On my birthday, I was able to spend a few hours in Grand Junction, Colorado, and I was more than happy about the chance to do so. It’s about an hour-ish away from our house and is the closest big city to us on the Western Slope. Best of all, my parents live there, in a beautiful home tucked into the sights of the Colorado National Monument.
There are a lot of things to do in GJ, between a thriving downtown, a desert-oasis outdoor recreation scene, and a whole area of wineries and distilleries. With less than a day, we had to choose wisely with how to spend our time. For us, we have the added benefit of a home base. At my parents’ house, we were able to have fun chatting and opening gifts (thanks Mom and Dad!!), and also hang out with the pups and even take a dip in the hot tub, as well as explore and have fun in the area.
If you don’t happen to have a home to hang out at, here are some activities to spend the time and get the most out of a quick visit to Grand Junction.
Activity One: Colorado National Monument
Even if you don’t have a lot of time, a visit to the Colorado National Monument is a must. The area is gorgeous, with cliff formations and towering views of the entire Grand Junction valley.
My favorite is driving from one end to the other, and stopping at overlook areas to take photos and admire the staggering beauty of the monument. If you have a few hours to spare, you can also go on a hike. There are several to choose from, for all fitness levels.
Activity Two: Distillery
The booze scene in Grand Junction is thriving. They have wineries, breweries, and distilleries to choose from, each offering a different on local creation. On my birthday, we decided to head to Highlands Distillery.
As a distillery, Highlands had two main focuses: vodka and gin. Their menu was full of craft cocktails starring each liquor, as well as an exciting range of flavor combinations. As a vodka girl, their take on a Moscow Mule was tempting. Instead, I went for the Aspen-inspired “Maroon Bell,” made with vodka, cranberry juice, juniper syrup, and a lime for garnish. It was scrumptious.
Even after my dad forced the entire room into singing me (and two other patrons) happy birthday, I would definitely return. The atmosphere is fun, warm, and inviting, and the summer months allow for some good, old-fashioned porch seating.
Highlands Distillery was the right choice for an early evening drink.
Activity Three: Tapas for Supper
I’m a pretty big fan of the food scene in Grand Junction. In addition to having some fast food restaurants I can’t get anywhere else close (like Freddy’s, or my guilt-ridden fries from Chik-Fil-A), GJ has some delicious and one-of-a-kind local options.
Our usual round-up usually consists of Marias, a downtown Mexican restaurant with delicious margaritas and a likelihood for live music. We also have gone to our fair share of dinners at Bin 707 and 626 on Rood, which are higher-end options with large menus, flights of booze, and hard-to-pass-up desserts.
On my birthday we decided to mix things up and try somewhere new-to-me: MX Tapas Bar. This delicious restaurant had both small mix-and-match plates and traditionally larger meals, plus heat-infused salsas and many mouth-watering margaritas. I was happy and full by the end of our meal, which was announced with yet another quiet rendition of “Happy Birthday” and enough fried ice cream to share—just the way I like it.
Tapas is a nice option for anyone looking to try new and exciting Mexcian foods, in a cool and trendy atmosphere. We’ll be back, and won’t wait around for a birthday dinner to do so.
Return, If You Can
The best trick to maximizing your time and efforts is to return. Grand Junction has much to offer, and a few days is necessary to squeeze in those essentials. For me, though, those few birthday hours made my day one to remember.