Dinosaur Ridge. Courtesy photo

Unique Summer Date Ideas

In Things to do by Aimee Heckel0 Comments

Can you feel it? The summer itch. It’s that nagging feeling that overwhelms you on a warm blue-sky day, the voice inside your head that says, “Go. Go, my child, and sit on a porch and drink thee a margarita.”

There are songs written about summer love, and the warm air in Boulder seems to be humming them nonstop.

It’s time to embark on your own summer romance, but do it Boulder style. It’s gotta be unique, creative, adventurous and smart. It’s gotta be something worth Instagramming about.

Here are some of our favorite quirky inspirations to help you plan the perfect summer date.

Look for Dinosaur Bones

Venture out to Morrison (about a half hour away), where you can wander through Dinosaur Ridge, which claims to be the No.1 rated dino track in the USA. This National Natural Landmark is where the world’s first stegosaurus was discovered. Book an Adult Field Trip for an active and truly unique date. If you’re lucky, you can score a coveted spot in a dig.

A T. Rex head for sale at Nature’s Own in Fort Collins. Photo by Aimee Heckel

After your tour, head to Nature’s Own in Boulder, 1215 Pearl St., (there’s also a branch in Fort Collins), where you can shop for rocks, crystals, fossils and other natural oddities. You can even gaze at ancient dinosaur fossils that you can bring home with you. Well, if you have $15,000 for a T. Rex noggin, at least.

The Hobbit House at WeeCasa. Courtesy photo

Stay in a Hobbit House

The Boulder County mountain town of Lyons is full of oddities.

Just outside of Lyons, you will find the Lazy T Ranch, at U.S. 66 and North 63rd Street. You’ll know it’s the right spot because of the massive (like 30-foot-tall) cowboy statue with a pitchfork out front. Gawk at this roadside attraction and walk over to the fish pond, where you can throw a quarter in a food dispenser and feed the (also huge) fish.

This is a thing in Boulder County. Photo by Aimee Heckel

In town, stroll through the small downtown and see what you can find in the antique and vintage shops. Then grab a seat at the Snack Soda Fountain, an old-fashioned soda shop. Here, you can see the oldest functioning soda fountain in Boulder County, dating back to 1920. While you can get ice cream here, it is Boulder Natural Ice Cream. And the soda syrups are made with whole ingredients and fresh juice. So it’s a little indulgent, but just a little.

The Lyons soda shop. Photo by Aimee Heckel

Wrap up your Lyons excursion by booking a night at WeeCasa, the nation’s largest tiny-home resort. The quirkiest house here is probably The Hobbit House, with its round windows and door and earthy accents. Head up to the loft for the night, where a queen-sized bed awaits.

Inside the Hobbit House. Courtesy photo

The other most interesting tiny homes:

  • The Lilypad, with its mandala art, Balinese carved-wood accent pieces and copper embellishments
  • The Pequod, with the wavy shape of its roof and its porthole windows
  • The Sequoia, the largest tiny home, at 400 square feet, plus a 200-square-foot deck.

“We started WeeCasa to bring people to our beautiful town at the base of the foothills of Colorado to share a beautiful setting and to challenge people’s ideas of what they have and what they need,” says Kenyon Waugh, “WEE-EO.”

He founded WeeCasa following the big flood of 2013. The owners of the property wanted to add a wedding venue, and the tiny-home concept worked due to the restriction of the land on a floodplain.

“WeeCasa is special because there is a community of people that make it unique. Many of our homes are owned by the people that built them or used to live in them. They are so happy to share their tiny houses with our guests and we all get to see new units and new approaches to designs every year,” Waugh says. “This year we swapped out about 10 units to really mix up the inventory. We have some new very large tiny homes and some neat designs.”

Visit the Nederland Circus

This isn’t a real circus. But it’s definitely a circus, on so many different levels. The mountain town of Nederland is as quirky as it gets. Walk through the downtown area and see how many unusual art displays and decorations you can find. Can you find the storage shed for the Frozen Dead Guy Days, with multiple wooden coffins out front?

