Colorado is the perfect destination to escape the known and step into a world of majestic mountains, natural hot springs, beautiful scenery and national parks that are sure to amaze you. It is a place that makes you feel alive, begs to be explored and offers unique experiences that can’t be found anywhere else. Cross the largest suspension bridge in the United States, take a brewery tour of the largest single-serve brewery in the world and attend an amazing film festival that caters to the true artist. Here are twelve of our favorite things to see and do in this wonderful mountain filled state.
12. Catch a Game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High
Home to the Denver Bronco’s this sports field runs like a well-oiled machine and boasts some amazing fans. If you happen to be in Colorado during NFL season we highly suggest catching a game here. Whether it is sunny, raining or even snowing the fans are out in full force with their orange attire and big voices. These are some of the nicest fans around so suit up to cheer the home team on. One thing to note is tickets do sell out for these games so buy ahead if you can.
Taking a tour of this state-of-the-art stadium is highly recommended as you will go behind the scenes and tour the facilities on this hour and a half walking tour. Stops include the executive suites, the locker rooms, the field entrance tunnel and broadcast facilities. Catch a great view of downtown Denver from the United Club level and enjoy the game at every level of seating. This is a true masterpiece of a stadium and visiting it for a tour or a game is one experience you will not forget.
11. Visit the United States Olympic Training Center
Located in Colorado Springs is the flagship training center of the U.S. Olympic team and the active headquarters of the U.S. Olympic Committee and is a well-deserved visit when you are in Colorado. Not only is this a free attraction but an interesting active training center with emphasis on the history of some amazing athletes. Tours are offered six days a week for a very small fee departing every 30 minutes from the visitor’s center.
The visitor’s center houses information about the complex itself and shows a brief inspirational video. From there you will head to the massive Hall of Fame where spectacular athletes are celebrated. Tours will take you through numerous training facilities including the gymnasium, pools and shooting range. If you happen to visit during practice time you will be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of these amazing athletes in action. Visit the gift shop at the end to pick up some Olympic merchandise and support the incredible athletes.
10. Ski Crested Butte
Skiing in Colorado is an absolute must as the breathtaking scenery and mountains combined with fresh powder make for the perfect conditions. Whether you are looking to blaze your own trail or follow the paths of others, make Crested Butte ski resort one of your destinations. This ski town is unique, tiny and full of people; both local and tourists that are there to hit the slopes and have a great time. Wander through the back alleys and discover restaurants tucked away in log cabins, building sidings covered with license plates and no chain stores in sight.
The free shuttle bus from the town to the ski area is just an added bonus of this town. Offering 121 trails, three terrain parks, zip lines, an adventure park, snowshoe walks and so much more; this resort caters to everyone. The dining options at both the resort and in town offer everything from Mexican to burgers to craft beer. The ski town of Crested Butte and the amazing adventures it offers can only be described as “epically amazing”.
9. Drive Trail Ridge Road
Often called the highway to the sky; Trail Ridge Road through the Rocky Mountains winds its way 48 miles through majestic scenery. This cliff hugging highway starts off at either Estes Park or Grand Lake and in a matter of minutes travelers are climbing 4,000 feet into the air. Starting off the route is the views of forests of Aspen and Pine soon giving way to the Fir trees and Spruce trees that can exist in a colder climate.
Leaving behind lush mountain meadows and stunted trees, travelers will enter the alpine tundra where the wind whips through and the temperature drops. But these harsh conditions give way to beautiful vibrant life and color. Wildflowers blanket the tundra in the summer in shades of pink, purple and red while animals are in abundance and you can spot elk and Bighorn sheep. Get out and stretch your legs on the half hour Tundra World Nature Trail, which gives great views of the scenery. A beautiful drive full of majestic scenery and wildlife that must be done when you are in Colorado.
8. Mesa Verde National Park
Step back in time to over 1400 years ago and discover over 4,000 archaeological sites that are protected in Mesa Verde National Park; the largest archaeological preserve in the United States of America. The most popular sites are the cliff dwellings; structures that are built within caves and under the overhangs of the cliffs and there are over 600 to be discovered here. The structures range from one room houses to villages consisting of up to 150 rooms. Many of these sites require climbing up and down ladders and through short tunnels to reach.
Along with the cliff dwellings, Mesa Verde offers visitors a glimpse into such sites as the Badger House Community, Cedar Tree Tower and the Sun Temple. Depending on the season visitors can take guided or self-guided trips throughout the park and we must note that some of the cliff dwellings can only be seen with a guide. A combination of walking and driving trails are clearly marked and one can spend days exploring all this park has to offer. Discover how the Ancestral Puebloans lived, how they built their structures, and how humans have evolved over time. Visit this fascinating collection of archaeological sites for a day (or days) you will never forget.
7. Head to Telluride for the Film Festival
Nothing about the Telluride film festival is ordinary. From its secret schedule of films to the location under the San Juan Mountains, to the celebration of community, film and creativity this film festival is for the elite movie lover. Not for the visitor that doesn’t love classics, not for the visitor who wants stretch limos and huge after parties with all the celebrities; no this festival is for the artist and the movie lover who yearns to watch films that may never be released.
Stroll down the streets of this tiny mountain town alongside some of the hottest filmmakers and stars that are here for one thing; to celebrate, to take in amazing films and to enjoy. Movie theaters are created from nothing; a high school gym turned into a theater, a convention center into a movie palace, and even restaurants and lodges are outfitted with screens and seats. Guest speakers, discussions and informal meet and greets round out the festival along with a number of free events. This festival is a once in a lifetime opportunity for any film lover and the price of a pass is steep but well worth it.
