From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
Not all that glitters is gold… but Golden, Colorado certainly is! Here’s our local guide to this one-of-a-kind gem of a town in the greater Denver metropolitan area.
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
With its westerly locale, Golden stands apart from other Denver-area communities for its easy access to a wide variety of stunning natural landscapes. Here are some of the many state and national parks reachable within an easy drive of Golden, CO.
It’s easily one of the most popular state parks in the entire Denver area — and you’ll certainly understand why when you visit Chatfield State Park for yourself. Showcasing some of the most outstanding views of the Rocky Mountains and the surrounding foothills, as well as the Chatfield dam and reservoir, this stunning stretch of landscape encompasses almost 4,000 acres and is an ideal destination for water sports, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and catching some absolutely epic Colorado sunsets.
With a word for “gold” in its very name, Eldorado Canyon State Park is a must-visit for Golden denizens, and at only half an hour away, it’s an easy goal to achieve. Meander along the shore of South Boulder Creek, hike through the majestic sandstone cliffs that tower over the valley floors — or, if you’re seriously brave (and knowledgeable), try scaling them for yourself. There’s plenty to do and see in this one-of-a-kind state park!
Less than half an hour’s drive northwest from downtown Golden, Golden Gate Canyon State Park has earned its reputation as an ideal place for an epic weekend getaway — or even just a quick after-work hike on those long, sunny summer afternoons. At almost 12,000 acres and offering over 20 miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding and cyclists, this park has plenty of space to spread out… and is also home to a wide range of intriguing wildlife, including mule deer, elk, black bear, mountain lions, and even moose!
One of the newest state parks in Colorado’s register, Staunton State Park has only been open since 2013… but that doesn’t mean it isn’t well worth your time and energy to visit. Covering almost 4,000 acres near the foot of Black Mountain, this park is replete with dramatic geological formations, from rock cliffs and outcroppings to streams that cascade into waterfalls.
At more than 265,000 acres (or 415 square miles, if you prefer your measurements that way), Rocky Mountain National Park is nothing short of epic. Whether you’re hiking along one of its more than 300 miles of trails or simply driving along the scenic byway, the incredible views you’ll encounter are an experience unto themselves — and one that’ll quickly make you understand why John Denver talked about how this place made him naturally high. This national park is also home to several RV campgrounds, so it’s a great place to hang your hat for a long weekend… so long as you make your reservations up front!
You don’t have to get very far at all from Golden to enjoy some incredible footpaths just waiting to be explored — and there are options to meet every fitness and interest level. Here are some of the very best hiking trails in and around Golden, Colorado.
Tucked into White Ranch Park, Rawhide Trail and Wrangler’s Run Loop is a beginner-friendly option that runs a little more than two miles all told and sees less than 300 feet of elevation gain. So while you’ll be doing some climbing, it’s nothing too intense… and the stunning scenery will certainly keep you distracted and smiling! This trail is particularly notable for its beautiful wildflowers and is also open to leashed dogs. Great for the days you need something short and sweet!
Winding its way through some of the most beautiful parts of Mount Galbraith Park and all the way up to the mountain’s summit, Mount Galbraith Loop via Cedar Gulch Trail is only about four miles all told and sees less than 1,000 feet of elevation gain, making it a relatively easy (though certainly still sweat-breaking) way to get to some incredible vantage points. This trail is best accessed between March and November, when weather allows for easy and safe hiking, and is also open to dogs (again, so long as they’re leashed).
Located inside Genesee Park, the Chavez and Beaver Brook Loop Trail is just over five miles in length all told and sees approximately 1,100 feet in elevation gain, putting it firmly into the moderately challenging category (at least by Colorado standards, where hiking is something of a state pastime). Those who tackle it will be treated to babbling brooks, shady forests and views of the surrounding foothills. This trail is also used by ice climbers in the winter!
