When the calendar flips to December its Christmas time in our minds! We are not the type of people to put our decorations up immediately after Thanksgiving or Halloween, we’re not that eager. But to celebrate the start of the season we decided, at the last minute, to attend an event that neither us ever had. Zoo Lights turns the Denver Zoo into a gaudy, over the top, light display put together by professionals and not Clark Griswold. So on opening night of Zoo Lights, after a nice dinner out, we joined the giant crowd making its way to the Zoo. Parking was in short supply when we arrived, so we were forced to park at the Museum of Nature and Science and trudge in the dark over to the zoo entrance. Once we made it through the quick moving line at the entrance, the first obligatory stop of course was the restrooms. While Cameron waited for Corrie, he spotted the first wild animal of the evening while standing beside the unoccupied porcupine and mongoose exhibit, a mouse!
We were expecting the zoo’s residents to be a larger part of the show at Zoo Lights, but the zoo was kept dark and most of the animals were in their overnight enclosures. We did manage to see some lions copulating in the faint light; we could see and smell the water buffalo, and the giraffe and elephant houses were well lit and open for visitors. There are plenty of concession stands selling adult beverages and hot chocolate for the kiddos if you have them. We did not indulge and chose to wander through the zoo enjoying the lights. The light displays are everywhere, and they will wow the kids and got us in the Christmas spirit. In fact, the next day we put up our first tree together after we attended a Christmas tree cutting party that some of Corrie’s family friends put on every year. It was a supremely festive weekend to kick off the holiday season!
With the Christmas season officially underway, we decided to expand on our resolution and attend a second event neither of us had ever sampled before. When Corrie was researching December events in Colorado, The Georgetown Christmas Market caught her eye and sounded like a fun way to revel in the season. We pictured snow falling in the mountain valley, chestnuts roasting on open fires, sleigh rides, carolers, and Santa. What better way to celebrate the season! We also thought, since the holiday season is about celebrating with friends and family, it would make a great place to spend some time with the family. So Corrie invited her sister’s family to make the trek with us. On the second Saturday in December, we met at their house to begin the trip. Having joined us on our trip to the Wild Animal Sanctuary back in February, we knew to let Corrie’s brother-in-law lead our caravan this time so there would be no question about directions and we wouldn’t end up arguing about it on a highway on-ramp again.
It was not particularly Christmassy (or even wintery) that day, with temps in the 60’s in Denver and a sunny cloudless sky, but we were off to find some holiday spirit and experience something new. We arrived in Georgetown to find the same lack of winter that Denver was experiencing. No snow and the sun was shining bright. As we were approaching town we saw a few BRAVE souls ice-fishing on Georgetown Lake and we each commented that with all the nice weather the ice looked dangerously thin to us.
Driving into the historic mining town, in a long procession of cars, it began to look like there would be nowhere to park. If you’ve never been to Georgetown, it’s not big. It sits just off the highway and is home to only about 1,000 residents. So having a festival that attracts folks from the Front Range can make things a little tight. On top of that, the town blocks off several streets to accommodate the market festivities, giving even less room for traffic. Corrie kept pointing out parking spots along the narrow streets as we followed brother-in-law back out of town away from the market, but Cameron, being the stand-up guy he is, refused to “leave his wingman.” That is until we had passed too many empty spots for him to ignore Corrie’s entreaties any longer (she can be pretty obnoxious).
After parking, we waited for Sister, Brother-in-law and Kids (who had parked several blocks further) outside the Georgetown Heritage Center. The center was offering free tours to all that passed by and Cameron quickly told Corrie that we were not going to do that. Such a party pooper. We were really just looking to enjoy the Christmas season anyway, so we continued into town to join the festivities. What we found when we reached the market was slightly disappointing – no carolers, no Santa, very few decorations and a huge crowd of people all looking lost. The outdoor portion of the market that was set up in Strousse Park was particularly full of out-of-towners and that seemed to be where most everything was centered. There were a few independent craft makers and concessions offering typical holiday fair of hot chocolate, candies and snacks. One thing that Corrie was most excited for was to try a roasted chestnut. Neither of had ever had one and felt like maybe we were missing something special. After all the iconic song couldn’t be wrong! So standing in the middle of the market, it didn’t take us long to spot the Chestnut Roaster. Corrie excitedly bought a bag (while making a donation to the Food Bank) and the four us each tried one. That is where the excitement and wonderment stopped. As we each popped the nutty treat into our mouths and started to chew a slow look of “what the f*!k” passed across each of our faces. DISGUSTING. They were rubbery, flavorless and dry. For a moment, Corrie thought she wasn’t going to be able to swallow it until she swiped a sip of her nephew’s hot chocolate to wash it down. One of us chose a different tactic and instead and spit it out on the ground in the middle of the large crowd of people. We won’t name names, but we’ll take your guesses (hint: it wasn’t one of the kids). Maybe it’s an acquired taste? Or maybe if you’re hungry enough, it doesn’t matter? But we all checked that off our collective bucket lists with a firm resolution to not eat one again
After our “snack” we strolled off down 6th street to do some shopping. All the stores were packed with wall to wall people, so just browsing was a challenge. But we did manage to pick out a couple of ornaments to add to our tree and commemorate our first Christmas spent together, as well as a few little gifts for Corrie’s niece and nephew.
