Free (& Other) Factory Tours in Colorado

From breweries to ski-makers, visitors see how stuff is make in Colorado.

ColoradoFlagThe Colorado Tourism Office released a list to remind Coloradans and visitors about the one-of-a-kind products made within the state. From the smaller stores and factories such as Honeyville Honey and SunCrest Orchards Alpacas, to  such household names as Celestial Seasonings and Coors Brewery, Colorado is full of interesting factory tours. Below are a some places to see firsthand what’s behind the brands. After a tour, and learn what is involved, you’ll never take local products for granted again:

  • Celestial Seasonings, Boulder. This was a pioneering and still remains one of the largest specialty tea manufacturers in North America. During free daily tours, visitors see where the teas are sourced and how the teas are made, packaged and distributed all over the world. A highlight: “The Mint Room.” In addition to the tour, guests can try free samples of teas, see original artwork for the boxes and purchase tea-related stuff from the gift shop.
  • Coors Brewery Tour, Golden. Board a van in the visitors’ parking lot, parking lot, take a short ride through Golden to the world’s largest brewery for a free tour that includes a brief history of the business, the brewery process and some free samples of beer for those of legal age.
  •  EnstromGrand Junction. This family-owned candy store and factory began in 1929 and  is famous for its almond toffee, made with the finest, freshest ingredients. Enstrom’s toffee, with their toffee popcorn, truffles and gourmet chocolate are now sold internationally, but the mother ship where visitors can they still hand-make their candy is at their store in Grand Junction.
  • Fiesty Spirits, Fort Collins. The city’s first distillery was opened in 2012 by a team that remains committed to developing  new and creative flavors using natural, organic ingredient. Take a free tour of the facility with one of the founders or the head distiller to get a truly behind-the-scenes look, sample something that is “in progress” during the tour and purchase a mixed cocktail in the tasting room to enjoy the finished product.
  •  Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy, Longmont. The Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy, Colorado’s first artisanal cheesery, offers a creamery tour showing how cheese is made. Spend an hour on the tour and cheese tasting. This one is not free but costs $10 per person.
  • Honeyville, Durango. What began just north of Durango in the 1920s when a man was transferring his honey to town in a pickup has grown into now a company with beehives all across the Rocky Mountains. Honeyville not only makes some of the best honey in the state, but also uses the honey to enhance jams, jellies and its famous Cinnamon Whipped Honey. Visit the Honeyville Factory Store and country kitchen to see their live glass beehive and watch how the honey. With increased pesticide use causing worldwide colony collapse, it is especially important to see what’s involved in the bee biz.
  • Infinite Monkey Thereom, Denver.This urban winery does not have a vineyard, but does have a great tour for visitors wanting to see how wine is made. The winery sources the majority of its grapes from the Western Slope and ships them to Denver to ferment, refine and bottle these award-winning Colorado wines. For $25, spend an hour with the tour guide learning about the winery and tasting plenty of quality wine, including their famous canned wine. Hang out in their Wine Lab after to continue tasting the wines.
  • Meier Skis, Glenwood Springs.  Meier Skis is the only ski manufacturer that utilizes 100% Colorado grown wood including High Alpine Aspen and Beetle Kill Pine (blue stain). Still completely handmade, Meier utilizes the highest quality materials and ski technology. This award- winning company has grown from the garage to their current factory in a mere five years. The factory tour includes a walk-through of the 3,000-square-foot factory with one of the crew who provides a detailed description of sourcing materials and ski-making.  For those captivated by the concept and the process, there is an opportunity to purchase to purchase hand-made skis or other Meier gear on location.
  •  Moots Cycles Factory TourSteamboat Springs. Moots Cycles  makes hand-crafted, high-performance titanium road, mountain and cyclocross bicycle frames. Free one-hour tours are offered every week so that guests can meet the crew and see how these high-quality bikes — or take a YouTube tour any time you wish.
  • SunCrest Orchard Alpacas and Fiber Works, Palisade. Alpaca fiber is softer than cashmere and warmer than wool. SunCrest Orchard offers tours to show how yarn from alpaca fiber is spun into yarn at their mini-mill. Stop in the farm store afterwards to shop a wide array of products made on-site.

