Our day begins when the sun hits the water and the town wakes up. We started bright and early hitting the Cascade Falls hike at 7AM. This trek is a little more than 7 miles, with awesome waterfall views and perfect for hikers of all levels. We took our kiddos who were 4, 6, and 8 at the time. If you do not feel up to the hike there are horses that frequent this trail as well, definitely options available. This hike takes roughly 4-5 hours depending on your speed and the number of rests you take. Of course, take snacks and plenty of water especially in the summer. Lastly, be on the lookout for mountain wildlife, such as moose and deer, after all this is Rocky Mountain National Park. Overall, 4/5 Perfect Stars for this gorgeous hike.
We worked up an appetite and wanted to stop at White Buffalo Pizza Company for lunch. We love to stop here every time we visit Grand Lake. This is a family friendly restaurant, centrally located on the downtown strip. They offer brick oven fired pizza, fresh salads, and hand-made cocktails. The atmosphere is country saloon and they even have horse saddles at the bar. If you come on a Friday or Saturday there will be karaoke and a live DJ. If you come on a holiday, they have amazing dinner specials. They also support Colorado Proud ingredients including Canyon Bakehouse gluten free bread, Pappardelle’s basil pesto, Gold Canyon buffalo, and Polidori Italian sausage. After a big morning hike our kids all requested cheese pizza with Sprites. Us adults love their specialty pizza, which leave a couple extra slices leftover for the next day. Our kiddos have also branched out and started liking mom and dad’s garlic knots. If available these are the perfect appetizer, however secondary to COVID, they are not serving their full menu. We have visited this restaurant before and during COVID. The menu, when they are fully opened, is large with much variety, however they currently have a shortened menu to include pizza, salad, and craft beers. The shortened menu does not take away from the amazing food and atmosphere this restaurant has to offer. Overall, we gave White Buffalo Pizza Company 5/5 stars, for being some of the best pizza we have had. If you are in town and want an excellent meal with COVID conscience servers please stop by and show them your support.
Now that we’ve finished our hike and lunch, it is roughly 2 or 3 in the afternoon with lots of summer sun left. We took the short walk from the pizza place to Grand Lake beach. This is a smaller beach; however, the sand is great for sand castles. The water that fills the lake is coming off the snow in the mountains and it can be very cold, especially if you are comparing the water temperature to the warm Midwest lakes. You can choose to stay at the beach or we chose to walk next door to the Grand Lake Marina and rent water toys. There are several rental options available, including canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards. The prices are reasonable and can range from 1 to 4 hours. There are also motor boats available, including room for 4-10 people. Before COVID, charter boats were also available and these seated up to 30 people. These charters look like an amazing time; however, they are not currently COVID friendly and unavailable at this time. We chose the 10-person pontoon boat as we generally travel with friends and this trip was no different. We had our best friends with us and they are a family of 4. The boat was clean and we loved the fact that it had a sun shade with great speakers that easily hooked up to our iPhone playlist. Grand Lake Marina was very conscious of COVID and we gave them 5/5 Perfect Stars for the clean and kid friendly pontoon boat we rented.
After our afternoon boat ride, we all wanted a treat, which means two words to our kids, “ice cream.” There are so many ice cream options in Grand Lake, however our favorite is across the street from the Grand Lake Marina and it is Miyauchi’s Snack Bar. This place has been family owned for about 30 years. If you come in the summer, there is guaranteed a line especially with flavors like lemongrass basil and caramel fudge swirl. My absolute favorite flavor of ice cream that I have ever had was ordered from here and it was white chocolate lavender. I wasn’t sure of what to think when I ordered it, however my goodness I was blown away. If you are going for the full ice cream experience, do not miss their fresh waffle cones, dipped in chocolate and sprinkles. They also serve cold root beer floats, ice cream malts, and milk shakes. It should also be added that they serve hot food as well, think burger shack food, etc. If you need a sweet and salty pick me up try the hot crispy fries and dip those pups in your ice cream. This is definitely the place to stop on any day of the week and we would definitely recommend it. Overall, 5/5 Perfect Stars with the option of a 6.
It has been a long full day at this point, full of hiking, boating and yummy food. However, my bestie and I love to get a little shopping in on main street, while the dads take the kids to play at town park. Town Square Park is the perfect place for the kids to burn off some energy before heading to dinner. The central location is a perfect place for a picnics, a football game, or just to sit and watch the kids play on the playground. This park is used for art fairs, community events, live concerts, you name it, and it happens here. We have not visited in the Winter; however, the park is festively decorated for Christmas. We would love to see this someday soon.
We dropped off the kids and headed to the many amazing little shops. As mentioned, we have visited several times prior to the COVID pandemic and this trip was during the 2020 summer of COVID. It must be mentioned that the crowds and amount of tourist were drastically different. Main street was practically empty. The good news was that the people we did see all appeared to be very conscientious of social distancing and all wore masks inside and out. We stopped into Gifts Unlimited a small gift shop where I was able to buy a Grand Lake Christmas ornament. Another fun little gift shop is the Grand Mountain Trading Co, which offers less touristy items and more unique items. Main street also has a shop for the book lover, called Cascades of the Rockies Book Store. This is an eclectic little shop with a variety of books. The owner is very caring and kind to all her customers. One favorite stop, is Never Summer, which has been around for almost 40 years and sells camping gear, sporting goods, and outdoor apparel. We found out that they sell quality sandals, perfect for the four-year-old that forgets their flip flops at the campsite. They are actually one of the only shops, on main street, that sell flip flops. We were able to buy our boy a little pair of that were reasonable priced. A final stop, before dinner is Grand Lake Chocolates. Everyone deserves a nice truffle and a fun chocolate covered pretzel. This shop is a little pricey, however the milk chocolate is just delicious.
As the sun starts to set, that becomes our cue that it is time to head in for showers and to get ready for dinner. We enjoy dressing up for dinners on vacation, even if this just means a collared shirt for my little boys and a sun dress for my daughter. It is just something fun and special we try to do. After getting everyone ready, we were able to drive over to Sagebrush BBQ and Grill for dinner. This is another family-owned restaurant, serving BBQ to Grand Lake for over 20 years. Dinner entrees include ribs, chicken, and my son’s favorite Buffalo wings. We recommend the pulled pork or strip steak entrees, as well as any of their amazing burgers. Our kiddos love their mac and cheese and nuggets, which they always order with a side of fries.
The grill has also put together amazing package to-go dinners for 2, 4 or 6 people. These meals include 1 to 3 meat entrees, 2 sides and cornbread. It’s the perfect dinner for those that would like to dine at home. As a guest, I really appreciate when restaurants go over and beyond in finding ways to serve their food during COVID times. The servers in this restaurant all wear masks and people are seated socially distanced apart. If you are looking for great food and drink, definitely support this restaurant. Overall, 4/5 Perfect Stars for this BBQ and grill.
We hope that you are able to try out some of the activities and restaurants that made our summer lake day amazing. Grand Lake has so much to offer, however we would love to hear some of your favorite places to stop at while in the mountains of Colorado. We would for you to follow along our YouTube adventures at Perfect Misadventures and on our Instagram account @PerfectMisadventures.