Austin, You’re Weird

Austin, you’re weird.
But I like you.

A few weeks back, Matthew & I took a trip to Austin, Texas to see what all the rave was about the so-called ‘best place to live in the US‘. From the amazing food and live music, to the outdoor life and fun events, I must say – Austin, you’re pretty cool.

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We bought our flight tickets for about $100 each to Austin back in February, when we assumed we’d be antsy to get out of Denver’s winter and into the *hopefully* hot spring of Austin.

Windy, rainy and 50 degrees was obviously not the weather we were expecting, but it’s what we got as we walked out of the airport and hopped on the Capital Metro bus to downtown Austin. The upside – $1.50 per local bus ticket is a lot more reasonable than the $10 RTD lightrail ticket we have to buy to get to & from the airport in Denver. Public transportation affordability: check.

IMG_6214After the 30-minute bus ride, it was about 1:00 PM and we were ready to stuff our faces with the Texas food everyone raves about. So, we battled the wind – the rain had stopped, thankfully – a few blocks to SuperBurrito, a popular food truck in the middle of downtown. I opted for the Texas Burrito, which was a combination of carne asada, potatoes, cheese, pico de gallo, and guac in a chipotle tortilla – YUM!
Delicious food: check.

Once our bellies were full, we checked into our Airbnb, just 4 blocks north of West 6th St. It was a private room in the colorful apartment (seriously, there were neon lights everywhere) of an Airbnb Superhost – so although it was super clean and our host was great, it definitely wasn’t anything luxurious, but it was perfect for our 2-night stay.

IMG_6230Thanks to some friends’ suggestions (yay former Austinites) and great online resources (<3 Visit Austin), we had some plans for the weekend, but nothing was set in stone.
So, after dropping our stuff at our home-away-from-home, we simply explored via B-Cycle, which was FREE thanks to Denver’s B-cycle pass giveaway – we were pumped to find out that our passes worked for Austin B-cycles too!

From downtown, along Lady Bird Lake – which isn’t really a lake, but more like a really big river… – to South Congress, we got a taste of a good chunk of Austin during our first day. AND a taste of some refreshing happy hour margs + chips & salsa at Guero’s, a popular taco bar with an outdoor music garden in South Congress.

That night, we also chowed down on delicious BBQ from Stubb’s, a popular restaurant and concert venue in downtown. By the end of the night, we were cold – seriously, it was not the best weather – tired, and just wanted to relax. So, we posted up at Easy Tiger, a bake shop + beer garden along Waller Creek, where we sipped local beer for a good 2 hours while planning the next day’s activities.

IMG_6235We decided to start the day a little later on Sunday – which, for us, meant about 9 AM – to allow the cold air some time to move out. By the time we headed out the door, it was definitely still chilly, so we stopped at The Hideout Coffee House to savor the warmth of caramel lattes. Once we were reasonably warm, we stepped out into the chilly air and hopped on our B-cycles to continue exploring.

 

Biking all around Lady Bird Lake brought us back to South Congress for brunch at Phoebe’s Diner, where we waited in line for about an hour – don’t worry, we walked around & explored during this time – before finally sitting down to enjoy a delicious smoked brisket breakfast burrito, chorizo hash and a carafe of blood orange mimosas. All of that delicious food + drink gave us the energy to head to Zilker Park, where the 90th ABC Kite Festival just happened to be going on.

After spending hours watching thousands of kites soar across the sky, we biked back to downtown Austin to use one of our Groupons at the oldest business in Austin, Sholz Garten, where we munched on a big pretzel and beer.

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Then we were off to Rainey St, where the party never seems to end – even on a Sunday! We got down to some music before joining the masses in watching the sunset over Congress Avenue Bridge, from under which groups of bats flew out to begin their night flights.

That night, we also listened to live music at multiple bars on 6th St before grabbing some fried chicken at Happy Chicks.

