My mom is my favorite travel partner, something I discovered when I was 8 years old and we skipped a second day at Disney in favor of eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on a beach and bobbing in the ocean.
Now that I’m an adult, our travel preferences and idiosyncrasies remain largely in sync — with the exception being that I prefer an Arctic blast in a hotel room and she’s comfortable in temps more suitable for a reptile terrarium (love you, Mom).
Since my mom’s birthday is just a few weeks before Mother’s Day, I’ve gotten creative with gift-giving over the years by embracing experiences over things by the time May rolls around. As it turns out, this experiential approach to gifting is scientifically sound: Research in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that recipients get more enduring satisfaction from experiences than material things.
When it comes to shared experiences, my mom and I are lazy river and hot tub people, Chatfield Reservoir paddleboarders and Chautauqua Park hikers. We like vacation itineraries that aren’t overly scheduled, but include an activity or tour; eating grocery store sub sandwiches or to-go tacos on a bench with a view; happy hour margaritas; and a “you order this, and I’ll get that and we can share” approach to dinners.
Whichever activities you and mom bond over, there’s a vacation to suit you in Colorado, surrounding states or a direct flight away. Here are some ideas to inspire plans for future mother-daughter getaways.
For national park lovers: Mesa Verde
This year, Mom and I are taking a mid-October excursion to Mesa Verde National Park, home to some spectacular ancestral Pueblo cliffside ruins. On the morning of Oct. 14, an annular eclipse will clip the southwestern edge of Colorado, and Mesa Verde is smack dab in the middle of the path, which I’m betting will make for magical eclipse viewing. Because the moon covers all but the outer edge of the sun during this type of eclipse, it should appear as though there’s a “ring of fire” in the sky for a glorious few minutes.
Can’t make it to Mesa Verde for this rare astronomical event? You can still enjoy the park after dark by stargazing at Morefield Campground and Far View Lodge, which sometimes host ranger-led evening programs.
For the annular eclipse weekend, hotel reservations will likely get snapped up fast. I booked my mom and I a weekend stay at Mesa Verde Motel, a cute renovated roadside motel that has a mid-century-meets-Wild West theme. nps.gov/meve
For hot springs lovers: Glenwood Springs
There are hot tubs, and then there are Mother Nature’s hot tubs. Heated by the earth’s core and bubbling up around Colorado, our state has a nice selection of hot springs towns and resorts. For a relaxing trip centered on soaking, head to Glenwood Springs.
Iron Mountain Hot Springs has soaking pools alongside the Colorado River, including an “experience pool” that features a rotating mineral blend to imitate hot springs from around the world, like the silica-rich waters of Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon. On June 1, the resort is set to open a 21-and-up Up River section with a waterfall feature, café and 10 new pebble-bottom pools that are filled with mineral formulas from France, Japan, Turkey, Bali, Italy, New Zealand and beyond. With the expansion, Iron Mountain will offer 32 pools.
Book a stay at Hotel Colorado, a historic building that recently went through a renovation and whose guest book of yesteryear includes The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft. The hotel neighbors Glenwood Hot Springs Resort, which is the world’s largest mineral hot springs pool. Iron Mountain Hot Springs, ironmountainhotsprings.com; Glenwood Hot Springs Resort, hotspringspool.com
For wine lovers: Paso Robles, Calif.
You know about Napa and perhaps you’ve visited Palisade to sample Colorado’s vino. But have you heard (through the grapevine, of course) yet about Paso Robles, a central California coast wine region with 11 sub AVAs and a climate that’s similar to the Mediterranean? In Paso, there’s a glass of grapes for every palate, from albariño to zinfandel, and this prolific wine region is a non-stop flight away. (United flies a route between Denver and San Luis Obsipo.)
Slumber near the vineyards at Justin Winery’s Just Inn. Go wine tasting in Tin City, which is its own little wine country in an industrial complex where you can sip sustainable rosé at Hubba Wines and try skin-contact orange wine aptly called Tang at Field Recordings. Then you can grab a scoop of sheep’s milk ice cream at Negranti Creamery.
