San Francisco to Denver Road Trip | Day 9: Boulder & Denver, CO

In May 2014 we drove 1,950 miles through 6 different states (California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado). We went to 5 national parks/landmarks, went to 4 museums, took 2 factory tours, rode a train through the Rockies, went on a boat cruise of Lake Tahoe, took a walking tour of San Fran, hiked the tallest peak in Salt Lake City, saw real dinosaur bones in Colorado, survived the highest altitude we’ve ever been at (11K feet), ate countless memorable meals, and had one Guy Fieri sighting. Check out our route:

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Day 9, the final day of our road trip, began with a quick breakfast at our hotel and then hitting the road for Boulder, Colorado (45 minutes north of Denver). The first stop of the day was one I had been excited for since we started planning the trip – the Celestial Seasonings Factory Tour!

You know I’m a tea nut (never been a coffee fan) so I was stoked. I already knew it was going to be great but the idyllic surrounds and amazing address (Sleepytime Drive!) confirmed all of my hopes and dreams as we pulled up to the factory.

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We headed for the Factory Building to get on the first tour of the day. We got our tickets which also came with a tea cup, and were told to try all of the free samples we wanted. There were four hot teas and two iced teas out for sampling. My favorite was the Vanilla Sleepytime hot tea (which we bought like 3 boxes of).

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Tea sampling overload!!

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The whole building was lovely with tons of informational displays about the Celestial Seasonings company and the tea making process.

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We learned a lot about how the company has evolved over the years and where the tea ingredients are sourced from (basically all over the world).

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The lobby also contained the original tea box artwork which I loved! The images perfectly capture the spirit of the tea, the flavors, and the whimsy of the ingredient combinations.

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We couldn’t take pictures on the tour (sad panda) but here is a silly selfie of us in hair nets pre-tour and John as the Sleepytime Bear.

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You’re not allowed to take pictures inside the factory and it wasn’t running on Saturday – two bummers – but still, the way the equipment was explained really gave a sense of how it all operates and comes together on production day. The warehouse was my favorite: piled high with all kinds of ingredients – chamomile, hibiscus, ginger, cinnamon, fennel, lemongrass, etc! Every 2 feet there is a different scent – it was truly my heaven. All of the mint ingredients (peppermint, spearmint) were kept in a separate location called the Mint Room, which we were allowed in to take a whiff. Mint is very potent and very absorbent so they have to keep it in its own locked down room. The Mint Room was amazing, my favorite part of the tour. I think you either love or hate it, and I loved it. I went back in 3 times just to smell all of the minty goodness!

When the tour was over we headed to the Tea Shop to stock up!

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Yeah, we spent $100 on tea and souvenirs. No shame. Shameful was the extra carry on bag situation we had to finagle to get all of the dang tea home with us.

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After our thrilling tour we headed back to Denver for some lunch at The Kitchen.

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The Kitchen is located in a beautiful space – very modern-industrial-cool. I loved everything about the aesthetic – from the pendant lighting to the exposed brick to the tea towels to the rustic seating. Everything was elegant but laid back. Our lunch was yummy too – I had the beets and the pulled pork sandwich.

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Full and ready to be back on our feet, we took a few hours to walk around and do some shopping downtown.

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One of the best places we went to was the Old Map Gallery. John found two old maps of Boston (awesomely showing the progression of landfills throughout the city) that he just had to have. It took a few weeks for them to ship but that picture on the far right is on the day they arrived at our house!

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During the afternoon we headed over to Hammond’s Candy Factory for a tour.

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Family owned and operated since the 1920s, Hammond’s specializes in all kinds of candy but is world famous for their candy canes. Candy canes were the only thing in production on the day of our tour and we got an up close and personal look at how they are made.

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We also checked out where the packaging happens. This room was enormous! On the way out we were given a free sample of their classic marshmallow candy. The tour was quick and pretty average but it was still a cool activity.

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We headed back to downtown Denver and did some more walking around near our hotel. The Horseshoe Craft and Flea Market was happening just around the corner so we checked that out for a bit.

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We headed back to the hotel to veg for a bit and then got ready for dinner. The restaurant we planned to go to was in The Source building in Denver’s River North District. It’s a former 1880’s foundry building converted now into a collective including a bakery, juice bar, brewery, shops, and restaurants. This space was ridiculously cool.

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Inside The Source, we had dinner at Acorn – hands down the best food we ate on the trip. Our first course – grilled eggplant and egg and bacon salad – was exquisite, beautifully prepared, and delicious. John got the meatballs and polenta which were very good too. For my main course I had asked the waiter if there was an off-menu vegetarian offering and he said there was: grilled vegetables and potato gnocchi. I ordered that and it was amazing. The gnocchi was light and buttery and the vegetables (tomato, asparagus, carrot) were cooked perfectly. Such a high note to end our trip on!

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The next morning we flew home to Boston feeling sad that the trip was over, but definitely ready to get home (I always forget how long 10 days is away from the comforts of home). The whole flight back we plotted and mused about what kind of road trip 2015 will hold. Until then!

That’s a wrap on our 2014 San Francisco to Denver Road Trip – thank you for reading!

Author: Domestocrat

I'm a lady who enjoys photography, football, cooking, long drives with the windows down, This American Life, kettlecorn, hot yoga, pop punk, my nephews, my cat Reggie, and my home: Boston.

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