6. Tour the Coors Brewery
From the world’s largest hot spring mineral pool to the world’s largest single-site brewery; it seems everything is bigger and better in the state of Colorado. The next stop on our list of things to see and do here is to take a tour of the Coors Brewery. Not only is this tour fun, informative and a must stop in Golden but it’s 100 percent free! Tours are offered throughout the week but it is best to call ahead as times change with the seasons. Starting off the tour you will park in a lot that is quite far away from the brewery itself but have no fear there is a shuttle bus to whisk you right to the front doors.
You will then be given a device that allows you to take a self-guided audio walking tour through the brewery. Allowing visitors to set their own pace works well for this brewery as people can now fast-forward to the places in the brewery they find most interesting. An enlightening history lesson is given on the audio tour about Coors and there is no shortage of fascinating information provided. At the end you will be rewarded with free samples of beer and the opportunity to shop in the gift store that houses an abundance of Coors memorabilia.
5. Ride the Rails to Pikes Peak
Take the world’s highest cog train onwards and up to the top of Pikes Peak anytime of the year for an unforgettable journey. Climb to 14, 115 feet over 8.9 miles of track on this 3 hour trip on the highest rack railway in the world. With amazing mountain views, wildlife spotting and a cheerful conductor who talks about the history of the railroad and the surrounding area, there is no chance to be bored on this trip. The trip up takes about an hour and travels through forests, alongside creeks and waterfalls and through Deer Park. Once the train climbs above the timberline passengers should keep their eyes peeled for yellow-bellied marmots and Bighorn sheep.
At the top of the summit passengers disembark and are given time to explore the area. Note that the air is thin up here and some people do experience altitude sickness. The Summit House sits atop and offers food for sale but the lines are often long so we suggest eating before you go. The restrooms are also located up here. The best part of the top is what you came for; the spectacular views of the mountains, the skyscrapers of Denver (on a clear day) and the beauty that surrounds you. A short hour trip back down and your incredible visit to Pikes Peak is complete. Just make sure you remember your camera!
4. Great Sand Dunes National Park
Towering sand dunes up to 750ft tall spread across 30 square miles in Colorado’s San Luis Valley represent some of North America’s tallest sand dunes. Magnificently beautiful, ever changing with the winds and majestically overpowering are just a few ways to describe this incredible natural landscape. The enormity of these dunes comes slowly as you compare them to the 13,000-foot peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains but once arriving at their base you will soon realize how gigantic they are.
Great Sand Dunes National Park is enjoyed by campers who watch as the sun sets and casts shadows off the mountains and the peaks of the dunes that can only be described as “fairytale like”. Stars come out in full force with the absence of bright lights near the park. Day trippers enjoy hiking the dunes and marveling at their beauty while kids tire themselves running up and sliding down them. Remember to pack plenty of sunscreen, water and food as resources are limited in the visitor’s center. Expect this destination in Colorado to literally blow you away with its epic landscape of ever changing dunes that tower higher than anything you have seen before.
3. Royal Gorge Bridge
A trip to Colorado wouldn’t be complete without a visit to this very famous landmark. Holding the record for the highest bridge in the world from 1929-2001 is not only an impressive feat but just another reason to visit. This suspension bridge measures 1,260 feet long and is comprised of 1292 wooden planks crossing over the Arkansas River. After a devastating fire in 2013, the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park suffered devastating destruction and at the time of publication the bridge is open for visitors and the park is currently being rebuilt.
The Bridge has been repaired and a brand new visitor’s center offers a great deck overlooking the gorge where you can dine on amazing food. Coming soon to the park is a brand new zip line that will allow thrill seekers to race 1200 feet above the water across the gorge as well as an aerial gondola. See how brave you are as you peer over the sides of the bridge into the rushing waters of the Arkansas River or take a ride on the new Royal Rush Skycoaster. Visit this iconic landmark that has survived the fiercest of elements and discover what makes The Royal Gorge Bridge and Park so amazing.
2. Garden of the Gods
Located in Colorado Springs is a public park that is bursting with uniqueness and beauty that you truly can’t believe until you have seen it in person. Garden of the Gods is a dramatic landscape comprised of towering red rock formations against a brilliant blue sky topped off by the snow covered mountain peaks. This park attracts more than two million visitors each year including bikers, rock climbers, hikers, runners and horseback riders.
The rock formations can reach as tall as 300 feet and are of every conceivable shape and size bursting in a bright red color, as if they were frozen in time. The visitor’s information center is a great place to start and a short movie shows exactly how the rock formations came to be here. You can pick up your full color trail map here and set out to explore the 15 miles of trail throughout the park. Van tours also run throughout the summer for those not wanting or able to explore on their own. Hike, climb, bike or ride your way through this amazing Natural Landmark in Colorado.
1. Glenwood Hot Springs
Colorado is home to the world’s largest hot mineral spring pool and with an average temperature of 93 degrees Fahrenheit year round; this water is meant to soothe the soul and cure any aches and pains. Surrounded by the mountains either covered in fresh white glistening snow or lush green vegetation depending on the season, the pools have been a sanctuary for relaxation and fun for over a century. Three and a half million gallons of hot water pours from the spring every day to fill the pools that bring so many visitors joy.
The largest pool features built in chairs in the pool, roped off swimming lanes, a diving area and even two water-slides of the far end. The smaller pool is kept at 104 degrees Fahrenheit and is a quiet and serene pool that is meant to relax you and your muscles. If you are feeling too relaxed to leave the hot springs why not spend a night in one of the 107 recently updated rooms which feature unlimited swimming, a full breakfast and access to the award-winning spa. Treat yourself in Colorado and head up to Glenwood Hot Springs for an unforgettable experience.