A Steamboat Sampler
Overheard on Lincoln Avenue, Steamboat Springs' ever-bustling main street: "God, every single store here sells the same (stuff)."
Sure, some of the low-rent Steamboat shops peddle gimmicky sunglasses, dated fleece jackets, cheap henna designs and clearance T-shirts with high-altitude jokes. But for every one of these tourist traps, there are two or three charming, locally owned spots that are as unique to Steamboat as its world-famous champagne powder.
Case in point: F.M. Light & Sons, the Western retailer that has been on Lincoln Avenue for more than 100 years. There is only one F.M. Light & Sons, and there are 150-plus unavoidable yellow-and-black signs posted around the town's limits to remind
you of that fact.
"We came here because of your signs," a visitor recently told an F.M. Light employee.
The clerk responded with a grin: "What signs?"
Here are 10 other stops for a distinctively Steamboat Springs experience.
- Ricardo Baca
- First Published:
- December 14th 2009 at 06:00 a.m.
- Last Updated:
- December 13th 2009 at 07:28 p.m.
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A. Gallery 11
This gorgeous, shotgun-style gallery space is owned by photographer Ken Lee, whose dramatic art occupies the walls. Lee's work is mainly nature photography; Colorado (and its many iconic vistas) is his muse. Dramatic sunsets. Aspen glades. Majestic elk. Also, don't miss the thoughtfully designed wood furniture that takes up the rest of the gallery. Each piece is as fragrant as it is full of character.
This popular store, in a new location, might as well be the Cheers of Steamboat. Everybody is at home in the comfortable bookstore/coffeehouse space. But the slightly more adventurous travelers who make their way upstairs will be rewarded with a nicely curated selection of stationery, a number of puzzles and even more room to enjoy your latte. The store is also the perfect place to go if you forgot your booklight or need a new topo map.
Yes, this is a chain operation. But this colorful and fragrant outpost is still as fun as it is dangerous for those with a true sweet tooth. Up for some vintage treats or that specific green apple-y Jelly Belly? Chances are it's stocked in this quaint, family-friendly space. Mosey in with an open mind. Pick something new - a curious selection, a sweet confection, something to your predilection. Sure, it might turn your tongue blue. But it also might taste fantastic. And you definitely don't want to miss the candy apple counter.
This store's only-in-Steamboat regional and Western section is great. Home to many well-known and -loved Colorado- specific tomes, it's right up at the front of the store, proudly displayed and organized. Don't be afraid to go all the way back, where you'll find a surprise room with couches and complimentary tea and coffee. At our last visit, the store's staff recommendations were Tom Robbins' "Jitterbug Perfume" and Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged."
F.M. Light opened this landmark Steamboat Western clothing store in 1905 with the help of his sons, Olin and Clarence. In fact, it was Clarence Light's idea to post the 150 yellow-and-black signs along the roads around Steamboat - marketing that has become the store's (and the town's) signature. (Many signs have been taken down in recent years via highway beautification projects.) Sure, you'll find a cheap cowboy hat here, and kids will be able to turn in their wooden nickels from the rodeo for a free surprise, but F.M. Light also has one of the best selections of Western shirts and cowboy boots in the state.
Ladies needing a new cashmere button-up for themselves or a gift for someone special will find plenty to like in this midscale boutique. Note for the men: This store caters to the fairer sex, a fact made all the more obvious by the number of men fiddling with their cellphones and looking uninterested on the sidewalk outside.
This high-end women's boutique presents trendy clothing with a uniquely Western spin. Lace. Embroidery. Jeans for any occasion. The shop is stark and simple, and it's a popular weekday destination for ladies in the market for smart, semi-casual eveningwear and après-ski head-turners.
This charming, renovated cinema features first-release films on two screens. It's the only game in town, and while the $10 adult tickets might seem a little steep, the anachronistic filmgoing experience is worth the cost of admission.
Locals appreciate this bar and grill's consistent food. Tourists enjoy the throwback décor. While many of the servers may be young and indifferent, the food is solid - especially the large-plated fish and chips - and the level of pretense is low. The walls are covered with faux-vintage tin signs and paintings of pop culture icons of decades past, including Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. The result is a warm atmosphere that's less shticky than you might imagine.
This outpost of the small Colorado chain (with other locations in Glenwood Springs, Arvada, Durango and elsewhere) is as consistent as its brethren. Warm days find the patio packed with groups sounded by liters of the cantina's signature drink: the margarita. Wintry days find the dining room focused on the stove-hot plates that fly out of the kitchen.