Day-Tripping in Johnstown

In early June, the town of Johnstown turned out en masse for their annual BBQ Day. Live music, a parade, food trucks and more lined the streets as jovial community members laughed while their kids chased each other. The scene was very Norman Rockwell, and that is pretty refreshing after a year spent in lock-down or semi-open-but-socially-distanced awkwardness.

No doubt most communities are enjoying a resurgence of neighborhood camaraderie, but downtown Johnstown is a small, tight-knit community that likes it that way. On our recent tour of downtown Johnstown, we may not have had as many stops as at previous downtowns, but we nevertheless enjoyed our afternoon there with plans to come back for more.

The drive to Johnstown during early June was picturesque, with rolling green fields and that Colorado blue sky above. Though not large, the city blocks making up downtown are quaint and well cared for—in fact, this city boasted the prettiest planters and flags on every city block. It was obvious the town takes pride in its appearance. There were also some beautiful historic buildings worthy of a stroll.

If you’ve been following our downtown explorations, you’ll recognize that we like to start any trip with some quality fuel, and Johnstown was no exception. On this trip, I had my trusty sidekicks with me: Ashley Duval and Sydney Edwards, NOCO Style sales reps. We began our tour of downtown at Black Sheep Coffee & Crepes, located on Parish Avenue, the main strip.

Black Sheep could easily be found in any cool downtown. It had all the buzz of a good coffee shop, with a menu of savory or sweet crepes. However, with pizza joint, Dominic’s Pizza, next door and a wine, cocktail and beer list, they can satisfy an evening crowd as well. Dominic’s is the original family business, opened in 1986. The Bachmans opened Black Sheep in 2018.

For my lunch, I ordered The Right Stuff crepe with ham, spinach, tomatoes and cheese. Ashley ordered the Hot Italian, a good old Italian grinder, and Sydney enjoyed the small pizza with pepperoni and black olives. If you don’t find a combo to your liking, you can build your own crepes and pizzas. I also enjoyed a great drip coffee (Black Sheep sells their own beans) and perusing local artisanal goods, such as jewelry and hats.

Ready to explore, we headed north on Parrish past Mr. Donuts (sadly closed at the time, but we hear good things if you are ever there early enough to catch them open) and continued past 21 North Brewery & Tavern (which we would return to later). At the very northern edge of downtown sits Nicole’s Warehouse Antiques and Collectibles. Nicole and her puppy were on hand to greet us at her antique market of 15 years. Several booths carried a range of new and antique items, and the shop is worthy of an hour of your time if you like vintage wares.

Heading back down south, we took a right on North First Street and happily stumbled upon Heather’s Heavenly Cakes. The sweet shop had several cases filled with cupcakes, cookies, cakes and other delectable pastries. I took a chocolate chip cookie and a cannoli to go. Let me just say, the cookie was very tasty—thick and soft and studded with chips—but that cannoli might be the best I have ever had. It alone is worth the drive to Johnstown from, well, anywhere.

Our trio continued south on Parrish Ave., enjoying the flowers and general amiable ambiance. We circled back around to end our adventures at 21 North. They offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, craft cocktails and several beers on tap in an airy, open and convivial setting. Sydney and I quenched our thirst with the 21 North Signature Margarita and a Stranahan’s Old Fashioned, respectively. Next time we come back, we will tackle a couple of their shared plates and street tacos, or try one of their alcoholic snow cones.

Several businesses, from real estate offices to day spas, line downtown’s streets. There are also several additional restaurants, including Santiago’s, Cassidy’s Sports Grill, Johnstown Lunch Box and more. Retail, however, is scarce downtown. The town is growing, and there is promise of more coming to downtown in the future. The small town of Milliken is a stone’s throw away, as is Mad Russian Golf and Country Club. The Pioneer Ridge Disc Golf 9-hole course opened in June, and the Johnstown YMCA holds a Food Truck Night every Thursday through the summer.

Small it may be, but Johnstown is a well-loved little community worth the easy trip off I-25 for a little country drive and a stroll among flower-lined streets, with the promise of a sweet treat, or stiff drink, at the end.