Our last day in Austin was all about embracing the best weather we would have all weekend – well, after the morning rain. We biked through sprinkles to East Austin, where we had to try the famous Veracruz All Natural breakfast tacos. We’re big breakfast burrito people so tacos were a fun twist to our taste. We knew it was gonna be tasty when we saw A LINE of people waiting IN THE RAIN. Talk about dedication. Then, while waitingfor better weather, we went to yet another coffee shop – this one a charming, historical spot surrounded by lush greenery – Cenote. Another latte and I was ready to brave the outdoors.

With the weather still a bit gloomy, we headed to the Texas State Capitol and got lost as we took a free self-guided tour inside the massive building. Thankfully, we found our way out to the SUNSHINE – yes, the sun finally came out!! – and headed to the University of Austin to check out the campus. We sat on the steps and posed as students for a little while before Matthew insisted that we go to In ‘N Out. You bet we got animal fries & the double-double with everything + the whole onion. 

Then it was my turn to choose what to do. And that was simply to soak up the sunshine by Lady Bird Lake. It was truly a dream until some really mean geese came and squawked and chased us away.

And just like that, around 5 PM, our trip came to an end. We boarded our bus and headed back to the airport, where we flew back to Denver – our home, ‘the 2nd best place to live in the US’. It’s okay, Denver. I still think you’re cooler than Austin.

So after that long, detailed breakdown of our not-so-sunny, yet oh-so-fun trip, I’ll break it down at a much simpler financial level:

  • Round-trip plane tickets: $100 each = $200
  • Bus tickets: $1.25 x 2 each = $5.00
  • Airbnb: $85 x 2 nights = $170
  • Food & Drink: ??? This is hard b/c I definitely did not keep track. But I’d say about $150 – if that?
  • Transportation: $0 (thanks to our free B-cycle passes!)
  • 3-Day Trip to Austin for 2: ~$500

One thing to note is that we don’t ever actually create budgets for our trips, but rather we just opt for reasonable options, like taking the bus or bikes instead of an Uber and grabbing happy hour bites and Groupons instead of full-price meals. This way, we’re forced to explore each city even more AND usually gain an even better idea of what it would be like to live there.

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All in all, Austin, you are truly weird.
I don’t know where anyone works in the city (seriously, where are the office buildings?!) and you call large rivers lakes (Lady Bird Lake is not a lake!).
But you’re pretty cool.
And we’ll probably be back for more delicious food, fun nights filled with live music, and sunnier weather.

frugal & free,
Claire

A Cheaper Alternative to Skiing

So, you live in Colorado.
You obviously want to take advantage of the awesome winter sports that the mountains have to offer.
But – what if you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a ski pass and ski/snowboard gear? What if you don’t want to spend even more money booking pricey ski lessons. What if you don’t want to sit in hours of traffic on the way up to the mountains every weekend? – or wait in long lines to get on the lift and up to the actual slope every single time? and what if you’re just not into the terrifying rush you get while sliding towards your death down the mountain?

What if you just don’t want to ski/snowboard?

Well then, maybe you’ll be down for snowshoeing.
Here’s just a couple reasons why I believe snowshoeing is a good alternative to skiing:

IMG_49421. It’s not an expensive sport.
While snowshoes aren’t as cheap as I imagined they’d be, they are nowhere near as expensive as all the gear that comes with skiing. Matthew and I scooped up 2 pairs of REVO Trail MSR shoes for $80 each in clearance at REI, and we also got poles (not required) for about $15 each. That’s less than $100 for all of our snowshoe gear!

2. It’s easy.
You don’t have to be super skilled to enjoy snowshoeing. It’s really just like walking, but with big flippers on your feet. This means that anyone, any age, at nearly any fitness level can do it!

3. It’s a good workout.
Snowshoeing is very similar to hiking, but it just requires a little more effort since your feet now weigh 2x their average weight. It’s a good way to burn some calories during the winter!

