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Denver Staycation at the Hilton Inverness

When summer weekends leave you with a bleak future of the weeks dishes piled in the sink and a mountain of laundry to get through a staycation not far from home is just what you need to relax and get away from the duties of home, even if only for a night. I’m the kind of person who has a really hard time relaxing, so sometimes the only way I can really not work on projects is by not being at home at all. 

A couple of weeks ago we were invited to visit the Hilton Inverness to enjoy a bit of relaxation, just far enough from home to forget anything lingering on my to do list. While most Denverites know of the Inverness for their impressive meeting options, booking a stay as a weekend getaway is the perfect way to enjoy resort living without the cost of a plane ticket. 

Just off the beaten trail, driving up the the Hilton Inverness is like coming upon an oasis in an otherwise busy metropolitan area. Located off i25 and County Line Road on the south side of Denver, the beautiful grounds open up as you enter the parking lot, making you forget that you are just down the road from the city. 

We arrived on a Friday night, ready to enjoy some time together watching a movie and relaxing at dinner. We popped over to nearby United Artist Theatre to watch Wonder Woman [AMMMMAAZZZING, if you haven’t seen it you need to] and returned back to the hotel for a late night dinner in the Spotted Dog Pub. 

The Spotted Dog is on the lower level of the hotel and is perfect for meeting up with a group of friends to enjoy drinks and dinner over a friendly game of pool or shuffleboard. While the pub is open to the public, it’s a bit of a hidden gem for those who are over the loud bar scene, providing the perfect place for meeting up with a large group, and being able to actually hear the conversation. The full assortment of bar games are completely free of charge and the kitchen is open late so you can have a meal with your drinks. We enjoyed some classic pub grub, including a grown-up spin on grilled cheese with tomato soup. 

Vacation isn’t vacation without sleeping in, so the next morning we got a late start and headed down to the outdoors pool to snag lounge chair for some poolside reading. One of the great things that separates the Inverness from other hotels is the poolside drink and meal service. There is nothing better than having drinks brought right to you so you could stay outside all day under an umbrella. 

When the started to heat up, we headed back inside for some late brunch at the Garden Terrace. They were serving a full brunch buffet but we opted to try a couple of the dishes off the menu instead and were incredibly happy with our choices. The service was attentive and quick, ensuring that we could enjoy our meal before heading off to our separate activities for the day. 

One of my favorite things about vacation is spending a bit of time by myself, so I headed to the spa while Drew was off to the on property golf course. 

The luxurious and relaxing interior of the spa did not disappoint. The ladies changing room includes a lockers for storing your belongings, a steam room and a full assortment of toiletries for getting ready after your treatment. Waiting for your service you get to enjoy the co-ed lounge and hot tub area, fully stocked with tea, infused water and snacks. If you don’t find what you are looking for in the lounge you can even order a meal or drinks delivered to you from the restaurant. There is nothing better than a massage and a facial to help relax and forget all the stresses at home. 

The spa has a full menu of services that are completely open to the public, so even if you can’t get away for a full weekend, you can enjoy a couple hour retreat any time you want. 

Drew spent the afternoon on the Inverness golf course. The semi-private course is open to the public after noon (and available for members only before) and the championship course provides a challenging experience to help test your skills. The course is beautifully landscaped, making a warm afternoon on the green the perfect escape.  

After a day at the Inverness, it was time to home and back to reality but with their summer stay & play special, I know next time we need to relax I’ll be booking another stay!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary stay at the Hilton Inverness to inspire this post. All opinions and experiences are my own.  

Travel

Road Tripping with the Mazda CX-9

Prior to last month, the only time I’ve been in Los Angeles was for a quick conference, just one hotel shuttle away from John Wayne airport. When we started planning our California vacation, I knew I wanted to check out more than just the airport so flying into LAX and heading out for a mini-road trip was the perfect way to really experience the state (and the traffic it’s so well known for).  

My husband is a huge Mazda fan so when we were given the opportunity to try out the Mazda CX-9 for our road trip we were excited to see what features Mazda would be loading into their top sized SUV. We planned to arrive in LA with a couple of friends and head out on highway towards Palm Springs with a truck full of luggage and two sets of golf clubs. 

