Growing up in Gunnison, Colorado, I had some warped ideas about the city of Grand Junction. It’s the closest “big city,” a two hour drive west, into the desert, near the Utah border. I heard nicknames like “Junk Town” and bought into the idea that GJ was somehow inferior to other Colorado mountain towns—and also way too hot. We sometimes came to enjoy shopping amenities (a mall!) or for softball tournaments with a quick restaurant stop on the way out, but that was about it.
I was really, really wrong. And I didn’t realize that until a few years ago, when my parents moved to Grand Junction. Since then, I’ve been able to experience parts of this city—areas, restaurants, experiences, nature—that have transformed my way of thinking and approaching it. I love Grand Junction. It’s a great place to be, both as a visitor and resident. It’s fun and unique and offers quite a lot for every kind of person.
This past weekend, I had a perfect Grand Junction experience. I’m here for a while, pet sitting for my parents, and Chad came for a few days to visit. We had an amazing time from start to finish and I’m still gushing. This is a fantastic place to be.
Our perfect weekend
Okay, this is kind of cheating. Chad and I took a quick painting class on my way over, so this technically was not in Grand Junction. However, it was a fantastic start and deserves a spot on the list.
Our next-door neighbor teaches a painting class on the first Thursday of every month at the Grand Valley Rec Center in Battlement Mesa, Colorado. This is at the half-way point between New Castle (where we live) and Grand Junction, so this is a close-enough stop on a perfect GJ weekend. This was our first Canvas with Christina class, and we followed along as we transformed a blank canvas into a pig portrait.
This was exceptionally exciting for me, since pigs are my very favorite animal. We had a blast, with many giggles and somewhat sore arms from holding up our paint brushes. We’ll be back!
Monumental Beer Works
When the weekend officially started, we kicked things off with a drink at Monumental Beer Works. This was our first time to this spot located in the industrial area, and we bumped into some of our friends who used to live in New Castle and now live in GJ. We shared several drinks together and caught up over delicious brews.
Monumental has a cool vibe and offers plenty of space, especially with an outdoor courtyard with picnic tables and shade. They’re dog-friendly and it was great to see some cute pups having fun. Plus, my sour and lemon wheat beers hit the spot on a hot Friday afternoon.
Warehouse 25 sixty-five
For dinner, we chose something new. Chad and I vowed to only choose places that we normally wouldn’t go with my parents, to mix things up. We chose the nearby Warehouse 25 sixty-five Kitchen + Bar. We had never heard of this place, but that changed as we rolled up—the outdoor band was so loud that we literally could hear the party from several blocks away.
We sat inside where somehow the music was totally muted, and enjoyed a bar-fare meal with delicious cocktails and greasy burgers. This place is like a giant bar that captures both a western and modern vibe; the women servers wear daisy dukes and crop tops (I somehow matched exactly, which was weird) while the music is a top 100 list and the lights are neon. It’s fun and extremely youthful. My mule tasted like ballpark gummy worms straight from a paper bag and I wasn’t mad about it.
If we wanted a drinking-oriented night out to get rowdy and dance, this would be the place to go. For our quick dinner, it was nice too.
Chad and I ended our evening with a swim in my parents’ pool. The weather in Grand Junction is hot and stays warm well into the night, so we relished floating and sipping on seltzers as a nightcap. The pups ran around us and it was a refreshing end to a fun Friday.
Bribed by the promise of Starbucks coffee (which was unfulfilled, to my disappointment—”there’s coffee at home!”), we got out of bed early and played tennis together at Grand Junction’s wonderful Canyon View Park. This park is amazing, with softball and baseball fields (I used to play here), several modern and updated kid’s playgrounds of varying age levels, fitness equipment, a pond, a pavilion, numerous walking trails, a dog park, and pickleball and tennis courts.
Chad and I are not and have never been tennis players, though he can somehow pass as an athlete on the court. I can barely keep it together. Seriously. I crack up and get hysterical over my awful returns and silly mistakes—it is so hilarious to me to be so awful at a sport. However, we like to go sometimes with our Walmart rackets and try our best to volley and practice serving and get that 100% fat burn rating on our Fitbits. It’s fantastic exercise, even when it feels like I’m not doing anything productive, and we had so much fun until the weather warmed up and we were sweating through our giggles.
