Roadtrip to Colorado from Chicago

Old Mar 16th, 2006, 12:53 PM
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Roadtrip to Colorado from Chicago

My family and I will be driving from Chicago to Denver/Golden...then on to Winter Park for skiing. Mapquest shows a 16 hour drive. Any suggestions on how to break this drive up, recommendations for lodging and ideas for good eating stops along the way would be GREATLY APPRECIATED. We have 4 kids with us - ages 4-17. Also, is there any worthwhile sightseeing on this drive?

Thanks much!

Jean
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Old Mar 16th, 2006, 01:12 PM
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Having driven to denver a number of times, I drive 16 hour days. I would get on the road and just go.Kansas and Missouri are just long--get it over with. I guess if you want something to "break" it, have BBQ in KC. Also, don't get your hopes up when you hit the Colorado border that you are almost there--another 4-6 LONG hours! Going west you gain that hour time zone also, which is nice.
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Old Mar 16th, 2006, 01:15 PM
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I'm assuming here that you're planning to take I-80. Depending on what time you get started in the morning and when you're ready to stop for lunch on the first day, you might want to consider the Amana Colonies in Iowa.

A fun place to stop for lunch the second day is Ole's Big Game Steakhouse in Paxton, Nebraska. On our first trip through, we happened to stop at a rest stop that had a tourist info center. The woman asked us whether we needed a recommendation for lunch. She recommended Ole's and we liked it so well that we made a point of stopping there the next time we took that route. Your kids will get a kick out of it.

The first time we made the drive we stopped at a Super 8 in Gretna, NE. My brother had recommended it because it's very convenient, relatively new, clean, cheap and has a pool. However, there's absolutely nothing else in the area. And, unless things have changed, no good restaurants. There was a McDonald's and a buffet restaurant at a truck stop.

On the next trip we stayed in Lincoln. My son wanted to look at the University of Nebraska. And it worked well timing-wise. Lots of restaurants there.

If you're just driving there and back, there's really not much to see. The last time, we made the return trip an actual part of the vacation. We drove up into Wyoming, went to Devil's Tower and then over into South Dakota to Custer State Park, the Badlands, etc.
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Old Mar 16th, 2006, 01:49 PM
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If there are family members who are John Wayne fans, then fersure you'll want to take 80 and pop off for the JW birthplace in Winterset, just a short jaunt off the interstate.

http://www.johnwaynebirthplace.org/directions.html

You say going 'for skiing'...so it's later this year sometime? If you are going soon, you may run into migrating flocks of Sandhill cranes along the Platte River in Nebraska or in Colorado. One of the TV networks had footage of thousands of migrating cranes near Evergreen CO just the other morning. I'm sure some googling could get you some timely facts. They're a wonderful sight!

Have made the trip frequently - and at least twice had scary experiences with serious tornado warnings, once or twice in Kansas and once in Davenport where the hotel desk called the room to let us know there was an alert sounding. Once, we arrived at a Holiday Inn in Hays Kansas just as all the guests were coming back up from the basement. So hang on to Toto!
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Old Mar 16th, 2006, 02:08 PM
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With kids, stop somewhere they can let off steam. Omaha is half way. There is a best western, holiday inn (something like that) that has an indoor water park in Omaha. I kind of agree with the "just get it overwith" theory. We will be doing the same trip this summer. Portable DVD player is a must.
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Old Mar 17th, 2006, 07:07 AM
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Thanks everyone ~ good to have some insight b4 taking this trip for the first time....especially with kids. Not sure they would hold out for the entire 16 hours...so I will probably stay a night. If it were me alone, I would just go for it and do it in one day though. The John Wayne stop sounds fun...cranes too....but not the tornados (good to know about tho).

This is my first time on this site, and I was sure this was a boring request and would get no response. What a surprise to get all this info! Thanks again!!!!
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Old Mar 17th, 2006, 07:56 AM
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You can hit the Machine Shed in Davenport or Des Moines as you motor thru Iowa.
http://www.machineshed.com/restaurants/davenport.asp
Try and make it to Grand Island 1st night. Big enough to have several kinds of restaurants for the kids.
http://www.bohemiancafe.net/
We always try to make a stop at Bohemian Cafe, right off I 80, when we're in Omaha.
Yum.
Take a break at the Cabela's in Sydney.
Consider coming back thru Ks. on I 70 for variation, hitting the Sternberg Museum At. Ft. Hays State.
http://www.oceansofkansas.com/Sternbrg.html
You can eat at Al's Chickenette.
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Old Mar 17th, 2006, 08:03 AM
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I would recommend going to the Omaha zoo, it is one of the best in the country and open year round. You may think it is too cold to go to the zoo but the Lied Jungle, Desert Dome and Aquarium are indoors and really amazing and will be more than enough to see. The Desert Dome looks like something that belongs in Disney World. It is a dome that has a desert terrain and desert animals and one level in the dark with nocturnal animals. There is even a wallaby that likes to be petted. The jungle is an indoors jungle with trees, plants, monkeys, birds etc. Kids of all ages and adults will love this. Your little ones will adore all the penguins in the aquarium. Omaha is a good midway-ish point.

Winter Park may have good skiing but the town is a bit dull. Breckendridge is much more kid friendly. There is not even a grocery store in Winter Park.
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Old Mar 17th, 2006, 08:04 AM
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Not my thread, but thanks everyone- I printed it out. We'll use the water park near Omaha for sure. My oldest son uses these routes occasionally with three under 12 as well.

