Searching out the best places to read, write or sip on the Western Slope
If you haven’t been to Salida for awhile, you are missing out. Not yet as popular or glamorized as some resort towns, I almost hate to reveal that it is a sleeping jewel in the midst of 14,000 foot mountains. When you drive into this once mining and ranching town from highways 50, 24 or 285 it’s easy to zip through with a yawn. But follow the sign to the historic downtown, and you will be greeted by a five block radius of art, restaurants, pubs, antiques, and boutiques.
The Book Haven Bookstore starting our visit off with my very favorite attraction. The Book Haven is well stocked with new and used books, and invites you to sit, browse and read at one of the café tables or at the comfortable seating area in the back.
After purchasing a book, we headed down the street charmed by the carefully restored 1900s era architecture. We were delighted by the variety and frequency of art galleries. It’s not surprising Salida is considered one of the 100 top art towns in America. One of our favorite galleries, Bungled Jungle was a quirky mix of laughing, bug-eyed monsters badly in need of dental work. It was impossible to look at these imaginative sculptures and not smile.
Palace Hotel. The hotel was built in 1909 and housed 44 rooms. The current owners kept the original, gorgeous woodwork but created 14 suites equipped with small kitchenettes. The rooms are exquisite, each having a distinct personality. A few offer serene views of the Arkansas River. The rooms run $120-$165 during the week, slightly more on weekends and offer a light breakfast of freshly ground organic coffee and an organic and healthy yogurt parfait including home baked muffins brought right to the room.
Simple Lodge, a quaint, clean hostel offering bunk rooms, rooms with shared baths and even a private suite with its own bath. A communal living room and large kitchen table warmly invites guests to relax and enjoy the company of fellow trekkers.
The BoatHouse Cantina offers the local Elevation Beer, (brewed in nearby Poncha Springs) and plenty of great burgers, burritos and appetizers.
For lunch, we tried the Laughing Ladies Restaurant, named for the ladies of the night reputed to have inhabited the town in the late 1800s. Surrounded by the original brick, wood floors and tin ceiling, the setting invites you to sit back and slip into an earlier, bawdier era. The salmon, poblano, and goat cheese burger, however, will entice you deliciously back to the present.
Salida makes an ideal get-away. Visit during the summer and catch the epic kayaking, hiking, ziplines, fishing and biking opportunities. And after a hard day of play, relax with wine from one of two local wineries. There won’t be a shortage of experiences to savor or inspiration to capture your imagination.
Photos and post by Julie Luekenga. Julie lives in the high mountain ranching community of Gunnison, Colorado and is a freelance writer published in regional and national publications and a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Writing under the name Julie Luek, she maintains two blogs and is a regular, every other week, contributor to the international writing website, She Writes.