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10 Colorado Small Towns to Explore in Winter

While they may be petite in population, Colorado’s small towns ooze with character and offer activities and attractions that beg travelers to venture beyond the typical tourist trail. Colorado.com compiled these local charmers to add to your next winter itinerary.

Leadville

North American’s highest incorporated city at 10,152 feet, Leadville’s past as a lawless mining boomtown reveals itself in a National Landmark District with more than 70 square blocks lined with Victorian buildings.

Party: March’s Ski Joring and Crystal Carnival Week­end brings ski joring, a sport where a skier is pulled by a horse and attempts jumps on a snow-packed course, to historic Harrison Avenue. Other activities include the Backcountry Film Festival and Nordic paintball biathlon (think: paintball on cross-country skis).

Drink Up: Quench your thirst with a beer or moon­shine cocktail at Periodic Brewing, America’s highest craft brewery, where you can also spoil your palate with a bowl of beer-cheddar soup and a Colorado bison brat.

Explore: More than 100 miles of groomed, multiuse trails crisscross Lake County, perfect for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing to wintry vistas of Mount Elbert and Mount Massive — both fourteeners (peaks more than 14,000 feet tall). 

Ridgway

Flanked by the rugged peaks of the San Juan Mountains and Cimarron Range, Ridgway is a mountain enclave that got its start as an 1800s railroad hub. 

Soothe: Orvis Hot Springs’ eight pools and ponds boast water naturally heated between 65 and 112 degrees year-round — beck­oning travelers to alleviate sore muscles and watch their stresses fade into a cloud of sweet steam.

Dig In: The True Grit Cafe pays homage to the 1968 Western “True Grit” starring John Wayne, filmed in Ridgway and nearby Ouray. Order the hand-cut chicken fried steak, tenderized seven times and breaded to order (Fun fact: They fry up more than 5,000 a year!).

Stroll: There’s a multitude of galleries and artist workshops to investigate in Ridgway’s Certified Creative District (one of the state’s 23), like Mountain Girl Gallery, featuring locally made ceramics, metalwork and more, and Cimarron Glass, a working glass forge.

La Junta

Travelers venturing west on the Santa Fe Trail, a 19th-century transportation route from Missouri to New Mexico, found respite at this jewel on Colorado’s southeastern plains.

Turn Back Time: The Koshare Museum began as a Boy Scout troop’s project in the 1930s and evolved into a fine collection of American Indian artifacts. Appreciate the kiva room’s self-supported log ceiling (the world’s largest), made up of 627 logs and weighing more than 40 tons. 

Dig In: When it comes to comforting breakfast eats, Copper Kitchen is the real deal. Pop in for the big-as-your-face cinnamon rolls, biscuits and gravy, or breakfast burritos buried in their house pork green chili.

Explore: Comanche National Grasslands’ Picket Wire Canyonlands has more than 1,300 dino footprints — evidence that giant lizard-like creatures lived there in herds more than 150 million years ago. You can also access the Comanche Grasslands portion of the Colorado Birding Trail, a great place for viewing several species of hawks in winter.

Nederland 

Laid-back Nederland, just 17 miles from Boulder, is known as the gateway to outdoor pursuits in the James Peak and Indian Peaks wilderness areas and skiing at Eldora Mountain Resort. 

Party: Frozen Dead Guy Days in March salutes a Norwegian man who was cryogenically frozen after his death in 1989 — and remains that way in a storage shed near town. The zany fest boasts hijinks like costumed coffin races and frozen T-shirt and brain-freeze contests. 

Dig In: Melt-in-your-mouth brisket and pulled pork (and barbecued tofu for non-carnivorous types), a killer beer selection and a sunny patio make James Peak Brewery & Smoke­house a worthy stop after a day of winter exploits in the neighboring wilds.

Turn Back Time: The Carousel of Happiness is a restored 1910 merry-go-round with 56 hand-carved animals that rotate to the tunes of a 1913 Wurlitzer band organ. Bonus: You can ride the retro delight for only $1. 

Fruita

This Western Slope town’s arid climate supports milder winter temperatures — mean­ing you can bundle up for mountain biking, hiking and even camping year-round.

Turn Back Time: Get lost in the prehistoric past at Dinosaur Journey Museum, where you can experience a simulated earthquake, feel dwarfed next to robotic displays of dinos that once ruled the area and examine a working paleontology lab.

Explore: Gravity-defying boulders, spires and red-rock canyons define the landscape at Colorado National Monument. Score awesome views of 450-foot Independence Monument, the geologic wonderland’s tallest freestanding formation, on the easy 1-mile Otto’s Trail, and pitch a tent at Saddlehorn Campground. 

Ride: Fruita’s world-renowned mountain-biking trails are surrounded by sandstone mesas and weave through desert topography. Choose from hundreds of miles of trails that can often be ridden 12 months of the year, includ­ing the famed Kokopelli and 18 Road networks.

Buena Vista

Nestled at the foot of the Continental Divide adjacent to more than 10 fourteeners, Buena Vista truly lives up to its name — meaning “good view” in Spanish. 

Drink Up: Jailhouse Craft Beer Bar, located in an 1880s jailhouse on Main Street, has 10 taps featuring a rotating selection of beers from Colorado and beyond and small bites like house-pickled veggies and hard-boiled eggs (an old-time bar snack).

Explore: On an intimate backcountry excursion with Monarch Dog Sled Rides, a guide will teach you all about mushing, how to harness a dog and introduce you to a dozen new furry friends, who’ll gladly take you for a ride through pine-scented woodlands in exchange for back massages.

