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Y'ALL GET YER FIXINS
A tagline lovingly adopted by our crew after Carter took it upon himself to sip upon a Ranch Dressing flavored soda (see video below) purchased at the local Steamboat Springs candy store, Rocket Fizz. The soda was as you would expect, terrible, but our journey from North Carolina to Colorado for the Winter Wondergrass Festival was not. Katie, Jerad, and I packed in a van to bring out our crew's skis, boards, and instruments. That 20+ hour drive was filled with audio books from Cracker Barrel, a 30oz goldfish carton, karaoke sessions and way too much time driving in miserable Kansas--truly a state created for the torture of unsuspecting drivers.
Winter Wondergrass Festival
hosts 3 annual music festivals in three locations, Steamboat Springs, CO and Squaw Valley, CA and the newly added Stratton, VT. The festival pulls in top bluegrass and americana acts from around the country and the Steamboat Springs location is held at the bottom of the Ski Resort. Not only do you get to enjoy 3 days of incredible music but there are also two beer tastings events with over 20 participating craft breweries, organized "picking sessions" (hence why we brought instruments), late night shows, discounts on rental ski equipment, and the best taco food truck I've had to date, "Super Heady Tacos."
The true beauty of WinterWondergrass lies in the fact that it's a music festival held in the peak of Winter. There you will find no daisy duke and crop top wearing socialites with a priority of finding their next Instagram location. This festival attracts people passionate about bluegrass, music, and snow sports. Everyone appears to be colorful bundled up marshmallows with huge grins across their faces. Snowflakes gather atop dobros, fiddle players shred against the blizzard, and frozen fingers pick faster than you ever thought possible. If that sounds like your cup of coffee, this festival is for you.
MAKE IT MORE THAN A FESTIVAL WEEKEND
Seeing the likes of Billy Strings, Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, and the Travelin McCourys is certainly reason enough to book a weekend vacation to Colorado but I think we both know you’ll be wishing you had more time by Sunday. Which is exactly why we stretched our vacation out to a week. And if you are an Asheville local like myself, Allegiant just announced $55 direct flights to Denver, so no need to torture yourself with driving through Kansas next year. Below is what our itinerary looked like if you are planning your own trip for next year.
Day 1 - Explore Denver: Epic Brewing Co & Restaurants
Day 2 - Explore Denver: Civic Center Park, Capitol Building, Denver Art Museum
Day 3 - Drive to Steamboat Springs via pitstop in Boulder: Chautauqua Trail
Day 4 - Hit the slopes at Steamboat Springs Resort
Day 5 - Breakfast at Jonny B. Good’s Diner and explore downtown Steamboat • Friday of Winter WonderGrass Festival
Day 6 - Hot tub • Saturday of Winter WonderGrass Festival
Day 7 - Early morning skiing til 3pm • Final Day of Winter WonderGrass Festival
Day 8 - Drive back to Denver via pitstop in Breckinridge
9 PLACES YOU SHOULD TRY TO VISIT
We were lucky enough to be in town during a Degas exhibit (French artist famous for his portraits of ballerinas) but highly enjoyed exploring all areas of the museum. There's a workshop area where you can build your own art, though mine could doubtfully be called "art." A great spot to escape bad weather and maybe eat a legal edible as well.
Being from Asheville, the beer mecca of the East Coast, we weren't too inclined to check out more breweries since there was so much we wished to explore but I'm glad we visited this spot. There are 25 taps and almost always a food truck on the corner. We felt right at home.
3. Stout Street Social, Denver
Offers a huge variety of menu options and is one of few restaurants that can pull off such a variety. For instance, I went with a Spicy Tuna Roll and the kimchi fries while Katie chowed down on the Green Chile Chicken Mac & Cheese and Jerad chose the House Smoked Chicken Wings. All were quite tasty. Great spot if you've got some indecisive people in your group.
4. Civic Center Park, Denver
This park features a bizarre piano art piece and perfect battlefields for snowball fights. You can see the capitol building from here and the lovely architecture of surrounding buildings.
5. Chautauqua Trail, Boulder
Boulder reminds me of Asheville with an artsy vibe, variety of amazing restaurants and a university nearby. The Chautauqua Trail was close by and offered quick access to iconic Colorado mountains. We visited during sunset but this would be a really gorgeous sunrise spot.
Adult milkshakes. That's right, you can get chocolate wasted. The Turtle milkshake was amazing but filling, so come hungry and ready for a buzz. The boys went back here 2 days in a row while the ladies hit the slopes.
7. Strawberry Park Hot Springs, Steamboat Springs
There are amazing natural hot springs in Colorado that take more miles to get to and thus host less people but this is a great spot if you are in town for WinterWondergrass. It is $15 per adult and you must make a reservation. I recommend going early so the pools aren't muddy from too many people stirring them up throughout the day.
8. Steamboat Ski Resort, Steamboat Springs
A bit obvious but I'll include it anyways. The gondola offers really stunning views and the skiing at this resort is the best I've ever skied in Colorado and that includes Telluride. There are 6 peaks in total to ski on and around. We were lucky to have 13" of fresh snow while we visited.
9. Global Candle Gallery, Breckenridge
We drove the long way back to Denver so that we could stop in Breckenridge. I always visit this candle shop when I'm nearby. The artists create globe shaped candles with various wax art on the outside. As the wick burns down the art glows from within and you can replace with a tea candle. A great gift or memory keepsake.
If you are thinking that WinterWondergrass is the festival and vacation for you I recommend booking your lodging asap. It fills up quickly and is usually mostly full by November. We will be returning this year for even more explorations and adventures. Let me know what you think of this festival in the comments and if you think you'll go one day!