Coloradans—and visitors to our beautiful state—tend to be an indecisive bunch. We mean that as a compliment. Travelers here want to bike in the morning and eat farm-fresh food in the evening; amble through a world-class art exhibit by day and then drink award-winning beer at an outdoor concert by night. We want to do it all because we can. And no Centennial State city exemplifies that adventurous spirit better than Fort Collins.
Located 60 miles north of Denver International Airport, the former agricultural hub has transformed in recent years into a cultural, food, and outdoor recreation hot spot. It’s both the state’s Craft Beer Capital and one of the country’s most exciting cities for creatives. It’s overflowing with family-friendly activities and a haven for entrepreneurs looking to test new ideas. It’s a college town (hi, Colorado State University) and home to Colorado’s only designated wild and scenic river (the Cache le Poudre). “Fort Collins is the place to be for anyone seeking new experiences,” says Katy Schneider, Visit Fort Collins’ director of marketing. “From the city’s first craft brewery, Odell Brewing Company, to the Lincoln Center, there’s plenty to explore.”
Travel was sidelined last year, but FoCo, as it’s been dubbed, is back in business and ready to welcome you with open arms and a pint of your favorite brew. Here’s how to make the most out of three days in town. Trust us: You’ll want to take an extra vacation day to squeeze in all the fun.
Map It Out
Ride Around Town
Stretch your legs while getting to know this city at the foot of the Rocky Mountains
Sleep in—you’re on vacation, remember?—and then enjoy a late breakfast at La Creperie. Owner Jean Claude Lucas hails from Brittany, France, where his father operated a bakery. Lucas continued the family tradition stateside, and his scrumptious meat-filled galettes and croissant- and brioche-based breakfast sandwiches are certain to fuel the day’s adventures.
Thanks to flat terrain and more than 280 miles of bike lanes and trails, the best way to get to know this town is on two wheels. Rent a bike at Recycled Cycles and then ride along the Mason Trail to the Spring Creek Trail, which runs east and west through the center of town for nearly eight miles. Worthy stops along the route include the Gardens on Spring Creek, an 18-acre botanic garden filled with native plants and a Butterfly House, and CSU’s Annual Flower Trial Garden, football stadium, and landmark Oval lined with elm trees and historic, neoclassical buildings.
Pump the brakes at the university because lunch is served. Ramskeller Pub, inside the Lory Student Center, has been serving pub food (think: chicken wings and pizza) and 11 rotating taps of local brews since 1968.
Keep the beer flowing during an afternoon circuit of top local breweries through either Beer & Bike Tours or a customized experience with Magic Bus Tours. You can choose which breweries to visit or opt for local experts to lead the way.
Dinner awaits at the Farmhouse at Jessup Farms, which serves rustic-modern farm fare—much of which is grown in Northern Colorado—in a renovated, 19th-century farmhouse. Arrive early to peruse the wares in the other Jessup Farm Artisan Village shops. After, swing by the ice cream parlor after for a sweet bite.
That sugar rush will give you the boost you need to close out the night: Groove to live music at Washington’s in the historic Old Town neighborhood, or sit back and relax during a flick at the 53-year-old Holiday Twin Drive-In.
DON’T MISS OUR PAID PARTNERS DURING YOUR VISIT:
HW Home | Downtown Fort Collins | Blue Agave Grill | Domistyle | Front Range Pool Table Co. | Changeverything | Bina Mehta
Spend a relaxing day experiencing FoCo’s creative side.
Art is the theme of the day, so there’s no better place to kick things off than the Emporium, the main restaurant inside downtown’s the Elizabeth Hotel. Local and regional art set the scene for your French press and house-made biscuits and gravy.
The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery sits just a half-mile away. There you can while away the morning examining immersive exhibits that cover everything from science and agriculture to music and indigenous cultures. The Exploration Zone is a favorite of kids, who can get hands-on while learning about light, color, and more.
Head four blocks south to view the contemporary exhibits at the Museum of Art Fort Collins. (A new collection of sculptures and paintings by Lorri Acott and Adam Schultz runs until October 17.) The family-owned Blue Agave Grill sits next door, meaning margaritas and tempura-battered fish tacos are just steps away.