Soothe: While a stay at Cottonwood Hot Springs Inn & Spa’s lodge or cabins in the Collegiate Peaks range gains you access to its rustic mineral pools, several of their cabins have their very own hot-springs pool for private soaking bliss.

Crestone

Known as the Shambala of the Rockies — “Shambala” refers to a mythical kingdom north of Tibet where inhabitants enjoyed health, harmony and well-being — Crestone is known for its many spiritual healing centers. 

Soothe: Up your om through intensive multi-day meditation programs, Dharma talks and study groups at Crestone Mountain Zen Center, a Zen Buddhist monastic practice and retreat center in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. 

Stroll: Check out an eclectic mix of wood­work, sculpture, wall art, jewelry and other works at Crestone Artisans Gallery, a testament to Crestone’s reputation as both a spiritual and artistic haven.

Dig In: Crestone Brewing Co. is an eating and drinking joint committed to supporting Colorado farms and their communities. Pair the Highway 17 Amber Ale with the local beef or yak burger and grab some of their house-fermented kombucha to-go.

Carbondale

Snuggled between Aspen and Glenwood Springs, quaint Carbondale is an agriculturally rooted hamlet that’s currently experiencing an artistic renaissance.

Stroll: More than 200 artists and makers call the area home. See their work at Roadside Gallery, Carbondale Clay Center and plenty of other galleries and shops in the Carbondale Creative District.

Learn: Find out which moon phases are best for planting in a biodynamic astronomy workshop or how to make your own yogurt in a culturing dairy class at Sustainable Settings, a nonprofit that offers classes at their ranch throughout the year.

Dig In: Mosey over to historic downtown Carbon-dale to satisfy your appetite with made-from-scratch tacos, tortas and ceviche at Señor Taco Show, or to get your caffeine fix at Bonfire Coffee, known for their craft-roasted coffees and talented baristas.

Montrose 

Montrose’s close proximity to iconic natural landscapes like Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area earns it serious adventure-town cred.

Explore: If ice climbing is your jam, look no further than Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, where the gorge’s sheer walls resemble a frozen fairytale-like fortress in the winter. Experienced (and brave) climbers can ascend epic routes like aptly named Gandalf’s Beard.

Dig In: Recount your epic snowmobiling adventures in the surrounding Gunnison National Forest over dishes like beer-battered chili rellenos, bone-in Colorado-raised ribeye and chicken-fried chicken at Camp Robber.

Stroll: The nostalgic finds at the antique shops on Montrose’s Main Street bring a smile to all kinds of treasure hunters, whether you’re seeking a Victorian porcelain doll, 18th-century candelabra or hand-painted ceramic chicken for your collection (no judgment).

Creede

Silver-mining history and some of the friendliest folks you’ll ever meet are just a few perks of visiting Creede, tucked within a former volcanic caldera among the ragged peaks of the San Juans.

Turn Back Time: Find out how the hunt for precious metals shaped the community’s history (it was established in 1890 when a silver vein was discovered in the area by Indiana prospector Nicholas Creede) at the Creede Underground Mining Museum. 

Party: Creede Cabin Fever Days in mid-February celebrates the joys of the frosty season with ice sculptures, ice skating, a curling tournament, special art exhibits, live music at different venues, a special winter show at the award-winning Creede Reperatory Theater and more.

Dig In: Follow the locals to Arp’s for brunch, lunch or dinner. Past favorites on the diverse menu include salmon with fried avocado, chicken and waffles, and spinach and mushroom enchiladas with jalapeño vodka sauce.

Oktoberfest Celebrations in Colorado

You may have put the real Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany on your bucket list – but there are a ton of great celebrations around our state that might just make it feel like the real thing – without the credit card hang-over. (I can’t speak to the other kind of hang over). Prost!

Breckenridge

The biggest and the best of the Oktoberfest parties I’ve been to is in Breckenridge. They will celebrate September 7-9, 2018. The party is the largest street party in the Rocky Mountains. It boasts traditional costumes, German food, Oompah and polka music, Bavarian dancers, children’s activities, a keg-tapping ceremony, 5k run and plenty of beer served in commemorative steins manufactured in and shipped from Munich, Germany. There are great lodging deals as well at GoBreck.com.

Carbondale

Carbondale was not happy just celebrating German heritage with Oktoberfest and Celtic celebration. But they also added Celtic celebration to their fun festivities plan. The party is October 12-13, 2018 Bagpipes, Keg Tapping, beer tent, Austrian food, traditional games and great entertainment!

Devil’s Thumb Ranch

One of the most picturesque get-aways in Colorado, just outside of Winter Park in Tabernash sits Devil’s Thumb Ranch. The ranch has a wide array of things to do but they have totally switched up the idea of an Oktoberfest with Bikes, Boys, Beers and Brats. It is a one day mountain biking day with beer tasting accompanied with Devil’s Thumb Ranch Wagyu brats. Just $125/ticket. Reservations recommended.

Estes Park

Estes Park celebrates the Autumn Gold Festival of Bands, Brats n’ Beer, September 22-23, 2018 at Bond Park.Have some beers and brats while listening to local bands. Right at the beginning of Rocky Mountain National Park this is a great location to see lots of fall colors.

Steamboat Springs

Steamboat will host the 10th annual OktoberWEST celebration September 15, 2018. Rocky Mountain beer, food and festivities – all Western Style (not German). The weekend starts with the Beer Stroll through downtown Steamboat on Friday night (Sept. 14). Popular highlights are the I Love Beef Cook-off and of course the beer garden. (It’s no wonder that living in Steamboat as a youngin’ my parents thought of Trick or Drinking on Halloween – maybe they were thinking of the beer stroll?)