Heli-Skiing Pioneer Debuts Day Trips

New CMH day trip out of Revelstoke during the holiday season.

CMH-logoThe late Hans Gmoser, founder of Canadian Mountain Holidays, wrote the book heli-skiing in the Canadian Rockies nearly half a century ago. A week of skiing (and then snowboarding too) in the snow-blessed mountains of British Columbia. Lodging, meals and socializing in on-mountain lodges reached by helicopter. Days of plowing through powder with a well-trained guide. A  pricey adventure, but heaven on earth for those who could afford it.

I’ve read so many glowing articles about CMH that I feel as if I really have spent a week in the Monashees or the Bugaboos or other ranges. In truth, I have actually never done that, but I have heli-hiked with CMH, cat-skied in various places and day heli-skied for a day with an operator out of Canmore, Alberta, whose name I can’t recall. Now, for the first time, a day of heli-skiing is on CMH’s schedule.

The new three- and five-run packages will enable powder enthusiasts to experience deep snow with big, open alpine runs, glacier terrain and stellar tree skiing in the Monashees and Selkirks from December 27 through January 3, a wonderful opportunity for holiday vacationers – both first-time heli skiers and riders and veterans of previous heli-trip to experience expansive terrain removed from a resort setting.

Prices: 3 run package, CDN $799; 5 run package, CDN $959 and additional runs $89 each, all plus applicable taxes — and a tip for the guide, who earns every cent. The package includes helicopter safety briefing, backcountry safety training; use of avalanche transceivers, shovel, probe and radio; powder skis and poles, or snowboard (bring your own ski or snowboard boots); transportation from and return to Revelstoke’s Regent Hotel to and from the heli-pad; professionally certified and experienced ACMG and/or IFMGA Guide, and gourmet mountain lunch and après ski snacks. FoMoInfo or to book: 800-661-0252.

Chihuly After Dark: Magic in the Gardens

Denver Botanic Gardens’ blockbuster dazzles at night.

010Glass artist Dale Chihuly first entered by consciousness during a visit to Tacoma, Washington, were the Museum of Glass had recently opened. I can’t recall the year, but my fascination with art glass in general and with Dale Chihuly in particular stems from that visit. I was awestruck fantastic forest of brilliant blown glass stalagmites by Chihuly in one large, dazzling gallery. Since then, I’ve seen his works in museums, lobbies of hotels and performing arts venues and at Pismo Glass, the Colorado galleries that carry his work. I went to the opening of the “Chihuly in the Gardens” exhibition at the Denver Botanic Gardens last June. It was, of course, wonderful, as I wrote here. Now that days are shorter and nights are longer, “Chihuly Nights” is on view beginning at 5:30 p.m. we were there until nearly 8:30 p.m., and no one was yet hustling us out.

Hard to believe, but the glass is even more stunning and magical during the day. In summer daylight, the glass is counterpointed with the floral. After dark, nothing really competes. This exhibition continues through November 30. Don’t miss it. Click here for tickets, but hurry. They are selling fast. Here are a few after-dark dazzlers (captions not needed):

011 - Copy

019

026

033

The Stanley & Other Old Haunted Hotels

Historic Hotels of America issues Halloween season list.

HistoricHotels-logoColoradans and visitors to Estes Park alike know the story of the Stanley — its ghosts that inspired The Shining — book, movie, TV movie. It’s one of the places on Historic Hotels of America’s short list of the country’s most haunted hotels. These are not creeky, creepy old places but beautiful, luxurious hotels that happen to have a spirit or two in residence. Time for a fall getaway to a spirited place?

 

Admiral Fell Inn (1770) Baltimore, Maryland. The Fells Point neighborhood in Baltimore has changed since the time when it was filled with crime-ridden saloons, brothels, and shipyards, but that doesn’t mean the spirits of the time have left. The Admiral Fell Inn is no stranger to ghost stories. Guests have often reported seeing floating sailors and disappearing butlers knocking on their doors. A hotel manager is also said to have heard a loud party after the hotel was evacuated during a hurricane. This comes as no surprise as parts of the eight buildings comprising the hotel date back to the 1770s when it was a theater and boarding house where seamen, immigrants and “ladies of the night” would pass through. To book your fall getaway click here.

