Thanksgiving trip to Denver, Colorado

Photo of a sunset over snowy mountains
Eunkyo Jo/Staff

Related Posts

This past Thanksgiving, I flew to Colorado to visit relatives in Aurora, a city on the outskirts of Denver. After a two-hour flight from Oakland, I claimed my baggage and stepped outside. It wasn’t cold for November in Colorado, but compared to California weather, it felt frosty yet refreshing. The cool air reminded me of winter back in Korea. 

As my aunt and I headed for dinner with her gray poodle, Coco, on my lap, it started to sleet. But the weather turned out to be cold only on the first day — every other day was sunny and warm, almost as warm as Berkeley. My aunt told me that it was unusually warmer than it normally is at this time of the year. There seemed to be less snow on the distant mountaintops than what I’ve seen on postcards, too.

Although I had visited my aunt back when I used to live in Utah, coming to Colorado felt new and welcoming after 10 years. Compared to the Bay Area, everything is so spread out. You need a car to get around, and with less light pollution comes brighter stars. On some roads, there were no street lights, and as we drove it felt like we were driving through the stars. The lack of moisture in the air led my skin and nose to constantly feel dried out. Berkeley was dry compared to Korea, but Colorado was even drier.

Throughout my five-day stay, I ate so much good food, saw a lot of pretty skies and visited a few notable landmarks. The first place I visited was the Red Rocks Amphitheatre — a grand performance venue with a great view of Denver extending beyond the stage. It was modeled after the Greek amphitheaters, boasting literal “red rocks” forming an amplifying bowl around the stage upon which some of the biggest names in music — including the Beatles, Louis Armstrong, the Eagles and Coldplay — held their concerts.

Since Colorado has a lot of breweries, I wanted to visit the Coors Brewery, but the brewery tour was closed due to COVID-19. Instead, we decided to check out the Denver Botanic Gardens, which my cousin had tickets to. In the cool November weather, there weren’t many vibrant colors outside, but indoors, we saw tropical plants such as cocoa and papaya growing. Deeper into the gardens, there was an artificial pond featuring floating lamps and a gray pyramid-shaped building, which reminded me of a toned-down combination of the Louvre Museum and the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. There were also string lights strung up around the trees, providing a storybook, magical feel. Though described as a garden, it felt more like a structured park, with the building and pond serving as the main attraction.

Photo of a botanical garden

Eunkyo Jo / Blog Staff

Afterward, we went to downtown Denver and rode around on Lime scooters. We passed by LoDo, an area known for its boutique stores, Larimer Square, a plaza packed with high-end shops and restaurants amid a sea of fairy lights and Union Station, Denver’s main train station with a picturesque European vibe. Downtown Denver was like the less busy, cleaner parts of San Francisco, with Christmas trees and decorations giving off holiday vibes.

On the last day before my flight back to California, my cousin and I went to Keystone Resort, a ski resort two hours away from Denver, where I finally checked snowboarding off my bucket list. Since there was not as much snow as usual, the padding was thin and icy, which made my countless falls much more painful. I thought I broke my tailbone when I fell trying to snowboard with my back facing forward, and halfway through the slope, I realized I chose the wrong front foot. It turns out I have “goofy feet,” which means the right foot steers in the front. I was exhausted after sliding down more than one mountain for three hours (to be fair, it was a big mountain), but I definitely want to go snowboarding again to master the basics when there is more snow.

Photo of a ski lift

Eunkyo Jo / Blog Staff

My five days in Colorado passed by quickly, and after seeing picture-perfect mountains and skies every day, it took a bit to adjust back to Berkeley’s fast pace and cityscape. It was a good Thanksgiving break — good air, good scenery and good times spent with relatives — and I look forward to visiting again in the future.

Contact Eunkyo Jo at [email protected].