What To Do In Bloomington, Indiana on a Weekend Road Trip

It’s easy to get caught up dreaming about all the far away places there are to travel to around the world. But sometimes there’s a hidden gem right in your own backyard. That’s exactly what I discovered when I spent the weekend in Bloomington, Indiana. Special thanks to Visit Bloomington for inviting me to explore their city! It’s only about 3.5 to 4 hours from Chicago (depending on what part you’re coming from) to get to Bloomington. What to do in Bloomington, Indiana on a weekend road trip may surprise you — it sure did surprise me!

What To Do In Bloomington, Indiana on a Weekend Road Trip Downtown

While Bloomington may be recognized only as the home of Indiana University, it has so much more to offer. The food scene boasts options from all different cultures, it’s very bike friendly, and it’s even home to Indiana’s oldest and largest winery. Going beyond the surface of the cute, walkable downtown Bloomington, the city welcomes visitors from all countries and backgrounds with open arms.

You may also be surprised to know that there is a Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, which was visited by the Dalai Lama multiple times. Intrigued yet? To get you started on your trip planning, I’m sharing how I filled my weekend plus a few extra bonus stops!

SmokeWorks

Lunch at SmokeWorks was one of the highlights of the entire weekend. In fact, I probably would have returned to eat here again (or at least to get a whiskey flight) if I had been in town longer.

What to do in Bloomington Indiana SmokeWorks

They make their food from scratch every day using family recipes, and they smoke their meats for up to 18 hours using locally-sourced Indiana hickory. As our waitress informed us, they make a Memphis-style barbecue, meaning that their meats are served with a dry rub but other sauces can be provided on the side. Before we really dug in, we started off with the meat and cheese tray, complete with house-smoked sausages, a variety of cheese and crackers, spicy brown mustard, and, my favorite part, bourbon cherry spread.

SmokeWorks What To Do In Bloomington, Indiana

If you feel the same way I did and want to try a little bit of everything on the menu, the triple threat sandwich is basically the best of SmokeWorks on a single sandwich. It’s pulled pork, sliced turkey, and jalapeño cheddar sausage all in one.

Bloomington Indiana Weekend Road Trip SmokeWorks

Going back to the whiskey, they have all different kinds of whiskey flights plus three different Old Fashioned options on the menu. Between this and the food, Brandon and I were basically in heaven. My personal favorite was the Smokeworks Reserve Old Fashioned.

Whiskey Bar SmokeWorks

Function Brewing

Over the years, more than 220 unique beers have been brewed at Function Brewing. They had a rotation of twelve to choose from at a time. I ordered the pHruit Drop Midwest Tart — it was listed as a Btown collab beer, so I had to try it! While I enjoyed it, one sour beer is enough for me, so we tried out a flight to get a sample of the other options available while we were there. The verdict? The Cherry Ratio golden ale was my favorite!

What to do in Bloomington Indiana Function Brewing

Even if you are not a beer person, you’re still welcome at Function Brewing! I love this blurb they have published on their drink menu.

Function Brewing

Browse the Shops

When it’s time to walk off all that delicious food and drink, there are loads of cute and interesting shops in the area. If you’re a book worm, don’t miss Caveat Emptor, an impressive used bookstore with rare finds you’ll be unlikely to find anywhere else.

Caveat Emptor

Caveat Emptor

For the music junkies, Landlocked Music has new and used vinyl and CDs. Another store I could have spent hours browsing is Goods for Cooks, which has just about every kind of kitchenware you can imagine, plus gourmet foods as well. They have a great Anthony Bourdain quote on their website that I think sums up perfectly what they are all about.

Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go. – Anthony Bourdain

Goods for Cooks

Goods for Cooks

Oliver Winery

Is there a such thing as a hidden gem within a hidden gem? If so, that’s Oliver Winery. It’s like a little oasis tucked right off of I-69 surrounded by peaceful gardens and a pond out back.

Oliver Winery Gardens Bloomington Indiana

Guided wine tastings are $5 for 8 tastings. We arrived around 4:30pm on a Saturday which is not the best time if you’re trying to avoid the crowds , but we made the most of it. It was about an hour wait for the tasting, so we bought a bottle of wine and some cheese to enjoy out on their patio where they had live music. They have all kinds of meats, cheese, and crackers that you can purchase on site, or you can bring your own snacks.

Bloomington Indiana Weekend Road Trip Oliver Winery

Not only is it Indiana’s oldest and largest winery, it’s also one of the largest wineries east of the Mississippi. If you’re looking to make a day of it, I highly recommend one of their picnic packages. There were a handful of people around us that made use of this option and it looked so inviting!

Things to do in Bloomington Indiana Oliver Winery

The tasting itself was so much fun and also educational. The staff helping with the guided tastings are very informative and helpful throughout the tasting, making the experience even better. My top three in order of preference were the Creekbend Chambourcin Rosé, Creekbend Traminette, and Creekbend Crimson Cabernet. We enjoyed our visit and the wines so much that we ended up walking out of there with 6 bottles of wine to take home!

