Ray’s Good Stuff (Montrose / Ouray)

What: Ray’s Good Stuff (Premium Jerky)Jerky 006a
Where: Just South of Montrose AND Main Street in Ouray
When: varies – closed January, February, March

The “Good Stuff” can definitely be found at the well-named Ray’s Good Stuff store on US 550 about 5 minutes south of Montrose. Look for the numerous “Jerky” signs, and perhaps an air-filled giant “man” waving about to catch your eye as you drive along the highway.

Inside the shop, you’ll discover not only Ray’s home-made beef jerky in numerous flavors such as mild, teriyaki, jalapeño, and black pepper, but also other types of jerky made from elk, buffalo, and turkey. Can’t make up your mind? They’ll gladly snip off a free taste of each flavor that you find enticing. Be warned, however, that you’ll likely end up deciding to buy a flavor or two (or three, or…need we go on?)

This is a fun little store to browse, as well. Ray’s carries jellies and jams, unique snack foods, maple syrup, and other goodies. The shop has a relaxed and rustic feel to it — enjoy it as you munch on those yummy jerky samples.

For more information, contact:
Ray’s Good Stuff
19385 Hwy 550
Montrose, CO  81403

710 Main St.
Ouray, CO  81427

877-626-3720 toll free


Arkansas Valley Fair (Rocky Ford)

What: Arkansas Valley Fair
Where: Rocky Ford
When: 5 days in mid- to late-August

If you’ve been in Colorado in August, you know “Rocky Ford” is synonymous with the best cantaloupe in the world! Good news: Rocky Ford watermelon is also fantastic. Even better news: The Arkansas Valley Fair, featuring Watermelon Day, has been growing strong since 1878 (yes, we really meant to say 1878, not 1978!!!)

j0283673Come enjoy several days of fun, food, and entertainment featuring contests, parades, music, crafts, and (of course) Watermelon. While there are a few special events that require paid tickets, most of the fair events are free. Your kids of any age will have a blast, especially on Kid’s Day. The whole family will delight in the Watermelon madness, including a watermelon seed spitting contest and the dreaded open watermelon pile (on Watermelon Day). Plus, if you love a parade, be sure to show up on Parade Day!

Mmmm-mmmm. This is going to be delicious!

For more information, contact:
Arkansas Valley Fair
P.O. Box 188
Rocky Ford, CO 81067
(719) 254-7723

email: avf@arkvalleyfair.com

Colorado Coffee Merchants (Colorado Springs)

What: Colorado Coffee Merchants – roasting tourCoffeeBeans
Where: Colorado Springs
When: Monday – Friday 9 AM – 4:00 PM
Saturday 10 AM – 1 PM
Reservations recommended for parties of 3 or more.  Tours last between 15 and 30 minutes.

Mmmmmm! Time to wake up and smell the coffee. And to watch the roasting process. And to get an education in green coffee and the air roasting process.  And, of course, to sample some fresh-brewed coffee during and after your tour.

Colorado Coffee Merchants are the proud makers of Ümpire Estate Mountain Roasters and Idle Truck Slow Roasted Coffee.

I have a confession to make here: I don’t drink coffee. I just love how it smells. Years ago, I shared an office with a guy who would buy coffee from an outdoor coffee cart vendor in downtown Denver on his way up to our office each morning. We had a ritual. He’d set the cup of coffee on my desk, I’d gently wave my hand over it, directing its fantastic aroma toward my nose (Ahhhhhhh!), and finally I’d relinquish his beverage to him.

So, if you see a woman waving her hand toward her nose on the roasting tour and sighing with pleasure, that might be me. Mmmmmm! Ahhhhhhh!