There are too many galleries, museums, and historic sites to visit in one day, but you can get a taste of the city’s world-class art offerings with afternoon stops at the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art (a free venue on the CSU campus), the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising (also at CSU), the Global Village Museum of Arts and Cultures, and any of the dozen-plus galleries spread across historic downtown. Weather too nice to stay inside for long? Take a self-guided tour of the myriad public art; the interactive, two-story mural in Old Firehouse Alley is a local favorite.
Discuss your favorite works over dinner at Little on the Mountain. The neighborhood eatery serves seasonal dishes inspired by locally grown ingredients. Because, yes, art can also be edible.
Wrap your day with another of Fort Collins’ most abundant art forms—music. Ace Gillett’s pairs handcrafted cocktails with DJ-spun vinyl and other live music in a subterranean lounge beneath the Armstrong Hotel.
Extend your time away by escaping into the great outdoors.
Milk does a body good—even more so when it comes from Morning Fresh Dairy Farm, a fifth-generation farm that’s been operated by the Graves family since 1984. Taste the goodness in espresso drinks, bagel sandwiches, and Noosa Yoghurt at the on-site Howling Cow Café.
It’s time to choose your own adventure. In the mood for a hike? Up your step count along 26 miles of trails in Lory State Park. Shoreline Trail is an easy one-mile route to the edge of Horsetooth Reservoir, while Arthur’s Rock Trail is a more difficult, 1.7-mile trail to the namesake summit. In Cache la Poudre River Canyon, Greyrock Trail is a rite of passage for locals, rising nearly 2,500 vertical feet over seven miles. The payoff: panoramic views of the canyon and surrounding peaks. Fishing for brown trout and, in the summer, whitewater rafting and kayaking are popular here, too. If you’re seeking a pro-led adventure, sign up for a mountain bike tour with Front Range Ride Guides; half- and full-day options are available. In the mood for something less heart pumping? Drive along Colorado Highway 14 between Fort Collins and Walden—the road is a designated Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway.
Back in town, pick up lunch at locally owned Elevated Sandwiches. You’ll want a mobile meal so you can spend some time walking around Old Town. The pedestrian-friendly heart of downtown—the model for Disneyland’s Main Street USA—is filled with boutiques, coffeeshops, and the city’s best nightlife. Don’t forget to stop by Nuance Chocolate to pick up an edible souvenir; all of the chocolate is made directly from beans roasted and ground in Fort Collins.
Your nightcap is a quintessential Northern Colorado experience: catching at show at Mishawaka Amphitheatre (known to locals as “the Mish”). Situated in Poudre Canyon, the music venue—there’s one outdoor stage and one indoor—doubles as a full-service restaurant. It’s an oh-so-Colorado way to wrap up your trip, with a burger in one hand, an Odell beer in the other, and music reverberating against a scenic river backdrop.
Rest easy at one of these four hotels.
If you are: constantly creating new Spotify playlists
Book a room at: the Elizabeth Hotel, where rooms are outfitted with record players and there’s an Instrument Lending Library and on-site music venue.
If you are: a history buff
Book a room at: the Armstrong Hotel, which first opened in 1923 and still showcases some of the original architectural features (and an underground cocktail and music lounge).
If you are: seeking some quiet time with your significant other
Book a room at: Edwards House. The historic, boutique inn is just off the beaten path; the rooms are elegant; and breakfast is included.
If you are: looking to rough it (just a little bit)
Book a room at: Fort Collins/Lakeside KOA, which offers cabins and tent and RV sites. Pickleball, shuffleboard courts, mini golf, and more are sure to keep the whole family entertained.
A starters’ guide of ideas to keep your kids entertained.
- Stand-up paddleboard at Horsetooth Reservoir
- Pony ride at the Farm at Lee Martinez Park
- Scenic horseback ride around
- Red Feather Lakes with Beaver Meadows Stables
- Ride the historic Fort Collins Trolley
- Discover hours of entertainment at Fort Fun, home to laser tag, escape rooms, go-karting, and more
- Look for bison in Soapstone Prairie Natural Area