Have you ever dreamed of exploring the southwest like a true pioneer? Imagine happening upon Dolores, Colorado– a town characterized by untouched nature and classic small town touches. Located in a canyon with the beautiful Dolores River cutting along one side and rock cliffs on the other, this town is home to the McPhee Reservoir and the San Juan National Forest. An outdoor enthusiast’s dream, this small town also has best-in-class accommodations and museums. Dolores, Colorado is a true diamond in the rough!
What to Do
Go mountain biking: While it may not be easy to find an adventure base camp for the entire family in other parts of the US, Boggy Draw in the San Juan National Forest has got you covered. This camping and biking heaven is perfect for the entire family with its single track rides spanning all levels, lakes for wading and catching fish, and fields for youngsters to ride and run around in. One of the best parts of Boggy Draw is its nice gradient as opposed to the steeper alpine climbs of Telluride or Crested Butte nearby. Of course, you can still find the most experienced bikers at Boggy Draw…but they aren’t the only ones dominating the trail!
Courtesy of pbase.com
Enjoy McPhee Lake: The McPhee Lake, or reservoir, is Colorado state’s second biggest lake. With its sloping timbered shore, it is just as beautiful and interesting as it is fun. Enjoy McPhee Lake by water skiing, sailing, jet skiing, or fishing for large and small-mouth bass, blue gills, and crappies.
Experience White Water Adventure: Southwest Colorado is one of the best places to experience white water adventure. Whether you are looking for a multi-day trip (offered in lower Dolores), a mellow afternoon afloat, or an exciting class IV whitewater adventure (Stoner Stampede), it is all available at the Dolores River.
Note: The upper Dolores River runs in the spring, usually getting below boating level by late June. The lower Dolores River is dam controlled and usually had boat releases in the spring with intermittent releases occurring randomly in the summer.
Courtesy of nytimes.com
Where to Go
The Dolores River Festival in June: The Dolores River Festival is one of the most exciting and unique festivals in the US! As a celebration of the Dolores River and the ways it connects the community with the environment, the festival involves dressing in fun costumes, grabbing a boat or rafts, and spending all day afloat while listening to live bands and enjoying local vendor’s food.
At the festival you can expect a costumed river parade, live music all day on two stages, informational booths, food and beverage vendors, river contests, children/family activities, free raft rides, and camping.
Photos Courtesy of http://www.doloresriverfestival.com
What to See
The Mesa Verde National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located just about a mile outside of Dolorado, Colorado. This park is home to the largest archaeological preserve in the United States and features numerous ruins of homes and villages built by the Ancient Pueblo people, called the Anasazi. The Mesa Verde trails will take you right by the famous cliff dwellings, which are structures built within the caves, such as “Cliff Palace” thought to be the largest cliff dwelling in North America. This is something you must see!
Courtesy of elmarto.wordpress.com
The Anasazi Heritage Center: After seeing the actual ruins of the Anasazi, get a more in-depth look at the fascinating Anasazi tribes at the Anasazi Heritage Center. Noted as one of the best museums to learn about pre-European contact societies (due to the sheer quantity of archeological sites nearby), the exhibits are interactive and informative. Plus, outside the museum are two 12th century pueblos, a picnic area, hilltop view of the surrounding area, and dessert gardens.
Courtesy of jqjacobs.net
Arches National Park: Located in southern Utah, right outside of Dolores, the Arches National Park is worth the trip! Perched high above the Colorado River this extended canyon is carved and shaped by eons of weathering and erosion. The dramatic red sandstone formations are the reason for the parks name, “arches”. This is a place worth the visit as there are more arches here than in any another place in the world!
Courtesy of roadtrippers.com
Where to Eat
For your morning coffee… The Pony Expresso is a small, unassuming cafe home to delicious lattes, americanos, and mochas. Make sure to try their famous red velvet cupcake and carmalita bar! They also serve up some great breakfast burritos if you need some extra energy for hiking.
Courtesy of travel.cajunville.com
For a local lunch… The Naked Moose is a local joint known for their casual, no-frills, delicious food. Get ready for big portions and homestyle cooking as they offer everything from burgers to homemade Alfredo pasta dishes.
Courtesy of city-data.com
For the best in town… From travelers passing through to longtime residents, the Dolores River Brewery is regarded as the best in town. With local brews, a varied wine selection, and unique pizzas this is the place where you want to end your long day of outdoor fun. Plus, the brewery offers live music during the night which adds to a lively and fun atmosphere!