Oliver Winery Tasting Room Bloomington Indiana

Scholar’s Keep

Hungry for a snack? Stopping by Scholar’s Keep for the Totchos alone is worthwhile. Totchos = tater tots + nachos. Basically fried potato-y goodness smothered in chili-cheese sauce all in one dish. If deciding between restaurants I’d opt for SmokeWorks, but the Totchos are worth a visit on their own!

Totchos from Scholar's Keep

Totchos from Scholar’s Keep

Village Deli

Waking up to a rainy morning led us in one clear direction… to Village Deli for a traditional breakfast. In a classic diner-style fashion, you can indulge in eggs and home fries, biscuits and gravy, or their famous oversized “ginormous” pancakes. To make it even sweeter, they serve breakfast all day long!

What to do in Bloomington Indiana Village Deli

Two Sticks Bakery

The full parking lot of people waiting for Two Sticks Bakery to open told me everything I needed to know. This is a bakery worth the wait.

Two Sticks Bakery Bloomington Indiana

They have fresh baked goods daily, made from scratch with local and organic ingredients whenever possible. The spread they had available when we walked in made my mouth water instantly, but what instantly stole my heart was their classic chocolate chip cookie.

Two Sticks Bakery Cookies

Bonus Ideas for What To Do In Bloomington, Indiana

There’s only so much you can do in one weekend, but there are so many more things I would have done if I had the time. Try stopping for kombucha on tap from Bloomingtea, momo’s at Anyetsang’s Little Tibet, a good laugh at Comedy Attic, or canoeing or kayaking at Griffy Lake Boathouse.

What To Do In Bloomington, Indiana - Weekend Road Trip

SpringHill Suites by Marriott Bloomington

Finally, for a centrally located place to stay, the SpringHill Suites by Marriott Bloomington is right in the center of it all. It’s under a 10-minute walk from most of the above places, and I love Marriotts to begin with so it’s a win-win!

SpringHill Suites by Marriott Bloomington

All SpringHill Suites properties specifically pay close attention to the little things that can make all the difference in a hotel room, and this one was no exception. A few of my favorites from this stay are the built-in luggage rack, having a light in the shower, and extra lighting surrounding the mirror.

SpringHill Suites by Marriott Bloomington Little Things

The room also had a nice living room space next to a desk which is a special touch especially when I’m working from the road. They also had bikes available that guests can rent for free so you can explore the town on two wheels!

SpringHill Suites by Marriott Bloomington Indiana

Before my visit I had no idea how much I was missing out on in Bloomington. The food, breweries, wineries, cute shops, and so much more kept me plenty busy when planning what to do in Bloomington, Indiana on a weekend road trip. It’s a city with such a big heart and uplifting vibe that I know it won’t be long before I return.

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What To Do In Bloomington, Indiana on a Weekend Road Trip - TotchosWhat To Do In Bloomington, Indiana on a Weekend Road Trip - Monroe County Courthouse

Special thanks to Visit Bloomington, who facilitated this trip! Note that this did not affect my views and all opinions are my own.

3-Day Guide to Wyoming’s Southeast Corner

Tucked away in southeast Wyoming, there’s a little corner of the state that’s a true taste of the American west. From Cheyenne to Laramie to Saratoga and everywhere in between, you’ll experience the tales of well-known outlaws, jaw-dropping landscapes, and immersive western history lessons. Wyoming was also a leader in the fight for women’s equality across the United States, and the legacies of these unsung women are honored throughout southeastern Wyoming and beyond. This three-day road trip highlights the best things to do in Wyoming when you’re exploring the southeastern region of the state.

 

Day 1: Cheyenne

Cheyenne Wyoming Women Who Made History

While you can fly into Cheyenne directly, it’s only about an hour and a half drive from Denver, so it makes for an easy road trip if you’re looking for additional flight options. You’ll definitely want to have a car to get around for this three-day journey to see some of the best sights!

Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley Tour

Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley Tour - Things to do in Wyoming

There’s no better way to get to know the Wild West history of Cheyenne than with a trolley tour! The Cheyenne trolley tour is the perfect overview to start off your trip and get the lay of the land in town. It also passes by different museums and attractions so you can decide what you want to go back and see later. In addition to Cheyenne’s history, some of the things you’ll learn about include infamous folks from Wyoming’s past, like Tom Horn, Wild Bill Hickok, and Big Nose George, and you’ll find out why the bell in the St. Mark’s church bell tower randomly rings at 2am.

Cowgirls of the West Museum

Cowgirls of the West Museum Cheyenne Wyoming

It may be small, but this museum packs a punch! The Cowgirls of the West Museum is filled with countless stories about the women that contributed to the American West. The museum features (among many others) sharpshooter Annie Oakley, compassionate mining prospector Nellie Cashman, Tad Lucas who rode bulls during World War I to raise money for the Red Cross, generous Titanic survivor Margaret (Molly) Tobin Brown, and Jeannette Rankin, the first Congresswoman in the United States during a time when most women in the country were not yet allowed to vote. Each of these inspiring women and many others featured in the museum took on roles and earned achievements some women couldn’t even fathom at that time.