For more information, contact:
Colorado Coffee Merchants
302 East Fillmore Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80907


Redstone Meadery (Boulder)

What:  Redstone Meadery – tour and mead tastingRedstone Meadery (Boulder) free tour
Where: Boulder
When: Monday – Friday: 1/2 hr tour 1 PM and 3 PM; tasting room open Noon – 6:30 PM;
Saturday: tour 12:30 pm, tasting room open Noon – 5 PM;
Call for private appointment at other times.
Plus: Free live music 2 PM – 5 PM every Saturday from November through April

Ah, Mead! The Nectar of the Gods, the original fermented beverage, Honey Wine. If you’ve never tasted Mead, you’re in for a treat when you visit this award-winning Meadery. Mead can be simply a fermented honey wine, or it can be turned into a champagne alternative with a little carbonation. Or, add fruit (black raspberry, boysenberry, apricot, grape), herbs, spices (vanilla, cinnamon), or other creative flavorings (juniper berry) to produce variations on the original theme.

According to legend and our old English Lit 101 class, Mead was offered to the gods of mythology, it was consumed by Beowulf, and Shakespeare’s character Falstaff enjoyed it regularly. The term “honeymoon” originally referred to the tradition of drinking honey wine for the first month of marriage to ensure the birth of baby boys.

Redstone Meadery (Boulder) free tourOne story of the origin of Mead is that lightning struck a tree with a cavity filled with honey and rain water. Natural wild yeast in the tree was activated, and the honey fermented. Some lucky soul then came to collect the honey, and had an eye-opening experience. As Pete Seeger sang,

“We will pray just like the Druids,
Drinking strange fermented fluids,
Go dancing naked through the woods,
They’re good enough for me.”


In this small, but growing facility, enjoy a very personalized tour where you can explore the entire process of creating Mead. The friendly staff at the Redstone Meadery describe and demonstrate the steps that turn honey, hot water, and yeast into a product that’s a bit like wine, a bit like champagne, and a bit like beer. Their bottling, labeling, and packaging process is mostly by hand; a sharp contrast to the so-fast-it’s-a-blur processes you’ll see at large beer breweries!

After the tour, enjoy tasting the wide variety of Mead products produced here. Feel the love, as the folks here like to say!


For more information, contact:
Redstone Meadery
4700 Pearl Street Unit 2-A
Boulder, CO 80301



Additional directions:
Drive to Boulder, and take Foothills Parkway (County Road 157) to the Pearl Parkway exit. Turn north on 47th Street, which is the frontage road just to the east of Foothills Parkway. Drive one block north on 47th, turn right on Pearl Street, and turn right immediately to enter the parking lot for the building that houses Redstone Meadery.

Coors Tour (Golden)

What: Coors Brewing Company Tour (now known as:  MillerCoors)Coors2
Where: Golden
When: “Summer” schedule (Memorial Day thru Labor Day): 10 AM – 4 PM Monday through Saturday; Noon – 4 PM Sundays; closed on holidays
Other times of the year:  10 AM – 4 PM Thursday through Monday; Noon – 4 PM Sundays; closed on holidays

2008 Update:  We recently got word from the source that Coors is now officially MillerCoors, and the brewery tours are now self-guided, audio tours lasting 35 minutes.

After a day of rock climbing at North Table Mountain (a.k.a. “Golden Cliffs”), riding a bike along Golden’s bike paths, hiking the trails of White Ranch Park, or just driving around to places in metro-Denver, how about a cold one (or three)? Take a tour at one of Colorado’s best-known companies, Coors, and enjoy up to 3 free samples of their variety of beer products (if you are over 21), or complimentary soft drinks if you are younger or prefer something non-alcoholic.

More than 250,000 people take this popular free tour each year. Participation is on a first-come, first-served basis; no reservations are taken. Your audio tour device will guide you through the main steps of the brewing process at the world’s largest brewery at a single site.

Coors beer is brewed, packaged, and distributed cold. For many years, this dedication to keeping the beer cold at all times drastically limited the distribution region, since refrigerated transportation was nearly non-existent in the early days (the company has been around since 1873!), or too expensive to use until recently. Many college students who grew up in Colorado but attended an out-of-state University would bootleg cases of Coors beer when they returned to school after a break, and their special cargo would be in huge demand among their peers on campus!