Courtesy of bigloopmaps.com
Where to Stay
Having gained attention from both Harper’s Bazaarand The New York Times, Dunton Hot Springs is an exclusive resort situated in an “old ghost town”. Once a bustling mining town, Dunton has been completely restored into 12 private cabins made with hand-sawed logs embodying old town charm and modern luxuries. Made up of exquisite cabins, private trails, sensuous hot springs, and a life-worn saloon serving quality cuisine, Dunton Hot Springs is a rustic escape.
Each of the twelve cabins is uniquely named and decorated to fit different tastes and groups. For example, The Well House Cabin features one bedroom, a private hot springs pool, and a fireplace. The two-level, three bedroom Tipping Cabin is ideal for families with up to six people while the 10-person Potter House features a fireplace and an ideal location between two trout ponds perfect for photo shoots and play.
Well House Cabin
Day and overnight experiences are available at the resort as well as exclusive and comprehensive packages for weddings, reunions and retreats. The entire town can be reserved for private use for up to 44 people, including the nine miles of private streams filled with trout, horseback trails with guides, and impressive hiking trails.
Indoor and outdoor hot springs provide relaxation after a long day outdoors. Soak in the restored 19th century bathhouse or take a dip outdoors is several pools and hot springs. Plus, a full spa menu is available at the exclusive spa.
Exquisite cuisine is served in Dunton’s Saloon where the chef painstakingly sources local organic foods such as tree-ripe fruit and plump vegetables from the estate’s own farm and vineyard. Wines include first growth Bordeaux, super Tuscans, and lusty Aussie favorites.
Dunton Hot Springs is one of the many jewels found in the sleepy town of Dolores, Colorado. Surrounded by natural beauty and five-star amenities, Dolores is worth a visit!
What kind of activities do you seek out when looking at southwest destinations? Are you looking for couples retreats or family gatherings?
About the Author
Elizabeth is a freelance writer/blogger for Estate Weddings and Events and current student at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Born with a great deal of wanderlust, she is always in search of unique perspectives, physical challenges, and great books. You can follow her on Google+.
With paths blanketed in pine needles and towering purple mountains constantly peeking over shoulders, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado make for a wedding location that requires very little effort. The natural surroundings provide a beauty that infects in an instant. And when a couple loves to ski and experience the great outdoors, it is only fitting to marry in such a setting. For Abby and Andrew, their September wedding was set amongst their loves in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado at Della Terra Mountain Chateau. The wedding venue provided a laid back yet elegant stage for also easy going Abby and Andrew to marry and celebrate with loved ones.
Abby and Andrew chose to have their ceremony and reception at Della Terra Mountain Chateau. The boutique inn and wedding venue perches right on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, just above Estes Park. In fact, the Fall River Entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park is just a stone’s throw away from Della Terra. The location remains naturally gifted, surrounded by a sea of pines, granite cliffs and untouched nature.
Photo courtesy of Rachel Olsen Photography
The couple chose Della Terra Mountain Chateau for their wedding venue as the site can accommodate a ceremony outdoors in a beautiful Colorado setting. With a reception site on location as well, the couple didn’t have to worry about hiring out shuttles for their guests to reach the party. The couple and their guests could cut to the chase and get on with the celebration post ceremony due to Della Terra’s ceremony and reception proximity.
Photo courtesy of Rachel Olsen Photography
Abby and Andrew officially tied the knot at Della Terra’s ceremony location, known as the Devotion Place. The outdoor ceremony area wedges in between towering pine trees and mountain backdrops. Guests could appreciate take-your-breath away views in all directions from the ceremony location. It also allowed the bride and groom to even have a few wedding crashers in the form of wild turkeys and a family of big horn sheep. Della Terra’s Devotion Place invited the couple to marry on a raised alcove, right on top of a terraced hillside. While the couple was the main attraction for the ceremony location, guests could appreciate such natural beauty as they watched their loved one’s say I do. Abby and Andrew made their ceremony even more personal by having their brother-in-law do the officiating and by keeping the ceremony décor more minimalistic. The couple let the natural surroundings do the decorating.
Photo courtesy of Rachel Olsen Photography
Once the ceremony concluded, guests could easily head to Della Terra’s indoor reception site, the appropriately named Celebration Place. Under lofty ceilings and complete with large arched windows, the space allowed the couple to toast, dine and dance all in one location while still appreciating the high altitude views and the soft Colorado lighting. Abby and Andrew had ample space to show off their dance moves to friends and family, especially for the ever-romantic first dance
Photo courtesy of Rachel Olsen Photography
The Celebration Place at Della Terra can host up to 200 guests. The space features a raised platform, dance floor, full service bar, DJ area with lighting and sound systems, live band space and a gourmet kitchen for the couple’s selected caterer.