4. You don’t have to travel far to do it.
Like running, snowshoeing requires very little effort when it comes to getting to where you can do it. All you have to do is find some snow, put on your shoes and get going. This is a major plus when it comes to avoiding the ski resort traffic and lift lines! Two of my favorite snowshoeing spots so far are Boreas Pass Road in Breckenridge and Lost Lake in Nederland – but I guarantee that there are many trails closer to Denver!

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5. It’s beautiful.

Picture this: You’re walking along a shimmering, snow-filled, winding trail lined with towering trees dusted in white. You get to an open clearing with a frozen lake back-dropped with snow-capped mountain peaks. Can’t beat it.

6. It’s not [as] dangerous.IMG_5689
If you’re not an adrenaline junkie who needs that rush you get while downhill skiing, then snowshoeing may be right up your alley. No falling, broken bones nor life-threatening incidents… unless you happen to nearly die falling into an iced-over river like I did. Just, watch where you step.

Okay, so snowshoeing is nothing like skiing. But maybe that’s the real beauty in it.
It’s cheap, safe(r), and allows you to enjoy Colorado’s beautiful winters in the mountains!

I’ll let you know how I feel about skiing after I try it next week 🙂

frugal & free,
Claire

Breckenridge

Of all the Colorado mountain towns I’ve been to, Breckenridge is hands-down my favorite.
Not only is it super close to Denver, but it also has an unmatched charm exuding through its Main Street shops, diverse eateries, colorful homes and the mountain backdrop that sets the scene for it all.
Along with its beautiful scenery and unique charm, another thing I love about Breckenridge is that although its known as a ski town, there’s a lot more to do there than just skiing/snowboarding.

— Side note: Yeah, I know it’s crazy, but Matthew & I have yet to try skiing! This is mainly because I don’t trust myself to survive due to my extreme lack of coordination – and it’s an expensive sport to invest in. BUT we plan to try it next month so don’t shun me just yet. —

SO every time we’ve gone to Breckenridge, we’ve filled our time with other activities besides skiing. Below are a few of my favorites (and a few that I am still wanting to try!).

1. The International Snow Sculpture Championships
If you live in Colorado and haven’t been to the International Snow Sculpture Championships yet, GO. It’s such a cool event and absolutely free! All you have to do is show up, make it through the traffic and enjoy the amazing ice art. If you’re planning a visit to Breckenridge in the winter, try to plan your trip around this event. You won’t regret it – just beware of the crowds.

2. Snowshoeing
There are SO many great spots to go snowshoeing around Breckenridge! One of my favorite trails is also one of the closest to the town (about 2.5 miles away) and the most popular: Boreas Pass Road (Baker’s Tank Trailhead). It’s an easy, beautiful trail that can be as long or as short as you want it be – just depends on when you turn around!

3. Sledding
I haven’t done this yet, but apparently Carter Park, just 4 blocks east of Main St, offers a steep hill that people sled down for free! Just BYOS (bring-your-own-sled).

4. Snowmobiling Tours
This isn’t necessarily the cheapest thing you can do in Breckenridge, but it’s a great way to get your adrenaline rush while taking in the breathtaking mountain scenery! There are a ton of snowmobile tour options, but we went with White Mountain Snowmobile Tours because it was a last-minute decision & it was one of the only appointments left open. This 2-hour tour at the expansive Turquoise Lake Recreation Area was $125 per driver & $65 per passenger, so again – not the cheapest activity, but so fun!

5. Cross Country Skiing @ the Colorado Cross Country Ski Association
We just purchased this Groupon for “Two Trail Passes and Basic Ski or Snowshoe Rental Gear for Two” for $48 ~ actually $39 with the Groupon code I used (SCORE). This Groupon can be used to go to one of 5 Colorado Cross Country Ski Association areas (1 of which is in Breckenridge) to spend a day cross country skiing. We obviously haven’t gone yet, but the Groupon has great reviews, so we’re looking forward to it!

