by Wendy Lemlin
I won’t lie; Grand Junction, CO was not foremost on my getaway destination radar when my longtime friend suggested it for our annual exploit. After spending three activity-packed days there, however, my only regret was that we hadn’t planned to stay longer.
Grand Junction has an easygoing charm, with a walkable historic downtown filled with locally owned shops, cafes, and art galleries. After checking into our very hip and stylish rooms at the SpringHill Suites, we set out on foot to grab a late lunch at Cafe Sol, attracted by its extensive menu of salads made from locally sourced ingredients. Duly fortified, we spent the afternoon indulging in some heavy-duty retail therapy and admiring the original sculptures scattered throughout downtown, courtesy of a public arts program called “Art on the Corner”.
Grand Junction and the surrounding Grand Valley is known as Colorado’s Wine Country (who knew Colorado even had a wine country?), and of the 20 wineries located in Grand Valley, we managed to hit five of them on our own wine tasting tour the next morning. Lest you think we were slacking, we also visited Peach Street Distillers and sampled their vodka, gin, whiskey, rum and tequila.
In high “spirits”, we spent the afternoon engaging in some agritourism, filling up at farm
stands on the luscious peaches and cherries for which the valley is famous, inhaling the aromas of 50 different varieties of lavender at Sage Creations Organic Lavender Farm while sipping iced lavender tea and sampling exquisite lavender ice cream, and falling in love with the denizens of Suncrest Orchard Alpacas. With their big, long-lashed eyes, fluffy topknots and sweet faces, if there’s a cuter herd animal than an alpaca, I can’t imagine what it is.
At dinner we totally calorie splurged on house made pastas and desserts at Il Bistro Italiano. If you’ve ever wondered what heaven tastes like, try a big bite of their Chocolate Cherry Almond Tart.
Our last day was spent working off the excesses of the previous one. Lacing up our hiking boots, we sought out the trails that wound through the natural splendor of nearby Colorado National Monument. Covering 20,000 acres and incorporating 11 canyons, the Monument’s beautiful red sandstone rock formations of “hoodoos”, monoliths, arched “windows”, and spires are as impressive as any seen at the Grand Canyon and other National Parks. Because the Monument doesn’t receive the amount of visitation a national park would, we were able revel in its beauty and silence. In fact Colorado National Monument has been touted by both Outside Magazine and USA Today as one of the top 10 places in the US to find solitude.
After our hike and in need of some cooling off, we headed over to a spot on the iconic Colorado River where we met up with Rondo Buecheler of Rapid Creek Cycle & Sports, who spent the next two hours teaching us to stand-up paddleboard. We felt wildly triumphant when we finally mastered the technique well enough to travel a couple of miles down the river on our boards, whooping and hollering as we ran some small rapids.
Our final night’s dinner was at the excellent Bin 707 Food Bar in downtown Grand Junction. Serving inventive American seasonal cuisine highlighting regional products, the easy-casual atmosphere of the restaurant combined with the sophistication of the menu made it a standout dining experience.
So, whether your goal is to amass memories of wild times to laugh over for years to come, or to experience some tranquil rejuvenation and easy camaraderie with which to strengthen lifetime bonds, there’s nothing like discovering a new place with a long time friend–and Grand Junction is a “grand” destination in which to do so.
If You Go
Palisade Peach Festival August 12-15, 2015
47th Annual Peach Festival celebrating the peaches and other produce for which the Grand Valley is known. Activities include ice cream social and dance, farm tours, cooking demonstrations and contests, parade, kids activities, and Feast in the Fields, an elegant 4-course meal featuring Palisade peaches and produce, paired with Palisade wines, and served in an orchard setting.
236 Main Street, Grand Junction, CO
970-424-5777 Rates:$139 up
3555 E Road, Palisade, CO
3608 E 1/4 Road, Palisade, CO
1750 Rim Rock Drive
Fruita, CO 81521-0001
Rapid Creek Cycles & Sports
237 S. Main Street, Pallisade, CO
Dine & Drink
420 Main Street, Grand Junction, CO
785 Elberta Ave., Palisade, CO
144 South Kluge Ave., Palisade, CO
400 Main St., Grand Junction (downtown)
225 N. 5th St., Grand Junction CO