Vail

Vail actually has two different Oktoberfest celebrations. The celebration at Lionshead Village is September 7-9, 2018 and the one at Vail Village is September 14-16, 2018. It is free!. Emulating the more than 200-year-old celebration known by millions around the world, Vail’s Oktoberfest will delight guests with Bavarian music and dancing, traditional fare(brats, schnitzel, spaetzli, pretzels and more) plus you can yodel to your heart’s content as you drink some of the Oktoberfest beer! Plus, see Vail’s own Helmut Fricker playing traditional (and not so traditional) tunes on the accordian and alpenhorn in full traditional German attire! A crowd favorite for years and not to be missed.

There are also several Oktoberfest and fall celebrations in the Denver Metro area (just in case you don’t want to or can’t add travel:

Castle Rock – September 29, 2018

LoDo – September 21-22 & 28-29, 2018http://www.visitvailvalley.com/general.asp?id=215

Highlands Ranch – September 22, 2018

Parker – September 14-16, 2018

South Pearl Street – September 29, 2018.

 Any way you drink it, it means a fall/September full of beer and fun! PROST!

 You can also follow me on Twitter (GeeWhy93). 

Photo: Go Breck

Guide to Colorado’s Best Fall Drives, Hikes and Leaf Peeping

Autumn offers a colorful time for adventures through the backroads of rural Colorado. Mother Nature’s masterpiece of fall foliage becomes the backdrop for memorable hikes and drives; farmers who are gathering delicious crops and produce from the land open their doors for harvest events and dinners. Outdoor recreation drops to a more relaxing pace with easier access to best-loved rivers and trails. Guest ranches and rural lodging offer enticing seasonal packages and lower rates, making fall an optimal time to explore the lesser-known corners of Colorado. Here are a few of our fall favorites:
Also, don’t miss this great picks from Colorado.com!
  1. FALL FESTIVALS. Colorado knows how to celebrate the change of season and there’s no end of festivals or seasonal culture. Beer, brats, local musicians and some of the most kaleidoscopic foliage on the Front Range make adding Estes Park’s  Autumn Gold Festival (Sept. 22–23, 2018) to an autumn itinerary a no-brainer. Scarf down comfort fare like funnel cake and corn on the cob and listen to the sounds of bugling bull elk, who gather in the area annually during the start of the rutting (breeding) season to show off for their entourages. The intoxicating sights, smells and flavors of autumn shine at Crested Butte’s Chili & Beer Festival (Sept. 8, 2018) when locals celebrate the arrival of fall with steaming pots of chili and Colorado beer (Is there any better way?). The price of admission includes unlimited tastings of hearty stews made by local chili experts like Coal Creek Grill’s buffalo and chocolate stout chili and drafts from breweries. The Durango Autumn Arts Festival (Sept. 15-16, 2018) invites visitors to admire the works of local and national artists as well as nature’s canvas, when gold and red trees illuminate the San Juan Mountains. At the fest, hands-on creative activities keep tots occupied, while a sampling of craft beers and locally made goodies ensure visitors are well fed. Trinidad’s delightfully quirky ArtoCade (Sept. 7–8, 2018) will roll through historic downtown in a parade of “artfully enhanced” cars, motorcycles, bikes, trikes, scooters, tractors and golf carts. There’s a lot packed into the festival’s two days, including an ArtoKids booth for hands-on kiddie fun, a circus-like dance party called Cardango and meet-and-greets with the event’s “cartists.”Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival (Oct. 19–21, 2018) celebrates the time when spicy spirits become the perfect answer to chillier temps. Sip the best offerings from small-batch, artisan distillers and learn more about the distilling process in Breckenridge, a town with its own pioneering distillery. La Veta Oktoberfest (Oct. 6, 2018) is a more than 30-year-old tradition in the town featuring a German Biergarten and dancing in the streets.
  2. VISIT THE FARM. Many Colorado farms offer opportunities in the fall to “U-pick” cherries, strawberries, carrots, tomatoes, melons, beets, squash, cucumbers and more. Miller Farms in Platteville is the perfect stop to pick up harvest potatoes, carrots, and other vegetables, or take a hayride through 180 acres of field, have a picnic and taste some delicious snacks. The Tom Bay Farm Stand provides an outlet for family farms to sell their locally raised, processed, or handcrafted fresh produce, frozen meats and shelf-stable farm products directly to the consumer. South of I-70 (exit 299), the Farm Stand is only 20 miles east of DIA. Visitors can take in the splendor of southwest Colorado’s high-desert topography while seeing how farmers live and taste the area’s flavors on a Mesa Verde Farm and Ranch Tour hosted by the Cortez Cultural Center. Excursions include transportation to multiple sites, a guided tour, lunch and a tasting of craft beverages from local breweries and wineries. Peach lovers can learn the differences between conventional and organic farming with a stroll through Aloha Organic Fruit in Palisade, learning how water is brought to the trees from the Colorado River for the region’s most iconic fruit. The Bromley Hishinuma historic farm site near Brighton will host a fall festival in 2018 with u-pick pumpkins, corn maze, and farming activities. The farm also hosts field trips, tours, farm classes, and farm to table dinners. Fortified Collaborations coordinates farm-to-table events in and around Fort Collins throughout the fall, including harvest moon dinners, bounty and brews beer dinners, and a harvest brunch.