6. Oktoberfest
From German food and Bavarian dancers, to German games and of course, beer, Breckenridge knows how to do Oktoberfest right! We actually stumbled upon this event accidentally while in Breckenridge for the first time – we were hanging out on Main Street all day enjoying this family-friendly fest!

7. Guided Tours
As a former mining town, Breckenridge has a ton of history! & the town recognizes that by offering multiple guided tours, including a Walking History Tour, a Saloon Tour and a Haunted Tour. These tours range from $15 to $20 for adults and seem like a great way to learn more about Breckenridge – I’m still wanting to check this out too!

8. The BreckConnect Gondola
There’s no better way to get great views of the mountains and town than by riding The BreckConnect Gondola – for free! The gondola runs year-round, so you’ll be able to take in the fall, winter, spring & summer scenery.

9. Dining Out
If there’s one thing that you’re guaranteed to do in Breckenridge it’s to eat gooooood. Breckenridge has a wide variety of restaurants, and every single one I’ve been to has been great! However, keep in mind that – as with every mountain town – you may be in for a more expensive dinner than you anticipated. That’s why I made a point to find some reasonable options: Downstairs @ Erics, Mi Casa, Empire Burger, Mother Loaded Tavern, Bold Breck (for their happy hour!), and Breckenridge Brewery (go for their half-priced apps from 3 to 5 PM, Sunday – Thursday).

I’m always on the hunt for more activities to do in and around all of the mountain towns! What’s your favorite mountain town? & what’s your favorite thing to do there?

frugal & free,
Claire

Denver’s Happiest Hours

Everyone loves a good happy hour, right?
Whether it be to unwind after a long day at work, to socialize with friends & co-workers, to celebrate an accomplishment, or just because.
No one will turn down a good food or drink discount.

But, in order to truly enjoy Denver’s great happy hours, you need to know where to find them. As a deal hunter myself, I’ve visited several restaurants, breweries, and bars with exceptional happy hours, so I figured I’d list some of my favorites in and around Denver for you to enjoy as well!

  • Tokyo Joes ~ Perhaps some may not consider this a happy hour, but I do because it’s an amazing deal that makes me very happy. Every Monday after 4:00 PM, Tokyo Joes offers BOGO bowls and sushi rolls! This is one of our favorite deals because it makes a seemingly boring Monday 10x better.

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  • Ace ~ During the winter, I opt for Ace’s Lucky $11 deal, where you get a tasty, steaming bowl of ramen + a cocktail of choice for $11! 

  • Steuben’s Uptown ~ Partner of Ace, Steuben’s also has a Lucky $7 happy hour deal from 3 to 6 PM and 10 PM to close when you can get a grilled cheese, beer & fries OR a falafel wrap, beer & fries OR a cheeseburger, beer & fries for just $7! They also offer other drink deals during their HH, including $1 Miller High Lifes. 

  • Denver Milk Market ~ Whether it’s happy hour or not, this is a cool spot to go for the atmosphere and variety of options! They offer a HH with $6 classic cocktails & more at the Moo Bar from Monday to Friday, 2 to 6 PM AND all-day happy hour at the Stranded Pilgrim on Sundays!

 

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  • Lime ~ For quite a few months, Lime was my go-to for a good marg & delicious chips & salsa. During their happy hour, Monday, Wednesday – Friday, you can expect strong, refreshing $3 margs, discounted apps, and fluffy flour tortilla chips & salsa to go along with your dranks

 

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  • Otra Vez ~ This spot offers a cool atmosphere with music bumping, along with a great happy hour. Enjoy $6 16-oz margs or $15 bottomless margs + complimentary chips & salsa from 4 to 6:30 PM, Monday – Friday! 

  • Illegal Pete’s ~ One of my other go-to spots for a good marg in a laid-back atmosphere, Pete’s offers one of the longest happy hours from 3 PM to 8 PM every day, which I SO appreciate. Get their refreshing margs for $4.50 paired with a free side of chips & salsa. You can’t go wrong with that.

