These four cities—each surrounded by can’t-miss delights—make excellent jumping-off points for where to visit in Colorado during your next vacation:

1. Denver

Colorado’s cosmopolitan capital is an urban hub for outdoorsy pursuits, with Rocky Mountain National Park just northwest of the city. In summer, a drive on the park’s 48-mile-long Trail Ridge Road will send you soaring above the tree line (more than 12,000 feet above sea level at its highest point). When the snow flies, Denver is a skier’s dream, with several top resorts, like Keystone and Winter Park, within a 90-minute drive.

If you go: AAA Diamond-rated Acova ( blue diamond blue diamond blue diamond ) in Denver’s LoHi neighborhood infuses vintage flair with contemporary charm. As noted by an inspector from AAA: “Translated as ‘nest’ in Italian, this restaurant conjures the feeling of a cozy neighborhood gathering place. A variety of sandwiches and wraps, like the Buffalo chicken wrap and the turkey brie panini, are on the menu as well as larger entrees such as lobster mac and cheese, gnocchi and veal osso buco.”

2. Grand Junction

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A downtown filled with pedestrian-friendly streets awaits in this former cow town. It’s just a half-hour drive from Colorado National Monument’s 31 square miles of red rock expanses, sheer-sided canyons and sandstone towers. Start exploring along 23-mile-long Rim Rock Drive, the only paved road through the park. It winds amid rock formations up to 1.5 billion years old and offers access to hiking trails both easy and adventurous.

If you go: One downtown Grand Junction restaurant to savor is AAA Diamond-rated Bin 707 Foodbar ( blue diamond blue diamond ). “On the ground floor of a bank building, this urban restaurant focuses on sophisticated food and casual service,” notes a AAA inspector. “Put the fried artichokes served with a creamy lemon and garlic aioli on your small plate list.”

3. Durango

This former mining boomtown is packed with Victorian-era saloons and historic inns. Ride the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad for unbeatable views of the San Juan Mountains. The locomotive started offering scenic rides and hauling gold and silver mining ore out of the mountains in 1882. Durango also is a great base for exploring Mesa Verde National Park, home to some 600 ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings.

If you go: Consider a night or two at the AAA Diamond-rated General Palmer Hotel ( blue diamond blue diamond blue diamond ). “This restored 1898 hotel and adjacent annex building combine rich Victorian elegance and Southwestern hospitality,” notes a AAA inspector.

4. Colorado Springs

The state’s second-largest city is where you’ll find some of Colorado’s most striking scenery: the red sandstone formations of the Garden of the Gods. Twenty-one miles of multiuse trails wind among them, with Pikes Peak towering in the distance. About an hour away in Canon City, ride the Royal Gorge Route Railroad. The two-hour journey aboard a 1950s-era train follows the Arkansas River as 1,000-foot cliffs tower on both sides of the tracks.

If you go: AAA Diamond-rated Marigold Cafe & Bakery ( blue diamond blue diamond blue diamond ) is the perfect stop for a to-go lunch before heading to the nearby Garden of the Gods. From a AAA inspector: “This popular eatery features an eclectic menu and varied wine list with an upscale ambiance. Fresh-baked goods, pizza, salads, pasta and rotisserie-cooked meats are just a few of the offerings.”

AAA Membership Gives You Access

Your local AAA Travel Advisor can help you plan a vacation that includes expert-led tours of Colorado’s cities, parks and more—plus member-exclusive hotel and rental car discounts.

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