25 Mar 19
The Denver Post
Layovers can take your vacation from a relaxing “ahhhh” to a frustrated “argh” pretty quickly.
Even if it’s just a short one, you still have the hassle of deboarding your original plane, running to your next gate, standing in line, boarding and getting all settled in again.
If you’re looking for inspiration for your next vacation and you’re open-minded about where to travel, consider cities you can fly to directly from Denver. You’ll save time, but more importantly, a lot of hassle when all you have to do is hop on one plane and relax. Since Denver International Airport is adding new flights right and left, we checked in with them for some of the coolest new nonstop routes they’ve added in the last year or so.
Here are 10 vacation-worthy destinations you can fly to from Denver — without a layover.
(Editor’s note: Prices are averages and are subject to change)
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Despite being completely landlocked, Colorado is home to the sixth-largest population of scuba divers in the country, so it makes perfect sense that there’s now a seasonal direct flight from Denver to Grand Cayman (round-trip flights starting at $396). The new flight, which launched in early March, takes roughly five hours, which is a huge improvement from the eight or nine hours it typically takes to get from Denver to Grand Cayman (however, the flights are currently on hold due to the grounding of Boeing 737 Max jets).
If you want a vacation that blends relaxing by the pool with fun activities, consider the Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa (nightly rates $399 and up), the island’s first new resort in a decade. Your stay includes access to kayaks, paddleboards, sailboats, water tricycles, rafts and snorkeling gear. Even better? The hotel will let you borrow a GoPro underwater camera to document all of your adventures.
Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
Start planning now for the next ski season: You can now fly direct from Denver to Mammoth Lakes, Calif., (round-trip flights starting at $392) during the winter months on United. This is a super-handy flight (and short, at just 2 1/2 hours), especially if you’re planning to get the Ikon Pass for the 2019-20 season, which includes unlimited access to Mammoth Mountain.
With the Village Lodge as your home base (nightly rates $240 and up), you’ll have room to spread out and easy access to the gondola. Mammoth Lakes is also a beautiful place to cross-country ski and snowshoe — there are more than 140 miles of track to explore. You can also take snowcat tours, ride on a snowmobile and go ice skating.
Lobster on the brain? Catch a nonstop Frontier flight from Denver to Portland, Maine (round-trip flights starting at $177). This coastal town in southern Maine is not to be confused with the other Portland (you know, the one in Oregon). You’ll spend just four hours in the air, and then you can start chowing down on lobster rolls, lobster bisque, lobster steamed with butter — you get the picture.
Food aside, Portland is also a great place to bike around, golf, kayak, fish and sail. There are picturesque lighthouses to explore, as well as historic homes and sites, such as the Portland Observatory, a maritime signal tower built in 1807. (United will also begin offering seasonal weekend flights from Denver to Portland starting this year).
Perhaps a European vacation is more up your alley. You can fly nonstop to Zurich thanks to Edelweiss Air (round-trip flights starting at $1,349), which began offering seasonal direct flights between the two cities in June 2018. Zurich can serve as a good launchpad if you want to play in the Swiss Alps, but the city itself is also worth exploring. Get lost wandering around the cobblestone streets of Old Town (Altstadt), then pop into the 13th-century Gothic cathedral Fraumünster Church to see the gorgeous stained-glass windows designed by Marc Chagall.
To take full advantage of Lake Zurich, book the hotel Baur au Lac (nightly rates $560 and up), which offers stunning views of the waters across its manicured grounds. You can stroll along the lake’s shores or see the sights from a boat tour.
If the hustle and bustle of daily life is dragging you down, a glass of sweet tea and a bowl of shrimp and grits might make you feel better. You can fly nonstop to Savannah, Ga., on a Frontier route (round-trip flights starting at $217) that launched in May 2018. This friendly southern city has so much history and character, you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to explore.
A few must-visit destinations: the SCAD Museum of Art, Forsyth Park and Bonaventure Cemetery, where you can learn all about the city’s history on a guided tour. The Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters museum explores the country’s complicated relationship with slavery while also offering a window into the architecture, design and customs of the late 1700s and early 1800s. Rather than check into a hotel, get a more full-fledged experience of southern hospitality when you stay at a small bed-and-breakfast, such as the Hamilton-Turner Inn (nightly rates $199 and up), which was built in 1873 and has just 17 rooms.
Santa Rosa, Calif.
If wine country is calling your name, you’re in luck. Hop on a quick three-hour flight from Denver to Santa Rosa (round-trip flights starting at $217) and you’ll be tasting delicious Sonoma County wines in no time. The nonstop flight to Santa Rosa is brand new — it launched March 8 — but it’s been in the works for a while. For a relaxing weekend away, consider MacArthur Place (nightly rates $399 and up), a historic ranch and vineyard that’s been converted into a charming resort complete with lush, green gardens.
If you need a change of pace from tasting wine all day (though it’s unlikely), Sonoma County is also a great place to hike, bike, play golf, kayak and whale-watch. If you’re a movie buff, you may also want to visit the small town of Bodega, where Alfred Hitchcock filmed his 1963 thriller “The Birds.”
You may have heard that Asheville, N.C., is a lot like Colorado — it’s nestled against the Blue Ridge Mountains, there are lots of breweries and people love to play outdoors. In fact, Colorado brewery New Belgium and Oskar Blues (in nearby Brevard) have opened up tasting rooms and brewing facilities here.
You can gauge for yourself whether Asheville feels like Colorado with direct flights from Denver on Allegiant (round-trip flights starting at $192). The trip takes fewer than three hours, so you can be mountain biking, hiking, paddleboarding and waterfall hunting in no time. Asheville also has a bustling live music scene, thriving farmers markets and a walkable downtown. Plus, it’s home to Biltmore, the truly impressive 8,000-acre estate built by George Vanderbilt.
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Fall asleep in Denver, wake up in Paris — why not? Norwegian began offering direct flights between Denver and Paris (round-trip flights starting at $412) in April 2018, and since you’ll spend just nine hours in the air, you can hit the ground running once you arrive.
Once you’ve hit up all the must-visit sites — the Louvre Museum, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Arc de Triomphe, just to name a few — consider exploring one of Paris’ lesser-visited neighborhoods. Belleville, for instance, is an area northeast of the city center that’s home to lots of artists, the tree-covered Parc de Belleville and many cafes and restaurants.
RELATED: Dos and don’ts when traveling in Paris — or anywhere else, for that matter…
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Myrtle Beach encompasses 60 miles of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean, which makes it a top choice for a beach vacation. Plus, it’s home to tons of beautiful golf courses, many designed by famous golfers such as Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. You can fly there nonstop from Denver (round-trip flights starting at $237), thanks to a route Frontier Airlines launched in May 2018.
If you’re willing to go off the beaten path a bit, you can bask in the serenity of Brookgreen Gardens, a gorgeous 300-acre botanical garden that opened in 1931 as the first public sculpture garden in the country.
Belize City, Belize
OK, the nonstop flight to Belize City isn’t exactly new — direct service from Southwest (round-trip flights starting at $384) started in 2017 – but it should be on your list anyway. Once you arrive, you can easily pay a visit to Altun Ha — the ancient Mayan ruins about 30 miles north of the city — or take a kayak or tube trip through one of Belize’s underground caves.
You can also take a quick ferry ride over to Ambergris Caye, Belize’s largest island. This is where you’ll find relaxing beaches, world-class scuba diving sites and luxurious beachfront resorts such as the Victoria House Resort and Spa (nightly rates $695).
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