Thanks.
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Old Mar 17th, 2006, 08:11 AM
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Bella, my F-I-L is a docent at the Zoo. I won't tell him I forgot to suggest it. LOL.
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Old Mar 17th, 2006, 08:53 AM
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If you come back I-70, you could stop at the Great Wolf Lodge in KCK-
http://kc.greatwolflodge.com/
or hit it going if you take the lower route, but I imagine you'll want to get to Colorado as quickly as possible.
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Old Mar 17th, 2006, 08:55 AM
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There is a grocery store w/in 5 miles of Winter Park in Fraser.
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Old Mar 17th, 2006, 08:56 AM
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Do you have a portable DVD. Might be worth the investment--they've gotten pretty cheap. When are you doing this? Keep an eye on the weather channel. You might have to drop down to I70 if there is bad weather further north. I once had to stop in Goodland KS--6 hours short of Denver--because of ice and snow. After sliding off the road the second time, I crept to an exit ramp and a motel.\
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Old Mar 17th, 2006, 09:38 AM
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Just go this info from BIL - not a huge water park, but slides and fun for kids. Looks like a great place to overnight. Check out pictures on the web.


Best Western Kelly Inn
4706 S 108th Street
Omaha, Nebraska, United States
Phone: 402-339-7400
Fax: 402-339-5155

http://book.bestwestern.com/bestwest...ode=28067#null
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Old Mar 17th, 2006, 12:22 PM
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When we made this trip, we had a great dinner in the Old Market area of Omaha. I can't remember the name of the restaurant, but there were a lot of dining options and shops. We enjoyed walking around the area after dinner.

www.oldmarket.com

We tried to make a stop at the Omaha Zoo. Unfortunately, traffic was backed up onto I-80 with everyone headed for the zoo entrance. I have heard it is very good, so we will have to try again next time. We ended up with 2 kids crying in the backseat, so we made a stop at the zoo in Lincoln, which was fun. I am sure it is not comparable to the zoo in Omaha, but it saved us on that trip.

Outside of Kearney is the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument. Since it spans the interstate, you can't miss it. I believe it is a museum - someone please correct me if I'm wrong. I haven't toured it so I can't comment if it is worth a stop.

Have a fun trip!
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Old Mar 18th, 2006, 06:38 AM
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The Old Market does have some cool shops and restaurants. You could go to the zoo and then the Old Market or Bohemian Cafe as bbgboy suggested afterwards, they are fairly close to the zoo. The zoo truly is world class and even if it seems like it may be crowded due to the number of cars, it is a huge zoo and very spread out.

If you want a really special dinner, we are known for our steaks, just like you are in Chicago. There is a small restaurant called the Drover that has the most incredible whiskey ribeyes!!!!

Skip the Kearney arch. It is going bankrupt if that tells you how fun it is. We snicker at what a bad idea that was everytime we drive past it. Do listen to the radio information on it, though. It is a hoot! It touts the "beautiful view... of the traffic below!" Its main attraction is letting kids point radar traffic speed guns at cars below and buffalo burgers. No wonder people make fun of Nebraska.
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Old Mar 18th, 2006, 09:53 AM
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Make reservations before you leave! I'm from Iowa and have lived in Denver for the past 12 years. Everyone I know that has driven the I-80 route has found this one out the hard way, including me. I know if is tempting to "see how far we can make it," but for some reason the hotels along the interstate fill up. We drove an extra 30 minutes at 2:00am and stopped at half a dozen hotels before we found a vacancy.
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Old Mar 18th, 2006, 11:40 AM
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Maybe that would be a good reason to travel on I70 instead. I have never made reservations in advance and never had trouble getting a room. There are many Budget motels on that road--cheap, clean, easy.
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Old Mar 19th, 2006, 08:29 AM
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Well, I may be a Colorado snob. I've made the trip from Denver to Iowa many, many times with kids. Sorry, folks but there really isn't that much to see. It's just a long, long way. There aren't a lot of good, definited places to stop.

If you're coming out here to ski, I'd barge through the driving and get to the slopes. Do your sightseeing in the summer. Maybe you could break it up in Omaha or York. Why stop at the zoo and all if what you really want to do is ski? There are lots of great rest stops in Iowa and Nebraska. You can learn a lot about the old wagon trails. If you come in on I-70, make good use of the first rest stop in Colorado. It'll tide you over until you get into Denver.

My biggest concern would be the weather. March and April can be the snowiest months. Once the winds start whipping on the prairie, it's easy to get blizzard conditions and the highway will close. My advice would be check the weather report closely. What's happening on the plains, in Denver and in the mountains can be very different. If the weather starts to get bad and you have doubts about the highway, find a motel room fast!

I'd drive straight through. Let the kids sleep. Time your trip where you get into Denver when it's light. You have to go over Loveland Pass to get to Winter Park. It'll be another 2+ hours from Denver. That would be best done when it's light. Invest in some DVD players.

You will be fried when you get here, not matter if you stop or not. Sign the kids up for an all-day ski school. You can catch up on your ZZZ while they learn how to ski or board. Winter Park is nice but if you stay for more than a few days, you might want to explore another resort.

Going home, you might take it more slowly.

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Old Mar 19th, 2006, 09:06 AM
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Totally agree with the last post. And as I said, watch the weather. One trip I80 was closed but 70 was open.
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