In most cars, this much luggage would be a problem, but thanks to the ability to fold the 3rd row down we had no issues loading up all the gear and getting on the road to beat rush hour traffic out of town. 

As we took to the road, the Active Driving Display projected the navigation in a non-obtrusive location onto the windshield. The heads-up display is only visible to the driver and allows you to focus on the road by putting speed and navigation just below your line of sight. I’ve never seen a heads up display before and I was amazed by what a difference it made in my driving experience. There was no need to wonder what the next direction would be, because it was already there right where I could see it. 

Once we arrived in Palm Springs and unloaded the car, I met up with a few more friends who would be joining us for the trip. With the ability to fold the third row seats back up, we could fit all 7 of us in the car, making it perfect for getting out into town for dinner. Even with a full car and tall men, no one was uncomfortable. With Drew over six feet tall, usually leg room is a huge issue, but the spacing between the seats meant that he and the other tall riders were all comfortable no matter who was sitting in front of them.  

Spending a week driving all around town, I fully expected to need to fill up more than once. I was amazed to learn that the all wheel drive model has an averages 23 MPG, making it a very fuel efficient car for it’s size.  

I’m used to driving a mid-sized SUV, so I was afraid that I might feel a bit overwhelmed by the size of the CX-9. Usually big cars are heavy and have large blind spots that make me uncomfortable. The back-up camera made maneuvering in and out of parking spots easy, and the weight of the car was not noticeable at all. 

We even drove up the Palm Springs Tramway canyon and the get up and go on the steep roads was a nice surprise. Heading into the canyon, the road warns drivers that they may need to turn of their AC to get enough power to get up the road – completely a non-issue in CX-9.  The turbocharged SKYACTIV-G 2.5T engine had no issue carving up the canyon road at all – which would be a must-have if I was to drive this car in Colorado. 

Overall, I am very impressed with the performance of the Mazda CX-9 and feel it’s perfect for big groups or large families. With all the bells and whistles, the CX-9 price is way less than I expected, with an MSRP of $45,655 and the entry level version of this vehicle is priced at $31,520. For how luxurious the interior was, I expected the price to be substantially higher and feel that the bang for the buck is unrivaled in this class. 

What type of features do you look for in a good road trip car? Leave a note in the comments!

Disclosure: I received the opportunity to borrow the Mazda CX-9 as a complimentary experience. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review. 

Travel/ Uncategorized

Family Celebrations at the YMCA of the Rockies

There’s nothing more beautiful than wintertime in the mountains. The snowcapped mountains and fresh powder on the ground make for a fun day of playing outdoors followed by warm evenings by the fire. Getting together as a family is a wonderful reason to go up to the mountains for a weekend of fun (although there’s never any need to have a reason to go to the mountains when you live in Colorado). 

Just a few weeks ago we headed up highway 36 from Denver to the YMCA of the Rockies, just outside Estes Park to celebrate my sister’s 16th birthday as a family. During the winter months traffic into the mountains can get a bit crazy, being able to enjoy the mountains without having to fight ski traffic is always a plus. 

Even after a heavy snow, the trip from Denver took just an hour and half to get to the YMCA campus, perfect for a car loaded with teenagers in the backseat. 

Now that we’re grown and out of the house, its hard to get all our schedules to align so we can get together as a family for a weekend away. When we do, having space for us all to sleep without having to do a ton of planning is the ideal time together. 

The YMCA of the Rockies is the perfect place to get together as a family, especially since we could stay in a loge with a few rooms for us all to spread out. With 6 adults in the family the double bed rooms in Emerald Lodge are ideal for everyone having enough space and rooms near by one another. They also have cabins or vacation homes on property for bigger groups or those who want to have a more private gathering.

The cafeteria serves three meals a day so theres no need to cook and a full calendar of activities are available to keep you busy during your stay. 

We started the day playing out in the snow and then warmed up in the Craft & Design Center where we could choose from t-dye, ceramics, mosaics, jewelry design and a whole variety of other projects. 

After grabbing lunch we picked up some skates at the Sweets Memorial Building and went out to the frozen lake for outdoor skating before checking out some board games to enjoy by the Lodge fire after dark.

Staying together was the perfect family celebration for my sister’s birthday, giving us just enough of a break to really enjoy the time before we had to head back to Denver on Sunday. With no dishes to wash and everything we needed a short drive on campus, it was a relaxing adventure that everyone was able to enjoy. 

