-rescue procedures.

“We have pretty long hours, so if people are in town and hit the mountains early, they can come during the heat of the day or the afternoon rain showers if they are looking for something to do,” she said.

Whether you’re looking for coffee or craft libations in the midst of your Golden discoveries, the town has a lot of great places to fill your cup. The Windy Saddle Cafe is a cute coffee shop located in the heart of town, and if you look hard enough, you may be able to find the entrance to Golden Moon, a neighboring speakeasy accessible off the alley. Keep that spot in mind for your pre- or post-dinner cocktail stop.

Mountain Toad Brewery is on Washington and Ninth, right near the Visitor’s Center; other microbreweries in the area include Golden City Brewery, Cannonball Creek Brewing Co., and Barrels and Bottles Brewery.

Consider planning your trip around some upcoming events this season, including the 60th anniversary of Buffalo Bill Days, Wednesday, July 23, through Sunday, July 27; Movies and Music in the Park, Friday nights at 7 p.m. in August at Parfet Park in downtown Golden; or the Golden Fine Arts Festival, Saturday, Aug. 16, and Sunday, Aug. 17.

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