-by Gaylene Ore
hen it comes to girls’ getaway trips, the most important part is simply spending time together. But wine, fresh-from-the-field foods, stunning scenery, outdoor time and plenty of sun can’t hurt. Where to go, and not break the bank? Western Colorado.
West of the Rockies, and east of Utah, lies the Grand Valley. Sometimes described as a combination of Moab, Boulder, and small Napa (without the prices or the crowds), the Grand Valley boasts spectacular red cliffs, winding canyons and the friendliness of a small-town with the amenities of a city. The Grand Junction Regional Airport serves more than 222,000 enplaned passengers annually, with daily non-stop and one-connection flights to cities around the country.
Under-the-radar wine country
Colorado’s wine country features two American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) and nearly 30 wineries and vineyards, including the highest-altitude winery in the country. The wineries produce almost every type of wine, with focus on Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Syrah, Port, and Chardonnay – a true Burgundian-style wine. The wine trails are small and personal, with all tastings and winery tours free. The owners of the wineries, along with the winemakers, usually are available to greet and talk with guests.
Activities and attractions
- Fruit/agriculture – Along with grapes, Colorado’s wine country is famous for its peaches, pears, cherries, and apples. Orchards offer tours for a close-up view of fruit varieties, organic growing, picking, community supported agriculture, selection, packing, distribution and marketing. Fruit stands at almost every bend on country roads offer homemade jams, jellies and baked goods.
- Hiking, biking and just viewing – Spectacular red cliffs and winding canyons line two national scenic byways, the Colorado National Monument and the Grand Mesa, the world’s largest flat-topped mountain. More than 40 miles wide, and at 10,000 feet, the mesa’s aspen and spruce groves, flowered meadows and more than 200 lakes provide boating, fishing, hiking, and mountain biking adventures.
- Dinosaurs – In the heart of the Colorado-Utah Dinosaur Diamond, the area is internationally known for its wealth of dinosaur excavation sites, exhibits, fossils, and hands-on paleontological activities. To-visit sites include the working paleontology lab and realistic robotic dinosaurs at the Museum of Western Colorado’s Dinosaur Journey; Colorado Canyons Conservation Area; and Fruita Paleontological Area Trail. For a real adventure with friends, the museum’s Dino Digs offer opportunities to accompany professional paleontologists on digs ranging from a half-day to five days.
- Golf – Golf is popular in a city with mild year-round climate, and that holds distinction as one of the top 10 sunniest cities in the United States. Five courses include the renowned Redlands Mesa course, located at the base of the towering pink and red sandstone face of the Colorado National Monument. The Jim Engh-designed course has been ranked among the top 20 public courses in the United States by Golf Digest for four years.
Lodging choices in the Grand Valley include large hotels, small independent properties, and rental condos and homes. A wide assortment of bed and breakfast inns offers scenic views, personal service, affordable rates and specials throughout the year. Some feature on-site spas, and it is even possible to stay at a boutique country French chateau located right on the grounds of a winery.
Grand Junction (www.visitgrandjunction.com)
Nestled near 11,000-foot Grand Mesa and the 7,500-foot Book Cliffs, Grand Junction is the largest city in western Colorado. At an altitude of 4,586 feet, warm summers and moderate spring, fall and winter seasons allow for year-round golf, hiking and biking. Boasting more than 275 days of sunshine annually, Grand Junction recently was named one of the eight sunniest cities in the United States by TourismReview.com.
Among Grand Junction’s spectacular red cliffs and winding canyons are the Grand Mesa, the world’s largest flat-topped mountain, the Colorado National Monument, Bookcliff Wild Horse Area, two national scenic byways and five golf courses. Grand Junction lies in the heart of the Colorado-Utah Dinosaur Diamond. The area also is home to Colorado’s wine country, with nearly 30 vineyards and wineries.
Author: Gaylene Ore, Ore Communications,
Courtesy Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau VisitGrandJunction.com
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