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We all could use a vacation. (Or two or three.) As visions of blissful days spent far from your home-turned-office-turned-gym-turned-bar come closer to reality with the continued COVID-19 vaccine rollout, consider us your ersatz travel agent. We may not be able to book the trip for you, but we’ve got plenty of ideas on how to transport your favorite Colorado activities beyond our rectangular borders. Denver International Airport (DIA) has become a hub of nonstop flights—the airport added more than 30 new destinations in the past three years alone—which means there are plenty of places you can get to without wasting a minute of vacation time navigating additional terminals. To jump-start your planning, consider these 15 locales around the globe.
A note about COVID-19: Every city, state, and country has different restrictions, so check current local advisories before you book. As for DIA, this past fall, the airport released VeriFLY, which allows passengers to reserve a TSA screening slot and a limited-capacity train car to the gates.
Santa Barbara, California
DEN to SBA
Via: Southwest Airlines
Flight Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes
If you’ve checked off all the brewery, winery, and distillery tours around metro Denver, try wine tasting by foot in Santa Barbara, an urban winery mecca on the Pacific Ocean. Here’s how we suggest spending the day.
Wake up to the serene ocean hues of the Hideaway Santa Barbara, a quiet, intimate retreat that houses just nine guest rooms and suites. A hot breakfast and fresh cups of java from California-brewed Coastal Peaks Coffee await.
Prep your body for a day of wine tasting with a hike to Inspiration Point. From Tunnel Road, take Tunnel Trail north to Jesusita Trail for a 3.75-mile round-trip excursion past sandstone crags and scrub-filled canyons up 800 feet to panoramic views.
Refill your tank with a glass of Potek Winery’s biodynamic Demetria Grenache and (if it’s a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday) wagyu smashburgers at Third Window Brewing Co.—both located inside a restored 1904 feed mill east of downtown.
Tour Santa Barbara County’s six American Viticultural Areas —in one location—at the Valley Project. You’ll taste how the terroir of each region imparts different flavor profiles. Before you leave, snap a photo in front of the impressive chalkboard map by Los Angeles artist Elkpen.
In the same building complex, Pali Wine Co. is known for its Burgundy, France–inspired Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays; they’re best enjoyed on the patio paired with live music.
When locals want to trade their wineglasses for pint glasses, they head to Topa Topa Brewing Co. Pick up a six-pack of Weekender, a summertime-only, low-calorie, low-ABV Hazy IPA, to enjoy another time.
Hungry? Grab a quick bite at Cubaneo, which puts a California spin on Cuban eats, inside Kim’s Service Department, which also houses a brewery and a cocktail bar. After your snack, wander to Grassini Family Vineyards’ tasting room, where you can enjoy some of the region’s best Cabernet Sauvignon.
Following a little downtime at the hotel (and a quick nap, perhaps?), dinner awaits at Oku. The waterfront restaurant opened in late 2019 and serves what it calls “California Asian cuisine,” including Santa Barbara’s famous uni (sea urchin).
Pick up a five-piece truffle flight at Twenty-Four Blackbirds Chocolate. Lavender and spearmint leaves from the local farmers’ market in two of the sweets will surprise your taste buds.
DEN to MIA
Via: Southwest Airlines
Flight Time: 3 hours, 55 minutes
For: Art lovers
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If you’ve worn out your Denver Art Museum, Clyfford Still Museum, and Museum of Contemporary Art Denver membership cards, shake things up in Miami, home to one of the country’s most diverse art scenes. Check out these four can’t-miss sites.
For those seeking immersive art:
Superblue is a massive (as in, 50,000-square-foot) digital art experience that opened in April. Three shows are currently accessible during timed-entry windows. In “Between Life and Non-Life,” a three-part exhibit by global art collective teamLab, you can interact with digital water particles, see a year’s worth of flowerings in a virtual meadow, and admire “spatial calligraphy.” James Turrell’s installation plays with light and color in ways that make the viewers examine their own perceptions of the space. And world-renowned stage designer Es Devlin transformed multiple floor levels into a maze of mirrors.
