Art and Wine Adventures in Colorado’s Grand Valley


A Love Your Parks Tour Public Art Story, assigned by artist Victoria Chick


Northwest Colorado’s Grand Valley region is part of the dramatic and rugged Colorado Plateau and is home to Colorado National Monument, Mount Garfield and the Book Cliff series of desert cliffs and mountains, and the Grand Mesa which is the largest flat-topped mountain in the world. The Colorado River runs through the valley, providing water for the local fruit orchards and vineyards, and connecting the communities of Fruita, Loma, Grand Junction, and Palisade. This spectacular area is a recreational paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, a destination for oenophiles, and a creative haven for those of artistic spirit.

We visited the Grand Valley in late spring and discovered that one of the best ways to explore the region is through its various public art initiatives, especially during this new era of social distancing. Whether it’s viewing kinetic metal art or painted electric boxes while strolling through a downtown, or viewing whimsical sculptures and festive barn quilts while peddling along a country road, the art acts as a visual storyteller that illuminates the local culture, heritage, and natural beauty. It’s a fun family activity too, a colorful treasure hunt of sorts.

We started our adventure in Palisade, a town known for its juicy peaches and for being the hub of Colorado’s Wine Country. Nestled at the foothill of Mount Garfield, the downtown is quaint with restaurants, one-of-a-kind shops, galleries, and public art installations. On display throughout the downtown and the plaza, these sculptures are part of the Palisade Art Vision, a local program formed with a mission to promote and embrace, “Art as a part of everyday life.” While in town, be sure to stop by the Blue Pig Gallery, a collaborative showcase of local art that ranges from paintings and sculpture to photography, jewelry, and ceramics. Another must-visit is Spun, a fiber art studio and yarn shop that carries a wonderful selection of natural fiber yarns and supplies, and offers knitting and weaving classes.

Wine and art go hand-in-hand, and a popular way to experience the and award-winning wineries is to follow the Palisade Fruit & Wine Byway, which also happens to be part of the Barn Quilt Trail. There are over 15 different barn quilts to find on the trail, with some of them at farms and orchards you can visit such as the Kokopelli Farm Market, Nana’s Fruit Shack at the Davis Family Farm, Sprigs and Sprouts, Suncrest Orchard Alpacas and Fiber Works, Mt. Lincoln Peach Company, and Z’s Orchard.

Winemaking is a craft unto its own, and most of the wineries in this area are award-winning, small-lot and family operated. The extraordinary wines produced in this Grand Valley are the result of the area’s fertile soil and diverse micro-climates, as well as the talent, hard work, and attention to detail given by the growers and vintners. It is well worth adding wine tasting to your art and barn quilt adventure with a visit to Vines 79 Wine Barn, Restoration Vineyards, Peachfork Orchards and Vineyards, Mesa Park Vineyards, and Graystone Winery, the only Porthouse in Colorado.

When it comes to lodging in Palisade, Dancing Moon Bed & Breakfast is right in the heart of the Palisade Fruit & Wine Byway and close to the downtown and Riverbend Park where you can access the Colorado River. Run by Trey & Annette Lewis, Dancing Moon is a big, spacious B&B with comfortable and clean rooms, a lovely garden, and delicious breakfasts (ask for their Peach Mimosa). Another lovely B&B is Vistas and Vistas & Vineyards which is run by Brad and Gail Matthiessen. Situated on land that used to be a zinnia flower farm, this relaxing, solar-powered Inn is within steps of Maison La Belle Vie Winery & Amy’s Courtyard, a great restaurant and event space. Now if you want to stay at an actual winery, Mesa Park Vineyards has a charming AirBnB vacation rental that offers awesome views of the vineyards and Mt. Garfield.  And if you’re into the outdoors, Palisade Basecamp is a fantastic RV and camping resort at the base of the Book Cliffs, next to vineyards, and right on the Colorado River’s edge.

Grand Junction was our second art destination in the Valley. We stayed at Castle Creek Manor Bed & Breakfast which is within minutes of the Colorado National Monument, as well as the historic downtown. Operated by Brenda Greene and her husband Robb, this well-appointed Inn features a spa-like design with an expansive two-story deck and five luxury suites. Afternoon wine time is a fun part of the lodging experience, and a great introduction to Colorado’s Wine Country.

Boasting amazing scenery and rock formations, Colorado National Monument is a spectacular park that’s known for its hiking and cycling, bird and wildlife watching, and geology. The most popular way to experience the park is on Rim Rock Drive. You’ll want to stop at Artists Point Overlook to soak up the expansive views down into Monument Canyon, over the Coke Ovens and Squaw Fingers, and out to the distant Book and Roan cliffs, and Grand Mesa. It’s no wonder that this 6,200-foot viewpoint was named in honor of the early Plein air artists who frequented this spot to portray this jaw-dropping scene.

Downtown Grand Junction is a vibrant district with tree-lined streets that are home to a plethora of boutique shops and galleries, a colorful public art scene, and a fabulous selection of restaurants, outdoor cafes, breweries, and distilleries. One of the first programs of its kind in the country, Art on the Corner is an outstanding year-round outdoor sculpture exhibit that features over 100 temporary and permanent sculptures, representing a variety of styles and mediums. Since its inception in 1984, the program has showcased over 750 sculptures by more than 125 artists, continues to be one of the most visited attractions in Mesa County, and in 1998, garnered an Excellence in Public Art award from the International Making Cities Livable organization.

When it comes to getting around both Palisade and Grand Junction, you may want to rent a bicycle or opt for a local transportation service such as Absolute Prestige Limo or Pali-Tours.  Absolute Prestige Limousine Service can tour you around in your choice of a limousine, shuttle bus, and SUV, or in a horse-drawn carriage with one of their four teams of Percheron draft horses. With its open-air shuttle bus, Pali-Tours offers a safari-style approach to getting around the wine country.

If you enjoy nature and the outdoors, exceptional food and wine, along with art and culture, this is the destination for you. And when you do visit, you’ll find that the people of Colorado’s Grand Valley are a big part of the experience. They’re a fun, hospitable, and hardworking group of people who work together with a shared love for the region and a deep sense of community spirit.

To plan your visit to the Colorado’s Grand Valley, enjoy our audio-visual journey with the slide show above featuring some of places we visited and interview podcasts with those we met. You can also listen to the Big Blend Radio interviews in the playlists on YouTube or SoundCloud.

Cow Trail Art Studio - Silver City, NM

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