  3. FALL TRAILS FOR HIKING & BIKING. Pella Crossing Loop Trail is a 1.4 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located just west of Longmont, near Hygiene. The area offers fishing and walking trails and beautiful views of Longs Peak and is a wetlands habitat, nestled within the surrounding Great Plains. The trail is good for all skill levels and offers several activity options. Dogs are welcome on this trail but must be kept on a leash. When fall colors are at their peak and snow kisses the Twin Peaks, Pella Crossing is the ideal location to view nature’s glory. The Open Space supports aquatic plant and animal life and serves to lure in large numbers of migrating birds. With grasses, wildflowers, and trees surrounding the wetlands, these areas are biologically diverse, both in and out of the water.  The Bachelor Loop, north of Creede, starts in the iconic cliffs at the end of Creede’s classic western Main St and circles through some amazing mining ruins. It was where a lot of the last Lone Ranger film was shot. The whole loop is very beautiful throughout the self-guided driving tour (maps at the Visitors Center/Chamber building) and the site of the old town of Bachelor is a big meadow lined with lots of fall foliage, plus there are lots of aspens along the way. Cumbres La Manga Pass and the Conejos Canyon, Hwy 17 going into New Mexico (one end of the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway) and Forest Rd 250 up to the mining town of Platoro has incredible views with lots and lots of aspens. Very few have discovered it from the Colorado side except for people in the San Luis Valley. Opal Lake trail, near Pagosa Springs, is a moderately easy 1.2 miles and takes about 45 minutes to complete. The trailhead traverses across an open meadow, with gorgeous high country autumn sights. Hikers can see several beaver dams, a mountain face, and the mineral deposits which give Opal Lake its milky color. The most impressive during the autumn season, however, is the wooded hillside, complete with a color-changing aspen grove, which surrounds visitors with beauty through one of the world’s largest connected living organisms. Anderson Trail is about 9 miles in length from the trailhead to its junction with the Fourmile Trail. It crosses easily through steep terrain and goes across the eastern shoulder of Pagosa Peak. There’s a 2,349-foot elevation gain, which gives hikers a mountainous view of transforming colors from above. There are rock formations, aspen trees, and expansive fall views; the trail is open to hiking and horseback riding, and primitive camping spots are available throughout.
  4. FALL FOLIAGE DRIVES: Rio Blanco County has spectacular, lesser-known scenic drives, including the Buford-New Castle Road, a gravel road connecting the two towns in 42 Miles. With camping spots along the way and amazing aspen trees in the fall, with interesting history and an old western tradition that provide visitors with a unique look into the lifestyle of the old west, this is a great drive to check out at peak season. Highway of Legends Scenic and Historic Byway: This route wraps around two of Colorado’s burliest mountains, West and East Spanish Peak. Along the way, the highway passes beneath ancient volcanic walls that rise over tracts of pine, scrub oak and aspen. Nearly the entire route from La Veta to Trinidad on Colorado 12 begs to be photographed. Guanella Pass Scenic and Historic Byway: Take this rambling route south out of the historic town of Georgetown to find pockets of blazing aspen. Once reaching the town of Grant, turn right on US 285 and take the highway for 15 minutes to the top of Kenosha Pass, where the aspen thrive on the rim of the gentle slopes that encircle South Park. Colorado 17 from Antonito to the New Mexico borderheading up the serene Conejos River Valley, stands of pinyon give way to the white trunks of aspen. Some of the oldest and tallest aspens in the state can be seen, photographed and enjoyed near La Manga Pass. For an even more unique experience, ride the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad for views not seen on any highway. Dallas Divide and Lizard Head Pass: The journey begins in the town of Ridgway, heading west on Colorado 62 over Dallas Divide. Lining the route are unimpeded views of the Sneffels Range, an apron of aspen trees at its feet. At Placerville, head southeast toward Telluride on Colorado 145. All the way to Lizard Head Pass drivers will be in awe at the dense groves of white-barked aspens with panoramas of Wilson Peak.
  5. RURAL ADVENTURE: FALL HUNTING, FISHING & BIRDING. Fall brings an entirely new experience for hunting, offering world-class elk, deer, antelope and moose hunting in many regions of the state. For those new to the sport, Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) has several programs to encourage new outdoors enthusiasts learn the ropes, focusing on the heritage and tradition of hunting, through clinics, mentored hunts, and seminars. Women Afield provides opportunities for women to learn about hunting big game, waterfowl and upland birds from experienced volunteers and DOW staff. Summer and fall workshops focus on both shooting and fishing. The clinics and seminars feature basic instruction in the fundamentals, from shotgun shooting to fly-fishing. Ballyneal, in Northeastern Colorado, is set amid thousands of acres of native grasses as well as fields of corn, millet, and sorghum that provide a perfect nesting environment for dozens of varieties of wild birds including the trophy Chinese ring-necked pheasant. Ballyneal offers exclusive access to this hunting land plus knowledgeable, professional guides and gun