Denver

Astrophotography Is the Best Way to Experience Colorado’s Mountains

This tour will show you the night sky like never before, and allow you to take a bit of it home.

Courtesy of Colorado Astrophotography
Courtesy of Colorado Astrophotography
Courtesy of Colorado Astrophotography

Welcome to Thrillist 50, your guide to fun and adventure in 2023. Think of it as your comprehensive roadmap for checking out exciting events and new attractions coming over the next 12 months, going on bucket-list trips, reconnecting with yourself and your community, expanding your mind, and of course, experiencing the flavors we’re most excited about this year. There are so many reasons to live like there’s no tomorrow. Start here.As we pull up to the top of Colorado’s Loveland Pass at 9:30 pm, I’m hesitant to exit the car, barely able to see where the steep edge drops all the way down into the canyon. In one direction you can see the lights of Denver shining up through the peaks and in the other, a black abyss. Before I have a second to think, our guide Maggie Martin is up and out of the car, headlight on, setting up her equipment and gushing over the clear night we’re blessed with. “Wow, check it out, you can see Jupiter over there above the treeline,” she points out. For someone who does this six out of seven days of the week, she’s as awe-struck as the rest of the first-timers in our car.

Our group for the evening includes myself, one man whose New Year’s resolution was to start a new hobby, another whose was to “be more adventurous,” and two women celebrating their anniversary. Besides us, there isn’t another soul in sight, and while some may think we’re crazy for spending our Friday night braving the 10-degree weather and added wind, there couldn’t be a better time to accompany Martin on one of her excursions than during the first full moon of the year.Martin has lived in Denver for 18 years and owns Colorado Astrophotography, a tour experience that takes guests into nature and teaches them to shoot the night sky and majestic mountainscapes of Colorado. The women- and LBGTQ-owned business provides transportation and equipment and guides you to both iconic and remote spots in Clear Creek County, where you’ll receive a 1:1 lesson on how to shoot the wonders of our galaxy. Marin’s extensive knowledge of the planets and constellations is intertwined in the lesson, so you know exactly what to look for and how to use the camera to capture it perfectly. If you’re lucky enough to plan your visit around a meteor shower or full moon, she’ll assist you in capturing shooting stars and beautiful crests that you can take home as a memento.

Courtesy of Colorado Astrophotography
Courtesy of Colorado Astrophotography
Courtesy of Colorado Astrophotography

While photography was always a passion of Martin’s, it was her unique talent for capturing images of constellations, meteor showers, and more over the Rocky Mountains that led her to create her own business. The service was initially offered as an Airbnb Experience, but a combination of quitting her job in teaching, being faced with the pandemic, and turning inward, led Martin to pursue her dream job leading workshops, group experiences, photoshoots, date nights, and more.

“When I left teaching, I did this, and it was right when I started learning how to meditate and get into mindfulness. After I did it enough it became my healing, and as I started to do it more I realized I needed to share it with people,” explains Martin. “But in the process of building the business I’ve gotten much more focused on the customer experience, the collaborative playlist and connecting guests to each other-where they’re from and why they showed up.”

No previous experience is required to take a trip with Colorado Astrophotography, only the curiosity to explore nature and the night sky in a creative way that will put those nights of staring up at the stars at camp to shame. But it’s more than a stargazing experience. “You’re out in the freezing temperatures, and forced to connect with your body. It’s about capturing all the light in the darkness, both literally and metaphorically,” explains Martin. “Everything in our days is 1,000 things a minute, and this is one very slow, long, exposure for a picture that’s beautiful and an experience that connects people.”Once our cameras and tripods are set up, Martin hands out diagrams of exposure triangles and walks us through the three different camera settings we’ll be using. For someone whose photography skills don’t go beyond an iPhone, it’s fascinating to learn the equation for shutter speed, also known as exposure time, and how it works specifically for astrophotography, allowing your lens to stay open long enough to capture sufficient light. Once our dials are set to manual and our exposure time was aligned to capture the full moon, we’re ready to take our “shot in the dark.” “Keep your lens facing up, unless you’re shooting the full moon,” jokes Martin. “Then pull your pants up.”