Style and Décor
Abby and Andrew’s Colorado mountain wedding avoided what many couples tend to do. While many weddings end up standing out like a sore thumb in certain settings, Abby and Andrew were very respectful with their style and décor for the mountain setting. Their wedding attire effortlessly blended into the surrounding mountains. The bride adorned an antique-looking lace gown. The bridesmaids wore a deep purple, a hue that flowed with the rich purples present in Rocky Mountain National Park. The groom and groomsmen kept their look classic as well with full crisp suits.
Photo courtesy of Rachel Olsen Photography
The flowers also made Abby and Andrew’s wedding look right in place at Della Terra and in the Colorado High Country. The bride’s bouquet featured some greenery with snowy white blooms while the bridesmaids carried bouquets with greenery and pops of yellow sunflowers. These Colorado wildflower-like floral arrangements transitioned into the reception space where tables were adorned with similar arrangements, some in eclectic glassware and bottles. Abby and Andrew had a decidedly romantic, organic, rustic and elegant style to their wedding day. The couple executed this look by giving out homemade raspberry jam to guests, using artichokes as place holders and adding plenty of lace and burlap details.
Photo courtesy of Rachel Olsen Photography
Unique Touches and Amenities
Abby and Andrew’s big day had an overwhelming sense of family. From the brother-in-law making the ceremony official to the sister of the bride acting as the wedding planner, the pair had a great support system built right into their special day. Along with the familial assistance, the couple also appreciated Della Terra’s attention to detail. Couples who wed at Della Terra Mountain Chateau aren’t one of a few that day. The venue only hosts one wedding at a time so that couples receive an exclusive and intimate experience. For this reason, Della Terra’s staff could stay on top of everything for Abby and Andrew on their wedding day.
Della Terra also offers couples the ability to book the onsite accommodations at the inn. The venue boasts 14 luxury suites complete with see-thru fireplaces and private balconies with hot tubs. Della Terra also has mountain cabins scattered about the property for guests looking for a bit more independence and privacy.
At Della Terra Mountain Chateau, wedding photographers have a backdrop that affords stunning photographs. Rachel Olsen Photography handled the camera to capture the natural beauty of Abby and Andrew’s Colorado wedding. Rachel played on the great Colorado lighting shining down on Abby and Andrew. She snapped intimate moments with the couple wandering hand in hand through fields framed by pine trees and mountains on Della Terra’s acreage. It was also abundantly clear through Abby and Andrew’s wedding photography the intense love and emotion present throughout the wedding day.
What do you love about Abby and Andrew’s wedding at Della Terra Mountain Chateau? Share your favorite details with us in the comments below.
We would like to extend a special thanks to Rachel Olsen Photography for providing us with her stunning shots of Abby and Andrew’s wedding and her insights into their special day.
About the Author
Suzy is a freelance writer, largely penning travel and lifestyle pieces for a number of online publications including the Estate Weddings and Events blog. With a redheaded temperament she travels the globe in search of sarcasm, stories and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. You can connect with her via LinkedIn or Google+.
You’d be surprised at how much fun cooking as a family can be while on vacation.
And the best part is you’re not paying outrageous prices at restaurants plus a tip for the waiter.
Additionally, depending on the layout of a restaurant, it’s difficult to interact with your entire group.
Most luxury vacation rentals offer a large dining room, allowing for the perfect family conversation around the dinner table.
No Need to Fight the Crowds
It doesn’t matter if it’s the Quality Inn or the Ritz Carlton, hotels are filled with people.
That could mean waiting 20 minutes during check-in, a crying baby in the room next door or that annoying guy sparking a conversation with you at the free continental breakfast.
Stay at a luxury vacation rental and focus on your family and the sights — not the sightseers, business travelers or little league hockey teams.
When you go the route of a vacation rental, you’re essentially taking your home with you.
The only people that can annoy you are your children, but that’s what grounding is meant for.
Management is Easy to Reach at a Luxury Vacation Rental
If you have an issue at a hotel on a weekend or after 5 p.m. on weekdays, you’ll be lucky to speak to a manager.
Instead, you’ll have to deal with the night auditor, who can never really help you.
