5 Colorado experiences to finish out summer strong

One minute, it’s the last week of May and you’ve got the whole summer stretched out lazily in front of you. But, in what feels like the blink of an eye, August swoops in and reminds you that summer is, in fact, already winding down. Whoa.

Summer in Colorado goes by in a flash: It’s a whirlwind of al fresco dining, wildflower hikes, standup paddleboarding with your dog, swimming, gardening, camping and road trips, especially after a year spent mostly at home during the pandemic.

Maybe you’re happy to welcome fall’s cooler temperatures and slightly slower pace. Maybe you’ve got mixed feelings. But if you’re trying to wring every last drop of fun out of your post-vax summer, you’ve still got time. Here are a few experiences to help you end this summer on a high note.

Ride & Dine

  • Upcoming dates: Aug. 24
  • Cost: $300
  • More info: thelittlenell.com or 970-920-6365

If you’re the type of cyclist who needs a little carrot dangling in front of you for motivation, sign up for The Little Nell’s Ride & Dine dinner series, which includes a bike ride, followed by entertainment and a gourmet meal. You’ll depart from Gondola Plaza at the base of Aspen Mountain on your bike, then ride a little more than 16 miles (mostly downhill) on the Rio Grande Trail.

Final destination? Mad Dog Ranch and Studios, the former Snowmass guest house and private recording studio of Jimmy Buffet and, later, his friend Glenn Frey. Today, Mad Dog plays hosts to events, small wedding parties and creative retreats. There are two state-of-the-art recording studios on the grounds, managed by Marc Meeker, a recording engineer who’s worked with Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, Jimmy Buffett and other big names.

Roll up on your bike and grab a glass of champagne, then take a tour of the property and listen to local Roaring Fork Valley artists perform a few songs in the intimate studios. Tuck into a re-energizing al fresco dinner on the deck prepared by The Nell’s expert chefs (paired with wine from the hotel’s 20,000-bottle cellar, if you choose). And don’t worry about eating and drinking too much: Valets will cart your bike and give you a ride back to Aspen.

If something a bit more stationary is up your alley, The Nell is also hosting regular blind wine tastings at its new Wine Bar. Test your sommelier skills by smelling, sipping and analyzing four different wines — and taking a guess at what each one is.

Ales & Astronomy

  • Upcoming dates: Aug. 13 and Sept. 3
  • Cost: $10
  • More info: coppercolorado.com or 970-968-2318

Sure, drinking beer in a brewery is great, but have you ever sipped a beer while contemplating the universe and our very existence? You can do just that at Copper Mountain’s Ales & Astronomy series, which offers a beer-filled evening of stargazing led by local astronomers “Astro Mark” Laurin and “Jupiter Jill” Abrell.

You’ll learn about phenomena like the Perseid meteor shower and deep-sky objects like nebulae and star clusters, all while enjoying a picnic basket of cold brews from 10 Barrel. Laurin and Abrell also will fill you in on zodiac constellations, the mythology behind celestial objects and other astronomical tidbits. You can bring your own telescope if you’ve got one, or use the provided telescope and astronomical binoculars for a closer look.

Stargazing past your bedtime? Copper is also offering mountain-inspired mixology classes with foraged ingredients and four-course beer pairing dinners through the end of the summer and into early fall.

The Devil’s Tail BBQ Special Train Ride

  • Upcoming dates: Aug. 20, Sept. 3 and Sept. 10
  • Cost: $65 for adults, $45 for kids
  • More info: leadville-train.com or 719-486-3936

Climb aboard the Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad for a scenic — and mouthwatering — journey along the old Denver, South Park & Pacific and Colorado & Southern rail lines to the Continental Divide. While taking in the panoramic views of the Arkansas River Valley on this special dinner train ride, you’ll get to enjoy brisket, pulled pork, bratwurst and other barbecue that’s been expertly smoked by Del Anderson, a Colorado-based competitive barbecuer.

You’ll also learn a thing or two about Leadville’s mining and railroading past (and, if you’re lucky, hear a few ghost stories!) throughout the 2 1/2 hour journey through San Isabel National Forest. Keep your camera at the ready to snap photos of Mount Massive and Mount Elbert at sunset.

You also can catch the last wildflower train trip on Aug. 7, or start planning for a leaf-peeping train excursion in the fall.

Movies Under the Stars

  • Upcoming dates: Aug. 7, Aug. 14, Aug. 21 and Aug. 28
  • Cost: Free
  • More info: thecollectivesnowmass.com

Grab a blanket and a chair, then head to Snowmass to catch a movie under the stars. With the grassy ski slopes rising above you from Snowmass Base Village, you can enjoy free, family-friendly flicks like “Happy Feet,” “The Incredibles,” “Free Willy” and “Phthalo Blue.” Pack a picnic dinner or grab snacks and drinks from base village restaurants.

Snowmass also is hosting tons of other free events and experiences through the end of summer, including guided naturalist hikes, scavenger hunts, outdoor concerts, artisan markets and more.

Arkansas River Dinner Float

  • Upcoming dates: Daily through Aug. 18
  • Cost: $70
  • More info: inaraft.com or 719-395-2112

Dinner and a movie? Snooze. How about dinner and an adventurous float over Class 1 and 2 rapids on the Arkansas River? Ah, much more exciting. With Wilderness Aware Rafting in Buena Vista, you can take advantage of the last vestiges of the summer rafting season with a fun dinner pairing.

Their 3.5-mile dinner float trip — which offers views of the towering Sawatch Mountains and the region’s verdant ranchlands — takes 30 minutes to an hour (depending on how fast the river is flowing) and ends on the private beach of Fisherman’s Bridge. From there, you’ll head to The Browns Canyon Riverside Grill for al fresco beer, cocktails, tacos, quesadilla, elk brats and more while the sun sets.

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