When visiting Colorado, one might lean more towards visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde, or the Great Sand Dunes. This over an expedition to Sterling. True enough, those locations offer incredible vistas, hiking, and history – but they won’t offer you authenticity like Sterling. Sterling’s motto is, roam freely, and that’s exactly what you do, when you visit.
Rich history surrounds 14,000-strong Sterling at the northeastern edge of Colorado. Since what some might call, the beginning of The West, the town has been fundamental in the development of Colorado, contributing much in the way of railroad construction and management, tax organization, politics, trade, and more. Today you can wander Sterling, rediscovering that intrigue, as it emanates from its streets.
Historic buildings lay abundantly in Sterling, from a time when the city boomed from agriculture and trade. Christmas-time, these buildings take on new form, lit up by vibrant lights, augmenting the streets. The County Courthouse is a building you definitely want to see, not least because of its historical relevance. Aesthetically speaking, it’s a stunning work of architecture.
On the note of history, you’ll also want to visit Simkins Parlor. Why? Because of its great coffee, and great ice cream. The stylish cafe has been open since 1902, and has persevered through all Sterling’s hardships over the years – good things last.
In more recent years, major developments have happened in Sterling. One is the renovation of a once-Cadillac depot into the Old Town Bistro, and Parts & Labor Brewing Company. Parts & Labor’ beers are exquisite. You should try the New England IPA, one of my favorites. Next door, in the Old-town Bistro, try the Peppercorn Crusted Filet with Blue Cheese Cream Sauce, a winner of the Hell’s Kitchen Steak Recipe Contest.
I stayed at the Crest Motel during my visit, which was a brilliant idea. Especially because it enabled me to easily venture out to North Sterling State Park, which we’ll talk about. The rooms were curated, with excellent attention to detail. Everything about my stay was comfortable, and pleasant. In the heart of downtown Sterling, this is where you should stay on your visit.
North Sterling State Park is thoroughly idyllic. Its crystal clear water and sandy shores make it a place you’ll want to relax at. I spent a morning sat on one of its beaches, reading Siddhartha. Fitting indeed. My only regret was that I didn’t bring a packed lunch – it tops any cafe setting.
A street-sculptor by the name of Bradford Rhea has embroidered Sterling with tree sculptures, and they’re everywhere. This is a man who has worked for a president (he carved a walking stick for Bill Clinton as America’s gift to Pope John Paul II). You can discover his great art with a self-guided tour, beginning with ‘Metamorphosis’, at the visitor center. It’s well worth it.
This Christmas, Sterling held many festive events, and one was a raging bonfire in the heart of the city. The fire towered 50ft into the night sky, and was a good 20ft wide. The townsfolk gathered round, drinking coffee and hot chocolate, taking in the heat, laughing and chatting.
The bonfire, among other attractions, has made me realize that Sterling is a town full of life, and full of intrigue. It’s home to great cuisine, deep history, and a strong community ethic. All the above, but without any commercial undertones. Without any lengthy ques. And without any extortionate fees.
This story has been created in partnership with the Sterling Tourism Board, Colorado.