dogs that will make a hunt a world-class experience unlike any other, October through April. Fall is considered one of the greatest times to be out on the river fly-fishing, and any angler’s fall bucket list should include the Rocky Mountain National Park, offering some of the serene high-alpine lakes in the state and packed with cutthroat trout. Another scenic spot is the Upper Colorado River, between Kremmling and Dotsero, where brown and rainbow trout are accessible at multiple put-in and wade-in spots. Those seeking larger fish like wild browns should try Cebolla Creek and Henson Creek, near Lake City, where changing fall foliage gives waters a golden glow and streams are low and clear. Angler’s Covey offers camps, classes and guided trips on the South Platte River throughout the fall season. Fall is an important bird migration season and there are a couple of key locations for viewing. In September, the Swainson’s hawk migrates south again along the Colorado Rocky Mountain Front. As many as 1,300 can be seen in 3 hours. In fall, Sandhill cranes can be found near Hayden and Craig, Colorado. Hundreds of birds that bred in Colorado and areas further north stay in the Yampa Valley from mid-September to mid-November.  From there they migrate south to the San Luis Valley or directly to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico. Among the earliest returning fall migrants in North America, the Rufous hummingbird is abundant at the Nature Conservancy’s Carpenter and Zapata Ranches between mid-June and September. These small, pugnacious birds travel to and through Colorado toward their wintering grounds, finding comfort in flower gardens, hummingbird feeders and wildflower meadows throughout the state’s mountain ranges. 
  6. GET SPOOKY. Farms across the state invite visitors to stroll rows of pumpkins searching for the perfect jack-o-lantern candidate. Many of them also offer corn mazes, hayrides, petting zoos, bobbing for apples and other hallmark activities of the season. See the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s list of pumpkin patches and corn mazes across the state. There’s plenty of tours and events to get in the mood for Halloween including the Telluride Horror Show: (Oct. 12–14, 2018). Already famous for film, Telluride is embracing the spooky fun of October with this eighth-annual horror, fantasy and sci-fi film fest in the town’s historic Sheridan Opera House. Dress in costume, participate in spooky activities, and do some trick or treating to get in the spirit of Halloween at the YMCA of the Rockies’ Halloween Spooktacular, (Oct. 28, 2018). Head over to the skating rink for a Monster Mash in costume, Trick or Treat around the property, enjoy the Haunted House or a family film. Take a tour with Blue Moon Haunted History Tours through the scarier sides of Victor and Manitou Springs. Take an evening stroll through the heart of Trinidad, where murders, shakedowns and Old West characters have left their mark. While wandering the cemetery after dark is considered trespassing, the Gilpin County Historical Society leads Creepy Crawls around the city’s ghostliest sites each October.
  7. FALL FLINGS ON THE RANCH. Fall season at many Colorado guest and dude ranches brings surprising opportunities for shorter stays, special rates, and specialty experiences. Many Colorado guest and dude ranches offer Adult Only weeks and weekend specials during the month of September. Guests can saddle up for an unforgettable ride through the changing Aspens or try their hand at rounding up the cattle. Whether a fall break provides a ‘deep breath’ after a busy summer, a chance for solo travel, or even a getaway with friends, it’s an ideal time to fall in love with Autumn in the Colorado Rockies. Fall specialty weekends include culinary weeks, yoga retreats, cowgirl round-ups, painting and photography workshops, hunting and birding trips, and fall yoga retreats. 
  8. FIND FALL HIDDEN GEMS WITH THE COLORADO FIELD GUIDE. For inspiration and road trip ideas, visitors can use the Colorado Field Guide online trip-building tool to source local insider tips for veering off the well-trodden path. Some hidden gems to check out during fall-season include Fish or Hike Colorado’s Second Largest Natural Lake: Trapper Lake sits surrounded by The Flattops Mountains and is widely considered the birthplace of the U.S. Wilderness Area system. It’s also a local’s favorite for Cutthroat and Brook trout fly-fishing, and a great place to hike away from the crowds closer to Glenwood Springs. As featured in Falling for Glenwood Springs Field Guide. Luxurious Cabins, Glamping at The Royal Gorge: The Royal Gorge is a hub for adrenaline seekers, but there are plenty of ways to relax in style and enjoy a slower pace. The Royal Gorge Cabins are a destination and a scenic and comfortable base for Fall sight-seeing and mellow outdoor recreation. As featured in Relaxation in Canon City Field Guide. The Mint: One of Colorado’s oldest saloons is a great place to enjoy a libation while planning a weekend of outdoor recreation in Summit County’s gateway town of Silverthorne. Though established in 1862, the original building of the Mint has been taken apart and moved three times. As featured in Sunny Days, Cool Nights: Autumn in Silverthorne Field Guide.   Boreas Pass: This is a lesser-known scenic drive is a fun detour for Front-rangers heading from HWY 285 to get to Breckenridge via Fairplay, taking visitors through the former railroad town of Como (now a Historic District) for plenty of Fall leaf-peeping before indulging in a weekend of dining, shopping, and recreation in Breckenridge. As featured in Perfect Fall Itinerary in Breckenridge Field Guide.

