Day-tripping in Greeley

Each month, we have been covering a local downtown within our readership. No matter the size, each one has been a delight to visit. But of all the municipalities on our list, Greeley has been the one I looked forward to the most. It seems like a city of contradictions, which is something I really enjoy.

A cowboy town. An art town. A burgeoning foodie town. A music town. Downtown Greeley is full of historic charm, unexpected urban delights and high drama artwork. It is neither young nor old but a little of each. And it is made even more distinctive because of its diversity.

For our trip in early July, I brought along Sydney Edwards, sales representative, and Jordan Secher, marketing and social media expert. Together we walked several streets through Greeley’s downtown, discovering new delights and earmarking plenty of spots for a future visit.

NOCO Style freelancer Dan England met us at Aunt Helen’s to coach us on our trip through downtown. England came to Greeley in 1999 and never really left. As he says, “I am a hardcore liberal, yet I like this mid-size, conservative town.” When he landed in Greeley, the feeling of home was almost immediate. “I felt like I could make an impact here. A lot of people really care about Greeley.” Dan is certainly one of them. He has been covering Greeley news for over 20 years.

Dan chose our meeting spot. Aunt Helen’s Coffee House is certainly a local’s favorite, where you can run into students studying for exams or the mayor at a quick coffee meeting. Dan’s usual is the Gym Rat smoothie with peanut butter, banana and milk. Sydney went with The Cat’s Pajamas, an iced coffee macchiato, and I stuck with my black coffee. Aunt Helen’s offers a great urban coffee shop ambiance and plenty of pastries to keep the sweet tooth happy. However, they are pretty famous for their signature waffle wrap with eggs, cheese and meat, so go hungry when you visit.

After our morning stop, we headed to the Colorado Model Railroad Museum, a world of tiny trains that is a wonder to behold. The collection, which belonged to former Greeley Tribune publisher David G. Trussell, is one of the largest operating model railroads in the nation. The museum draws train lovers from around the world.

After our museum stop, we ventured toward the Lincoln Park Emporium, a “mom and pop department store” located in the heart of Greeley. The emporium features used furniture, antiques, memorabilia, along with Miss Mary’s Kitchen and Owlz Used Books. The store is large and made for wandering. I picked up a couple of handmade wooden spoons, while Sydney became the proud owner of a pair of cat unicorn salt and pepper shakers.

Much of downtown Greeley is developed around 8th and 9th avenues, and 8th through 10th streets. The area is great for shopping and dining and is bordered on the west by Lincoln Park. Greeley is the only NOCO town to have a downtown park of this size, an attractive respite from the concrete on this warm day.

This area is also full of grand murals painted on buildings and along alleyways. The art works, several of them painted by local artist/muralist Armando Silva, are vibrant and bold and give Greeley’s downtown an amazing energy. It would be worth the trip just to tour the murals sprinkled throughout the area.

Lunch was calling, so we headed to Luna’s Tacos & Tequila for our afternoon repast. Luna’s brings a great urban vibe to downtown with Instagram worthy décor and food. We shared a plate of the crispy Brussels sprouts topped with chorizo and cotija cheese with an adobo aioli. I ordered the Nashville Hot Chicken taco (as good as it sounds) and the mushroom taco, while Sydney dove into the chicken quesadilla. The salsa special of the week, the Smoked Pepper & Tomatillo Salsa, was a definite must and their unique take on a Paloma, with the addition of Aperol, was delightfully refreshing.

After several selfies on the Til Death Do Us Taco wall, we headed back to our shopping. Along the way, we passed many Greeley staples, including the Moxi Theater and Kress Cinema & Lounge. Moxi features live music and is a great place to see quality local acts. Kress Cinema is an independent theater with a full-service bar, charcuterie and a small bites menu. The Kress Speakeasy, tucked downstairs and only open on Friday and Saturday evenings, was closed at the time of our visit but we noted it as a great place to pop in on our next Greeley outing.

Our walk along 8th Avenue took us to Accessories with a Flair, a clothing and accessory shop with a hair salon in the back. The store has a variety of bold turquoise jewelry, Western-inspired fashions and plenty of rhinestones to indulge your inner cowgirl.

Around the corner is Mariposa Plants & Flowers, with a beautiful selection of greenery and décor. We made friends with the shopkeeper and her friendly pup, Millie. Next door, we popped into the trendy Blush Boutique Co., with a great selection of women’s clothing, accessories and home décor.

The Nerd Store is on the same side of the treelined street and was a great place to find unique gifts and collectibles as well as tabletop games, graphic novels and more. The store is packed with fun items and draws children and adults with its selection.

With the near 100-degree heat beating down on us, we decided to finish our tour with a walk through Lincoln Park and a hop over to Wiley Roots Brewing Company. Wiley has a fantastic outdoor beer garden, but we opted for a seat at the bar to avoid the heat. Sydney enjoyed a Cherry Limeade Slush fruited sour and I went with soft-serve beer ice cream. I ordered a boozy chocolate stout served in a glass. The beer ice cream was strong and cold and completely fortifying. I unwilted in no time.

Our day at an end, we headed home with several goodies but our best souvenir is the list of places we plan to visit in the future. We barely scratched the surface during our first visit and Greeley offers so much in the way of events, it is well worth the drive to sample it all.

Of particular interest is Greeley’s Friday Fest, their weekly “block party” with live music from 6 to 10 p.m. and the very popular Go-Cup, which allows you to walk around with the beverage of your choice while you visit with neighbors, check out restaurants and listen to music. Dan adds this local tip: Many of the live bands that perform during Friday Fest head in to the local bars to play after the Fest wraps up at 10 p.m. If you want to keep the party going, the DoubleTree hotel is located on 7th Street and their Meeker’s restaurant serves breakfast till 11 a.m.

Extend your visit. Here are some suggested stops below.