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Five Reasons to Visit Telluride Now

Jenna Scatena | August 2, 2013 | Story Travel

The micro town of less than 2,000 people at the base of a scenic box canyon in Southwest Colorado has a knack for constantly reinventing itself—from mining boomtown, to ghost town, to its latest incarnation as a cosmopolitan adventure town. Here are some recent highlights.

1. Rocky Mountain Flavor
It's not hard to find a variety of cuisine in this mountain town. But those who strewn from the white-tablecloth-lined main drag will be rewarded with an innovative savory menu at There. Tucked away in the far west side of town, the guys at There bring the adventure-meets-cosmopolitan ethos of Telluride into the kitchen. Owner Andrew Tyler (of NYC Nobu Restaurant group) serves sharable plates of crispy duck steam buns, elk lettuce wraps, mammoth bowls of pork tenderloin ramen. Guests are welcomed with a bag of fresh popcorn served from an antique popcorn machine, and their cocktail menu features “jam cocktails”--you pick the liquor (tequila, rye, vodka, rum) and a homemade jam (red pepper, blueberry, pumpkin) and the bar wizard turns it into a cocktail. And the d├ęcor is just as refreshingly original as the menu: A reclaimed bedroom dresser serves as the bar, tractor seats have been wielded into bar stools, two aspen trees rise through one of the tables, and there's even a mascot—a furry jackalope.

2. Festivalpalooza
What does a ski town do in when there’s no snow? Throw festivals. Hoards of them, which is how Telluride earned its nickname as the Festival Capitol of the Southwest. If you missed the iconic Bluegrass Festival, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in June, you still have plenty of festival options left this year, each one a different rendition of feeling like you're partying with the whole town in a collective grassy backyard. Coming up is the Telluride Jazz Festival (Aug 2-4), Chamber Music Festival (Aug 8-18), and the grand Telluride Film Festival (Aug 29 – Sept 2). It doesn't stop there. In September, there's the Blues and Brews Festival (Sept 13-15) and the Telluride Barbecue Festival (Sept 21-22). One more worth throwing out there: The Horror Film Festival (Oct 10-13).

3. The Mountains
Ever notice the mountains on a can of Coors? That mountain, Mount Wilson, is just outside of Telluride, which lies within North America’s largest concentration of 14,000-foot peaks. The 14-er is climbable (for the prepared and ambitious!), but dozens of epic hikes are available 360 degrees around Telluride. You could spend your whole trip exploring the mountains in different ways—bicycling, fishing, off-roading—the sky is the limit. Literally.

4. It's rich history
The best way to understand Telluride's mining town roots is to leave town—to see the remnants of decaying mines. Most are not safe to enter, but even seeing them from the outside inspires awe and curiosity about what life was like here over a century ago when the town was being settled. It's not uncommon when you're hiking to stumble across old abandoned shacks, shafts, and mills, or seek one out yourself, like the Lewis Mill at the Bridal Veil Basin. A 3.4 mile hike from the trailhead atop Bridal Veil Falls, just outside of town, the mill was built in 1910, and is now a hulking rust-colored 5-story complex set against verdant cliffs. It's not safe to enter, though it is hauntingly beautiful from the outside.

5. Free Public Transportation and Events
Get whisked from the valley, 1,700 feet up on Telluride's free scenic wind-powered gondola that runs from morning to midnight everyday. It's one of the best and easiest ways to see Telluride's dramatic views. Exit at Allred's Restaurant & Bar at sunset for a mountaintop cocktail or dinner in a formal setting, hovering on the cliffs above town, or at Mountain Village on Monday evenings for a free outdoor movie (note: bring a bottle of wine and snack). Afterward, head to Smak and order homemade s'mores to eat around a large firepit with cushy chairs.

More resources: Visit Telluride

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