For fans of mural art:
If you regularly stroll the alleys of RiNo looking for new artwork or are anticipating the next Babe Walls, the Museum of Graffiti is for you. Situated in the Wynwood neighborhood (home to the street art showcase Wynwood Walls), the venue claims to be the first museum of its kind in the world. It celebrates the history of the art form through 15 outdoor murals and various indoor exhibitions, including a display of work (through May 20) by Lady Pink, a trailblazing street artist from New York City.
For those who want a little bit of everything:
The Miami Design District encompasses some of the city’s most exciting art institutions—African- and Latin-focused Kerr Gallery and the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, among them. The area is also home to some of Miami’s top restaurants (Mandolin Aegean Bistro, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink), various design showrooms, and a dizzying array of high-end retailers (think: Fendi, Dior, and Isabel Marant). Free, socially distanced tours of the neighborhood’s art and architecture are available every other Sunday afternoon to the public.
For people who truly love contemporary art:
What started as a hobby of Don and Mera Rubell more than 50 years ago has blossomed into one of the most impressive contemporary art collections in the world. The couple amassed so many masterpieces that the Rubell Museum was forced to move to a 100,000-square-foot campus in December 2019. The 7,200-piece collection is a who’s who of globe-spanning artists across a variety of mediums, including Yoshitomo Nara, Jeff Koons, and Mickalene Thomas.
An infinity rooftop pool and out-the-door access to the beach are certainly worthy amenities, but what art lovers will really appreciate about the Betsy Hotel in South Beach are the curated photography exhibits that line the lobby, staircase, and hallway walls.
DEN to ANC
Via: Alaska Airlines (seasonal summer route)
Flight Time: 5 hours, 45 minutes
For: Getting out in the wilderness
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If you’ve already heli-skied Silverton Mountain and want to discover what other adventures are possible via chopper, sign up for one of these three airlifted excursions based in and around Anchorage.
The only expedient way to reach Katmai National Park and Preserve is by air. The scenic flight with Rust’s Flying Service (five to six hours round trip) is worth it for the chance to see Alaska brown bears in their natural habitat. July is the best time to visit because spawning salmon draw large groups of the mammals to the Brooks River. $995/person
Instead of expending energy trekking up a glacier, let Go Hike Alaska fly you to a high-alpine landing zone—the exact location depends on the weather and your experience level—where you’ll spend four hours exploring the tundra on foot. (Round-trip transportation from Anchorage to the helipad is available.) $599/person
Take dogsledding to new heights with Alaska Helicopter Tours. The fun begins once you set down on a glacier’s snowfield and start an hourlong tour during which you can mush your own sled of Iditarod dogs. As if that weren’t enough, there are puppies. (Round-trip transportation from Anchorage is available.) Summer rates starting at $569/person
The chateau-style Hotel Alyeska, about 55 minutes outside of Anchorage, is the perfect base camp for exploring the trails of the Chugach Mountains (or skiing Alyeska Resort in the winter).
Prepare for the cold with hats and scarves made from Arctic musk ox wool at Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers’ Co-operative.
DEN to OGG
Via: United Airlines
Flight Time: 7 hours, 15 minutes
For: Triathletes in training
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If you want to train for your next triathlon or other race (yes, even when you’re on vacation), there’s no better place to do so—and squeeze in some fun—than Maui, site of the 25th annual Xterra World Championship off-road triathlon (October 31).
Day 1: Run training
Running may be a stretch along Keonehe’ehe’e (Sliding Sands) Trail, but the 11-mile (out and back) hike is certain to work your legs and your lungs, even at a walking pace. Located inside Haleakalā National Park, the route takes you down through loose cinder to the floor of the Haleakalā Crater.
Day 2: Active recovery
Why just drive by the waterfalls on the famous Hana Highway when you can rappel down them? Rappel Maui offers three- to four-and-a-half-hour guided options; private tours are also available.
Day 3: Cycling training
Head upcountry and park your car at Harold W Rice Memorial Park. From there, hop on your two-wheeler and follow the Kula Highway toward Keokea. Once you reach the town, stay straight to challenge yourself on a hilly (but downsloping) path to the Ulupalakua Ranch Store & Grill. There, about nine and a half miles in, you can brake for burgers before making the return journey.