Courtesy of Colorado Astrophotography
Courtesy of Colorado Astrophotography
Courtesy of Colorado Astrophotography

After some alone time with our cameras, the group quickly huddles together, oohing and ahhing over each other’s photographs, scoping out rocks we could pose on to capture shots of one another. The two women are already coordinating a couple’s photoshoot with Maggie where they could bring their snowboards out onto Echo Lake.

Once the hand warmers wear off and we’re more than satisfied with what we’ve just captured, our motley crew is on its way. Winding down through the pass with the mountains at our back, we bop along to Colorado Astrophotography’s playlist, which you’re encouraged to add to during the experience, while we bask in the magic we just witnessed. Some had never been to Loveland Pass, others had never held a camera. But now we’re all heading home with something much better than a blurry iPhone photo and far more knowledge about the planets, constellations, and full moon than we showed up with.

Whether you’re mesmerized by the night sky, want to improve your photography skills, or are looking to experience the sheer magic of being one with nature at a time when most people are not, a night of astrophotography will bring you a new perspective and some astonshing photos your friends won’t believe you took. And it’s perfect for those visiting Colorado or spending a weekend in Denver who may not have access to a car and would be remiss not to visit the mountains during their stay.

“My focus for 2023 is incorporating how astrophotography is a therapeutic and mindful practice. You’re surrounded by blackness and silence, and the cold temperatures get you out of your head and into your body. You have this anticipation for the 20 – 25 seconds it takes for the picture to develop and it really forces you to just slow down,” explains Martin. “Not everyone is into the wellness factor, and no one has to be. But that’s what it is for me. It’s how I heal and how I take time for myself.”

Regardless of if you’re planning your first trip to the Rockies or have lived here for over a decade, this will be an experience unlike any other you’ve had in the mountains and is well-deserving of a spot on your 2023 bucket list.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on¬†Instagram,¬†Twitter,¬†Pinterest,¬†YouTube,¬†TikTok, and¬†Snapchat.

Abby Maddigan is the social media manager at Thrillist, who recently relocated to Denver and is accepting all local coffee shop recommendations. Follow her on Instagram.

Denver

How to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Denver This Year

For a successful St. Patrick's Day, hit these parades, barcrawls, parties, and festivals.

VISIT DENVER
VISIT DENVER
VISIT DENVER

Grab your green and your Guinness-St. Patrick’s Day is around the corner, and there’s fun to be had. In addition to being the first big celebratory holiday after New Year’s, St. Paddy’s is also a signal of spring; more hours of sunshine, T-shirt temps, and filling Blake, Market, and Larimer with drunken revelry make up a particularly Denver type of equinox. However you plan to celebrate-with family friendly activities or for those over the legal drinking age only-there are parades to be watched, playful drinks to be sipped, and a whole lot of shamrock-ing to do.

Photo courtesy of Mile High Spirits
Photo courtesy of Mile High Spirits
Photo courtesy of Mile High Spirits

Dance a jig or two at Mile High Spirits’ Shamrock Shenanigans

March 17
If you’re ready to put your dancing shoes to good use, wiggle your way on over to Mile High Spirits-doors are opening at 12 pm and there’s no cover ‚Äėtil 10. Enjoy MHS’ drinks, big dance floor, and even bigger outdoor patio for all the Irish pride and shenanigans you can handle.

Cook Street School of Culinary Arts
Cook Street School of Culinary Arts
Cook Street School of Culinary Arts

Whip up steak for a St. Paddy’s Date Night

March 17
Cook Street’s special St. Paddy’s Day class involves making the perfect steak while sipping on Irish whiskey. On Friday only, learn about proteins, cooking methods, and choosing side dishes carefully while cooking up traditional Irish cuisine.

Crawl around town. You know, figuratively…

March 17 – 18
Is it a drinking holiday in Denver if there aren’t a handful of bar crawls happening? Probably not. St. Paddy’s Day is no different; you can start crawling from a number of bars, but a few in particular have everything plotted out for you (for a small fee). Start at the Ginn Mill and receive a map of over 10 pub locations you’ll be crawling to either Friday or Saturday, plus drink special vouchers. There’s also a crawl departing from Nola Jane (Friday only) with its own food and drink specials, plus a scavenger hunt and some St. Paddy’s merch, too.