The Wrangler Western Store

The Wrangler Western Store - Things to do in Wyoming

One of my favorite shops in town, this three-story red brick building is hard to miss. The store started as family western wear store, and is the place to go for authentic western attire. Don’t be confused if you see Boot Barn on your GPS instead of The Wrangler. Boot Barn bought them and required all stores to change their name, except for this one because of their history.

Rib & Chop House

Rib & Chop House Cheyenne Wyoming

According to our server, the Rib & Chop House is the #1 steak house in Wyoming and Montana. Our homestyle dinner started off with the fried green tomatoes appetizer (one of their top sellers), then we split the parmesan crusted Delmonico ribeye and their award winning baby back ribs, with a side of BBQ shrimp. Needless to say, we walked out of there like we just finished Thanksgiving dinner and can definitely vouch for the claim made by our server!

Accomplice Beer Company

Accomplice Beer Company - Things to do in Wyoming

Yes, a self serving brewery is a real thing. And it’s located right in the historic Cheyenne Depot. Accomplice Beer Company offers 14 craft beers on tap that vary depending on the day and season. Upon arrival, you will receive an access card that records how much beer you pour yourself. Pick your glass, swipe your card, and start pouring! It’s a dangerous amount of power, so make sure you pace yourself! Both your liver and wallet will thank you.

Accomplice Beer Company Cheyenne Wyoming

They also serve a variety of food that’s a step up from your typical bar fare. Think: artisan pizzas, poutine, baby arugula salads, and beer brats. We started off strong with the hot and salty soft pretzels with beer cheese, and my mouth is watering just thinking about the buffalo boneless pork wings and side of kale salad and kettle chips I had for lunch.

Stay: Fairfield Inn & Suites Cheyenne Southwest/Downtown Area

Fairfield Inn & Suites Cheyenne Southwest Downtown Area

Lobby at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Cheyenne Southwest/Downtown Area

It’s hard to go wrong with a Marriott! This Fairfield Inn & Suites (1820 W. Lincolnway) in Cheyenne is a cozy place to rest your head after a road trip or full day of exploring. It’s right off the highway and a short drive from downtown Cheyenne. Plus, for an extra bonus, breakfast is included.

 

Day 2: Laramie

Cheyenne to Laramie, via Highway 210 – 1 hour

Laramie Wyoming - Things to do in Wyoming

I always opt for the scenic route, so when heading from Cheyenne to Laramie I recommend taking Happy Jack Road (Highway 210). Laramie was officially incorporated in 1874, not long after the Union Pacific Railroad was extended across the Laramie Plains. It went on to become a hub where women paved the way in making strides for the women’s suffrage movement.

Historic Ivinson Mansion / Laramie Plains Museum

Ivinson Mansion - Wyoming Women

The Ivinson Mansion, now the Laramie Plains Museum, was the home of Edward and Jane Ivinson starting in the late 1800s. They were both instrumental in the Laramie community. Jane was very involved in local women’s groups and worked to improve the cultural development of Laramie. Edward established his own mercantile and bank. He was also very supportive of Jane and her involvement in the community, so the home now features moments when women made history as well as other historic collections.

The ornate mansion is an important part of Laramie’s history and Wyoming in general. The incredible amount of thought and detail that was put into the renovations will transport you to early Laramie. Take a guided tour (required in order for you to see the property) through the mansion to step back into another era. Tours are offered Tuesday – Saturday from 9am to 5pm and Sunday Afternoons 1-4pm. In the summer they are impressively led by young students who will give the tour whenever you drop by during their open hours.

Wyoming’s House for Historic Women

Wyoming House for Historic Women Laramie

This entire museum is dedicated to the women who made a powerful impact both in Wyoming and across the nation in the movement toward gender equality. The Wyoming House for Historic Women in downtown Laramie honors these notable Wyoming women. The museum is located just down the block from where Louisa Swain became the first woman to cast a vote in a general election and where the first women were ever seated on a jury.

To learn more about women in Wyoming, read my recent post The Unsung Wyoming Women Who Made History.

Street Art

Laramie Mural Project - Things to do in Wyoming

All the street art throughout Laramie is hard to miss. There’s a self-guided walking tour of the Laramie Mural Project, a collaboration of Visit Laramie and the UW Art Museum with local artists who have been painting murals all around the historic district since 2011. In addition to adding some fun pops of color around town, the murals also reflect Laramie’s cultural and social assets.

Laramie Farm Wall - Things to do in Wyoming

I also couldn’t resist including this cool farm wall here. The water flows from the top down to the plant roots and is then recirculated by the pump at the bottom. This method is called hydroponic farming, which means that it’s grown without soil and it can save up to 97% of the water that would be used by traditional field agriculture.

The Bent and Rusty

The Bent and Rusty Laramie Wyoming

If you’re searching for antiques or fun unique items, The Bent and Rusty is the store for you. Their selection ranges from furniture to old signs to clothing and more. I will warn you, a visit in here could cost you hours if you’re not careful!

Coal Creek Tap

Coal Creek Tap Laramie - Things to do in Wyoming

For a cold brew, look no further than Coal Creek Tap, microbrewery and tap room. It’s a fun space with a relaxed environment, and a cute patio to enjoy when the weather is nice.