Day 4: Active recovery
Play a round of 18 on the Plantation Course in Lahaina, site of the PGA Tour’s annual Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Day 5: Swim training
Work your arm muscles in new ways by signing up for a private surf lesson with Hawaiian Paddle Sports.
Day 6: Active recovery
Squeeze in some family time by signing up for a round of FootGolf at Kā’anapali Golf Courses; as the name suggests, the nine-hole game is a combination of soccer and golf.
Day 7: Rest day
A well-deserved beach day, shave ice in hand.
Kā’anapali Beach Hotel is anxious to show off what $75 million in upgrades looks like. Come June, you can request a room in the updated south or southeast wings; both feature makamae (“precious gift”) shadowboxes made by the staff. Don’t skip a visit to Huihui. The beachfront restaurant, opening this month, is pulling double-duty as a sailing academy where you can learn a navigation technique called wayfinding.
By volunteering some of your time with Malama Hawaii, you’ll help preserve Maui by working on reforestation, ocean reef preservation, or tree planting for future visits.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
DEN to YYC
Flight Time: 2 hours, 35 minutes
For: Winter road tripping and skiing
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If bouncing between ski resorts sounds like the ideal way to spend a holiday break, pack your gear and hit the trio of mountains known as SkiBig3. (All three are on the Ikon Pass.) The best part: You can drive to each of these Canadian Rockies destinations from Calgary in less time than it takes to navigate the traffic-clogged route between Denver and Vail. Use these tips to help plan your getaway.
1. Want to relax in Calgary for a night? Make time to visit the National Music Centre, which covers more than four centuries of song in Canada, before bunking down at Alt Hotel Calgary East Village.
2. Pull over to snap a photo or two in front of the oversize letters that make up the Banff welcome sign.
3. Park Distillery, inside Banff National Park, is one of just a handful of distilleries in the world that’s located within the borders of a national park. Beyond the flawless craft cocktails, locals fawn over the impressive vegetarian food menu (there are wood-smoked meats, too, for those who aren’t plant-based).
4. Skiing isn’t the only way to pass the hours at tiny Mt. Norquay, your first SkiBig3 stop—the mountain is also home to Alberta’s longest tubing lanes. You should definitely plan on riding the North American chair to the Cliffhouse Bistro. Originally built in the 1950s, the former tearoom is now the prime spot to sip Banff Ave Brewing Co.’s made-for-the-resort Norquay ’95 Quality Time session ale.
5. On your way to the rooftop hot pools at Moose Hotel & Suites in downtown Banff, make sure to stop at Juniper Bistro for an après cocktail (or fancy confection called the Hot Chocolate Bomb) and an avocado salad with local goat cheese—and a side of panoramic forest views.
6. If ski-in, ski-out is your thing, try the Sunshine Mountain Lodge in the village of 3,358-acre Banff Sunshine, your second SkiBig3 resort. Nonskiers should sign up for a gondola-assisted snowshoe on top of Standish Mountain.
7. Your SkiBig3 final stop, Lake Louise Ski Resort, was already one of the largest ski areas in North America before it opened West Bowl this past season, adding 480 acres of intermediate to advanced terrain. The slopes are not machine-groomed, meaning there are no set runs, just broad zones for skiers and snowboarders to explore. Warm up with ramen and sushi (yes, really) at Kuma Yama near the gondola.
8. As for where to stay during the northern stretch of your trip, nothing beats the renowned Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise for its iconic views.
Sideshow Gallery in Banff sells an eclectic selection of wares made by area artisans, like polymer clay and resin earrings by Jennifer MW Ceramics and stunning landscapes from photographer Bryan Peters.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
DEN to PVR
Via: Frontier Airlines
Flight Time: 3 hours, 21 minutes
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If you just need that daily yoga class, book a stay at one of these five wellness-focused resorts in Puerto Vallarta.
Book a room at: Casa Velas
For: Your own private Wellness Suite—a two-level, king-bed room replete with an immersion pool and workout equipment. Your stay includes one massage and one hydrotherapy circuit, nutrition and fitness consultations, and a concierge.
Bonus perk: Táu Beach Club offers views of Banderas Bay and is a prime venue for a sushi lunch or sunset dinner.