Coors1Coors was also the first company to produce an all-aluminum, two-piece beverage can in 1959. Beer had been available in cans since 1935, but the cans were made of steel, which left a metallic taste and created a large disposal problem. The use of aluminum cans made it possible for Coors to no longer pasteurize its beer, which requires heat (and we’ve already learned that they like keeping everything cold). Coors uses a sterile fill process instead throughout their Golden facility. Another benefit of aluminum cans, of course, is that they can be recycled, and they don’t hurt as much as steel when you try to crush them on your forehead.

Prohibition – definitely not a good time for a beer company! But when Prohibition hit, the Coors family focused on their relatively small porcelain business, and it thrived, making everything from cooking utensils to scientific equipment. The brewing equipment began cranking out malted milk and a near-beer, and the Coors Brewing Company remained profitable during the “dry” years.

The tour takes 35 minutes; allow additional time to enjoy your 3 beer samples, to browse the gift shop, and sober up before you drive. 

For more information, contact:
13th and Ford Streets
Golden, CO 80401
866-812-2337 (toll free)
303-277-2337 (303-227-BEER)
303-277-2552 (Large Groups or Special Needs/Handicap)


Celestial Seasonings Tea factory tour (Boulder)

What: Celestial Seasonings Tea factory tourCelestial Seasonings tea factory (Boulder CO) free tour
Where: Boulder
When: Monday – Saturday on the hour from 10 AM – 3 PM;
Sundays on the hour from 11 AM – 3 PM

In 1969, founder Mo Siegel was a 19-year-old hippie picking wild herbs with his friends to create an herb tea for the local health food store to sell. Today, over 250 employees work at this successful tea company which produces up to 9,000,000 tea bags per day!

When you step into the tea sampling room, you’ll smell a variety of herbs and spices that create the numerous teas offered by Celestial Seasonings. Enjoy your choice of samples of over 50 different varieties before beginning a tour of the facilities.

The tour begins with a short film shown in an Art Gallery that features the original paintings that were used as illustrations for Celestial Seasonings’ colorful and whimsical boxes. Their packaging is also known for including inspiring and diverse quotations, such as “By perseverance the egg walks on legs” (African proverb) or “The day shall not be up so soon as I, To try the fair adventure of tomorrow” (Shakespeare). Next comes a guided tour of the factory, which is a very busy place on weekdays, but usually idle on weekends.

Celestial Seasonings tea factory (Boulder CO) free tourThe most unforgettable part of the tour is the contest to see who can stay in The Mint Room the longest. Some people will step in and dash out immediately as their eyes start to water profusely; others will relish the extremely powerful aromas of peppermint and spearmint, and will find that they can breath more clearly for days after this sinus-boggling experience.

There is a gift shop and a café (open weekdays) on site for those whose appetites for tea and a bite to eat has been whetted by aromas of mint, vanilla, ginger, mint, lavender, chamomile, hibiscus, mint, licorice root, orange peel, and (did we mention) mint.

NO PHOTOGRAPHY is allowed within the Factory, but you may take photos in the other areas, including the Art Gallery.



For more information, contact:
Celestial Seasonings
4600 Sleepytime Drive
Boulder, CO 80301

Additional directions:
Drive to the north side of Boulder, to the intersection of the Diagonal Highway (CO 119) and Jay Road (County Road 44). Turn east on Jay Road, crossing the railroad tracks. Continue 9.0 miles on Jay Road to Spine Road. Turn left (north) on Spine Road, and drive 0.5 miles to the signed entrance to Celestial Seasonings on your left.


Denver-for-Free: a fun-filled day of free things to do around Denver

by Diane Winger

Whether you are planning a vacation to Denver, or you’re a local looking for something new to see or do, chances are you’d like to find something for free. Good news: you’ve come to the right place!

Let’s start off our free day (if today happens to be a Tuesday during the warmer months) by dropping in at Denver Botanic Gardens. Enjoy a fitness walk through the beautiful gardens, followed by a healthy snack (also free!). To add more balance to your morning, attend the free T’ai Chi class as well. (For more information: call 720-865-3500 or visit  http://www.botanicgardens.org/content/fitness-walks)
2010 UPDATE: The Gardens aren’t holding their fitness walks and t’ai chi classes this year. Check their website for any changes to their schedule.

