Clara Bosonetto is a retired travel consultant.
Weekend in Grand Junction, Colo., one of three ways: on a budget, spending a bit more or when the getaway calls for a splurge.
Trip tips: Nestled near 11,000-foot Grand Mesa and the 7,500-foot Book Cliffs, Grand Junction (altitude 4,586 feet) is the largest city in western Colorado with two national scenic byways and more than 275 days of sunshine annually. Discover more at www.visitgrandjunction.com.
Getting there: Round-trip rates of $380 require a 14-day or more advance purchase notice; American, Delta, United or US Airways.
Stay: Stylish SpringHill Suites Grand Junction Downtown features an indoor pool and unique guest rooms with a separate shower room. Rates from $129.95, including complimentary hot breakfast and Internet. 236 Main St. 970-424-5777, www.marriott.com.
Eat: Catch fall football action at Naggy McGee's Irish Pub. This lively spot serves specialty Irish fare, sandwiches, burgers, soups, salads and entrees (beer-battered salmon); $4-$18.50. Live entertainment most nights and drink and food specials during the games. 359 Colorado Ave. 970-424-5840, www.naggymcgees.com.
Experience: Stroll downtown to enjoy more than 100 outdoor sculptures in a variety of mediums and styles. The 99th annual three-day Fruita Fall Festival, Sept. 27-29, celebrates the farm harvest with a carnival, live music and with more than 150 vendors selling arts, crafts and foods. The town sits on the banks of the Colorado River, a few miles downstream from Grand Junction, and offers visitors magnificent high-desert scenery. www.fruitafallfestival.com. Venture out on a self-guided tour to see wild horses of the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range. The best viewing opportunities are Coal Canyon or Main Canyon and numerous side trails within them. Use the Bureau of Land Management's map: www.co.blm.gov/gjra/lbc.htm.
Stay: RMA Tours offers a two-night package stay at the Grand Vista Hotel at rates from $290 per person. Included are round-trip Amtrak rail travel between Denver and Grand Junction; transfers from/to the rail station and hotel; daily breakfast and a rental car. The hotel has a 24-hour indoor pool and spa, a lounge and restaurant. Book through RMA Tours (www.rmatours.com/junction.html). 2790 Crossroads Blvd. 970-241-8411.
Eat: Fresh, local seasonal American food at Bin 707 is inspired by cuisines of different regions throughout the United States. Brunch and lunch from $8-$12; flatbreads $9-$11; $2-$7.07 Happy Hour, and entrees $17-$25. 225 N. 5th St. 970-243-4543, http://bin707.com.
Experience: Visit the Museum of Western Colorado's Dinosaur Journey Museum, a hands-on museum featuring paleontology displays (including one of the largest triceratops skulls ever found), a working laboratory where dino bones are prepared for display and a collections room where scientists study dinosaurs and other animals; $8.50. 550 Jurassic Court, Fruita. 970-858-7282, www.museumofwesternco.com. Tour the Colorado National Monument, a 20,000-acre landscape of towering rock spires and majestic canyons offering spectacular views of the Grand Valley. Be awed by the splendor on the 23-mile Rim Rock Drive that climbs 2,000 feet above the Grand Valley of the Colorado River (with many roadside overlooks). Experience sheer-walled, red rock canyons along the twists and turns of the drive, where you may spot bighorn sheep and soaring eagles; $10 per car. 1750 Rim Rock Drive, Fruita. 970-858-3617, www.nps.gov/colm.
Stay: An hour southwest of Grand Junction on Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway 141 is the recently renovated Gateway Canyons Resort. Select accommodations in the luxurious Kiva Lodge have fireplaces, private patios, balconies and private spas. On-site is a fleet of off-road vehicles to explore the peaks, overlooks, crags and canyons of Western Colorado and Eastern Utah. Rise early for morning yoga or run along the trails that line the Dolores River. Rates from $599. 43200 Colo. 141, Gateway, 970-931-2458, www.gatewaycanyons.com.
Eat: USA Today places 626 on Rood in the Top 10 Wine Bars in the nation. This upscale downtown restaurant features modern American cuisine (lamb, buffalo to sashimi wahoo flown in overnight from Honolulu) and fine wines from around the world. Entrees $22-$39. 626 Rood Ave. 970-257-7663, www.626onrood.com.
Experience: Grand Junction is home to Colorado's wine country, with nearly 30 vineyards and wineries. Take a four-hour "Outskirts" tour to visit some of the most popular wineries and to some that are a little out of the way (drink in the scenery along the way); $65 includes transportation from lodging. www.grandvalleywinetours.com.