Durango in a Day

DurangoThe steel tank was 15 feet tall and full of beer and a man I’d just met was pulling me a pint. Right. From. The. Barrel. The foamy black goodness that is Vernal Menthe, Ska Brewing Company’s deliciously minty summer stout filled the glass and I toasted my hosts just two hours after landing in the Durango Airport. This is my kind of town. SB Durango sits among some wonderfully rugged and wild land in Southwestern Colorado. But this outdoor-lover’s dream town has a lot more to offer than just endless powder turns and remote forests. “Already today, I’ve gone skiing, ridden my horse and worked a full day. Welcome to Durango!” said Anne Klein, a spokeswoman from the Durango Area Tourism Office and 12-year Durango resident during a 3 p.m. interview. The fact is that, in the one time I’ve been to Durango, I got an intimate tour of Ska Brewing, enjoyed a wandering tour of the genuinely western historic district and ate some delicious sushi in a packed four-hour journey that left me light headed for the next day ski session with the Durango Powder Cats. I really want to go back. shTo begin a day in Durango, grab some coffee at one of the many restaurants that fill the touristy yet authentic Downtown Durango, a nationally registered historic district with dozens of art galleries, shops, hotels and restaurants. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Durango to its 2007 list of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations. If you’d like an easy way to get around town, Klein said the Rochester Hotel has bicycles that can be rented for zipping around town. Klein recommended hitting a couple art galleries to get a sense of history and culture of the region. “When you want to get to know the area, get to know the art,” she said. “There are some galleries that really chronicle the history of Durango.” To get the taste of any destination, there’s no better way than sampling the local firewater. In Durango, that means beer. The town features five outstanding breweries: Carver Brewing Co., Durango Brewing Co., Ska Brewing Co., Brew Pub & Kitchen and Steamworks Brewing Co. Ska Brewing is one of the best known and widely distributed, and a trip to their tasting room will leave visitors satiated and likely a bit tipsy. Be sure to try a seasonal, such as the summer themed Vernal Menthe Stout. If cultural education is more your cup of tea, Durango won’t disappoint. See the country’s oldest surviving coal-fired, steam generated alternating current power plant at the Durango Discovery Museum, which also features hands-on science and energy exhibits and historic information. It’s actually 25-mile drive away, but the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum in Ignacio celebrates the culture and tradition of Colorado’s longest continuous residents through interactive exhibits and rare artifacts in a 52,000 square-foot facility.  For those who thirst to learn about the native history of the region, the short trip outside Durango will be worth the journey. One of Durango’s most well known attractions only begins in town – and extends far into the wilderness. Ride the rails at the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a 125-year-old, coal-fired, steam-powered locomotive that pulls passengers through 46 miles of the Animas Valley to Silverton. Durango Train The trip is 3.5 hours each way and runs mid May through October. Along the way, you may want to check out Soaring Treetop Adventures, one of many possible stops along the train tracks. “It’s an incredible zip-line. It’s a fantastic experience that is only accessible by train or helicopter,” Klein said. If you don’t have time for the trip, you can check the museum, which covers the history of railroads in America. “You can walk in an old rail car” Klein said. “It covers the history of the area and the steam train. It’s got all kind of exhibit cases, all kinds of interesting things for running a railroad.”

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