Climbing more than 1,500 feet over its seven mile length, Mountain Lion Trail is not for the faint of heart — as its fearsome name would suggest. (That said, you can always encounter all sorts of wildlife on any Golden-area trail, so be sure to make sure you know what to do ahead of time just in case you get up close and person!) This hike offers beautiful mountainside views and is also a great place to see the leaves change in autumn. We recommend it for intermediate to advanced adventurers.
The capstone trail of the Windy Saddle Open Space Park, Beaver Brook Trail is downright difficult — at more than 13 miles in length and 3,000+ feet of elevation gain, you’ll want to make sure you’re in shape before you take this one on. But if you are, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views as far as the eye can see, from nearby plant-punctuated foothills to the snow-capped peaks in the distance. The hike gains elevation both out and back, so proper knowledge, gear, and fitness is essential for taking it on. Don’t get in over your head!
One thing’s for certain: with all the incredible hiking and adventuring there is to do in and around Golden, you’re definitely going to work up an appetite! Here are just a few of our favorite places to eat in Golden, from Italian restaurants to Mexican eats, vegan dishes and so much more.
More than just an Indian restaurant, Sherpa House Restaurant and Culture Center is a comprehensive Nepalese experience, allowing visitors to get an authentic taste of the Himalayas in all senses of the word. Nibble on some pakoras and naan while also enjoying the preserved Himalayan culture, decor, and atmosphere that makes this place so unique and interesting.
It may have a funky name, but Xicamiti La Taqueria Bistro is widely considered one of the very best Mexican restaurants in the entire Denver metro. Along with its array of freshly-made tacos, as well as an array of breakfast delights like huevos rancheros and egg burritos, this spot is known for its delicious margaritas and one-of-a-kind birthday celebrations. We’ll just say this: if you’re averse to public embarrassment, you might want to avoid telling them it’s your special day!
Rustically elegant and offering absolutely elevated cuisine, Bella Colibri is easily one of the best Italian restaurants in Golden — and, in fact, won 2019’s Diner’s Choice award. Its menu includes both classic dishes and innovative twists on Tuscan cooking, and everything is made fresh in house with the best ingredients available. Don’t forget to save room for a cannoli!
There are enough incredible Asian restaurants in Golden that it can be hard to choose the best, particularly if you’re after sushi, Japanese, or Chinese. But if you’re in the mood for something a little different, we highly recommend Thai Gold Restaurant, which serves up the most delicious Thai fare to your level of spice preference in a friendly, inviting atmosphere. Affordable lunch specials start at just $10.99!
The kind of coffee shop you could easily lounge around in all day — and also hosting a full-service kitchen dishing up delicious breakfast and lunch options — the Windy Saddle Cafe is a well-loved local institution that’s perfect for nabbing a bite, whether you plan to sit back with your laptop and get some work done or gather and chat with your friends over brunch. This spot also offers a variety of vegetarian and vegan options for the plant-based crowd; there’s something for everyone!
Dining? Check. Discovering the great outdoors? Check. Now what?
So much more! Here are some of our tip-top options for things to do, see, and explore in Golden.
Golden offers a ton of fun things to do for kids of all ages. Here are some family-friendly activities to add to your itinerary.
Show us a kid who isn’t obsessed with trains and railways, and we’ll show you… well, a kid who will be obsessed with trains and railways once they visit the Colorado Railroad Museum. Offering visitors a unique peek into the history of this powerful and often-overlooked technology, this museum also offers rides aboard living pieces of locomotive history. All aboard!
Today, Golden is a bustling modern city… but what was life like here back in the 1800s? Visitors to the Golden History Park will get a first-hand glimpse by touring the many exhibits and restored wooden cabins that bring this area’s history to life. Better yet? Admission is FREE and the museum is open seven days a week. That’s a pretty hard deal to beat, if you ask us!
While the mountains and surrounding landscapes make it impossible to be bored in Golden during the daytime hours, the good news is — there’s still plenty to see and do at night! Here are some of our favorite after-hours diversions in Golden.