Stay: Hilton Garden Inn

Hilton Garden Inn Laramie - Things to do in Wyoming

Lobby at the Hilton Garden Inn

The Hilton Garden Inn (2229 Grand Ave.) is right on the University of Wyoming’s campus and is actually attached to their conference center. It’s only a quick 5-minute drive to get to downtown Laramie from here. Be conscious of any major college events when booking here, like football games and graduation, as it will definitely be busy at those times.

 

Day 3: Medicine Bow National Forest and Saratoga

Laramie to Centennial Visitor’s Center – 35 mins
Centennial Visitor’s Center to Saratoga – 1 hour (not including stops)

From Laramie to Saratoga, the most beautiful route is to drive through Medicine Bow National Forest on Snowy Range Road (Highway 130). Keep in mind this road is only open from late May through mid-November (weather permitting) because of how much snow they get in the winter. Plan on day three being a day to disconnect. You likely won’t have service most of the time you’re in Medicine Bow National Forest, and the WiFi and cell reception is pretty spotty in Saratoga.

Medicine Bow National Forest - Things to do in Wyoming

We had intended to enjoy a beautiful hike up to the summit on Lewis Lake Trail. It leads to Medicine Bow Peak, the highest peak in the Snowy Range at 12,013 feet (3,662 meters). Instead, what started as a beautiful, warm day down in Laramie had turned into a mild snowstorm by the time we reached the trailhead! Thankfully, we were able to return home through this same route the next day and enjoy some of the scenic overlooks without a cloud in the sky.

Saratoga - Things to do in Wyoming

Not doing the hike meant we arrived in Saratoga sooner than expected, but it must have been meant to be! Not long after we arrived in town, the weather cleared up and we discovered Togie Days was happening right outside our hotel. This local celebration brings live music, food, drinks, and more for a reason to enjoy a beautiful day and good company. Saratoga may be small, but don’t overlook it! Their downtown is straight out of a western movie.

Medicine Bow National Forest

Over the past 12,000 years, Native Americans have inhabited these mountains, and they are actually how this area got its name. The Native Americans used the mountain mahogany, juniper, and water birch to make their bows, so the name “Medicine Bow Mountains” came to be. Later, the wood from this forest was used to connect the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railway lines.

Medicine Bow Peak Overlook - Things to do in Wyoming

All throughout Medicine Bow National Forest, the ground is sprinkled with yellow and purple wildflowers and a touch of snow. The drive along Snowy Range Road through the forest was definitely one of the highlights of all the things to do in Wyoming on this three-day journey. There are loads of places to hike and camp along the way, as well as viewpoints like the Libby Flats observation point where you can enjoy a quick stop to soak in the view. When you enter the forest, make a stop at the visitor’s center. They’ll be able to share all the information you need on trails, lakes, scenic overlooks, and more.

Lake Marie Wyoming Women

Lake Marie in Medicine Bow National Forest

Lake Marie was one of my favorite spots. It’s one of many glistening lakes in Medicine Bow National Forest, but it has a special meaning behind it. The lake was named after Mary (Marie) Bellamy by her husband, Charles Bellamy. Mary was the first woman elected to the Wyoming Legislature in 1910, and she led the suffrage drive that eventually passed the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution that allowed women the right to vote.

Snowy Range Pass Medicine Bow National Forest

Snowy Range Pass near the Libby Flats observation point

This route along Snowy Range Road through Medicine Bow National Forest may not be the fastest, but it sure is worth the small amount of extra time for these views! Sometimes detours are just as good as, if not better than, the destination.

Firewater Public House

Firewater Public House Saratoga Wyoming

If you’re craving a juicy burger and some good whiskey, Firewater Public House is the place to go. It’s right along the North Platte River, and there’s a nice patio out back that you can enjoy when the weather is warm. They also share some great tips in case you encounter wildlife in the area!

Stay: Hotel Wolf

Hotel Wolf Saratoga Wyoming

We stayed at Hotel Wolf, which is just upstairs from the restaurant and saloon and right in the center of town. This historic hotel opened back in 1893, and walking through those doors nearly feels like you’re walking into 1893 (with some modern amenities added, of course). I have never had such an authentic stay in a historic hotel before. I would return to Saratoga purely to return to Hotel Wolf.

 

The map below outlines the route I took for this road trip. If you are flying in and out of Denver, it makes for a really scenic loop, so try to add on a few extra days if you can to enjoy some other stops along the way. Do you have other suggestions for things to do in Wyoming when you’re in the southeast corner? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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3-Day Guide to Wyomings Southeast CornerGuide to Southeast Wyoming

Special thanks to the Wyoming Office of Tourism, who facilitated this trip! Note that this did not affect my views and all opinions are my own.

Your Guide to the Best Museums in Denver

Denver is home to all kinds of museums highlighting the culture of the city and the American West in general. Their museums cover topics from arts to history to nature, and so much more. This guide to the best museums in Denver only scratches the surface of the abundance of museums to choose from in the city, so use this as a starting point to Denver’s thriving museum scene!  

Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Denver Museum of Nature and Science
Prehistoric Journey exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

I can’t stress enough how much I recommend visiting the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. As soon as I stepped foot in this place I knew I was going to have to return. There is an immense amount to see here and one visit certainly won’t be enough.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science Vikings Exhibit
Vikings: Beyond the Legend exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

My primary reason for my initial visit was for the Vikings: Beyond the Legend exhibit. But even after I finished with the exhibit, I couldn’t bring myself to leave the museum. Every few steps opened my eyes to another intriguing section of the museum I just couldn’t pass up! My favorite permanent exhibits include the Egyptian Mummies and Prehistoric Journey.

Molly Brown House Museum

Molly Brown House Museum Denver

The story of the “Unsinkable Molly Brown” may be a good one, though it’s not completely accurate. The real story is told at the Molly Brown House Museum. For starters, Molly’s real name was actually Margaret. She was more outspoken than most women, well educated, and very cultured. 

In 1893, the silver market crashed and forced the former home owners to sell their house and the Browns were ready to buy. J.J., Molly’s husband, discovered one of the largest veins of gold in Leadville, Colorado so they became very wealthy. Once they purchased the home, they added everyday modern conveniences for the time, like indoor plumbing, a phone line, central heat, and electricity.

Molly Brown House - Best Museums in Denver

A foot pump washing machine

Molly was a passionate traveler, so she rented the house out to people when she was traveling. When she was in Egypt, she got a call that her grandson was deathly ill. The first ship back was the Titanic, so that’s what she booked. She was one of the first people to realize something was wrong when they were sinking, so she went on deck and tried to convince people to get into the lifeboats. The crew felt that she was in the way, so they picked her up and dropped her into a lifeboat. Even though the boat fit 60 people, there were only about 20 other people in that boat with her. Molly tried to convince them to pick up more passengers but they were worried that the lifeboat would sink. 

When the Carpathia came to rescue them, Molly wanted to help the immigrants who survived. She asked fellow first class passengers to donate and they raised $10,000 (about $250,000 today). She was also the last person off the Carpathia because she was making sure everyone got off safely. 

As for Molly’s grandson, he survived! Turns out he was lactose intolerant and had a bad reaction to milk. 

Molly went on to found the Titanic Survivor’s Committee and served as a chair on the committee. She was also very involved in politics and worked to get other women involved. She grew up in poverty, so she empathized with the poor. She would host very formal dinners at her home lasting 2-3 hours and invited the wealthiest of Denver to get them to donate to some of the causes she was involved with. She certainly didn’t fit into expectations of women at the time! 

Molly Brown House Museum Library

The library holds the original bookshelves from the house.

The home eventually fell into disrepair so her kids sold it after she passed away, and the museum later bought it in 1970. The collection of items in the home is about 20% original to the Brown family. 

Denver Art Museum

Denver Art Museum

The Denver Art Museum is a classic must-see for all ages. There are so many works of art on display here, most notably American-Indian art, that it’s impossible to see everything in a single day. Other popular collections include Asian art, oceanic art, and Pre-Columbian art. Every first Saturday of the month, general admission is free.

Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume - Denver Art Museum
Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume exhibit at the Denver Art Museum

The museum has excellent exhibits that come through, so keep an eye on what’s happening during the time of your visit. I had the opportunity to experience the Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume exhibit, which was truly remarkable. More than 70 original costumes were displayed, and visitors were taken behind the scenes to see how much work really went into every little detail of these costumes and what influence history and popular culture had on their designs.

Denver Firefighters Museum

Denver Firefighters aMuseum

The Denver Firefighters Museum is actually housed in the former Fire Station No. 1, which was built in 1909. The building has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979. As you make your way through the museum, you’ll discover firefighting equipment, living quarters, uniforms, safety procedures, and other memorabilia. There are also plenty of hands-on activities to keep the little ones engaged throughout your museum visit.

Denver Firefighters Museum Memorabilia

Even now, firemen are out there each and every day not just fighting fires but risking their lives while undertaking rescue operations like during car accidents, building collapses, and hazardous material spills. Visiting the museum is a great way to honor them, learn more about the work they do, and discover the history of firefighting, specifically in Denver.

Black American West Museum

Black American West Museum Denver

In Denver’s Five Points historic district, the Black American West Museum lives in the former home of Dr. Justina Ford, the first black woman doctor in Denver. The museum is dedicated to honoring the black men and women who made an impact in the time when people began settling in the American West. For example, Dr. Joseph H.P. Westbrook was a black doctor in the neighborhood who was able to pass as white, so he infiltrated the KKK and was able to help with strategic planning to keep the black community safe in Denver. 

History Colorado Center

History Colorado Museum - Best Museums in Denver
On the ground down below you can see “Box City Denver,” where kids can learn about architecture and city planning by constructing their own building — all the way from obtaining the building permit to having their completed building inspected.

This museum features every bit of Colorado history that you can possibly imagine and more. Their hands-on exhibits and interactive storytelling make the History Colorado Center fascinating for kids and adults alike. Give skiing a try no matter the season with their ski jump simulator, learn how each part of the bison was used thanks to Billy the Bison, and discover El Movimiento — the Chicano movement in Colorado.