 

1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa (1886) Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa is host to a wide variety of spirits, hence the moniker “America’s Most Haunted Hotel.” It is said that after the skeleton frame of hotel had been constructed in the 1880s that one of the Irish stone masons plunged to his death in what is now guestroom 218. This room proves to be the most spiritually active room in the hotel and has attracted television film crews for decades because of the quantity and quality of the ghost sightings reported. Throughout the history of the hotel, employees have referred to this entity at “Michael,” a classified poltergeist due to the nature of the unexplained activity. Guests have witnessed hands coming out of the bathroom mirror, cries of a falling man in the ceiling, the door opening then slamming shut, unable to be opened again. The intrigue of this activity had drawn guests to specifically request the historic accommodations of guestroom 218 for the chance of experiencing something.

To book your fall getaway click here.

Continue reading “The Stanley & Other Old Haunted Hotels”

Is the Stanley Colorado’s ‘Coolest Hotel’?

Website tags “coolest hotels” in all 50 states pus DC.

Thrillist-logoWhen I clicked on Thrillist.com’s post listing of the coolest hotels in each of the 50 states plus Washington, DC, I expected the Colorado choice to be something like The Crawford atop Denver’s fabulously repurposed Union Station or Aspen’s ultra-hip Sky Hotel.  I was surprised by the site’s pick of the spooky Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. Not that I don’t like the Stanley for a whole bunch of reasons, but the coolest in the state? Here’s what thrillist.com wrote about the Stanley:

The Stanley Hotel

Estes Park, CO
Colorado’s got plenty of luxurious mountain resorts, but there’s only one so awesome it inspired Stephen King to write 200,000 words about it. This spot (named for the same guy who founded Stanley Steamer) is the hotel from The Shining, and while you might not run into a bartender who tells you to kill your family, there are enough rumored ghost stories in this place to make it a bonafide haunted landmark.

New Book on Old Ski Areas

Lost Colorado ski areas in words and pictures.

LostSkiAreas-doverI have a framed “Colorado’s Lost Resorts” poster on my office wall. I enjoy looking at this Colorado Ski Country USA promotional item, because I do love ski trivia. There are 117 spots on the map, starting with Inspiration Point in Arvada and a couple of others that operated for a single winter before World War I to some that existed into the 1980s. Curiously missing are Berthoud Pass, Ski Broadmoor or Ski Hidden Valley/Ski Estes in Rocky Mountain National Park, which was still operating when I moved here in 1988.

Now I have another source that is more comprehensive than a poster could possibly be. A new book called Lost ski Areas of Colorado’s Front Range and Northern Mountains by Caryn and Peter Boddie, both enthusiasts for Colorado skiing and Colorado ski history too. Printed on quality paper, it includes historic photos (both black and white and four-color), it is organized by county, with as much information as the authors could assemble about each ski venue. Sources include not only printed and online material, but also E-mail correspondence, personal interviews and reminiscences. When possible, they included GPS coordinates which help anyone who wants to locate a particular lost ski area. Some are easy to spot if you know where to look either for ghost trails or even building remains. Others are overgrown and exist primarily as dim memories.

The book is $19.99 and can be ordered online. The authors plan an additional volume covering the rest of the state. I’m already looking forward.

Berlin’s Festival of Lights Kicks Off

Germany’s capital’s landmarks bathed in multi-colored creativity & splendor.

VisitBerlin-logoMove over, Paris. The 10th annual Berlin Festival of Lights transforms it into a city of lights for 10 days, from October 10-19 — if not the City of Lights. Such landmarks as the Brandenburg Gate, the TV Tower, the Berliner Dom Cathedral, the Funkturm Radio tower, the Olympic stadium and many other buildings and squares dazzle with the colorful light projections each night as German and foreign artists use building façades as canvases for light installations and projections. The result is an extraordinary cityscape during the Festival of Lights. Locals and visitors enjoy special tours by bus, bicycle, carriage, limousine, boat or hot air balloon to view as many of the illuminated buildings as possible.

A tapestry of lights blankets the city during the 10th annual Berlin Festival of Lights.