A perk of a luxury vacation rental is that you’re typically renting it from a family or couple who owns the home.
Before signing the rental agreement, you’ll likely have an opportunity to meet them and also help out a small business.
Many people in mountain and beach towns turn a second home into a small business.
You might just feel better helping Main Street out than a corporate hotel chain.
Owners of vacation rentals will stay out of your way, but in case of an emergency, you’ll have their direct phone number.
Where should I travel to and during what time of year?
Now that you’re convinced about making the switch from hotels to luxury vacation rentals, it’s time to decide where you want to travel.
The best places to look are your favorite vacation spots.
Do you make a family trip to Orlando and go to Disney World every year?
Maybe you take a skiing vacation out to Colorado?
Destinations you’re familiar with are a great place to start because when you stay a vacation rental, it will open a new world of opportunities.
It will be like visiting that destination for the first time.
But for those who still want something different, don’t worry.
There are plenty of options.
What are some of the top destinations?
The folks at Family Vacation Critic offered a great top 10 list, which includes destinations like Hawaii, the Florida Panhandle and Hilton Head, S.C.
“Most people think world-class golf courses and full-service tennis courts when they think of Hilton Head, but the more than 100 miles of bike paths, 12 miles of inviting white-sand beaches, parks and nature preserves that capture the island’s beauty and wildlife, along with a quaint harbor town featuring plenty of boutique-style shops and fine restaurants, make Hilton Head a popular destination for family vacationing. From boating excursions and myriads of water sports to up-close encounters with wildlife and hiking and biking, families particularly enjoy the wonder of nature and the outdoors in Hilton Head.”
Over here at Estate Weddings & Events, we also have some great vacation rentals to help you with your search.
Vermont is one of America’s most beautiful states during all times of the year.
The state features beautiful rolling farm hills and exquisite estates.
Set on 45 private acres, the estate boasts lush expansive grounds including rivers, rolling green pastures and period gardens.
The estate’s stunning hilltop gazebo is the perfect location for that morning cup of coffee as the fog disintegrates into thin air.
If you want to see Vermont at its best, travel during the fall when the bright foliage contrasts exploding reds, oranges and yellows with the crisp blue sky.
We’re not talking about our nation’s capital, rather, the gorgeous state of Washington, located in the Pacific Northeast.
Washington truly offers it all.
A large metropolitan city, magnificent mountains and wine vineyards galore.
It also offers some stunning luxury vacation rentals that guarantee to make your next vacation truly spectacular.
Check out the Lairmont Manor in Bellingham, Washington, located in the most northwestern tip of the state, on Bellingham Bay.
This 100-year-old estate, with award winning gardens, is a true beauty.
And if you want to add a little international flavor to your vacation, you’re actually quite close to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Once you’re in Bellingham, there’s plenty to do; including, visiting the many museums and art galleries, taking countless scenic drives, hiking, visiting the Big Rock Garden, whale watching and shopping.
According to Bellingham’s tourist site;
“If you can’t find it in Bellingham, it probably doesn’t exist.”
Check out everything Bellingham has to offer, here.
Come winter time everyone is dreaming about a Rocky Mountain high.
But no matter the season (although fall and winter show off Colorado at its best) there are countless mountain-getaway destinations that offer beautiful luxury vacation rentals.
“Steamboat Springs is known for its World Class skiing facilities, Steamboat Springs was originally a summer resort. Travelers in the early 1900s visited Steamboat Springs in the summer months for the natural hot springs and vast hunting and fishing opportunities. Today, summer activities span the spectrum, with three championship golf courses, an indoor-outdoor tennis center, biking, hiking, kayaking, fly fishing, and horseback riding right in town.”
If you’re looking for a fantastic ski getaway, there are countless luxury vacation rentals to choose from in beautiful Colorado.
Paying the Absolute Best Price for Your Luxury Vacation Rental
Depending where you’re traveling to and what time of year, the prices on luxury vacation rentals can become a bit steep.
Thankfully, there are some ways to avoid high costs and enjoy luxury at a great price.
Travel during the off-season
There are off-seasons for everything: Weddings, professional sports and of course — travel!
While luxury vacation rentals aren’t as common as say, a discounted dinner at Chile’s, but they are becoming more popular.
If you hope to take advantage of a flash sale, you must remember to act fast.
There’s a reason they’re called flash sales: They’re typically gone in a blink of an eye…or a flash.
While flash sales are being more utilized for luxury vacation rentals, they’re still dominated by hotels.