Refuel at the Train Cars Coffee and Yogurt Co. Yogurt, as in the frozen kind. Get a latte, a cone, or, best of all, freshly made mini donuts that you can watch file through an old-school donut dunkin’ contraption. Pick your own toppings, from sprinkles to chocolate drizzle to whipped cream.

Donuts fresh out of the fryer in Nederland. Photo by Aimee Heckel

Oh, did we mention this cafe is stationed in an old converted circus train car and two other antique train cars? The most romantic spot is in the back wing; look for a tiny table that’s elevated above the rest, tucked back in a corner to the right of the entrance.

The old circus car in Lyons. Photo by Aimee Heckel

After eating way too much sugar but not regretting it one bit, head to the Carousel of Happiness next door, where you can ride on an old-fashioned carousel for just a buck. Make sure you pick an animal on a gold spindle that goes up and down.

A lion in Lyons at the Carousel of Happiness. Photo by Aimee Heckel

Feeling bonkers? Throw down $20 and see how many different animals you can experience. These aren’t just horses. You’ll find a hand-carved and painted swan, cat, camel, dog, zebra, bull, jaguar, bunny, elephant, giraffe, panda, moose, the list goes on. The swan cart is quintessentially romantic, because swans, but who says a donkey and dragon duo isn’t a hotter dream team? It’s your ride.

Book the Most Romantic Chautauqua Cottage

Plan a getaway right in town at the Colorado Chautauqua and stay in the cottage with the most privacy. Cottage 302 is nestled behind other cottages and is considered the “honeymoon cottage” because of its intimate location. It’s a studio unit with a fireplace, wood walls and a cozy, sweet mood. It’s a guest favorite. “Unless you know where you’re going, you don’t necessarily know about it,” says Wanona Tara, hospitality manager. “Suddenly, you walk through this pathway to the gazebo and there’s another cottage.”

Visit Boulder’s Butchery.

Blackbelly is a fantastic date night; while the food is top-notch, the atmosphere is unpretentious. Blackbelly has an on-site animal butchery, which is a unique environment. Grab a table right next to the glass case where the salami is curing. And eat it while you dive into the charcuterie board, with house-cured salami (and an assortment of other unique but tasty meats and cheeses).

Meat at Blackbelly. Photo by Aimee Heckel

For other interesting but delicious tastes, try the beef tartare, topped with a tiny, wee quail egg. A menu highlight: the 46-day, dry-aged T-bone steak. Add fingerling potatoes, broccoli from heaven and a plate of Arctic char.

Bike wheel display at the new Residence Inn in Boulder.

A great new place to stay in town is at the Residence Inn Boulder Canyon Boulevard, with its modern decor, including an oh-so-Boulder art display in the entry: a series of multi-colored bike tires. In warmer weather, this centrally located hotel has an unexpected outdoor patio with a fireplace.

Head North to FoCo

Boulder has the reputation as the weirdest city in Colorado but have you visited Fort Collins lately? This (rival) college town is raising the bar.

A “zoo” animal at the Swetsville Zoo in Fort Collins. Photo by Aimee Heckel

First, there’s the Swetsville Zoo, not with live animals but instead a vast spread of unusual art made out of recycled car parts and metal. See a dragon, tons of dinosaurs, oversized lizards, a crocodile, mythical beasts, rocket ships, spiders, uh, you name it. It is as magical as it is baffling.

Union in Fort Collins. Photo by Aimee Heckel

Plan your FoCo date on Sunday and head to the new Union Bar and Soda Fountain, which has an all-day brunch (10 a.m.-11 p.m.). This retro-inspired soda fountain shop and contemporary diner serves comfort food, including ridiculously yummy donuts with jam and some innovative, make-it-yourself soda flavors. Grab a seat on the oversized patio, where you can sit at a picnic table, tall table, on cozy couches or by the firepit or yard games.

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