That was invigorating! Now, let’s head downtown to the Colorado State Capitol Building. The distinctive dome is plated with Colorado gold. The gold has been replaced several times, using rolls of ultra-thin gold, requiring only 47 ounces of gold to coat the entire dome! As you explore the building on your own, or join a free tour, enjoy the murals, stained glass portraits, wall hanging, and presidential portraits. During the legislative session, step into the Senate or House of Representatives gallery to watch state legislators in action.

For those Coloradoans who’ve visited in the past and remember hiking up and up the spiral stairs into the dome to enjoy the views of the city and of the building below, we have some bad news. After 9/11, this part of the building was closed to visitors. The good news is that visitors are still able to stroll through much of the building to enjoy its beauty and fascinating history. (For more information: call 303-866-2604 or visit www.milehighcity.com/capitol).

News flash 3/2007: Tours are now available again for the Capitol Dome!  Reservations are required (2 weeks in advance)

As we approach lunchtime, how about browsing the incredible book offerings at one of the Tattered Cover bookstore locations? What’s a bookstore doing in an article about free things to do in Colorado? Well, my friends, the Tattered Cover isn’t just any bookstore. What started out over 30 years ago as a small, cozy bookshop with an eclectic selection of books evolved into an amazing place for anyone who enjoys books. Not only will you find an outstanding selection of books (over half a million in the two original locations, consisting of over 150,000 titles), but you’ll still enjoy the feeling of being in a cozy shop where you feel welcome to curl up on a sofa or sit back in a recliner to enjoy reading a book, magazine, or newspaper. This is the bookstore that some of the “big box” booksellers wish they could be.

Although lunch isn’t free, may we suggest a light meal at the in-house coffee shop. (For more information: call 303-436-1070 or visitwww.tatteredcover.com).

Are you up for one more tour? If your free day is a Wednesday or Saturday, and it’s now about 2:00 PM, head over to the historic Brown Palace Hotel downtown. Meet in the sitting area beside the entrance to the Ship Tavern inside the hotel, and enjoy learning some fascinating Denver history on this 45 – 60 minute free guided tour. See a hotel that has hosted kings and presidents, executives, rock stars, and even people like you and me. (For more information, call: 303-297-3111 or 800-321-2599 or visitwww.brownpalace.com/about/historical_tours.cfm).

Next up: Dinosaur Ridge by Morrison. This site gives new meaning to the term “leave only footprints” when hiking! You’ll be amazed at the variety of prehistoric animal tracks, both large and small, which are available for viewing along this well-preserved site. Stop by the Visitor Center, and then take time to experience the self-guided tour which includes sixteen interpretative signs that describe fossil remains as well as other relevant features of the area. (For more information, call: 303-697-3466 or visit www.dinoridge.org).

From Dinosaur Ridge, it’s just a quick jaunt over to the gorgeous Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Visitor Center. From Opera to Rock, Jazz to Reggae, Folk to Swing, Classical to Country; all types of musical performances have occurred at this spectacular natural amphitheatre since the early 1900s. During the day, or late into the evening when no concert is scheduled, you can come explore this beautiful concert venue.

When you’re done exploring the amphitheatre, don’t miss the captivating Visitor Center, which opened in 2003. The Visitor Center is tucked under the seating, so it made a minimal impact on the appearance of the area. Watch a 10-minute film that describes the history – both natural and musical – of the park. Reminisce as you view concert posters from the past 40 years, see instruments belonging to favorite musicians, or use the interactive computer terminals to find out who performed here or to remember a special concert. (For more information, call: 303-295-4444 or 303-640-2637 or visit www.redrocksonline.com).

Are you up for one final stop and a few free beers? Take a tour at one of Colorado’s best-known companies, Coors (now known as:  MillerCoors), and enjoy up to 3 free samples of their variety of beer products (if you are over 21), or complimentary soft drinks if you are younger or prefer something non-alcoholic.

More than 250,000 people take this popular free tour each year. Participation is on a first-come, first-served basis; no reservations are taken. Your self-guided audio tour will take you through the main steps of the brewing process at the world’s largest brewery at a single site.