 

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  • Illegal Burger ~ To carry on the theme of ‘illegal’ and ‘margs,’ let’s talk about Illegal Burger’s all day Monday happy hour featuring $2 margs! We love going to this spot for a cheap marg paired with a nice spot to sit on the patio in Writer’s Square.

 

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  • HopDoddy ~ Located right next to Union Station, HopDoddy is in the perfect location for a happy hour right after work! & thank goodness for their happy hour – from 3 to 6:30 PM, they offer $5 specialty drinks, beer, wine, fries, and a seasonal specialty burger. I strongly recommend the Skinny Dip, which is basically a corona flipped over in a gigantic, delicious margarita (regularly $10.50!) 

  • Thirsty Lion ~ Also neighboring Union Station (as well as in Cherry Creek), the Thirsty Lion offers a great outdoor patio space for the summer, along with a great happy hour menu featuring a variety of bites & drinks like queso, sushi, beer flights & more! 

  • Lucky Pie LoDo ~ If you’re looking for delicious discounted pizza & beer, check out Lucky Pie’s happy hour from 4 to 6 PM daily. From $5 pizzas to $3.5 dollar beers, you won’t be disappointed. 

  • Panzano ~ Daily happy hours can be hard to find, but Panzano offers a great one from 2:30 to 6 PM (yep, even on the weekends!). I wouldn’t usually go to Panzano due to their higher prices, but I greatly enjoyed their discounted drinks and apps on their HH menu 

  • North Italia ~ Similar to Panzano, North Italia is a pricier Italian restaurant found in the premier Cherry Creek Shopping Center. I love their happy hour (M-F from 3 PM to 6 PM & ALL DAY Sunday!) consisting of a bottle of wine + a pizza or bruschetta for $20, $8 pizzas, $5 bruschetta, $3 zucchini chips, and $4 beers + $5 glasses of wine! 

  • Crazy Mountain ~ It’s hard to beat dollar beers, and that’s exactly what Crazy Mountain offers every Monday from 12 PM to 1 PM. The challenge is finding time to sneak away from work to enjoy this incredible deal!

 

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  • Chicken Rebel ~ Parked at Finn’s Manor, the Chicken Rebel Food Truck offers BOGO sandwich deals on a random basis – and let me tell ya, their fried chicken is no joke. Follow them on Instagram to be the first to know when they offer deals! 

  • Work & Class ~ Talk about some tasty cocktails & yummy bites. Work & Class offers a HH featuring foods & drinks like chicken pot pie & unique cocktails from 4 to 6 PM, Tuesday – Friday & 4 to 5 PM on the weekends. + they have a ‘happiest hour’ during their Tuesday – Friday HH that takes another 20% off happy hour food! 

  • City O’ City ~ Vegan or not, City O’ City has some awesome food AND a bomb happy hour that anyone can enjoy. Every day from 3 to 6 PM & from 11PM to close, choose from multiple food & drink specials at this hip spot. 

  • Earls ~ If you’re looking for a great brunch deal, Earls is the place to go. Up til 12:00 pm on the weekend, enjoy brunch meals like Steak & Eggs and Chorizo & Mushroom Hash for just $9! Earls also offers discounted drinks and food during their weekday, after-work happy hour. 

  • iFish + Ramen ~ If you’re in the mood for sushi, why not get it on the cheap? on Monday – Thursday, 3 to 6 PM and Friday – Saturday, ALL DAY, iFish offers discounted drinks, appetizers and sushi rolls! 

  • Yard House ~ Half off select appetizers & all pizzas + discounted beers makes for a good happy hour from 3 to 6 PM, Monday – Friday! Also enjoy their late night happy hour from 10 PM to close, Sunday – Thursday!

