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Once upon a time, there was a little town southwest of Denver that served as the hub for a farming community. The entrepreneurial surveyor who founded it, Richard Little, named it for himself: Littleton.
The town grew. Denver grew. Eventually they merged, but Littleton retained its unique personality. It has its own downtown, very different from that of Denver, with charming old buildings but no skyscrapers. Traffic wends its way through landscaped streets at a slower and more polite pace.
There’re plenty of great little restaurants, from Terra Cotta, which has excellent salads and sandwiches at reasonable prices, to upscale Opus. And Littleton has a plethora of pretty parks for strolling, picnicking and playing.
Littleton’s two star attractions are Hudson Gardens and the Littleton Historical Museum. Both will make you feel as if you’re far from any city.
Hudson Gardens was the dream of King and Evelyn Hudson, who in 1941 purchased five acres on the banks of the South Platte River, along a dirt road now called Santa Fe Drive. They planted numerous trees and flower beds, and the property eventually grew to 30 acres.
In summer, Hudson Gardens offers outdoor concerts and lavish floral displays, from a rose garden to ponds abloom with water lilies. Birds and butterflies flock there. Visitors meander paths among the lilies and hollyhocks, stop to admire an outdoor miniature train, or just sit on a bench under a shade tree. From November through April, admission is by voluntary donation; the rest of the year it’s $5 or less. Check the event schedule at www.hudsongardens.org or call 303-797-8565.
Another urban oasis is the Littleton Historical Museum. Here, you’ll find an 1860s homestead and 1890s urban farm, authentic period buildings, livestock and living history demonstrations. Inside the museum is a permanent exhibit on Littleton’s history (with artifacts including farm implements and fashions of the day), plus a second gallery with changing exhibits. Concerts and other public events also are held here.
At the museum, pick up a guided walking tour of downtown, to learn more about the Denver & Rio Grande Depot, the Carnegie Library, the 1907 courthouse, churches, noteworthy businesses and the homes of early influential residents. And be sure to visit the town cemetery. Its most famous occupant is Alferd Packer, the Colorado cannibal who killed and ate five prospectors in 1874. His first name is misspelled “Alfred” on the tombstone.
Littleton is no longer a little town, but it doesn’t feel like the big city, either. For more information on visiting Littleton, call 303-795-3748.
Listen to the hum of the zipline wire as you fly over a rugged box canyon in the mountains near Salida. This exciting adventure is offered year round by Captain Zipline Adventure Tours. Groups can arrange a campfire lunch, too. 719-221-6463 or 877-ZIP-LINE.
Get a real taste of Colorado’s southeast plains at the Mountain Plover Festival in Karval, April 30–May 2. Half the world’s population of these birds nest in Colorado. For a flat rate, you’ll get all your meals (starting with an ice cream social on Friday night) for the weekend, plus twice-daily birding tours. 719-446-5354.
Love baseball, but not the pro prices? Catch some exciting minor league ball when the Sky Sox have their season home-game opener against Las Vegas, April 16-19 in Colorado Springs. You might catch a glimpse of a future star player. 719-591-7699 or www.skysox.com.
Get the jump on warm-weather fun at Highline Lake State Park near Fruita. An oasis in an otherwise desert-like landscape, spring comes early here with water sports, fishing, hiking and camping. It’s a huge destination for cyclists, too. 970-858-7208 or 800-678-2267.
Get the kids and embark on an Easter egg hunt in the snow when Ski Cooper near Leadville hosts its annual event on April 4. It’s free, and kids will love finding one of the 2,500 eggs—maybe even a golden Cooper Egg containing a season pass for next year! 800-707-6114.
You’ve been to Mesa Verde and Crow Canyon, but have you visited Hovenweep National Monument near Cortez? At this ancient site, see the ruins of buildings made by ancestral Puebloans about A.D. 900. Don’t miss the famous Square Tower. April and September are prime months to visit. 970-562-4282.
If you’re looking for a hearty breakfast to fuel a day of skiing, try Izzy’s in Crested Butte. Known for its homemade breads, bagels and muffins, it’s also loved for its latkes (potato pancakes)—get ‘em with sour cream and applesauce for a real treat. 970-349-5630.
Esquire magazine lists the 8100 Mountainside Bar & Grill at the Park Hyatt hotel in Beaver Creek as one of “15 Restaurants Not to Miss.” They recommended the marinated elk loin with a compote of sage, blackberry and roasted shallot, and also praised the wine list. 970-827-6600.
If luxury is what you’re seeking in a bed-and-breakfast inn, consider the Elkwood Manor in Pagosa Springs. Minutes from hot springs and skiing, you’ll have one of three (soon four) suites at your disposal, each with a sitting room, fireplace, private bath and deck. The sauna was voted “best view from a hot tub” by the guidebook Colorado’s Best Bed-and-Breakfasts. 970-264-9166.
After a strenuous day of skiing, snowshoeing or hiking, head to the Trimble Hot Springs just north of Durango. After a soak under the stars, you can stay at either the Trimble Guest House, which accommodates four people and can include a personal chef and child care, or the romantic Starlight Room, which offers private after-hours access to the red-rock pool. 970-247-0212 or 877-811-7111.
For Easter, consider an egg-shaped chocolate box filled with delectable truffles from Belvedere Chocolates in Boulder. Stay long enough for a cup of hot chocolate, or, if you’re into wine, try pairing some chocolates with vintages from Bookcliff Vineyards, located in the same store. 303-447-0336.
The ski sale of all spring ski sales might just be the Spring Break Blowout at the Mountain Sports Outlet in Silverthorne and Glenwood Springs, March 20 through Easter weekend. Discounts range from to 30–70% off retail and you’ll still have time to use your new gear this year! 970-262-2836 (Silverthorne) or 970-945-5001 (Glenwood).
Linda DuVal is a freelance writer and former travel editor in Colorado Springs.
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