MUCH MORE THAN A VALENTINE STAMP ON YOUR POSTCARD
Although I live in sunny San Diego, my roots are in Loveland, Colorado. The Sweetheart City. The City of Love, Gateway to the Rockies are all names this 77,000 person town goes by.
People from around the world send their Valentines here to get the official stamp before being sent on to their loved ones, but residents who live here know it has much more to offer. You always know what direction you’re heading just by looking for the mountains. They’re still west.
Loveland is set at the foothills to the Rocky Mountains and is anchored by Lake Loveland. I have walked around this lake for years. I even walked to Loveland High School, which is on the north shore of the lake. Yes, we had sailing and water skiing classes on the lake every spring and ski classes in the winter.
Loveland loves art. So much so that Benson Sculpture Park, on the northern bank of the lake, hosts 164 permanent sculptures. It has been recognized as one of the 200 most important modern and contemporary art sites in the USA. Not only is it an art in this park, but it is all around town and even up into the mountains.
I love the Devil’s Backbone, a unique rock formation that’s vertical and juts out of the land in a long ridge. Other hikers and I enjoy the easy hike up to the Keyhole and panoramic views. It is said that there are only a couple of these rock formations in the world.
The Big Thompson River flows from Estes Park down the Big Thompson Canyon and through Loveland. This river has flooded twice in my lifetime, 2013 was the worst of the two. You can Google it to read about the My family lost its livelihood in the first flood of 1976, and many friends perished also.
There are two wineries in the area now. Sweetheart City Winery and Blue Mountain Vineyards. Loveland also boasts ten breweries and is situated next to Ft. Collins, one of the USA’s brewing capitals.
I still have many friends who live in town 45 years after graduating from high school. Many of them I met in elementary and junior high school. Some move away, some return, but we all have a connectedness absent in a big city.
Living in Colorado means enjoying nature, hiking, mountain climbing, biking, slow, carefree summers, family, friends, and beautiful Mother Nature.
Sunny Jim’s Country Candies
Every Christmas since I can remember, my dad has given my sisters and me a big box of Sunny Jim’s candies to appease our sweet teeth. The iconic store has been west of Loveland since 1964 and features homemade candies, all sorts of chocolates, colorful fudges, hot tamales, almond brick, sour cherries, and many more types. You have to stop in there to see what they have today.
Loveland has grown from a town of 25,000 residents in the 70s to over 75,000 today. A lot of this growth started with Kodak relocating from New York to Loveland back in the 70s and continued with the “Green Rush”. Colorado was one of the first states to make marijuana legal. Many people moved to get medical marijuana care for their family members. Then people had to stay because they could be arrested if caught giving someone any forms of the plant to their family member. It was very controversial initially, but as time has progressed and society has adjusted to the positive results from the medical properties of marijuana, people can move away but haven’t. This immense growth required land, and farmers were able to sell their land for large sums of money, much more than they could earn with farming, and from this bedroom, communities started springing up all up and down the I-25 corridor. Loveland has exploded in all directions.
Lakes and Rivers Galore
Many lakes surround the Tri-City Region (Loveland, Ft. Collins, and Greeley). Lake Loveland is a private lake co-owned by the residents who live on the shores. There is a tiny area where residents can sunbathe and swim, but most people have to go to the mountains for water fun. Carter Lake is nearby. It is three miles long and a mile wide, plenty of room for all types of boating, including kayaking, fishing, scuba diving, and water skiing. You can also camp there.
When was the last time you went to ride the Ferris wheel inside a store? Right! Well, now Loveland has Scheels, a massive 250,000 square foot shopping extravaganza that focuses on sporting goods and family entertainment. Eighty specialty shops are inside with your favorite team’s sports gear, home goods, fashion, grilling and BBQ, fishing, hunting, and a Ferris Wheel! That’s right. You’ll find the ride reminiscent of every county fair you’ve ever been to in the middle of the store.
Origins Wine Bar and Wood Fired Pizza
Like many smaller towns in America, the downtowns with their charming storefronts have recently been renovated and become the desirable place to go (as opposed to the strip malls). Downtown Loveland has welcomed new restaurants and shops, luring locals to walk around and eat locally. Origins Wine Bar is a more modern restaurant to invite people to come in, enjoy a bottle of wine and order an appetizer, pizza, or two or three.
The biggest draw into Loveland and the entire state is the Rocky Mountains. You can climb any of 58 peaks over 14,000 ft (called 14ers) as often as you want. There are hikes for all types of hikers ranging from easy to very difficult. This is the best way to explore the state’s rugged beauty and wildlife. Check out 14ers.com for details, reports, weather conditions, and trailhead information.
Driving the mountains is a favorite pastime for many residents. The state is full of amazing drives; however, Loveland has Big Thompson Canyon leading to Estes Park. This drive is beautiful and follows the Big Thompson River. Here you can fish, picnic along the way. People have homes and cabins along the river with spectacular mountain views.
Although this town is 30 miles away, it is a part of the Loveland area- at least to all the residents. Estes Park is a huge tourist destination and the entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park. There’s a lovely lake in the middle of the town, surrounded by hotels. A must-see is the charming and haunted Stanley Hotel. (But that’s another story.)
