Fort Collins, CO


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It’s not surprising that beer is big in Fort Collins, Colorado. This town of 145,000 is home to a Budweiser plant, a handful of microbreweries and 30,000 Colorado State University students. But beer is not behind the growth rate of nearly 22 percent during the first decade of the century. High-tech companies, from AMD in 2006 to Hewlett-Packard in 2011, drove growth by opening design and research facilities in this community, 65 miles north of Denver.

Visiting Fort Collins would not be the same without taking a free 45-minute tour of the Budweiser plant, followed by an opportunity to sample beer in the Hospitality Room. Guests can also take a close-up look at the massive draft horses that belong to the Budweiser Clydesdales West Coast Team—when the horses are not on a promotional tour. The plant also offers a 45-minute beer school as well as a two-hour, in-depth Beermaster Tour for a small fee. Anyone interested in sampling the suds at the town’s microbreweries can catch the Hops and Shops Shuttle as it makes its rounds on Fridays and Saturdays.

Tourists fortunate enough to visit Fort Collins in June can join the state’s beer lovers who descend on the historic downtown area for the annual Colorado Brewer’s Festival. And no wonder! It’s an opportunity to sample some of the 60 beers showcased by 40 of the state’s microbreweries. This event is Fort Collins tourism at its finest.

Exploring a city by bicycle is not uncommon, but borrowing a two-wheeler from a bike library is—an experience that sets this Northern Colorado municipality apart from other tourist destinations. The Fort Collins Bike Library, operated as a joint venture between a non-profit organization and the city, lends an assortment of 200 restored bikes to residents and tourists. The organization does require a credit card deposit, though no charge is made if the bike is returned. Cyclists can download brochures of self-guided tours of the historic district, microbreweries or a scenic trail.

One of the mainstays of Fort Collins tourism is the three-day, free Bohemian Nights music festival every summer. A mix of 60 Colorado bands and national headliners performs on six stages, drawing thousands of music lovers. Bohemian Nights, which began in 2005, is part of NewWestFest, a free 25-year-old celebration. Carnival rides and shows, two beer gardens, and 250 arts and crafts booths vie for attention during this festival.

A state park and a county park lie within minutes of town, providing plenty of outdoor adventures for anyone visiting Fort Collins. Open to hikers, cyclists and equestrians, the 29 miles of trails in Horsetooth Mountain Open Space connect to the 26 miles of trails in Lory State Park. Both parks allow camping in backcountry areas only. Lying between these parks and Fort Collins is Horsetooth Reservoir, a six-mile-long lake that runs along the city’s western border. A ramp at the southern end gives power boats access to the reservoir, a popular spot for skiing, fishing and even scuba diving.