By Angie Grenz

In the last two decades, Northern Colorado has seen Windsor emerge from sleepy bedroom community to a thriving municipality with a character and voice all its own. Its downtown is flanked by Windsor Lake, which is the hub for community festivals and events, and its perimeters are bursting with new development, both residential and retail.

Like much of Northern Colorado, Windsor’s roots are tied to sugar beet production. Edward Hollister is considered the town’s founder, naming it after Windsor, New York. The town was established in 1882, and sugar beet farming built Windsor’s population from the early 1900s but slowed after World War II. New industries later moved in but the population didn’t really begin to expand until around 2000, and it has been growing steadily since. Today, Windsor’s population is over 30,000 (2019, U.S. Census Bureau).

Windsor boasts luxury golf courses, high-end neighborhoods and, coming in 2022, a multi-sport complex designed to draw professional and minor league sports teams to town. But for our day in Windsor, we were there to experience the heart of Windsor, its quaint-but-growing downtown. Here’s how we spent our day: Step number one of any adventure? Fuel up. I was accompanied by NOCO Style Account Executive Ashley Duval. Ashley and I made our first stop at the iconic Windsor Lake Coffee. I grabbed the Love You a Latte, a sweet honey and cinnamon concoction, and Ashley had the XOXO Chai. Her chai was definitely the star, a slushy chai with strawberry and cream. The spice and sweet fruit played nicely together.

Not one to miss a chance at pastry, I enjoyed a lemon blueberry scone, while Ashley tried the Nutella banana panini. Both were delicious and fueled us nicely through the first half of our shopping trip. In addition to some great coffee and breakfast/lunch items, Windsor Lake Coffee features several artisan items, from jewelry to candles.

Our walk along Main St. took us first to Park Place Interiors, an interior remodeling company that specializes in flooring and tile. Sharis Ainslie’s shop is a feast for the eyes (full disclosure: Ainslie is married to NOCO Style’s Account Executive Jon Ainslie). Tile takes top billing in her store, which is also peppered with artwork, furniture accents and some terrific light fixtures. But the sheer volume of tile options, from classic to contemporary to downright funky, is well worth a trip downtown. Trust us, you don’t even have to be remodeling your kitchen to be completely smitten by her selection and ready for an update.

After ogling tiles, we continued down Main a couple blocks to Simply Home. This quaint home décor store, set up in vignettes throughout the little house, is a great spot for small items and decorating inspo. We wandered the rooms oohing and aahing over hanging lamps, candles, mirrors, trays and throw pillows. I can see another trip to Simply Home in my future.

From there we headed west and crossed the street to Coast to Coast Styles, a fantastic little clothing store with options for women, men and kids. Trendy denim, a fun little shoe section and great accessories are hallmarks of Coast to Coast. It will be hard for any savvy shopper to leave without a few great finds. I spotted a pair of slouchy denim overalls and plan to go back to try them on in the future. They look like this summer’s weekend uniform.

 

Next, we headed back east toward downtown and ran into side-by-side gift shops, Four and Twenty Blackbirds and AEI Studio & Gifts. Both were stocked with cards, great small gift items and even a children’s section. Newly-pregnant Ashley found a few can’t-resist items at both shops, including a great little jungle-themed wall hanger for Baby Duval’s room from AEI.

Hannah Rachel Boutique came next, a women’s clothing store just a year old—a year spent mostly operating under the challenge of COVID-19 restrictions. Yet owner Annie Huffman was full of enthusiasm and thankful for a supportive downtown. Her boutique features comfy, colorful options at a great price point. Ashley took home a fun winter sweater with pompom detail.

For lunch, we jumped over to the RainDance neighborhood where we grabbed a late lunch at Ted’s Sweetwater Grill & Trout Pond. Though the afternoon was too chilly for an outdoor spot, it’s easy to see how Ted’s Sweetwater Grill is a favorite during warm days when you can sip your drink overlooking their trout pond. Ashley and I were quickly warmed up by a plate of fish ‘n’ chips and fish tacos. The food was fresh and satisfying, and the seasoned waffle fries were hard to put down.

Weather forced me to break my exploration into two days. I returned a couple days later with my husband, Josh, in tow. He and I headed back downtown to finish my investigation of downtown Windsor with the always-important search for a great happy hour.

Windsor has several great options for food and drink. We ended up at Toast Coffee & Wine Bar and Windsor Mill Tavern. Hearth Restaurant and Pub is another great happy hour option, but we like to hit them up when the weather is warm enough for their fantastic upstairs patio overlooking Windsor Lake.

On this blustery day, we ventured into Toast Coffee & Wine. Josh warmed up with a cappuccino while I raised my body temp with a nice Rickshaw cabernet blend. We shared the Classics Board, which featured prosciutto, soppressata, gruyere, fig jam and crackers. Toast is a great little afternoon spot, quiet and friendly, with a nice art collection on the wall.

After Toast we strolled around the block before heading to the Windsor Mill Tavern. We arrived around 5:30 p.m. and the downstairs pub was already hopping. We grabbed a spot at the bar (spaced appropriately, of course) and perused the menu. Our bartender, Kim, was friendly and upbeat and, remarkably, remembered us from a previous restaurant she had worked at that we had visited once two years ago. We were impressed.

Ready for a little heartier fare, we wasted no time ordering cocktails and appetizers. I went with the light and refreshing Flying Standby, which featured mizu lemongrass schochu (a Japanese liquor), pisco, passionfruit liquor and fresh lemon. The drink was delicious and easily put down. Josh tried the aptly named Six Feet Apart, a rye whiskey cocktail with Cynar, Amaro, orange and chocolate bitters, and Laphroaig. His cocktail was layered and smooth.

We also ordered a couple shared plates: Surf & Turf Skewers, Brussels & Butternut and Lamb Lollipops. All three were satisfying to say the least, but the winner for us both was the Lamb Lollipops. The chops were tender and the horseradish sauce was a great accompaniment. We left satisfied and popped into Peculiar Ales next door for a beer flight nightcap.

Windsor’s downtown makes for a great little day trip for boutique shopping, good coffee and libations. We look forward to making another visit in warmer weather, when we can appreciate a stroll around the lake and a seat on the patio.

Other options for your trip:

Beer lovers have two fantastic options in Windsor: Peculiar Ales and Mash Lab Brewing

Want a nice dinner: Head to Cacciatore.

Want an even nicer dinner: Try Chimney Park.

Need to walk it off: Take a 2.5-mile stroll around Windsor Lake.

What’s in store for the future: Legends Sports complex, coming in 2022.

Want to relocate: Take a look at the RainDance Colorado neighborhood.

Explore NOCO is an ongoing series featuring downtowns throughout Northern Colorado. Watch our Windsor video now.