After exiting I-25 and turning west onto Highway 34, you enter Loveland. This road heads up to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. You will find many reputable hotels on this route to choose from, but Della Terra Mountain Chateau is an exceptional property offering elegance, luxury, and serenity.
Della Terra Mountain Chateau
Estes Park is a major tourist center, with a variety of hotels situated beside Lake Estes. One unique property is the romantic, luxury boutique inn, Della Terra Chateau. Nestled in fourteen acres of untouched land with panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains, this property has beautiful architecture and unique rooms. Luxuriate with a spa treatment at the Essence spa or a cocktail with appetizers at the Loft Bar. Enjoy a chef-catered breakfast or watch a movie in the private movie theater. The rooms are romantic and well-appointed. The bathrooms feature walk-through jetted showers and soa
For information and reservations go to https://www.dellaterramountainchateau.com/
Loveland, like many other towns, is undergoing a renaissance of cuisine. When I was growing up, there were a handful of restaurants, most of them steak related. Now there are new restaurants in a variety of cuisines that are popping up.
This downtown restaurant is rustic yet elegant, offering steak and seafood cuisine.
“I have been going there regularly for several years,” said resident Lisa Mahan. “The service is over-the-top. Every time we go, I feel like our server is only taking care of us. They have a meager turnover rate with the staff, so it has a real comfortable feeling as well. I can’t say enough. I don’t usually order filet when I dine out, but theirs is the best I’ve ever had! You can cut it with your fork. Their Chophouse Mashers are to die for. Don’t eat here without experiencing the mashers!”
For details go to https://lovelandchophouse.com/.
Betta Gumbo (formerly Mo Betta Gumbo)
“New Orleans is one of my absolute favorite places to eat, and Betta Gumbo nailed it’, said Lisa. “The food is amazing, and the atmosphere is so fun with great service and live entertainment. They offer a full bar with moonshine options. I always get the Gumbo. It’s got a lot of heat, and it comes with a generous piece of cornbread that melts in your mouth. I’ve tried several of the menu options but always go back to the Gumbo. They are ALL delicious!”
For the current menu go to: https://www.bettagumbo.com/
A.K.A. Kitchen and Rock Coast Brewery
My friend Bob Shaffer retired from the Loveland Police Department only to start a restaurant and brewery. He shares this passion project with his wife and son. Son Evan has returned to Loveland to be the head chef. His menu is a take on “a representation of everything that was once traditional, morphed into something new.” Their goal is a high yet approachable menu for the Loveland community.
For up to the date menus and brewing information go to: Home – aka-kitchen
Loveland and neighboring town Ft. Collins has become a brewing mecca. Anchored by wildly popular and 4th largest craft brewer in the U.S, New Belgium Brewery in Ft Collins, the city currently boasts 20 breweries. Brewing has spilled over to Loveland, a mere 15 miles away. As of 2019, there were 11 breweries in Loveland.
Sweet Heart Winery
Located west of town across from the Devil’s Backbone is the 2-year-old Sweet Heart Winery. They’re named after the city nickname- Sweetheart City. Owners David and Kathy Burks started being home winemakers and purchased 8 acres along the Big Thompson River to create a winery and event center. Currently, while they grow their newly planted grapes, they import their grapes from California.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Syrah, and a Bourbon barrel-aged Cabernet Sauvignon from Lodi and the Russian River Valley near Napa are some of their red wines. Their white wines focus on Symphony, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, and a Rosé of Pinot Noir.
Grab a bottle of wine and mosey down to the river, stick your toes in and enjoy a lovely wine all the while enjoying the views of the Rocky Mountains.
To see which wines they’re pouring visit https://sweetheartwinery.com/
Besides the beauty of the mountains and many outdoor sports activities, small-town life in Loveland moves slower, with time to enjoy family and friends, sit on the patio and enjoy lunch with a mountain view, a brew or glass of wine. It’s always about the mountains. They’re always to the west- you just can’t get lost.
A special thank you to Judy Buxmann, Sue Fickess, Lisa Mahan, Larinercounty, Richard Ernest, and VisitLoveland for assisting with comments and photographs.
How to get to Loveland
Fly into Denver International Airport, rent a car, and drive on I-25 north to Loveland. Exit number 257 for Greeley to the east and Loveland to the west.
Loveland has a small regional airport for small aircraft. Currently, Allegiant Airlines is in the final stages of getting approval to fly into the airport. The plan is to fly to Phoenix and Las Vegas when approved.
How to get your Valentine’s stamped with the special postmark
To get this particular collector’s envelope artwork and the special annual postmark, send your pre-addressed, pre-stamped valentines in an enclosed, larger 1st Class envelope. Then send this envelope to Postmaster – Attention Valentines, 446 E. 29th St., Loveland, CO 80538-9998
Don’t speed in Loveland. The speed limit is 35. This is how life is in this medium-size town at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Slower paced, family-friendly, and outdoors-oriented are a few ways you will hear this town described. I agree.
Written by Robin Dohrn-Simpson
Photographs credits given on each picture