The tour takes 35 to 40 minutes; allow additional time to enjoy your 3 beer samples, to browse the gift shop, and sober up before you drive. (For more information: call 866-812-2337 (toll free) or 303-277-2337 (303-227-BEER) or visit www.millercoors.com).

Whew! That’s enough fun for one day. Thanks for joining me. 


©2006-2017 All Rights Reserved.
Diane & Charlie Winger are authors of several hiking and travel guidebooks, including The Essential Guide to Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, The Trad Guide to Joshua Tree – 60 favorite climbs from 5.5 to 5.9, and Because It’s There – A Photographic Journey. Charlie recently released his autobiography, Two Shadows – a true story of triumph over adversity, an inspiring story filled with mountaineering adventures. Diane authored Faces, a novel featuring struggles with face-blindness (prosopagnosia), Duplicity, a thriller set at a ski hut high in the mountains of Colorado, Rockfall, a story of tragedy and hope, Memories & Secrets, the story of a grandmother and granddaughter each facing her own demons, The Daughters’ Baggage, which follows the lives of several young women as a special little suitcase passes from one to the next, and The Abandoned Girl, because although every child deserves a loving home, some don’t get what they deserve.

Free Box (Telluride)

What: Telluride Free BoxTelluride Free Box
Where: Telluride
When: The Free Box never closes!

The name says it all, although perhaps it should be called Telluride Free Boxes to more accurately reflect how this outdoor giveaway rack looks these days.

It began sometime in the mid-1970s, back when Telluride was simply a small mountain town, with a definite hippie and New Age influence to it. People in Telluride who had some item they no longer needed might drop it off in the Free Box, “A Telluride Tradition.”

People who like free things would browse the Free Box and take things they wanted.

It’s still that simple. Somehow this tradition has endured in these much more upscale, high-class, resort days.

Most of the items in the Free Box are clothing and small housewares, but you never know what you might find. The last time we visited, we noticed a very used climbing harness had been donated. Buyer (or in this case, donee) beware. At the end of the ski season, you’re especially likely to find some true treasures, however, as the ski crowd departs until the snows fly again. The Telluride Daily Planet reported watching someone drop off (and someone else quickly snatch up) a huge Sony flat-screen TV.

The Free Box has its downside, as well. At times, it becomes a hangout for people whose behavior could be described as undesirable, or it simply becomes a free place to dump junk that no one wants.

Still, don’t you just have to check out this Telluride icon when you learn that the annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival includes a Free Box Fashion Show, where models showcase clothing from the Free Box?

And after you visit the Free Box, you can take the Free Gondola up to Mountain Village!

Look for the Free Box on North Pine, just off of Colorado Avenue (Main Street).

Russell Stover Chocolates (Montrose)

Where: Montroseweb RussellStover 011When: Monday-Saturday 9:00 am -6:00 pm; Sunday 11:00 am -6:00 pm
Closed on major holidays.

Chocolate! One of the basic food groups, right?

Wander the aisles of this huge factory outlet store, and pick up a sample or two, or three, or … now, don’t get carried away! You’ll see that the store employees have thoughtfully opened sample boxes of various candies throughout the store. Please don’t “help” them out by opening additional boxes to sample!

Russell Stover is a major employer in the Montrose area, with a production facility located in the building behind the outlet store. Sadly, no tours of the candy-making process are available.

Russell StoverWarning: the taste and aroma of chocolate may prove too much for you, and you’ll likely end up making a purchase before your friends manage to drag you out of the store. Ask for the free gift wrapping, and pretend you aren’t going to eat it all yourself.

Update: Check out the lovely, brand new building (as of late 2012) that replaces the former one on the same property. The front area features special chocolates by the piece as well as a multitude of boxed chocolates and other treats. The back room has lots of specials on seasonal-themed items and “not-quite-perfect” candies that taste great but aren’t quite pretty enough to make it into the fancy boxes.

For more information, contact:Russell Stover
Russell Stover
2185 Stover Avenue
Montrose, CO 81401