Colorado Chautauqua: Stay at this National Historic Treasure in our Backyard
posted by: Amber Johnson
As a newly minted Coloradoan 12 years ago, I explored the Front Range in the most memorable way possible: I joined a hiking club for moms. Before age 1, my daughter Hadley had logged more hours on the trail than her father who has lived here most of his life.
I’ll never forget the first time we met our group at the Colorado Chautauqua National Historic Landmark, just 1.5 miles from downtown Boulder. With the Flatirons as a dramatic backdrop, 48 miles of open space trails, a charming Dining Hall and the acoustically-renowned Chautauqua Auditorium, I marveled, “What is this place?”
This place is the best staycation you can take near the Denver Metro area.
Whenever we need a quick getaway to recharge, the Colorado Chautauqua is our place. I was initially wooed by Colorado Chautauqua’s natural beauty but was positively floored to learn the Missions House Lodge, Columbine Lodge and 58 cottages are available for nightly year-round rental. Cottages are available in studio, 1, 2 or 3 bedroom configurations each with fully equipped kitchens and screened-in front porches.
Our stay during the holidays was full of My Favorite Things. Hiking up Bluebell Road. Exploring Chautauqua Park, Boulder’s largest city park. Careening down the icy slide at the playground and playing hide-and-go-seek in the adjacent kid-sized forest. Indulging at the Dining Hall by the cozy fireplaces indulging in cornbread with apple butter, shiitake mushroom risotto and gourmet burgers with fresh tomato preserves and horseradish ranch. Nestling up in our cozy cottage at the end of the day, feeling worlds away from the hustle-and-bustle of city life.
As much as I love winter at the Colorado Chautauqua, the warm weather months rule as we play tennis, basketball, hike to Royal Arch, slackline on the lawn, dine on the wrap-around deck at the Dining Hall, get trail maps and hiking tips at on-property Chautauqua Ranger Cottage and tour their cute nature museum, and take in concerts at the Chautauqua Auditorium. The Chautauqua General Store (open May through September) offers a delicious selection of coffee drinks, homemade ice cream, snacks and candies, perfect for a summer’s day.
The Fascinating History
I’ve been to many top-notch resorts but what sets the Colorado Chautaqua apart is its history. Founded in 1898, the Colorado Chautauqua is considered the western representation of a cultural movement that swept the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and continues to exemplify its original ideals — lifelong learning, voluntary simplicity and love of nature, music, oration and the arts. It is one of only a few remaining chautauquas in the U.S and is the only site west of the Mississippi that has been in continuous operation since its founding and with its original structures intact and used for their original purposes.
Originally visitors slept in canvas tents with wooden floors. Today, no two cottages or lodges are alike with antiques, claw-foot tubs, fireplaces. And the amenity I love the most (or the lack there): All accommodations are telephone and phone-free to allow your family to relax, unplug and reconnect in the most memorable of settings. P.S. Wi-Fi is available for anyone going through withdrawals.
Chautauqua in a New Light
One cold morning, I literally had to drag myself out of cozy cottage to hike the Enchanted Mesa -> Mesa Trail -> Bluebell Road loop. This network of favorite trails raised my children. I first discovered it with my mom hiking group when Hadley was 3 months old, I almost passed out trying to climb it when I was pregnant with Bode, I’ve struggled up steep pitches pushing them in their double stroller through snow and I’ve loved seeing them reach summits on their own.
But that day was the first time I witnessed the sunrise there, making me believe I’d never really SEEN Chautauqua until then.
No matter what kind-of memories you wish to create, the Colorado Chautauqua National Historic Landmark has all the makings for a magical getaway. Plan your Chautauqua vacation today, call 303.952.1611. www.chautauqua.com. In partnership with Mile High Mamas.