These After Dark Activities Await in Colorado

There’s no question that opportunities abound amid Colorado’s stunning daytime scenery. But much to the delight of astro tourists everywhere, the state offers an amazing celestial landscape, allowing it to operate after normal business hours. Night owls can experience after dark activities from stargazing to moonlit dinners to nighttime zip lining. For more information, visit: https://www.colorado.com/articles/13-places-stargaze-colorado

Stargazing Experiences:
 
Ales and Astronomy at Copper Mountain: REI offers stargazing enthusiasts an evening of celestial celebration and community connection on Copper Mountain. Participants are treated to beer and wine while exploring the constellations of the Northern Hemisphere accompanied by REI Guides. This opportunity is available July 27August 4 and September 9 for guests of legal imbibing age.
Amateur Astronomy Night at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve: The National Park Service invites all levels of astronomers to the Great Sand Dunes—in the process of becoming Night Skies certified—to share knowledge and passion, and engage with unique astronomical experiences. Attendees are able to view deep space objects, planets and other unique celestial phenomena from a variety of scopes. The Park Service recommends visitors bring their own telescopes.
Night Sky Tour at Chimney Rock National Monument: Stargazers can experience Colorado’s celestial landscape in a new light at Chimney Rock National Monument during a scheduled Night Sky Tour. The guided tour takes visitors back in time along the Great Kiva and Pueblo Trails to view 360-degrees of Colorado and New Mexico. Chimney Rock is removed from light pollution and offers a dazzling sight.
Twilight Dinner at the Umbrella Bar in Crested Butte: On September 14, stargazing enthusiasts can drive up Prospect Road to Umbrella Bar at Ten Peaks and enjoy a twilight dinner underneath the stars. With a telescope set up on the Umbrella Bar deck, diners can take in the night sky with complimentary wine or beer in hand. Guests can purchase tickets for this delicious picnic-style fall dinner at the Adventure Center or online for $40.
Stargazing Tour with The Little Nell in Aspen: The Little Nell offers couples, groups and families the ultimate stargazing adventure: A Jeep tour from Aspen Mountain to Richmond Ridge. An astronomy concierge provides expertise during meteor showers, shooting stars or quarter moons when constellations are most visible. Guests can enjoy the celestial view with state-of-the-art binoculars and a complimentary drink.
Stories in the Sky with Walking Mountains Science Center at the Four Seasons in Vail: As part of Walking Mountains Science Center’s partnership with the Four Seasons Resort, the Center takes over the Resort’s Ski Concierge Building this summer for Stories in the Sky: Stargazing every Friday night. Participants can relax and view endless constellations, cascading shooting stars and full moons said to be brighter than the sun. All ages are welcome with a $10 entry fee.
Sunset Stroll with the Ritz-Carlton in Avon: Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch offers guests a private guided hike to discuss the blanket of stars as they emerge in the night sky. The hikes begin between 7 and 8 p.m.depending on sunset. Reservations can be made at the front desk of the resort and $160 covers up to four guests.
Night Sky Program at Florissant Fossil Beds: Colorado Springs Astronomical Society teams up with the National Park Service to offer Night Sky Programs, a truly engaging stargazing experience. Far from light pollution, Night Sky Programs provide gazers with a fantastic look at the star-filled skies. On August 10, from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m., night sky enthusiasts can enjoy a park ranger presentation to tee up a night of gazing and telescope viewing.
After Dark Adventures:
 
Dinner Under the Stars at Denver Food + Wine Festival: On September 5, Denver Food + Wine Festival celebrates Denver’s culinary scene and its hottest chefs. Festivalgoers can enjoy a curated six-course dinner designed by local chefs with a view of the Colorado skyline. Tickets are $250.
Film on the Rocks at Red Rocks in Morrison: The Denver Film Society and Denver Arts & Venues offer movies and music all summer long at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The venue ensures attendees a perfect view from any seat in the house and guests are treated to live music followed by the scheduled movie under a sheet of stars. Each showing begins at dusk with general admission tickets starting at $15.
Full Moon Stagecoach Rides with Halfmoon Packing & Outfitting in Leadville: Twice each month, visitors of Leadville can enjoy a stagecoach ride beneath a full moon at Halfmoon Packing & Outfitting. Based on the 19th century tradition of mail delivery by stagecoach, this opportunity allows guests to experience the magic of a mountain forest at night. Moonlight stagecoach rides are offered twice monthly—on the eve of the full moon and the night of the full moon—and start at $60 per person.
Night Sky Photography Workshops with 3 Peaks Photography & Design in Westcliffe: As one of the highest-altitude certified International Dark Sky Communities in the world, Westcliffe is the perfect location to view pristine, unpolluted night skies. During summer and autumn, 3 Peaks Photography & Design holds workshops for those keen to learn how to photograph the celestial landscape. Students can hone skills by photographing the Milky Way and star trails and post-processing photos in Photoshop and Lightroom. Attendance for a workshop is $299 per person.
Raft Underneath the Moon with the Adventure Company in Browns Canyon: Adventure-seekers can experience Browns Canyon under full moonlight July 24-25 and August 24. Rafters can relish in the illuminated white waters with beautiful views of the Collegiate Peaks. Adventure seekers can reserve full moon raft trips individually or as a combo package. Reservations are $139 person.
 
Sunset Dinner Train on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in Antonito: Experience a Rocky Mountain sunset and the bright light of the moon at one of Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad’s themed dinners. During summer and autumn, each train offers different themes like murder mystery, fiesta, speakeasy and more. All evenings feature incredible views of the sunset, stars, entertainment and a delicious dinner on Cumbres Pass. This event welcomes all ages and ticket prices vary.
Twilight Mountain Biking at the Evolution Bike Park in Crested Butte: On Wednesday and Friday evenings throughout the summer, Evolution Bike Park and Adventure Park offer Twilight Evenings with extended hours to 7 p.m. On Wednesday nights, the park showcases free bike races and night concerts for riders keen on spending a couple of hours under the moonlight. The park also offers discounted downhill bike rentals, lift tickets and bike lessons.
Moonlight Zip Lining at Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Tabernash: Devil’s Thumb Ranch offers adventure seekers zip line tours by moonlight. Participants strap on a headlamp and experience five zip lines, each increasing by height, distance and speed, ending with a 1,600-foot-long line reaching up to 40 mph. Tours are from 8 to 11 p.m. and include post-zip beverages at the ranch’s base area. Cost is $99 per person.
Nightwalk at the YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center: Experience the YMCA’s “nightlife” by playing night games and taking a walk on the grounds to learn about the area’s furry friends and their special adaptations for nighttime. This recurring event takes place nightly from 8 to 10 p.m.
Science After Dark at The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery: Kids aren’t the only ones who have fun at The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. Each month the museum hosts an interactive program where adults can learn about science in a unique setting, with a slice of pizza and beer in hand. Science After Dark grants access to all museum galleries and the 90-plus hands-on exhibits. Admission is free for members and $10 for guests.

End of Summer White Water Rafting Adventure (20% discount!)

Are you looking for a last-minute adventure for the family before school starts? Monumental Expeditions has the perfect family experience: white water rafting! Monumental Expeditions is a Mom & Pop rafting company outside of Buena Vista, CO who really make you feel like part of the family.