 

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  • Linger ~ Get city views with your happy hour at Linger, an old mortuary turned hip restaurant in Denver’s lower Highlands. Dine on the rooftop overlooking the city while sipping $6 cocktails and chowing down on $5 eats found on their HH menu from 4 to 6:30 PM, Monday – Friday.

 

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  • Adelita’s ~ On Taco Tuesday, there’s no better place to be than Adelita’s on South Broadway, where you can scarf down $1 tacos & $5 house margs. They also have daily specials every day of the week that are worth checking out! 

  • Wash Park Grill ~ After walking around Wash Park, head to this Italian grill, where their HH (3 – 6:30 PM, Monday – Friday) features discounted happy hours and drinks. They also offer daily specials AND a free $30 tab on your birthday!

 

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  • Pub on Pearl ~ Also down by Wash Park, Pub on Pearl offers $3.50 wells all day, every day, along with daily specials including $6 all-you-can-eat wings on Thursdays! 

  • Humboldt Farm, Fish, Wine ~ In Cap Hill, 17th St offers a plethora of restaurants, including this one with a daily HH from 3 to 6 PM. Enjoy Smoked Trout Dip, Crispy Broccoli, tasty cocktails & more at a discounted price! 

  • McCormick & Schmick’s ~ If you happen to find yourself in the DTC, check out the happy hour at McCormick & Schmick’s offering discounted meals from $3 to $9, $4.5 well spirits + $4.75 local & craft draft beers. I recommend the Crispy Baja Fish Tacos and the Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl (pictured above).

I hope this list assists with your happy hour search!
& feel free to leave a comment if you’d like to share your go-to happy hour spots – I’m always searching for more!

frugal & free,
Claire

35 Frugal & Free Things to Do in Denver

Whenever I travel somewhere new, I find myself searching for lists of free & cheap things to do in the city I’m in. So, I figured it’d be helpful to have a similar list for Denver visitors to refer to when coming to our city.
Listed below are just a few of my favorite frugal things to do around here. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

  1. Grab a Groupon for a brewery or 2 + restaurants!
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  2. People watch and window shop on 16th Street. You can even take the free Mall Ride if you don’t feel like walking!
  3. Rent a B-cycle or Lime/Bird/Razor/Lyft electric scooter to get around the city
  4. Have a picnic or simply hang out at a park – City Park, Wash Park and Cheesman are some of the most popular!
  5. Check out City Park Jazz every Sunday night during the summer in City Park!
  6. Ride bikes, walk, or run along the Cherry Creek Trail, stretching from northern downtown Denver to the southern areas of Denver and beyond
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  7. Wander around REI – right off the Cherry Creek Trail!
  8. Walk, bike or run around Sloan’s Lake, where you can also fish or go boating
  9. stmarks_latte&amp;cookie1Sip some coffee while people watching at one of many hip coffee shops in Denver ~ St. Mark’s, Thump, and Fluid are some favorites!
  10. Book lovers – find some good reads at the Tattered Cover Book Store downtown!
  11. Tour the U.S. Mint for free Monday – Thursday
  12. Tube down the South Platte during the summer
  13. Window shop in Denver’s premier Cherry Creek Shopping Center
  14. Go bar hopping downtown ~ start at 1-UP if you’re into classic arcade games!
  15. Check Front Porch’s Name Night Calendar to see if your name is on the list to drink for free all night!
  16. Go to one of Denver’s restaurant happy hours! [frugalandfree post to come!]
  17. Visit Union Station and grab a bite to eat or a drink to sip while people watching or reading a book
  18. Go to the Santa Fe Art Walk every First Friday of the month. While you’re there, check out Denver Open Media for free food and entertainment starting @ 6!
  19. Peruse the Clyfford Still Museum for free on one of the listed free days on their website
  20. Every first Saturday of the month, get into the Denver Art Museum for free!
  21. Learn about Denver’s art history at the Golden Triangle free walking tours during the summer
  22. Check out Denver’s unique street art in the city’s hippest area, RiNo!
  23. Find yourself exactly 1 mile high on the 13th step of the Capitol building in Civic Center Park. While you’re here, take a tour of the Capitol for free Monday-Friday
  24. Go to Tennyson Street, where you’ll find galleries, popular restaurants, unique shops and the Denver Cat Company!
  25. Head into the Highlands – the northern part of Denver – where you’re guaranteed great views of the city at Linger & Avanti (catch their happy hours for better prices!)
  26. Catch the sunset from the top of downtown Denver’s highest open rooftop bar, 54thirty (the drinks aren’t cheap but the views are priceless)
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  27. rockiesgameCheer on the Rockies at Coors Field or the Avs and Nuggets at the Pepsi Center – you can usually find good deals for these!
  28. Walk around the University of Denver’s campus & support the DU Pioneers hockey team at one of their games
  29. Watch a rugby game in “Rugby Town USA,” Glendale!
  30. Take the light rail to your destinations!
  31. Grab 3 brews & keep the locally decorated glass at Keep the Glass Night every Tuesday night at Our Mutual Friend Brewery in RiNo
  32. Wander away from the city and into Golden to go on the free tour at Coors Brewery. Sip 3 free brews after the tour!
  33. While in Golden, go hiking on one of the several trails, including Chimney Gulch, North Table, and Mount Galbraith Park
  34. Keep wandering away from the city and out to the mountains, where more hiking trails, like challenging 14ers, await!
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  35. & most importantly, simply enjoy Colorado’s beautiful blue skies & sunny weather!