Book a room at: The Westin Resort & Spa, Puerto Vallarta
For: Body treatments inspired by the region, like a green coffee or black mud body wrap. Our suggestion: Schedule an outdoor sunset massage where your Zen moment will be accompanied by tiki torches and the soothing sounds of waves.
Bonus perk: New Balance–designed custom running maps so your jog will be both scenic and productive.
Book a room at: Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa
For: Access to Puerto Vallarta’s largest spa—22,000 square feet of ahh-inducement. Among the unique treatments at the on-site Ohtli Spa is the Janzu Rebirth Therapy, during which a therapist leads you through a series of movements in warm water to cultivate a meditative state.
Bonus perk: Find your favorite tequila at Ceviche & Tequila Bar; there are more than 180 varieties, though we suggest you don’t try all of them at once.
Book a room at: El Grullo Naturista
For: Daily yoga sessions, chef-prepared vegetarian meals and fruit plates, and a wide variety of unique body-calming treatments, from hot onion compresses to steam baths, at a boutique hotel and naturopathic wellness center that’s been around for more than 70 years.
Bonus perk: The beachfront villas are bright and airy, with vaulted palapa ceilings that let the ocean breeze sweep in.
Book a room at: Xinalani
For: A private beach (about 12 miles south of PV and accessible only by boat) that sets the scene for a holistic wellness retreat. The property has six open-air yoga studios, a sweat lodge, oceanfront spa, and menus chock-full of local, organic ingredients.
Bonus perk: Sign up for a cooking class with Xinalani’s chef, a jungle hike, or a swim with dolphins.
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
DEN to GCM
Via: Cayman Airways (seasonal routes)
Flight Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes
For: Scuba diving
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If you’re one of the many scuba divers landlocked in Colorado (the state consistently ranks in the top 10 for new divers certified each year), then the Cayman Islands are already on your radar. We asked Steven P. André, general manager of the Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa on Grand Cayman, to reveal some of his favorite dive sites.
Macabuca is both a dive site and a bar/restaurant (Cracked Conch Macabuca). It’s the best night-dive site on the island. You always see great stuff, from octopus to crabs, shrimp, and eels.
Devil’s Grotto for shore diving. Expect to see abundant coral, plus tarpon, parrotfish, and barracuda, as you swim through the area’s caves and tunnels.
Eagle Ray Pass is named for the spotted eagle rays that zoom gracefully past the massive walls making up this north-side dive.
Kimpton guests can sign up to dive with André starting this fall. By then, you’ll be able to enjoy the hotel’s new lobby bar and kids’ splash pad, too.
DEN to ZRH
Via: Edelweiss Air
Flight Time: 9 hours, 45 minutes
For: Hiking and backpacking
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If you spend your long weekends in the backcountry, make the extra effort to get to Liechtenstein. The country is about two hours from Zurich via a train and a bus. It celebrated its 300th birthday in May 2019 with the opening of the 47-mile-long Liechtenstein Trail, an easy to moderate route that traverses all 11 of the country’s municipalities. Here, some highlights of the multiday trek.
No part of the trail is more than a 35-minute bus ride from Vaduz, the capital, so you can keep all of your belongings at the ritzy Park Hotel Sonnenhof or have a luggage service move it from place to place.
From the south, start with magnificent views of Gutenberg Castle. Built in the High Middle Ages, it is one of five castles that remain standing in the country.
The 13th-century village of Triesenberg is the highest in Liechtenstein and affords panoramic views of the Rhine Valley and the surrounding Alps.
Return to Vaduz and wind along Museum Mile, a strip that includes the Liechtenstein Museum of Fine Arts, the Postal Museum, and the National Museum, among other must-see venues.
Plan to unwind one afternoon at the Prince of Liechtenstein Winery in Vaduz, known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. And, yes, it is actually owned by a royal, Prince Hans-Adam II.
You’ll pass roughly 10 farm stands along the route, many of which operate on a pay-what-you-want system. Stock up on plenty of fresh fruits and veggies (such as pears, grapes, and cucumbers), llama and sheep meat, and yogurt, cheese, and milk.
It’s thought that the original Bendern church, located on “church hill,” was built in the sixth century; the current, Gothic-style venue opened in 1481.
Make sure to visit Ruggeller Riet, a 220-acre nature reserve that lights up with Siberian irises in late spring and early summer.