Though I didn’t get the bribery latte, we did stop at a food truck for breakfast burritos. We chose The Buttered Biscuit, and we both thoroughly enjoyed our bacon burritos. Mine had country gravy, while Chad chose green chili in his.
Mini golf and arcade
Up next for us was miniature golf, an activity we rarely get to do, at Grand Junction’s Bananas fun park. When I say “fun park,” I mean it. This place is an absolute paradise for kids of all ages, with go-karts, batting cages, a water park, bumper boats, mini golf, café, laser tag, and an arcade. It’s really, almost obnoxiously, so fun. This was my first time here.
Mini golf with Chad was such a great time. We laughed, heckled, and sweated under the 100-degree sun. We went back and forth in our leads, and I ended up winning the game by one single stroke. As the winner, I decided that we should definitely celebrate by spending $5 on arcade games. We played several rounds of skee-ball and basketball and it was worth every cent.
To cool off, Chad and I went to Ramblebine Brewing Company in downtown Grand Junction for a few refreshing beers. I love this place—the ambiance is great and there are plenty of spots inside and out to relax. We chatted and sipped ordered a few rounds—I had a sour and a home-brewed seltzer, while Chad opted for a couple different IPA options.
We also guzzled down several waters—it was a scorching afternoon.
Acting like teenagers, Chad and I went into Safeway and lined a basket with junk-food snacks and treats to sustain us until supper time. We purchased brownie bites and birthday cake caramel corn and pop and chips and salsa and ate them pool-side back at home. It was an ideal snack feast and a very giggly shopping trip as we noted that our pre-vacation diet plan was thrown right out the window where it belongs.
Dinner at Boston’s
When supper time finally came around, Chad and I initially chose the Handlebar. Once inside, we realized that it was truly more of a bar atmosphere with counter service and a limited food menu, so we decided to leave and try Boston’s.
Boston’s is a chain restaurant that’s very similar to Old Chicago, just themed for a different city. It also seemed to emphasize Colorado sports pretty heavily, especially the Rockies, and had several dedications to Charlie Blackmon. (Which, I thought was a little weird. What happens when he’s traded too, like Tulo and Holliday and Arenado before him?) There were countless televisions playing various sports games, which is how I found out Denver has a lacrosse team.
It was a perfectly fine meal, with filling entrees and much too large cups of Dr. Pepper. We both enjoyed our meals and the company even more.
Back home with our snacks and sweatpants, Chad and I spent the rest of the evening unwinding with the pups and dreading Chad’s departure the next day. We cuddled on the couch and took too long to settle on a movie. We chose Almost Famous, a first viewing for both of us, and we loved it.
Lattes, at last
The next morning, Chad finally took me to grab coffee (lol), at a place called Trailhead Coffee Bar and Café. It was cute and quaint and we had a very friendly barista. I opted for an iced soy vanilla latte, and Chad got an iced vanilla chai. The day was already heating up, so both drinks were a nice refreshment.
A last drive around
Stalling Chad’s imminent departure, we decided to go for a drive around Grand Junction. We essentially took turns choosing “left or right?” and wound up at a state park we didn’t know existed.
Then, we tried to navigate sans GPS toward the college campus (we got there eventually) and marveling at the countless churches in service along the way. (Seriously, so. Many. Churches.) We realized how cute the residential section of Main Street is beyond the awesome downtown and appreciated all of the cool local businesses. We found ourselves at REI, and looked through all of the aisles of camping gear we can’t afford (lol).
The pandemic has made me soft. So, so, so soft. This is why, when Chad packed his bags and loaded up the car, my voice broke and I couldn’t hold in my tears. I realized that this will be the longest we’ve spent apart in way over a year, and that five days without him would be incredibly tough.
I had to laugh through these very uncharacteristic tears, telling Chad, “don’t make fun of me!”
And while I’m still a little sad and very soft, I am also so thankful. For the puppies by my side, a city I have grown to love, parents who live so close to me, a home that is amazing to visit, a pool to distract me, and a husband that makes saying goodbye—even if for a few quick and temporary days—so difficult.
I’m grateful for an amazing weekend exploring Grand Junction with the love of my life by my side.