History Colorado Museum Microbrewing

I loved the A to Z exhibit, which highlights the best of Denver with each letter. M is for microbrew — no surprise there! Denver is home to one of the largest beer industries in the United States, having opened their first brewery in 1859, just one year after the city was established.

History Colorado Museum Denver Mining

Mining is another major part of Colorado’s history, so the museum has a mine replica that visitors can walk through to learn more about the lifestyle of miners and the daily challenges they had to take on. Blasting is one of the dangers they faced, so this exhibit offers a taste of what that process was like and how the dynamite had to be placed in precisely the correct order and distance.

 

Did I miss one of your favorites on the list of best museums in Denver? Let me know which one in the comments below! 

 

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Your Guide to the Best Museums in DenverBest Museums In Denver Guide

Special thanks to Visit Denver for facilitating these museum visits. As always, all opinions are my own.

The Unsung Wyoming Women Who Made History

When you think of Wyoming, do women immediately come to mind? They didn’t for me either, until recently. It turns out, Wyoming led the charge for women’s rights from early on. In fact, this contributed to why it took so long for Wyoming to become an official state. Lawmakers in Washington didn’t like that women had the right to vote in Wyoming, and demanded that they revoke women’s suffrage before the territory could be admitted to the Union. They refused, and it took them petitioning seven times before statehood was granted in 1890. I spent some time exploring these unsung Wyoming women who made history. Find out more about them and the museums and historic centers that honor their memories throughout Wyoming!

 

Wyoming House for Historic Women

Wyoming was the first territory in the free world to grant women the right to vote, a bold move in 1869. This set off a chain reaction of big moments for women in the fight for equality. In March 1870 in Laramie, the first jury in the world to include women was sworn in. This mixed jury included six women and 10 men.

The women still faced setbacks not long after this achievement. Judge John Howe, who called the women on the jury, fell ill the next year and his successor did not support women serving on juries. For the women who were the first to serve on a jury, they were highly criticized by the press. It was said that these women deserted their families and that women were too emotional to serve on a jury. On the contrary, the women took their role in the courtroom very seriously and were actually praised by the judge and one of the jurors, Sarah Pease, who claimed the women were more informed of the territorial laws than the men were. Women were on juries again briefly in 1871 in Laramie and Cheyenne, and then once again in 1891 in Bonanza. After that, it was not until 1950 that women would serve on a jury again in Wyoming.

Wyoming Women Martha Symon Boies

Martha Symon Boies exhibit at the Wyoming House for Historic Women

The first jury to include women led to Martha Symon Boies being appointed as the first woman bailiff. The jury heard a murder case and was not able to make their final decision that day, so the jurors were put up in the Union Pacific Hotel. Martha was appointed so that she could guard the room where the women from the jury were staying.

Louisa Swain Wyoming Women

Louisa Swain, the first woman to cast a vote in a general election.

Come election time in September 1870, Louisa Swain in Laramie, Wyoming became the first woman to cast a vote in a general election. Even though the nineteenth amendment would not be ratified until 50 years later, this was a monumental step for the women’s suffrage movement.

Ever since she was a young woman, Esther Hobart Morris was outspoken against slavery. She grew up into a successful businesswoman, and in 1870 she was appointed as the first woman Justice of the Peace. Again, critics insisted that a woman could not hold public office without sacrificing her personal life as a wife and mother, but Esther proved them wrong. Although she was only in office for less than a year (the term she was appointed for expired), she still addressed 26 cases with grace and tenacity.

Wyoming House for Historic Women Laramie

Wyoming House for Historic Women

The memories of these women are honored at the Wyoming House for Historic Women in downtown Laramie, along with other notable Wyoming women. Yes, this is an entire museum dedicated to women specifically and telling the stories of the women who made a powerful impact both in Wyoming and across the nation in the movement toward gender equality. The museum is located just down the block from where Louisa cast her vote and where the first women were seated on a jury.

 

Other Notable Wyoming Women

Even after these early trendsetters of the 1800s, Wyoming women continued achieving more “firsts” in the women’s suffrage movement.

Lake Marie Wyoming Women

Lake Marie in Medicine Bow National Forest, named after Mary (Marie) Bellamy by her husband, Charles Bellamy.

Mary (Marie) Bellamy was the first woman elected to the Wyoming Legislature in 1910. She was also Wyoming’s delegate at the National Suffrage Convention in Washington in 1918, through which she led the suffrage drive that eventually passed the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution that allowed women the right to vote in the rest of the nation.

Wyoming elected the first woman governor in the United States, Nellie Tayloe Ross. Her husband, William Ross, was governor but passed away in October 1924. An election was held for his successor and Nellie was elected without even running a campaign. She was inaugurated in January 1925. She later became the first female director of the U.S. Mint in 1933, appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Despite her college application being rejected from the University of Wyoming and her job application being rejected for a position in Cheyenne in the local school district, Harriet Elizabeth “Liz” Byrd persisted. She was eventually hired by the Laramie County School District, becoming Wyoming’s first full time, certified black teacher. She went on to become the first black woman to serve on the Wyoming legislature (1980) and the Wyoming Senate (1989).