Last weekend, my family had the opportunity to raft Brown’s Canyon with Monumental Expeditions. The water levels on the Arkansas River are low this year but our guide, Adam, made sure to select a portion of the canyon that had enough water to keep us moving. The current water level makes it PERFECT for a family rafting trip. There is still enough excitement to keep the older set engaged, but calm enough for a 7 year-old (the minimum age allowed on any of the excursions).

The staff is fun, warm-hearted and knowledgeable. From the personalized service they provide to ensure you are properly equipped for your trip, to the stories and jokes they tell, they make the trip worthwhile and exciting. During the calm portions of the river Adam told stories, pointed out interesting landmarks, and exchanged jokes with the kids. He took the time to talk with each member of our family and learn about each of us.

But safety remains their number one priority.

From the PFDs that are supplied to the safety briefing before you head down the river, Monumental Expeditions makes sure you are prepared your rafting trip.

Deal

To learn of the rafting trips offered by Monumental Expeditions, visit their website. Take 20% your entire trip with code: SAVE20. Simply enter the code during check out, or mention the discount when you call. Monumental Expeditions can also be reached at: 719-581-2123 or info@monumentalexpeditions.com

– Marie Folmar

Late-summer and fall music, arts and cultural fun in Colorado

Few destinations can upstage the variety of Colorado’s arts and cultural experiences. In fact, Colorado ranks number one in the nation for the percentage of adults engaged in creative pursuits — a whopping 68 percent. Colorado hosts 22 Certified Creative Districts, is home to more than 300 music festivals each year including this September’s inaugural Grandoozy from the creators of Bonnaroo, and presents world-class art and cultural exhibits across the state including this November’s U.S. debut of the renowned exhibition, Dior: From Paris to the World. Here are a handful of Colorado favorites.

Music Festivals and Events

Music on the Mountain – August-September (Glenwood Springs) 
Music on the Mountain, held at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, is a benefit concert series with shows from mid-August through late-September. Guests can ride the tram and enjoy the concerts for free with the donation of at least one can of food for the local food pantries. Local and regional bands play under the stars, where guests can take in beautiful views and experience the Local’s Choice for best place to view the sunset.
 
Farm to Fiddle Summer Festival – August 10-11 (Hotchkiss) 
Visit the Farm to Fiddle Summer Festival in Hotchkiss for two days of live music and entertainment, local food and vendors, crafts and more. The Delta County Fair complements this family-friendly festival.
 
Colorado Classic and Velorama – August 16-19 (Vail and Denver)
Vail and Denver host the four stages of the second-annual Colorado Classic men’s and women’s pro-cycling race. In Denver, the race pairs up with a three-day music and cycling fan fest known as Velorama in the RiNo Art District. This year’s musical line-up includes Modest Mouse, Cold War Kids, Matt and Kim and more.
 
28th Annual Rocky Mountain Folks Fest – August 17-19 (Lyons) 
Alongside the St. Vrain River, the Folks Fest invites music lovers to celebrate songs and stories in the Rocky Mountains. The easy-going festival invites attendees to bring a picnic or enjoy a wide variety of local food vendors on site. This year’s headliners include Indigo Girls, Los Lobos, Jeff Tweedy and Regina Spektor.  
 
Grandoozy – September 14-16 (Denver) 
Superfly Productions, the creators of popular festivals Bonnaroo and Outside Lands, launches its latest music festival in Denver’s Overland Park this fall. This three-day weekend festival features big-name headliners Kendrick Lamar, Florence and the Machine and Stevie Wonder, as well as homegrown, local up-and-comers like Gasoline Lollipops and Dragondeer.
 
Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival – September 20-23 (La Veta)
Founded by Jack and Barbara Yule, who retired and moved to Huerfano County from Scotland in 2000, the festival offers more than 60 different events and features top Celtic musicians like Ed Miller, Moya Brennan and Cormac de Barra, and festival favorite, Tanya Kay Perkins. Plus, festival attendees can get in on the action with dancing, vocal, guitar, harp, violin workshops and more throughout the weekend.

Unique Performance Venues

 Creede Repertory Theatre (Creede) 
Toasted as “One of 10 great places to see the lights off Broadway” by USA Today, the Creede Repertory Theatre has been entertaining theatre-goers for more than 50 years at 9,000 feet above sea level. The Theatre is a cultural home for artists, residents, and visitors of the West and creates a diverse repertory season of plays, new works and dynamic education programs each year.
 
Mishawaka Amphitheatre (Bellvue)
The Mish — as it’s known locally — is a beloved live music venue northwest of Fort Collins in Bellvue. Set on the wooded banks of the Poudre River, the lineup of jam bands draws big crowds to the endearingly rustic lodgepole-pine stage. Acts like Leftover Salmon, Toad The Wet Sprocket and The Wailers keep the Colorado-cool vibe here alive.
 
Red Rocks Amphitheatre (Morrison) 
The naturally occurring, acoustically perfect, jaw-droppingly scenic Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison is the mother of all outdoor music venues, and it’s been captivating audiences and musicians alike for more than 100 years now. The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, U2 and The Grateful Dead are just a few big names among the countless legendary acts that have rocked this world-famous stage. 
 
Sangre de Cristo Arts Center (Pueblo)
The cultural hub of Southern Colorado, the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center gives visitors the tools to think and act creatively through a three-building complex including seven galleries offering the best in historic and contemporary art by artists of local, regional and national renown. The Arts Center offers the Buell Children’s Museum, recognized as the second-best museum for art in the nation by Child magazine and a 500-seat theater featuring a variety of performing arts programs.  
 
Tabor Opera House (Leadville)
Simply touring Leadville’s historic Tabor Opera House is a cultural treat. This majestic opera house, once billed as the finest theatre between St. Louis and San Francisco, was built by silver baron Horace Tabor in 1879 in just 100 days. John Philip Sousa, Oscar Wilde, and Anna Held have performed here, and circus tigers have roamed its stage. Visitors can take in a performance while sitting in one of the grand theater’s original red velvet chairs.  
 