I hope this list helps you enjoy your Denver adventures even more!

frugal & free,
Claire

Cheers to the Deals of 2018

As 2018 comes to a close, I thought it’d be fun to reflect on some of my favorite frugal & free moments of the year.

1. Yelp Elite Status

After writing countless reviews on Yelp, I was awarded the Elite title, making me eligible to attend multiple events featuring great local food and services all around Denver. From a memorable 4-course dining experience at Courier, to a food & music-filled party supporting Youth on Record’s FEMpowered program, and many more great events, I quickly learned that Yelp sure knows how to treat their Elites well!

2. Chicken Fight Fest

For my 24th birthday, I won tickets to Chicken Fight Fest (best birthday present ever). Although I had the worst stomach ache the following day, I had absolutely no regrets after tasting some of the best fried chicken & cocktails in the city!

3. Denver Milk Market

If you live in Denver, you’ve likely been to the Milk Market at least once or twice. Before it opened, there were several sneak peeks locals could attend to get a taste of the Milk Market. Matthew and I went to a sneak peek at Osteria Marco, and for $5 each, we enjoyed a delicious Italian meal, along with a $50 certificate each for being 2 of the first 25 people in line!

4. BOGO Beer Books

2018 was also the year of BOGO books for Matthew & I, as we won a Denver Passport and Brew Denver Book for BOGO beers and cocktails throughout the city! On top of that, I won a $50 certificate to one of our favorite breweries, Intrepid Sojourner – all on Instagram!

5. Chick-fil-A Calendar Card

Chick-fil-A played a bigger part in our year than we could have imagined. Although Chick-fil-A is sooo much more popular in Georgia, we were still able to indulge in that familiar fried chicken in Denver – for free, thanks to the Calendar Card!
**Since the Calendar Card is gone forever, be sure to download the Chick-fil-A app for random freebies throughout the new year!

6. Groupon

Okay, so Groupon has always been a big deal (haha) for us, but we really went hard with scooping up all the Groupons we could get this year! From the delicious sandwiches at Smiling Moose (softest bread ever) and fresh smoothie bowls at Superfruit Republic, to some of our newfound favorite beer at Desteeg Brewing & Mockery Brewing, Groupon really pulled through for us in 2018!

