Exploring Colorado. Photo courtesy of Aimee Heckel

Draw Travel Inspiration From New Book ‘Colorado Day Trips by Theme’


Right now, it can be difficult to imagine traveling in the future. But as the world slowly opens back up in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, one thing remains clear: Road trips will reign supreme.

If you’re looking for inspiration for your first post-pandemic trip, look no further than travel writer Aimee Heckel’s new book “Colorado Day Trips by Theme.” The book explores more than 170 Colorado destinations organized by theme, including festivals, craft breweries and distilleries, ski towns and outdoor adventures.

We chatted with Heckel to get the scoop on her latest travel-writing project.

Aimee Heckel. Courtesy photo

What inspired you to write this book?

Adventure Publishing reached out to me a few years ago and commissioned me to write the book. They wanted a Colorado travel book to add to their list of other travel books. As a Colorado native who has been specializing in Colorado travel for many years, I knew I had a ton to offer. I had previously been involved with writing six Fodor’s travel books for Colorado and the National Parks of the West, which included Colorado. But I was excited at the opportunity to branch out even more and share some of the exciting adventures in Colorado that didn’t exactly fit in those travel books.

With “Colorado Day Trips,” I was able to create the chapter topics myself and decide all of the points of interest that were featured, so it is literally a compilation of all of my favorite places in the state — all in one book.

I was inspired by my love of Colorado and the infinite adventure right in front of us. I think Colorado is the most remarkable place in the world; that’s why I live here.

Aimee Heckel. Courtesy photo

What surprised you while researching and writing this book?

The biggest surprise is just how very long it takes to write a book like this, filled with so much information. It took me a full year to write it. I also sourced all of the photos. I took many of them.

Why are road trips relevant right now?

Never has there been a more relevant time for a day trips book. We can’t travel the world right now, but we CAN explore our own backyard. There’s so much to see and enjoy in Colorado. As a native, I am still constantly surprised.

Don’t waste your summer by wishing for what you can’t have. Live big wherever you are, however life looks.

You can’t control the outside world (pandemics, restrictions), but you can decide how you will respond to it. I hope you choose adventure — right where you’re at! It’s here if you’re open to it.

Many people don’t want to risk air travel right now (if the places you want to go are even open). There’s so much uncertainty. But people still want to make memories and explore and enjoy their lives. As a mom, I am also looking for ways I can entertain my only child this summer. Summer camp is canceled and many of the normal activities she would do are not happening. There’s no swimming, no playground dates, no family reunions, no international travel — at least not right now. I’ve already tried to entertain my kid for three months, and now I have three more months for summer. This has many parents at a loss for what to do and how to spend the summer. An easy answer is to follow your interests and curiosities: Pick a topic (the day trips book is organized by topic, which makes it unique) and pick your favorite ways to learn about it. A book organized by topic makes it easy to incorporate into home learning — and you can follow your own interests, be it ghost towns, animals, trains, oddities, art or Native American culture.

In addition, many people (like both me and my husband) have lost work due to Covid-19 and are now on an extremely limited budget. Many people are struggling to make ends meet and don’t have money to take an expensive trip. While there is a chapter about luxury travel, most of the adventures in “Colorado Day Trips” are budget-friendly and can be done for free or cheap. It’s about finding the beauty and blessings wherever you are, amid whatever limitations you have at the moment.

“Colorado Day Trips by Theme.” Courtesy photo.

What are a few of your favorite road trip ideas from the book and why?

Right now, not everything listed in the book has reopened, but much of it has — and we don’t know how things will progress throughout the summer. Presumably, more things will continue reopening, at least in some limited capacity.

In addition, there are suggestions to stay closer to home (about 10 miles). This creates limitations, but it seems to change every day, so by the time you print this, who knows what the suggestions will be.

Therefore, a great place to start is Scenic Drives. I love Independence Pass, the road between Aspen and Twin Lakes, where you can see Mount Elbert, La Plata Peak and more.

I also love the Million Dollar Highway. This is probably the most scenic drive in the state and has so many photo opps. You can have an incredible road trip on the Million Dollar Highway and see so much without having to interact with anyone else.

Some day trips close to Boulder in the book include but are not limited to:

  • The Sink, p. 117
  • Shakespeare Festival, p. 24
  • NOAA, p. 85
  • NCAR, p. 85
  • Meadow Lark Farm Dinners, p. 83
  • Mary Rippon Outdoor Theater, p. 24
  • Frequent Flyers, p. 26
  • Flagstaff House, p. 124
  • Chautauqua, p. 52-53
  • Carousel of Happiness, p. 112-114
  • Anderson Farms, p. 102
  • Dushanbe Tea House, p. 120
  • Butterfly Pavillion, p. 130
  • Lookout Mountain, p. 72
  • Colorado Trail, p. 71

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