Oh Durango!

We shared six perfect days and nights with Durango.

We rolled into town on a Sunday evening and wandered down historic Main Street. We stopped in for a beer at the Derailed Pour house just as it started lightly drizzling. The rain ended just as we finished our beers. Serendipitous? We think so. We continued with our stroll and, like the Sirens luring us in, Liver down the River, playing at the 11th Street Station was so enticing, we had to stop.

The Derailed Pour House in Durango
The Derailed Pour House in Durango

That stop proved to be the greatest first impression Durango could have given us. The band lived up to their description as providing a “funkadelic hoedown” for its listeners. We loved their energy and the energy of the crowd. I started to notice a lot of hugs happening in the crowd of 50 or so people… and decided to count. I counted 19 hugs over the course of our beer there. 19!

Buy a Friend a Beer!

That Hug Count is what endeared us to Durango. That Hug Count also inspired us to take note of when we saw other moments of pure friendship. For example, we found this trilingual sign that says “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” all over the place, at businesses, places of worship, and at homes across town. We also loved this sign at Animas Brewing Co. that allows you to pre-purchase a beer for a friend who isn’t with you…how about that lovely surprise when you pop in for a beer? At Ska, we were there on Token Tuesday. For every beer we drank, they donated a dollar to one of two community-based charities; we got to choose which one. Everywhere we went, we were greeted like old friends. All of that friendship seduced us during our date. We’ve missed this feeling of easy friendship and community and we missed the sense that everyone in the community was looking out for each other. We found that in Durango.  

Ultimately, we shared those six perfect days and nights with Durango. And then, we decided to move on. It’s not you, Durango, it is us!

Durango was perfect in every way. She gave us everything we wanted… a few excellent breweries, a picturesque farmer’s market, I ate the best meal I have had in a long time. We also were in need of some relaxation after renovating our house and getting organized to get on the road. But, ultimately, Durango represents our high school love who we said goodbye to before going off to college.

So, what realizations have we come to? We think we’d like to live in a town that is bigger than Durango. Durango is a bit far from a major airport which would make visiting us difficult and a challenge for us to travel for work.

Coming to Durango?

And now, the details of where we went, what we did, and what we recommend. So you can plan YOUR trip, fellow travelers.

First of all, if you are considering visiting the south of Colorado, do visit Durango. It makes for a great jumping off point for a lot of great sites in the area. We loved it!

Stay:

The Stonehouse Loft

We stayed at The StoneHouse Loft which felt like a peaceful, quiet, retreat. It was open with tons of windows showing off the gorgeous views, airy, well appointed, and beautifully decorated with the owner’s own art work.  It had everything we needed to cook and work during our stay. It was perfectly located just a stone’s throw from a Natural Grocer and all of the Main Street attractions. The owner even left us a bottle of wine and a bouquet of flowers! We felt very much at home!

Caffeinate:

During our week in Durango, we tried out four different coffee shops, Smileys, 81301, Durango Joes, and Hermosas.

One, Smiley’s Cafe, was so good it jumped to the top of our favorite coffee shop list! The coffee was great but they scored big time points for location. The cafe is located inside of, what else, the Smiley Building. 20 years ago, the old school house sat vacant. Some entrepreneuring Durango-ians decided to modernise the space and open up the old classrooms to local businesses, non-profits, community groups, yoga instructors, music teachers, language teachers, and even a Montessori pre-school…in total 50+ tenants!  You can imagine what a great center-of-the-community vibe that can create when you see your friend going to yoga while you go to drop your kid at dance class or you have a coffee with a friend during a break from work. The building has couches, comfy chairs, and sturdy chairs at tables throughout. We were able to grab our coffees on the first floor and meander to a cozy corner and an even cozier leather couch to sink into. What we missed in terms of a community center in Gallup, we found at the Smiley coffee shop!

Our second runner up was 81301 Coffee. They roast on-site so the freshness was unreal. Cas got a nitro cold brew that was the best we’ve ever had. By far. It was smooth and rich all on its own. I got a chai tea latte–they concoct their own chai mix with fresh ginger and tumeric and it was obvious. Again, the freshness stood out! While we were there, two of the baristas and the roaster were testing their olfactory system by sniffing vials of oils and guessing what they contained. It was a delightful interaction and only shows how seriously they take their brews.

Durango Joes and Hermosas both had things to offer. Durango Joes is convenient with several locations and Hermosas is right on Main Street. But neither offered all that we wish from a coffee shop.

Food:

We got some seriously good grub in Durango. Seriously. A little anecdote before I get into reviewing this stay. We lived in Gallup, NM, for 2.5 years. Gallup doesn’t have a brunch spot that is complete with Bloody Mary’s.  At some point during our time in Gallup, I had such a craving for brunch that we drove the 2.5 hours to Durango for me to get some grub at Carver’s Brewery. It was worth it. We went back to Carver’s for brunch and it was still as good as I remembered it!

Some food highlights for you! We’d certainly recommend Eolus! They describe their menu as locally grown and mountain inspired. We ordered two of their menu main-stays. Cas had the prime rib and I had the seafood stew. It was sublime. It was the best dinner I’ve had in a long time. It also inspired me to tell Cas one of the best stories I’ve ever read… About THIS guy who hunted an Octopus off of Alki Beach in West Seattle. It was a lovely setting, great waitstaff, great wine recommendations. We were filled to the gills (get it) by the time we left.

We also thoroughly enjoyed the loaf of paysan bread at Bread. Any place that is founded by a Peace Corps volunteer is bound to be good! One of the staff members there, told us she did a similar exploration for a place to live we are doing and ultimately choose Durango over Boulder. We ended up taking a loaf of bread home, to eat toasted and with some eggs. Later that day, we sliced a few more slices, toasted them, scraped some garlic on them, topped with sliced cherry tomatoes and olive oil. I thought I died and went to heaven.

Drinks:

Ska Brewing

We headed to Ska Brewing, one of Colorado’s best! They lived up to their reputation. They have a cool location, right by the Animas river, with food available inside. The beers were amazing. We both loved the Moral Panic Brut IPA. Normally, neither one of us is much of a Brut fan. But maybe we just have never had a really, really good one. Until now! It was amazing. We love how Ska puts their recipe out there for anyone to attempt.  What a great way to elevate the entire industry, right?

As I mentioned, we stopped at the 11th Street Station. With all the hugging, it was propelled into our number one spot for a drink. The beers on tap were really good, but the vibe won our hearts over.

You Should Stay in Durango, it is not bad here!

Michael McCardell

We also popped into the Durango Craft Spirits before dinner. The charming husband and wife co-owners, Amy and Michael, remembered us from our last visit–this is how friendly Durango is! Cas loved the Cinder Dick Bourbon and almost bought a bottle for us to take with us. Cinder Dick refers to a railroad detective, FYI. So much to learn from Durango. They use locally sourced grains and mash, distill, and bottle all of their spirits right down town. Michael, told us “You Should Stay in Durango, it is not bad here”. We were sad to leave right before the live music started.

If you go:

Do everything we suggest here.

You could make a lovely road trip where you hit up the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley (you’ll love it! Go for the sunrise horseback riding), Four Corners, Mesa Verde, and Durango (in that order).  If you did this, you could fly into Flagstaff, rent a car, and fly out of Durango. It would be amazing. 3 or 4 days would be a lovely amount of time for this jaunt through the Southwest. If you had more time, I’d add in Grand Staircase for good measure.

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