You’re Going to Denver: Surprise Travel Agency Review Part 2

At long last, it’s time to find out where Pack Up + Go sent us on our surprise vacation last month…

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We arrived at Baltimore-Washington International on Friday, October 19 at 6:25 a.m. as instructed and opened our envelope to find out where Pack Up + Go was sending us on our long-awaited mystery anniversary trip. As many people in our lives had predicted, they were sending us to… Denver!

IMG-5730During breakfast (with a mimosa for me and a beer for Mike, naturally) at The Greene Turtle in BWI, we dug into our packet of information a little more, eager to learn about our destination!

We were super impressed with all the information that the Pack Up + Go team compiled for us, as well as the small personal touches. There was a Denver postcard and a handwritten anniversary card included, plus a Denver guidebook. The travel agency included all the information on our hotel, flights, how to get around Denver, and their top 5 gluten-free restaurant recommendations. The travel team also put together a proposed itinerary that we could follow, if we felt compelled to, and a list of a bunch of facts about Denver, including some things I probably never would have known otherwise (e.g.: “In 1902, the police at Denver Union Station started a ‘no kissing’ rule on platforms because it slowed down trains.”).

We checked out all this information during the first half of our flight as well, and talked about tentative plans. Red Rocks was a must, and we knew that any of the dozens of breweries in the city would be a good stop for Mike––lucky for me, they also recommend wineries and cideries! When we landed in Denver, the instructions they gave us for transportation from the airport to the hotel were spot on. Denver is an incredibly accessible city. We hopped on a train to Union Station, hopped off, and then caught the free 16th Street Mall bus to the stop closest to our hotel. Easy peasy! But if we hadn’t wanted to take public transportation, we easily could have caught an Uber with the Uber ride credit they included in our trip. You see, Pack Up + Go guarantees that with your budget, they will cover your airfare and your lodging. If there is money left over, they’ll provide other accommodations. For us, that was a $100 Uber credit (which didn’t expire if we didn’t use it all––spoiler alert, we did) and a $100 gift card to the restaurant they were sending us to for our anniversary on Saturday night. Talk about having nothing to worry about!

We checked into our hotel, which was very nice and very centrally located, and then wandered off in search of lunch. The awesome thing here is that all of our itinerary information and an extra map with more recommendations was available in the palms of our hands thanks to an online version and a customized Google map that we saved on our phones.

We had a great time exploring the city a bit Friday afternoon and evening, and then we decided that on Saturday morning we would head to Red Rocks for the sunrise view and hike that the Pack Up + Go team had recommended. (Note: We’ll write some more in another post about the places we went and things we did on our trip, but I want to focus this post on the recommendations from Pack Up + Go specifically.)

So we woke up around 5 a.m. on Saturday and called an Uber to head out to Red Rocks in time for sunrise. And it was 100% worth it. It was clear as can be, a bit breezy, and definitely cold, but the view was incredible. There were probably another 20 or so folks there to catch the sunrise––some brought breakfast and hot drinks with them, some were filming or doing time-lapses for their social media, and some were just enjoying being in the moment. I probably took more photos than Mike would prefer, but that’s what I do.

After the sun was up, we decided to take a hike on the 1.5-mile trail, and while it was somewhat challenging for me with my pain issues, it was a wonderful experience. It was quiet, peaceful, leisurely but challenging, and a good workout (especially since I’m not used to that altitude!). A few times, I wasn’t sure I could keep going, but as always, Mike encouraged me to keep going––fitting for our relationship and for celebrating surviving our first year of marriage. Eventually, we made it back to the amphitheater and I was amazed by the people running up and down the steps there for a workout without even breaking a sweat.

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By the time we finished our hike, we were starving. So I pulled out my favorite travel app, Find Me Gluten Free, and looked for convenient gluten-free places we could eat on the way back to Denver. Enter Allergy Free Baking Company and the best cinnamon bun I’ve had in my life––with or without gluten. We definitely earned that treat (and the lemon loaf and blueberry muffins…) after our hike and being up before the sun!

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After making our way back to the city, we explored a little bit more. We hit up Snooze, which was recommended as one of the restaurants with great gluten-free options, and were treated to some fascinating entertainment from people who had been there since brunch started and were feeling the effects of some breakfast beverages. Then we wandered the city a bit more to check out some parks, skate parks, restaurants, breweries, etc. before we needed to be ready for our anniversary dinner reservation.

We had a reservation for dinner at 7 p.m. at Rioja. Honestly, the restaurant was a bit fancier than Mike and I would ever choose for ourselves. The environment was a bit stuffy for our liking and while I’m sure the white-tablecloth establishment and its servers were supposed to be nothing but top notch, we weren’t super impressed. The service was spotty at best––either filling up our water every 3 minutes or taking 20 minutes to come back and check after our entrees arrived and the table next to us got their meals before us even though we ordered first. I will say they were wonderful about helping me figure out which menu items they could modify to be gluten-free for me, and the food was good… but I’m not sure it was worth the price (we had a $100 gift card but still spent an additional $50 out of pocket). They offered us a complimentary dessert for our anniversary, but by that time (we’d been there for 2 hours), we were itching to leave and be a bit more comfortable in our surroundings. So we politely declined the dessert and then made our way out to go have drinks somewhere a bit more our style. This was probably the most disappointing part of our trip, but we can’t fault Pack Up + Go for that––we did ask for a nicer restaurant for our anniversary. Unfortunately because we were so uncomfortable there, I don’t even have any photos of us all dressed up for our first anniversary. Oh well. We have plenty of other memories from the weekend.

Sunday was our last day and we slept in a lot later than we’d planned to, but we were wiped out from being up so early the day before and all we packed into that day. We went to grab brunch and then hit up a few more breweries before we headed to the airport to go home that afternoon/evening.

All in all, we loved our trip. We wish we’d had a bit more time there and that we’d been able to go outside of the city a bit more, but we do feel like we got a feel for Denver’s culture and people. We’d love to travel back to Colorado, stay a little longer in a place maybe a bit outside the city or even go check out Boulder instead.

The Pack Up + Go team was wonderful to work with from beginning to end, and we loved the element of surprise for our first anniversary trip. We would highly recommend that anyone looking for an adventurous approach to traveling for a long weekend give it a try. We definitely plan to book another surprise trip with Pack Up + Go (maybe for our second anniversary!) and can’t wait to see where we get sent next!

So what do you think…

Would you take the risk of a surprise vacation with Pack Up + Go?!

If you do decide to try out Pack Up + Go, be sure to tell them that you heard about it from Lindsay and Michael Sherman. We have not been compensated for providing these reviews, but we will get a discount on our next trip if you book one and use our name. Thanks in advance 😉

 

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