Follow sites like American Express’ Vente-Privee for the best flash sales for vacation rentals.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate
If you walk into anyone hotel in America today there’s next to no chance of being able to negotiate a cheaper rate.
You might be able to get a promotional rate, but straight up negotiating is never an option.
This is where the beauty of luxury vacation rentals comes into play.
Being that you’re only dealing with the owner of the home you’re staying at, there’s a much higher likelihood of being able to bring that overall price down.
There’s especially a good chance at negotiating during a destination’s off-season.
Here are some things you can say to the home owner to help bring that price down:
- “The final price is just a bit outside of my budget, is there any room to bring it down?”
- “Since we’re traveling in the off-season, there’s a chance that you wouldn’t have any business at all. Could we lower the final price to (whatever you think is fair)?”
- “Our family was really hoping to enjoy a nice vacation together, is there anything we can do to help lower the price?”
It’s important to remember that you don’t want to insult the owner.
They’ve spent a good amount of their own money to make your luxury vacation rental top-of-the-line.
If you’re too pushy with price, they may not want to deal with you at all.
Traveling With Extended Family and Friends Lowers the Price
One of the most obvious ways to lower the price is to split the cost among family members and friends.
Of course, you’re not going to have your 9-year-old daughter chip in her allowance money, but let’s say you’re traveling with aunts, uncles and cousins, you can always ask to help with the final price.
In fact, by staying at a larger vacation rental, you might be more inclined to travel with more family and friends.
If you split everything down the middle, your vacation could actually be significantly cheaper.
Plus, you get to spend time with people that you’re close to.
The bottom line is is that there’s always some wiggle room when it comes to prices on luxury vacation rentals.
Making the most out of your luxury vacation rental
Take a deep breathe.
- You’ve been convinced to finally ditch staying at hotels while on vacation
- After much vetting, you’ve decided on the perfect destination
- And you were even able to get the absolute best price.
Now it’s time for the fun part: Making the most of your vacation!
There are more ways to get the most out of your vacation than filling your itinerary with activities in your destination.
Here are 7 great ways to make the most out of your luxury vacation rental
1) Bring your puppy:
If you’re driving to your vacation rental, there’s a good chance that you can also bring your other best friend with you!
Most vacation rentals allow you to bring a pet, but check with the owner to ensure it’s ok.
Most of the time, the owner will require a little extra on the security deposit.
Save on kennel fees and truly bring the whole family with you.
2) Family game night:
The best part about a vacation is that you’re totally disconnected (or at least you should be) from the real world.
So while you can enjoy a family game night at your own home, doing it on vacation is more enjoyable because you don’t have to worry about staying up late and going to work or accomplishing a long to-do list the next morning.
3) Travel as a local:
Since you’re in a gorgeous house, mansion or estate — your luxury vacation rental — you should act like you live in your destination.
Check out sites like Open Table or Yelp to find what are the best local favorite restaurants.
4) Secure a fun rental car:
If you’re flying into the destination, let your vacation start the moment you arrive at the airport.
Rent a fun rental car for the week.
If you’re staying in a destination that has warm weather, secure a convertible or a sports car.
5) Take a class:
I’m not talking about a geometry or history class — something definitely more fun.
If you plan on utilizing the amazing kitchen in your luxury vacation rental, why not take a cooking class?
Some chefs will meet you at a local market to pick out ingredients that help you prepare the meal for the evening right in your home.
An art class on the beach also sounds nice.
6) Family portrait:
If you have the entire family together, there’s no better time to snap an updated family portrait.
Call up a photographer to meet you at your vacation rental or somewhere in the destination you’re traveling in and set up an hour or two for a photography session.
Being that the photography industry is completely digital these days, you can easily purchase prints online from most photographers.
Many destinations have a place where you can rent bikes for the day.
Biking is the best way to experience a new destination.
Are you an experienced luxury vacation rental traveler?
How do you make the most out of your vacations?
Vacations are supposed to be memorable and relaxing.
By making the leap from the hotel to the luxury vacation rental, your next vacation can be all of that and more.
We would love to hear what you think….please share in the comments below…
About the Author
Andrew is the luxury travel consultant for Estate Weddings and Events, offering readers the latest trends when it comes to high-end travel. When it comes to travel, he credits his expertise to his wife Erin, who has quite the understanding of the finer things in life. Living in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, he enjoys the fresh mountain air, Colorado craft brews and relaxing with his cat Franklin.