 

Laramie Plains Museum at the Ivinson Mansion

Ivinson Mansion - Wyoming Women

The Ivinson Mansion

The Ivinson Mansion, now the Laramie Plains Museum, was the home of Edward and Jane Ivinson and was built by them in 1892, about 24 years after they moved to Laramie. Both Edward and Jane played a major role in the town and were instrumental in decisions for Laramie. Jane was very involved in local women’s groups and worked to improve the cultural development of Laramie. Edward established his own mercantile and bank, and dealt in stocks and real estate. He was also very supportive of Jane and her involvement in the community, so the home now features moments when women made history as well as other historic collections.

Ivinson Mansion Drawing Room - Wyoming Women

Ivinson Mansion Drawing Room

Before he died, Mr. Ivinson gave the mansion to the Episcopal Missionary District to be used as a school for girls, which it was for about 40 years. He also built a home for aged women called the Ivinson Home for Ladies that is still running today, honoring Mrs. Ivinson’s wishes to have a haven for women in Wyoming to not be indigent in their old age since the home does not charge residents to live there. In 1921 he left $100,000 to build a home for women who were in their advanced years and endowed it with $300,000 — an extravagant amount of money in those times.

Ivinson Mansion Tea Laramie Plains Museum

Mrs. Ivinson’s favorite place to have tea, set up as if she’s having company over.

Once there was no longer a need for girls’ schools, the church couldn’t keep up the property. It went into ruin and the church sold off the stain glass and furnishings. It went through a whole decade of destitution and became the old haunted house of Laramie, though underneath it was still a glorious old Victorian home.

Ivinson Mansion Photography Studio Laramie Plains Museum

Photography studio at the Ivinson Mansion, complete with examples of how you might have your photo taken and what you might use as props.

Ivinson Mansion Sewing Room - Wyoming Women

Mrs. Ivinson’s sewing room that now holds bridal gowns from throughout the decades.

The Laramie Plains Museum Association was formed in 1966, and one of its main members, Alice Hardie Stevens, started a rally and wrote articles for the newspaper that the Ivinson Mansion needed to be saved. The Laramie Plains Museum did take it over in 1972 when it was up for demolition, and they have been restoring it ever since. Although the items in the house are not the original ones, they still set up the house the way the Ivinsons would have had it.

Ivinson Mansion Bathroom - Wyoming Women

They tracked down one piece of the original stained glass so they were able to replicate the style and colors. See the “needle and douche” rainfall shower in the back right.

Mrs. Ivinson traveled to the 1892 Columbian Exposition in Chicago so she could order everything for her new home. Seeing all of the technology at the World’s Fair, she was drawn to a “needle and douche” rainfall shower that was running beautifully when she was at sea level on Lake Michigan. There are only six of these remaining in this condition today. She had this shower shipped to her house in Laramie, at 7,200 feet altitude on the second floor in this small town and it never received enough water pressure to make it work. So it ended up becoming a wonderful conversation piece.

Ivinson Mansion Library Laramie Plains Museum

During the girls’ school era, this room was a study hall. This table is the only piece of furniture from the Ivinson family in the museum’s possession. It was Mr. Ivinson’s boardroom table at his bank.

The ornate mansion is an important part of Laramie’s history and Wyoming in general. The incredible amount of thought and detail that was put into the renovations will transport you to early Laramie. Take a guided tour (required in order for you to see the property) through the mansion to step back into another era. Tours are offered Tuesday – Saturday from 9:00 to 5:00 and Sunday Afternoons 1:00 to 4:00. In the summer they are impressively led by young students who will give the tour whenever you drop by during their open hours.

 

Cowgirls of the West Museum

Cowgirls of the West Museum Cheyenne Wyoming

Cowgirls of the West Museum

It may be one of the smallest museums I’ve ever visited, but the Cowgirls of the West museum in Cheyenne, Wyoming is jam packed with stories about the contributions women made to the American West and backgrounds on their lives. The museum features women such as sharpshooter Annie Oakley, compassionate mining prospector Nellie Cashman, Tad Lucas who rode bulls during World War I to raise money for the Red Cross, generous Titanic survivor Margaret (Molly) Tobin Brown, and Jeannette Rankin, the first Congresswoman in the United States during a time when most women in the country were not yet allowed to vote. I was fascinated by the inspirational lives led by each of these women and many others featured in the museum, taking on roles and earning achievements some women couldn’t even fathom at that time.

 

Wyoming’s 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage takes place in 2019, and 2020 marks the celebration of 100 years of the 19th amendment in the United States, so these next few years are major milestones for the country and Wyoming specifically. Each of these Wyoming women and many others were essential in the fight for women’s equality in Wyoming and the broader women’s suffrage movement across the United States. We may still have a long journey ahead of us, but the legacies of these women live on today in how far we have come.

 

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The Unsung Wyoming Women Who Made HistoryWyoming Women Who Made History

Special thanks to the Wyoming Office of Tourism, who facilitated this trip! Note that this did not affect my views and all opinions are my own.

