Whether you’re looking for happy hour, dinner and drinks, or a cocktail, you want to be outside for “magic hour.” You know, when the alpenglow hits the mountain peak and everybody is just grinning from ear to ear when you walk down the Core Trail? Pull up a barstool at one of these venues.
As any local would tell you in a heartbeat, the best local dive is Sunpies. The two-room bar expands out to a side and backyard that juts up right against the Yampa River - so close that you can help tubers climb out of the river for a beer. In the summertime, Sunpies has giant Jenga (2x4 lumber pieces), and an ingenious, thoroughly frustrating game where you have to swing a washer onto a hook. Grab Happy Hour at either the indoor or outdoor bar, which includes their signature drink, The Hurricane (no NOLA similarity except for its potency), and cheap Miller High Life bottles at $2.
If you’re going to be mountainside, then you must fly up the gondola to Sunset Happy Hour at Thunderhead Lodge. Besides being one of the best happy hour deals around (gondola pass also includes drink discounts), the giant wraparound deck is the best place to take in the sunset over the Yampa Valley. Look up, and you’ll see the alpenglow softly illuminate Storm Peak. Look out, and you can make out the Flat Tops to the southeast and Sleeping Giant to the west. The music is piped outdoors so you can enjoy the tunes without having to trade the view for music.
Class up your act and take it down the river to Aurum. The sit-down restaurant with wide windows opening to the river is one of the paramount dining experiences in town, but I prefer the wide-open decks just next to the dining room. Tables and comfy wicker couches line the rail next to the Yampa River, and the deck is practically outfitted with heat lamps and an open fire pit so you can linger in the evening air.