At Epoch, enjoy a glass of rhône, tempranillo or zinfandel, all of which are grown on a trio of estate vineyards. Epoch also has a pretty tasting room in a historic building, which was brought back to life, keeping the original redwood beams and bricks that were fired on the property in the early 1900s.
To break up the wine itinerary, visit the solar-powered super bloom that is Light at Sensorio. Artist Bruce Munro installed 100,000 stemmed spheres lit by fiber optics on a hillside. The Light Towers are made up of more than 17,000 wine bottles. pasowine.com
For a nature escape: Sundance Mountain Resort in Sundance, Utah
Sundance is well-known for skiing and its eponymous film festival. But this Utah resort is an idyllic place to spend a weekend in the summer and fall months, too, with peaceful cabins next to a babbling creek, a tucked-away spa with seasonal treatments and chairlifts that can deliver you to high-elevation hiking trailheads. The 3-mile Stewart Falls trek is a favorite; it comes with a view of a two-tier, 200-foot-tall waterfall.
Sundance feels less like a ski resort in the off-season and more like a luxurious summer camp where mother-daughter duos can enjoy art classes in a studio, mountaintop yoga and lift-serviced mountain biking trails. Enjoy dishes like bison ribeye, steelhead trout and seasonal salads in the Tree Room, which is built around a real tree and outfitted with items from Robert Redford’s personal art collection. Then, retreat to the rustic Owl Bar to listen to live music. Sundance Resort is about an hour from Salt Lake City International Airport. sundanceresort.com
For an international tour: Trafalgar
Want to take an epic international trip with mom, but feel like leaving the planning to the experts? Trafalgar, a travel company with curated itineraries, launched women’s-only trips that are geared toward solo travelers, girlfriend groups and mothers and daughters.
Currently, there are eight international women’s-only trip itineraries to choose from, including a nine-day Egypt tour with a cruise along the Nile River and a two-week Scandinavian tour of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The Italian itinerary includes stays along the Amalfi Coast, tours of well-preserved ruins in Pompeii, canal cruises in Venice and more. trafalgar.com
For a beach vacation: Coronado Island, Calif.
Across the bay from downtown San Diego is Coronado Island, a beachy escape best reached by ferry and best explored via a beach cruiser. The last time my mom and I were there, we leisurely meandered along Orange Street, grabbing beach reads, pastries, coffee and looking at real estate listing posters to fuel our “let’s move here!” fantasies. It’s hard not to get carried away in Coronado: The beaches literally sparkle thanks to mica in the sand.
Stay close to the water at Coronado’s grand dame, Hotel del Coronado, a Victorian-style, red-roofed hotel that evokes a fun-in-the-sun vibe. Fine-art photographer Gray Malin, who is known for his transportive aerial beach photos, recently partnered with the hotel to create an oceanfront suite. It’s outfitted with framed photos from his recent photo series at the resort that evoke a glam, 1960s-resort lifestyle. (Remember to pack your cat’s-eye sunglasses.) hoteldel.com
For culinary enthusiasts: Boulder
There’s something special about college towns in the summer when they empty out a little and have a relaxed, schools-out-for summer vibe. For a close-to-home escape with good eats, slip away to Boulder.
Enjoy cocktails from a roving gin and tonic cart and close-up views of the Flatirons at Corrida. Book a reservation at Frasca for a special meal that will transport you to the Friuli-Venezia Giulia in northeastern Italy. Have a happy hour with hummus and mezze plates at Ash’Kara and venture to nearby Niwot, where Farow sources 90% of its ingredients from Boulder County farms and purveyors within 10 miles.
Book a stay at the St. Julien, which has an on-site garden with busy bees producing up to 100 pounds of honey per year. The hotel incorporates the honey into spa treatments and culinary and cocktail offerings at Jill’s Restaurant and T-Zero Cocktail Bar. This spring, St. Julien is offering its “Bee the Change” package that includes honey wine from Talon Wines, a whipped honey fine sea salt body polish, and a $25 donation to The Bee Conservancy. stjulien.com