Disclosure: The YMCA of the Rockies invited us to join them for a weekend stay in one of their lodge rooms. All opinions are my own. 

 

Travel

Tips for Visiting London as a Couple

Nearly six months ago we packed up a backpack a piece and caught a flight over the Atlantic to spend a week in of the oldest modern cities in the world. Visiting London as a couple was something we’d been looking forward to since our wedding. As we planned our trip we listened to tips from family and friends, read travel blogs about the best sights, and created wish lists of things we wanted to do while abroad.

Tips for visiting London as a couple

As a couple prone to over scheduling ourselves we left most of the trip agenda free so we could enjoy the city and enjoy our adventure. I’ve outlined some of my highlights from the trip throughout this post, but our FAVORITE part of the week we spent in the city was wandering town with the lovely Sarah of Sarah Wayte Photography taking photos at some of the most popular tourist sites.

By scheduling a local photographer we benefited from her better understanding of the city and landmarks and allowed us to enjoy the rest of the trip without feeling the need to haul a camera with us wherever we went.

Tips for Visiting London as a Couple

Tips for visiting London as a couple

1. Select a hotel near a tube station

Everyone says [and is correct] that London is very expensive. When we were looking for hotels we originally selected an option close to Buckingham Palace but upon starting to book the trip found that it had doubled in price. Unbeknown to us, our backup choice [The Premier Inn Waterloo] was a block away from a the Waterloo Tube station and within walking distance to dozens of iconic London spots. 

A value hotel chain the Premier Inn provided everything we needed – a king size bed and great location. Beyond that, the Premier doesn’t have many other features you might get in a more expensive hotel option. Our hotel happened to be just across the street from the London Eye and a few blocks from the South Bank, Big Ben, Westminster Abby and more. The location won us over and I couldn’t be happier with how things turned out. 

Tips for visiting London as a couple

2. Buy an Oyster Card 

As anyone who lives in a big city knows, public transportation is everything. We purchased a week long Oyster Card for the central area of London and spent a TON of time traveling the city via Tube. We never felt the need to take a black cab since everything we wanted to see was convenient to most Tube Stations. 

annedrewlondon-1114

3. Talk to the Locals 

To really experience a city you have to check out the places that are off the beaten path. While browsing the shops on Regent Street I ended up in the Kate Spade store chatting with an American student studying at the London College of Fashion. We asked where the best place to grab dinner was and she recommended a steakhouse nearby called Flat Iron who’s specialty is a simplified menu at a fantastic price. 

No reservations allowed the Flat Iron serves a single entree of a beautifully cooked Flat Iron steak along side 4 side options. This low-key meal was the best value we came across throughout our trip and we enjoyed it so much we stopped by two different locations for dinner on separate evenings of our 6 nights in town. 

Tips for visiting London as a couple

4. Select a good guide book 

I loved having my Rick Steve’s London book to rely on and share tips and history of the city. I purchased two books for this trip (both this one and Ireland) and I definitely got the most use out of the London edition. 

Before our trip I flipped through picking places I wanted to visit and once we were on the ground in London I used it to learn more about places as we visited them. The book itself was a bit bulky to carry around in a handbag but when I used my daypack it was perfect to include for the day. 

Tips for visiting London as a couple

5. Find a Local Photographer for Photos 

I don’t think I can say enough how much I loved having Sarah take our photos on this trip. Instead of asking strangers to take photos and being sad with how they came out, we were able to give Sarah a list of places we wanted to capture and she did all the rest. 

There are tons of services that specialize in tourist photography but after researching the options I didn’t like how short the shoot options were. Instead, I asked a photography group that I’m a part of on Facebook if they had any recommendations for someone based in London. I spoke with a lady who happened to be in London, but was unavailable during the time we were traveling – ultimately she recommended we reach out to Sarah. Photographers are a wonderful community to be a part of and its amazing how easy it was to find someone who was available and excited to help us capture special memories of our trip. 

Tips for visiting London as a couple

London was so much fun and there was no way to pack in all of the places we wanted to see in just one trip. I can’t wait for our next trip! What tips do you have for visiting The Big Smoke? 

Photo Credits: Sarah Wayte Photography