We had eaten a late breakfast that morning, it was a Saturday after all, but Sister and Brother-in-law hadn’t eaten yet, so the men went off to see if they could get a table at any of the crowded restaurants. Lucha Cantina looked appealing since we are all big fans of Mexican food, but with so many people all thinking the same thing the wait was going to be an hour and fifteen minutes. Realizing that anywhere we went was likely going to be the same, our name went on the list. Since we had time to kill the women did some more shopping with the kids and the men headed off to find a beer. Being that we are in Colorado, and no respectable town in Colorado is without a microbrewery, they were able to quickly find a spot to quench their thirst. Guanella Pass Brewing certainly fits the description of a microbrewery, just a tiny little hole-in-wall building right up the street from the “market.” The beer was nice and cold, and the patio was a comfortable spot to hang out while waiting for our table to be ready at the cantina.
After wrapping up some more shopping, Corrie, Sister and the kids joined up with the men (or is it boys) at the brewery and had just enough time to steal a couple sips of beer before our table was ready. When the call finally came, we gathered up the kids and hustled over to the restaurant so we wouldn’t be skipped – panic was starting to set in as now the kids were starting to get hungry too. The food, drinks, and ambience at Lucha Cantina were all great, even if the ceiling was a little low for 6’3” Cameron. After lunch we were all relaxed and decided to wander the streets again. Next to the restaurant was a Christmas-themed shop that had a man in a top hat policing a one in-one out line of people. We assumed this was where Santa was hiding and we jumped in line to give the kids the opportunity to sit on his lap. That’s when Cameron, in casual conversation with Brother-in-law made a comment about the prospect of ski traffic on the way home. Brother-in-law, who was less thrilled with the market than the rest of us, quickly jumped on it as a reason to leave… now. Corrie’s nephew was also in the midst of an intense food coma and was laying dead weight in his mother’s arms. We then found out that Santa was not actually in the shop we were standing in line for. Facing the prospect of carrying her sleeping two-year-old around town, and not having much else to see, Sister and her family decided to call it a day and headed back towards home, hopefully beating the ski traffic (there was none).
We stuck around a bit longer to do some more window shopping and since Corrie was still super curious why there was a long line outside of the one store (had to be something pretty spectacular, right??), Cameron indulged her and stood in line until it was their turn. Turns out, that was a big fat waste of time. There was nothing special about the store except the posted door man. They had the usual assortment of nick knacks and Christmas stuff, but it appears people are drawn to lines like moths to flames, even us on occasion. When we came out of the store the choir had finally started, so we paused briefly to listen snap a couple quick photos. By that time the sun was starting to set and it was time for us to head home (still no ski traffic).
We had fun, and it was great to spend the day with some of Corrie’s family, but we probably could have just as much fun closer to home. As Brother-in-law put it, “we drove to Georgetown to have lunch.” Which is basically true. But we love to get out and try new things. You never know when you’re going to find a gem if you don’t try new things. That’s what our resolution is all about. They aren’t all going to be winners, but we always try to make them fun. And it beats just sitting at home or doing the same stuff over and over again. Each destination offers something good if you take the time to look for it. And we always do have fun together and enjoy sharing our destinations with family or friends when the opportunity presents itself.
We can’t wait to see what destinations and adventures await us in the new year. 2017 was grand, but we have a feeling 2018 is going to be even better!
Destination Rating: 2.0 out of 5.0
What We Learned
- DO: Eat at Lucha Cantina, the food, drinks and service were excellent even on a BUSY day.
- DO: Bring kids to Zoo Lights, they’re everywhere and you can add to the herd.
- DO: Visit Guanella Pass Brewing if you’re spending time in the historic part of Georgetown.
- DON’T: Expect to see many animals at Zoo Lights, they’re all in their night time enclosures.
- DON’T: Expect much scenery on the wagon rides at the Christmas Market, the ride is around a couple blocks in town.