7. MealPal

Finally, my lunch routine changed for a bit this year when I discovered MealPal, a membership offering discounted meals from restaurants in your city! I’m not one to pay for memberships, but MealPal offered me 50% off of its original plan, making my meals less than $3! I greatly enjoyed trying several restaurants – new & old – throughout the city. Plus, it was a great way to get out of the office for a nice walk to pick up my food during my lunch break. I definitely suggest giving MealPal a try!

After a successful, deal-filled 2018, I’m looking forward to what 2019 has in store!
Happy New Year, everyone!

frugal & free,
Claire

Aloha, Hawaii!

As I sit here in our Denver apartment, snuggled up in sweaters and blankets while watching the snow fall rapidly outside my window, it’s hard to believe that I was basking in the tropical sunshine of Hawaii a little less than 3 months ago.

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I don’t think I’ve been anywhere as tropical as Hawaii (save for Brazil, but that’s a whole other world in itself). From the bluest ocean water with the most colorful fish, to the waterfalls spilling over lush mountains, Hawaii has some of the most unrivaled scenery I’ve ever seen.

Due to its location and the large amount of tourists who want to get to the beautiful Aloha State, Hawaii isn’t the cheapest place to travel to. But my parents had a timeshare with some extra room on the Big Island and they wanted to meet up for a big family trip. So, we thought, why not. With my parents taking care of lodging, the only thing we had to do was find a reasonable flight during the September dates they set.

Direct flights from Denver to Hawaii were way too expensive to consider, so instead we looked for flights with layovers in cities we had never been, like Portland and Seattle. Using Google Flights, we tracked our flights and hoped for the best. In the end, we were able to get our tickets from Denver –> Portland –> San Francisco –> Hawaii and then Hawaii –> Seattle –> Denver for about $360 each. We were also able to spend a day in Portland & Seattle ~ 2 cities that we definitely want to return to in the future (blog posts to come)!

It’s hard to sum up our week-long trip in just one blog post, but I’ll give it a try.

On the Big Island, Kona, we:

  • Swam in the bluest water on some of the most beautiful beaches
    • Manini’owali Beach (Kua Bay) is where we spent most of our time laying out and snorkeling with sea turtles
  • Went to a luau
    • We went to the Island Breeze Luau – He ‘Ohana Kakou in Kailua-Kona, which featured a Hawaiian buffet (complete with alcoholic beverages) and Polynesian dancing for about $75 each – check their website for discounts!
  • Saw a bunch of feral cats
    • I love cats so I thought it was the greatest thing, but apparently they’re an invasive species in Hawaii
  • Watched the sunset at Kuana’oa Bay
    • We also got to swim with some giant manta rays here as well!
  • Checked out Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
    • We were lucky to be there on the first day it opened since the eruption this past summer, so it was free!
    • Note: because of the eruption, the park was dried out, meaning there was no flowing lava. Check their website to find out more
  • & of course, walked on a ton of old lava
    • Nearly all of Kona is covered in it! Truly a unique sight to see

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To get to Maui, we took a very small flight – we’re talking 8 people on the plane, so practically private for our group of 6 – above the ocean and the islands. That $90 Mokulele Airlines flight was a memorable experience in itself.

In Maui, we…

  • Watched the sunrise from Haleakalā Crater
    • Hint: you must make a reservation online either 60 days in advance or be one of the few to get a last-minute reservation 2 days in advance @ 4PM sharp to see the sunrise from the crater)
  • Survived the Road to Hana
    • Plan your stops ahead of time – there are mile markers along the way & so many cool things to see!
    • Be sure to stop at Wai’anapanapa State Park for hiking trails to scenery like no other, including a black sand beach and sea caves!
    • Remember to bring cash, as most all vendors along the road don’t take credit card
  • & hiked to the most beautiful & highest waterfalls I’d ever seen
    • One of the last stops on the Road to Hana, Wailua Falls was one of the most impressive, as it cascades 80 feet down the jungle wall

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Hawaii is truly another world that I am so happy I had the chance to explore.
Now my only question is – where to next?

frugal & free,
Claire