Easily the top of our list of things for couples to do in Golden, Golden Moon Speakeasy offers a one-of-a-kind date night experience where you and your sweetheart can curl up in a cozy atmosphere with romantic lighting, plush seating and delicious, hand-crafted cocktails made to your specifications. There’s also often live music so you can feel serenaded as you sip!
Chances are you’ve already enjoyed a show at — or at least visited — Denver’s famous Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre. But did you know that each summer, this remarkable venue hosts a range of movies, comedians and local bands to draw visitors in droves? Film on the Rocks has recently transformed into a drive-in due to the COVID-19 pandemic, proving that no matter what’s going on, there’s always something fun to do at Red Rocks. Enjoy!
Think you have to take out a second mortgage to get a real taste of Golden? Think again. Here are some of our favorite things to do in town on a dime or two.
Originally born William F. Cody back in 1846, Buffalo Bill was more than a man: he was a legend. Come learn all about his legacy and visit his final resting place at the Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave, where admission starts at just $5 a pop. Located inside Lookout Mountain Park, this attraction is as scenic as it is interesting!
One of the best-loved beers in the world, Coors was born right here in Golden — and you can learn all about how those golden suds are made on a Coors Brewery Tour. The 30-minute experience covers malting, brewing, packaging and more… and of course, you’ll be able to get a taste or two!
It’s true: there are plenty of things to do in Golden that don’t cost anything at all. Here are some of our favorite freebies!
A free exhibit offered by the Colorado School of Mines, the Mines Museum of Earth Science gives you the opportunity to view some incredible natural gemstones and minerals, including one of the two Goodwill moon rocks collected during the Apollo 17 mission. This 15,000 square foot exhibit offers more than 2,500 display items… and it’s totally free to visit!
More than just a museum, Foothills Art Center is a community-focused art experience, offering both exhibits and classes to get everyone who visits involved with art in a hands-on, authentic way. Interactive art classes are available for both adults and youths and open studio space is also available for established artists. Entrance is free, though classes may come at an affordable fee — check it out!
Whether you’re sore from a long hike or in need of some TLC “just because,” there are plenty of day spas and salons to help you look and feel your best in Golden. Here are our faves.
Escape is what it’s all about at Urban Escape Day Spa, where you can enjoy a wide range of spa treatments from massage in a variety of modalities, facials, nail care, and advanced aesthetic treatments like chemical peels and microneedling. Specials and packages are also available to help ensure you get the biggest bang for your buck.
You don’t have to go blonde to appreciate the work ethic and creativity that goes into the haircare at Golden Roots Salon, where a new color, ‘do or style are right around the corner. This salon also offers barbering, skin care, waxing, brow and lash services and select medical esthetics treatments like botox.
Healthy body, healthy mind. Here are the best gyms and yoga studios in Golden for those looking to get a sweat sesh going.
What if a trip to the gym felt more like play than work? At Earth Treks Golden, you’ll get the opportunity to strengthen your body by engaging your mind with a variety of fun and challenging climbing puzzles. Additional fitness classes and yoga are also offered to help you cross-train those muscles!
Yoga is, among other things, about learning how to be kind — not only to those around you, but to yourself. Kindness Yoga Golden offers a range of classes suited to yogis of all fitness and experience levels. Find yourself on the mat and take a deep breath.
While there’s no shortage of fun to be had in Golden proper, there are also some incredible nearby spots worth exploring on a day trip or weekend getaway. Here are some of our favorite options!
Known as the gateway town to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park is a charming place worth a trip all its own. Along with its many quaint eateries and shops, Estes Park is also famously home to The Stanley Hotel, which inspired Stephen King’s Overlook Hotel in The Shining — but don’t worry, this labyrinth is much easier and safer to complete.
A little more than an hour south of Golden, you’ll find yourself in an entirely different kind of Colorado City. From the Garden of the Gods to the Manitou Incline, Colorado Springs will keep you busy, active, and smiling from sunup to sundown.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Golden that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Golden? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.