A tapestry of lights blankets the city during the 10th annual Berlin Festival of Lights.

Art functions and events will also take place during the Festival. For example, during the Open Door Night, light is shed on what goes on behind the scenes in the buildings lit up for the Festival. And the Jazz in den Ministergärten music festival will put the state liaison offices for Brandenburg, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein in an unfamiliar light. Berlin Cathedral is the venue for Lumissimo,  concert and laser show. An event calendar lays it out day by day. Visit Berlin provides overall visitor information.

Travel Switzerland All Ways on One Pass

Swiss Travel System new version of previous passes.

SwissTravelSystem-jpgWhen I visit a city, I like to have a multi-day transit ticket in my pocket. It’s liberating to get on and off buses, underground trains, streetcars and more without concerning myself with having the right amount of money on me. I like to be able to take a short ride to save time, escape a cloudburst or get off my feet now and again. When a whole country has a comprehensive transportation pass, all the better. When the country is Switzerland, the execution of the concept is impeccable.

The new Swiss Travel System, which goes into effect on January 1, is an upgrade to the long-running Swiss Pass. The new Swiss Travel System pass still includes unrestricted travel by train, bus and boat. It additionally features 50 per cent off most mountain railways, unlimited travel on municipal public transport in 75 towns and cities and admission to 480 museums. It also enables youngsters to age 16 to ride free when traveling with parents who have bought the Swiss Travel System passes, which come in three-, four-, eight-  or and even 15-day “denominations.”  One previous feature now removed are discounts on some city sightseeing tours. The new Swiss Travel System pass will be available through Rail Europe.

Halloween at Heritage Square

Golden fun park adds a little spookiness called BooTown.

AmazeNMazes-logoHeritage Square on the outskirts of Golden, Colo., is a beguiling place for a family excursion on the western fringes of the Denver area and easily reached from I-70. There are scenic rides, thrilling rides and kiddie rides and seasonal attractions too. The Amaze’n Miner’s Maze Adventureland is a 5,000-square-foot, a two-level labyrinth that at Halloween time is transformed into BooTown.

This slightly spooky (but not too scary) attraction is open on Saturdays and Sundays in October and through Sunday, November 2 from 11 a.m. to p.m. . This friendly haunted house is tricked out in with spooky decorations. 3D glasses bring Halloween scenes to life inside the maze. The cost is $8 per person, but buy through Goldstar and pay just $6.

With or without 3D glass in place, kids have a blast exploring BooTown, a gently spooky seasonal attraction located at Heritage Square.

With or without 3D glass in place, kids have a blast exploring BooTown, a gently spooky seasonal attraction located at Heritage Square.

Similarly, the Rio Golden Train that loops through the park becomes the Haunted Scarecrow Express, decorated with scarecrows designed and constructed by local organizations that represent their companies, groups or teams. Ride it for an additional $5.

An all-day, unlimited combination pass for all the attractions in the Adventureland is $22 and includes the human maze, Water Walkerz, Silver Spring Bungee, Magic Mountain Climbing Wall, Jewel Jump ‘n Bouncy, shooting gallery and the Adventureland’s hottest attraction, the high ropes course perched directly on top of the human maze. Bring a canned food item to Heritage Square this October and get $1 off any Halloween attraction or combo deal (limit 5 cans per person). Food will be donated to the Belmar Food Bank.

18301 West Colfax Avenue, Golden, 303-278-4FUN.

Hawaii’s Mokulele to Add Flights

New inter-island carrier serving additional Hawaii airfields.

MokulelAirlinesMokulele Airlines is increasing inter-island service with four new routes beginning on October 20: between Kalaeloa (Oahu) and Molokai, Kalaeloa and Kapalua (Maui), Kapalua and Molokai, and Kapalua and Hana (Maui). On July 1, Mokulele began service from Kalaeloa Airport, the former Barber’s Point Naval Air Base John Rogers Field, to improve inter-island travel for residents and visitors on west Oahu. Current fares are $39 to $59 one-way. Reservations are free if made on-line and $15 otherwise. At this time, bags are free between Lanai and Kahululi. Otherwise, the first checked bag is $15  Seats are assigned at the departure airport.