The Fainting Goat
The Fainting Goat
The Fainting Goat

Visit one of Denver’s Irish Pubs

March 17 – 18
If you can’t think of a better place to spend St. Paddy’s Day then at a local Irish pub, we salute you-just be prepared to throw a few elbows making your way to the bar. Denver’s got several good ol’ pubs from Broadway to Larimer Square that’ll be in full swing this weekend, pouring fresh pints as far as the eye can see. Check out Scruffy Murphy’s, Nallen’s, The Irish Rover, Finley’s, The Celtic on Market, or the Fainting Goat for that SPD revelry you know, love, and trekked out for.

Photo courtesy of The OG/McGregor Square
Photo courtesy of The OG/McGregor Square
Photo courtesy of The OG/McGregor Square

Sip and savour St. Paddy’s themed bevvies

Through March 17
Everyone pulls out the green food dye and mint flavouring for St. Paddy’s, but there are some other creative drink specials to sample, too. The OG’s got a boozy milkshake for the occasion, aptly named “Who’s Your Paddy,” a mix of vanilla ice cream, Cr√®me de Menthe, Tullamore Dew, Bailey’s, and whipped cream. BEZEL’s Irish Matcha Man is pretty unique, with Teeling Small Batch whiskey, lime, thyme-infused honey, and matcha powder. And then Slater’s 50/50 takes it to another level (unsurprisingly) with its Lucky Mint Green Shake: mint-flavored ice cream in a frosting-rimmed glass with Lucky Charm marshmallows, rainbow stripe sour strips, whipped cream and green sprinkles. Other notable specials can be found at Poka Lola Social Club, Dairy Block’s Moo Bar, and Seven Grand.

Sing along and cheers to live music

March 17
Denver’s The Monkey Barrel is known for its regular live performances, and this St. Patrick’s Day you can tune in to Elijah Petty & The Part-Times and other musical guests if you’re in search of a chiller spot to sip your Guinness. Or, have one of the best burgers in town while relishing the shenanigans and live music of Cherry Cricket Cherry Creek this St. Paddy’s Day. Food and drink specials will also be available through the holiday weekend, so leave extra room or wear your stretchy (green) pants.

HRCA Race Series
HRCA Race Series
HRCA Race Series

Show your St. Paddy’s spirit by‚Ķ running?

March 18
Feeling restless? Or maybe you’re itching to get a few laps in before hammering down several pints this Saturday? Either way, Highlands Ranch is hosting its St. Patrick’s Day 5K where finishing the race gets you St. Patrick’s Day merch, an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast, and of course, a complimentary pint courtesy of Living the Dream Brewing.

Holidaily Brewing Company
Holidaily Brewing Company
Holidaily Brewing Company

Drink and do good at Holidaily Brewing Co.

March 17
This St. Paddy’s Day, Holidaily and the Gluten Intolerance Group are putting on their Raise a Pint, Lend a Hand fundraiser. A special glitter and green Firkin tapping is happening at 4 pm at both taprooms, with special (and gluten-free) treats available at the Golden location, thanks to Farmhouse 5280 and Waive the Grain bakery. 10% of all St. Patrick’s Day sales will be donated to the Gluten Intolerance Group.

Talnua Distillery
Talnua Distillery
Talnua Distillery

Party at a local distillery

March 17 – 18
Talnua Distillery is hosting a St. Patrick’s Day bash to remember this year, featuring food trucks, live music, special themed cocktails, and more. Limited bottles of Talnua’s exclusive Olde Saint’s Keep whiskey will be available for purchase, which you can hang onto while you dance along to pipe bands or eat a brat or two from El Jefe’s.

Watch some Irish step dancing

March 17
Head on over to Stanley Marketplace to witness the talent and skill of the students at the Wick School of Irish Dance at 12 pm, and follow it up with a green cerveza at Cheluna Brewing Co. Of course, plenty of tasty lunch and dinner options are available around the marketplace so you can soak up a bit of that beer.

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Erica Buehler is a Denver-based freelance writer and editor. Follow her @e_buehler on Instagram and @e_buehler_ on Twitter for more updates on Denver food and other Mile High shenanigans.

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