At Löwen restaurant in Schellenberg, order the locals’ dish: layered cheese dumplings, or Käsknöpfle.
If you choose to make your trek longer and end in Malbun, take the Sareis chairlift up Sareiserjoch mountain (elevation: approximately 6,561 feet) to celebrate your significant accomplishment.
Download the free Listory app, which details all 12 stages of the hike and shares history lessons throughout your journey; you can even take a peek inside Prince Hans-Adam’s castle—virtually, of course.
Swing by the Liechtenstein Center in Vaduz to acquire an official passport stamp for your trip.
Nassau, the Bahamas
DEN to NAS
Via: United Airlines
Flight Time: 4 hours, 15 minutes
For: Fresh seafood and beach time
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If you’ve grown tired of Rocky Mountain trout, reawaken your taste buds at the Arawak Cay, a fish-fry marketplace in Nassau, where brightly colored stands sell local delicacies. (Tip: Bring cash.) Start with these four dishes; we recommend washing them down with a Goombay Smash (a rum and fruit juice concoction) or Sky Juice (a gin- and coconut water–based tipple).
Every chef has his or her own take on this Caribbean classic—it’s like ceviche, except conch, a sea snail, is always the star. It’s often tossed together with tomato, onion, bell peppers, Bahamian goat peppers, and citrus for a bright, spicy, refreshing bite.
Find It: literally everywhere
These fresh-from-the-fryer nuggets combine sea snails, egg batter, spices, onion, green bell peppers, and tomatoes. Dip them in a blend of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise, and hot sauce.
Find It: Oh Andros
This fish is common in the crystal waters surrounding Nassau. Order a whole one blackened—you’ll unwrap its tinfoil case and be enveloped in the scent of onions and a spicy-sweet marinade.
Find It: Frankie Gone Bananas (order with a side of peas ’n’ rice, an island staple)
For dessert, dig into this spongy, spiced cake, which is wrapped around fresh guava or guava jam, steamed, and drizzled with rich rum or brandy butter.
Find It: Twin Brothers
Crested Butte–based adventure travel firm Eleven Experience came to the Caribbean four years ago with the opening of Bahama House on Harbour Island (reachable with a 90- to 120-minute boat ride from Nassau). The converted lodge offers 11 rooms, a freshwater pool, an outdoor tiki bar, and beach access.
San José, Costa Rica
DEN to SJO
Via: United Airlines
Flight Time: 5 hours, 10 minutes
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If searching for rare birds is your favorite after-work activity, pack your binoculars for this Central American country, home to more than 900 species of birds. How many can you cross off this checklist?
- Great-tailed grackle (Tip: They like to fly around near the airport.)
- Clay-colored thrush (the national bird)
- Hoffmann’s woodpecker
- Blue-vented hummingbird
- White-tailed kite
- Ferruginous pygmy-owl
- Resplendent quetzal (Tip: Find them in their namesake green space, Los Quetzales National Park, about one and a half hours southeast of the capital city.)
The Gran Hotel Costa Rica is located on a historical site—and affords easily walkable access to the boutiques and eateries of San José.
Don’t miss these new(ish) short-haul destinations.
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Provo, Utah | Allegiant Air
While You’re There: Of all the cascades in Provo Canyon, Bridal Veil Falls has been named one of the state’s best for its dramatic topography and easy access.
San Luis Obispo, California | United Airlines
While You’re There: Forage for seaweed along the Central Coast during a private tour with Marley Family Seaweeds, and then enjoy your harvest in a bowl of ramen.
Bozeman, Montana | Frontier Airlines
While You’re There: Unwind after a day of adventure with a cocktail at Sky Shed, the rooftop bar at the nine-month-old Kimpton Armory Hotel downtown.
Flagstaff, Arizona | United Airlines
While You’re There: Gaze at the stars from Buffalo Park or the Lowell Observatory. Flagstaff was the first town in the world to be named an International Dark Sky Community.
Chicago, Illinois (O’Hare International Airport) | Southwest Airlines
While You’re There: See an art exhibit or musical act at the Epiphany Center for the Arts; the former church, built in 1885, transformed into a cultural venue last year.