Kylee Kay discovers the delights of Colorado and Utah through the eyes of a toddler
Working in the tourism industry, I’ve been lucky to visit the US countless times. But having my family join me on a road trip through Colorado and Utah, culminating with a Lady Gaga concert in Las Vegas, was an entirely different experience. After a week of meetings in Anaheim, I managed to sneak in a day at Disneyland with Kym and two-year-old Oliver before jetting off to Durango in Colorado for our first big family car journey.
Colorado to California road trip: let our adventure begin!
After collecting our Alamo hire car, we headed straight to the historic mountain town of Silverton. There’s nothing flash here – just rugged landscape and people – oh, and the world’s highest Harley Davidson store, which as a motorcyclist was a lovely surprise! We walked the town and spoke with the locals, including the self-employed town-greeter dressed in period costume, before our return ride aboard the historic Durango-Silverton train.
We are blessed to have been on some wonderful trains during our travels, but there was something magical about this trip. Built in 1882 to haul silver and gold, it has been in continuous operation ever since. It allows you to see Colorado in ways impossible by road, passing some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet. The smell and the sound of the engine takes you back to another time.
Heading to Mesa Verde National Park & Telluride
From there we moved on to Mesa Verde National Park, which was established in 1906 to preserve the archaeological heritage of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for 700 years. There are more than 5000 known sites, of which 600 are cliff dwellings. Oliver loved walking around the ancient wonders and exploring buildings that looked so different to those back home.
But more exciting things were to come. Next, we travelled to Telluride where we stayed in the mountain village at The Peaks Resort & Spa, a luxury property with spectacular views of the surrounding San Juan Mountains. Oliver’s highlight was a ride on the gondola, which takes you down to the town. The free cable car operates year-round and is super fun for kids and parents alike.
Driving the Million Dollar Highway, also known as Highway 550
Then I finally got to drive Highway 550 – a twisting road with drop-offs as far as the eye can see. There are several old mining towns along the way which we stopped to explore. I think this was Oliver’s favourite day of the trip. He loved exploring the derelict buildings through the remaining snow. We stayed in the town of Ouray, which has a beautiful feel to it, with friendly people, amazing restaurants and natural hot springs.
Continuing to Moab in Utah to witness its unparalleled landscapes
From there it was a five-hour stretch to Moab, where we began our Utah adventure. We stayed at Mainstay Suites near Arches National Park, which was my favourite park in Utah. The fact that it was flat in many parts, with incredible scenery of huge red rocked arches, meant it was an easy place to visit with a toddler who has a tendency to wander everywhere without fear or understanding of consequence. We could relax knowing he probably wasn’t going to get too far… or get hurt!
Visiting Bryce Canyon & Zion National Park
From there we moved on to Bryce Canyon, which has sweeping views over Utah, with spire-shaped crimson rock formations called hoodoos.
Zion National Park was also impressive, but requires a bit more effort to navigate. It is somewhere I would love to return to when Oliver is a little older and able to hike without us worrying he will walk off a cliff! We stayed at the Desert Garden Inn in St George, which has a lively social scene. Oliver had a ball in the pool getting to know the other guests. Its in-house restaurant, Magleby’s, offers outstanding food and a great atmosphere.
Las Vegas: where our road trip came to an end
Finally, it was time for our last stop – Las Vegas. While it isn’t a place I would usually take a toddler, we were pleasantly surprised by how much there is for children to do there. We stayed at the Park MGM, where the multiple pools were winners with every family member. A kind friend babysat Oliver while we went to Lady Gaga’s Jazz & Piano show – the icing on the cake of our big US adventure.
Kylee Kay is the managing director of Linkd Tourism, which represents Alamo Rent A Car and Colorado Tourism in Australia and New Zealand. She travelled with assistance from Visit Utah.