The Best of Breckenridge, Colorado

A well known part of Colorado’s ski country, Breckenridge, or Breck as the locals call it, is a mountain town you’ve probably heard of. But there’s a lot more to do in Breckenridge than just skiing. It’s packed with an interesting history, and no matter what season it is, Breck will keep you entertained!

Established back in the 1850s, gold was found along the Blue River and Breckenridge began as a gold rush base camp. This was during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush, and miners came looking for the “Blue River Diggins.” At this time, the town was actually named Breckinridge after Vice President John Breckinridge. The town was attempting to earn a post office because of this — and they did! But when John became a Confederate Brigadier General in the Civil War, the town changed the name to Breckenridge in 1861 to show their lack of support.

For accommodations, you can find plenty of Breckenridge house rentals to choose from for your visit. These luxury retreats are the perfect place to cozy up on a cold winter day, or cool down from the summer heat. Bring the whole family along or a group of friends — there’s something for everyone in Breckenridge! Kick off your trip planning with the best of Breckenridge and get ready for the ideal mountain getaway.

 

Let’s start with the obvious… Ski!

Or snowboard, whichever you prefer! Mother nature dumps an average of 366 inches of snow every year on Breckenridge. Back in 1898, it snowed for 79 days straight in Breckenridge and there was so much snow that people had to build tunnels in the snow to get around town. No matter your experience, there’s a wide range of trails for skiers and riders of all levels.

Best of Breckenridge Colorado Skiing

In 1960, the population of Breckenridge dropped to 393 people, causing concern that it would soon be a ghost town. But in December 1961, the town was revived with the opening of the Breckenridge Ski Area. This first season, nearly 17,000 skiers were recorded, and I-70 (the main highway between Denver and Breck) was not even finished yet! Fast forward to 1984, when Breckenridge became the first major ski resort in Colorado to allow snowboarding. Today, Breckenridge Ski Resort has 34 lifts spanning five peaks, and is home to the highest chairlift in North America (the Imperial Express chairlift at 12,840 feet).

Not into skiing or snowboarding? Don’t fret! Breckenridge offers plenty of other winter activities. Explore the backcountry on a snowmobile, take the kids sledding, give fat biking a try, or go fly fishing (yes, even in the winter).

 

Explore Main Street

Breckenridge Main Street - Best of Breckenridge Colorado

There are loads of shops, restaurants, bars, and more along Breckenridge’s Main Street, which isn’t surprising considering Breck is home to the largest historic district in Colorado. It may only take up a short stretch, but it’s packed with plenty to do and see for everyone in your group.

 

Go Underground at Country Boy Mine

Experience what it was like to be a Colorado gold miner with a tour of Country Boy Mine, once one of the largest and most famous gold mines in Breckenridge. Founded in 1887, the mine initially produced gold and silver. High-grade lead and zinc was later found, and was used in World War I and II. On the tour, visitors are taken 1,000 feet into the mine to really get a feel for what life was like for the miners. Country Boy Mine also offers gold panning, exhibits with old mining equipment, sliding down the 55-foot shoot that was used for bringing ore out of the mine, and burro petting.

 

Hike McCullough Gulch

This moderate hike is filled with flowing waterfalls, vibrant wildflowers, and beautiful views, and is a favorite of many locals and visitors alike. There are plenty of hikes around Breckenridge, so feel free to take your pick to fit your personal preference and skill level.

 

Get to know Breck on a tour

Main Street Best of Breckenridge Colorado

The Breckenridge Heritage Alliance runs a variety of fun tours around town. Try the Swinging Doors Saloon Tour for a behind the scenes look at the Breckenridge Distillery tasting room, the Victorian Tea Tour to enjoy Victorian tea service at the Briggle home along with a tour of the property, or Gold Panning at Lomax Gulch where you’ll get lessons on gold panning at the site of an 1860s mining operation. If you’re into spooky tales, they have a Breckenridge Haunted Tour and a Paranormal Investigation. In the summers, check out one of their hiking tours, like the Hike Through Gold Mine History or the Preston Ghost Town Hike.

 

Have a drink at Breckenridge Brewery

In 1990, Breckenridge Brewery was founded right on Main Street. At this time they were only Colorado’s third craft brewery. They opened up a second location in Denver, but moved to Littleton after they outgrew that property. Both the Breckenridge and Littleton locations are still running strong today, serving up tasty vanilla porters, agave wheats, avalanche amber ales, and much more.

 

End with another round at the Gold Pan Saloon

Gold Pan Saloon Best of Breckenridge Colorado

Right on Main Street, the Gold Pan Saloon opened in 1859 primarily to serve the miners in town. Not only does that make it the oldest bar in Breckenridge, but it’s also the oldest continuously-operated bar west of the Mississippi. If walls could talk, I think the Gold Pan Saloon would have a lot to say!

 

Regardless of what time of year you visit, the best of Breckenridge happens all year round. It’s only about two hours from Denver International Airport, so it’s easy to get there if you’re visiting from out of town. Enjoy the history, outdoors, and many activities of Breck that will keep you returning again and again!