The TANK Center for Sonic Arts (Rangley)
The TANK is a water tower that was converted into a nationally acclaimed performance and recording space for sound artists and musicians. The TANK hosts reserved visits, recording sessions, artist residencies, performances and Open Saturdays. The venue got its start with the support of an eclectic group of artists, sonic explorers, and practical minds, bound together by the experience of The TANK, who joined in the effort to save and develop a magnificent acoustic resource. 

Art Exhibitions and Creative District Happenings

 Colorado Creative Corridor 

Just this year, the Colorado Tourism Office teamed up with five state-certified creative districts to launch the Colorado Creative Corridor. The Colorado Creative Corridor is a 331-mile trail linking the mountain towns of Carbondale, Paonia, Crested Butte, Ridgway, and Salida. These five communities combine to offer a collective experience of unique event programming and activities alongside authentic Colorado mountain culture.

 Final Friday Frolics – May-October (Paonia) 

The North Fork Valley Creative Coalition hosts an art walk on the last Friday of the month from May to October. Join local businesses and artists and sample local food and wine while taking in the creative art that this agricultural region has to offer. Stop by Paonia’s Pickin’ in the Park every Thursday, featuring national and local music acts.

 Breckenridge International Festival of Arts (BIFA) – August 10-19 (Breckenridge) 

Inspired by themes of environment and mountain culture, the 10-day festival brings together a variety of performances, exhibitions, screenings, workshops, talks and surprise collaborations, with an eclectic mix of music, dance, film, visual arts and family entertainment.

 Ridgway Rendezvous Art and Crafts Festival – August 11-12 (Ridgway) 

Weehawken Creative Arts presents the 34th Annual Ridgway Rendezvous Art and Crafts Festival. This juried arts festival gets better every year with more than 140 artisans and craftsman, live music, and theatre shows. Kids can enjoy a magic show, free activities, mini-train rides and face painting while adults can swing by the libations tent just steps away from the entertainment stage.  

Art on the Streets Guided Walking Tour – September 1 (Colorado Springs) 

This year’s 20th anniversary of the Art on the Streets program in downtown Colorado Springs features 18 unique pieces including 12 from Colorado artists. One-hour guided walking tours provide insight into this year’s exhibit.

CRUSH WALLS – September 3-8 (Denver) 

This urban art festival in Denver’s hip RiNo Arts District features 77 art happenings in seven days across the district. This celebration of graffiti and street art takes over the neighborhood with artists hailing from all corners of the globe. The unique festival empowers artists to bring art out of the galleries and into the streets.

Durango Autumn Arts Festival – September 15-16 (Durango) 

Durango hosts the 24th Annual Autumn Arts Festival in its beautiful and historic downtown district. This family-friendly festival hosts nearly 100 booths with woodworking, ceramics, jewelry, glass and more. Kids can stop by the Creation Station for enjoyable activities suited for youngsters, and the main stage hosts live entertainment.

Iron Pour – Thursday, October 4 (Crested Butte)

The one-of-a-kind Iron Pour in Crested Butte is truly part art and part performance. Glowing, molten iron is poured into premade sand blocks and hardened to create one-of-a-kind sculptures. The Center for the Arts in Crested Butte offers carving events where artists and guests alike can design a sand block to be filled with molten iron on Pour Day.

Dior: From Paris to the World  – November 19, 2018 – March 3, 2019 (Denver) 

Dior: From Paris to the World surveys 70 years of the House of Dior’s enduring legacy and global influence. A selection of 150 couture dresses, as well as accessories, costume jewelry, photographs, drawings, runway videos, and other archival material, will trace the history of the iconic haute couture fashion house, its founder, Christian Dior, and the subsequent artistic directors who carried Dior’s vision into the 21st century.

For more information, visit: https://www.colorado.com/arts-culture

 

10 Things You Can Only Experience in Grand Junction

It’s the ultimate Colorado staycation.  Just a few hours west of Denver, Grand Junction provides visitors a truly unique Colorado escape within the Grand Valley.  With access to over 1.7 million acres of state and federally protected public lands, outstanding outdoor activities including biking, hiking and fishing, some of the best golf in the state, unique shopping and dining experiences, arts and culture, and so much more. Visit Grand Junction shared these 10 ways to explore Grand Junction:

  1. Explore the Colorado National Monumentat Sunrise. No matter the time of year, it’s always a great opportunity to soak in beauty of these red rock canyons. Touted by Outside Magazine and USA Today as one of the top 10 best places for solitude in the US.
    Idea: Get ready to ride in one of the most scenic road cycling events in the United States – The Tour of the Moon Grand Cycling Classic travels the length of the 23-mile long RimRock Drive in the Colorado National Monument on September 29, 2018. Register early, as this ride sells out fast! 
  2. Try Downhill Biking at Powderhorn Mountain Resort. Only atop Grand Mesa can you enjoy the sweeping scenic views of the valley below as you ride down the slope at Powderhorn’s newest attraction, the downhill mountain bike park.
    Idea: Take a downhill mountain biking lesson on the most recently addition, the Mutton Buster green singletrack mountain bike trail at the Powderhorn Mountain Bike Park.
  3. Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) on the Colorado River The Colorado River is the state’s best SUPing river, with plenty of stretches of calm waters from Palisade to Fruita. This is the perfect place for anyone trying to get the hang of the board.
    Idea: Take a stand up paddle boarding lesson with Grand Junction Stand Up Paddle Boarding Co. or Rapid Creek Cycles & Paddleboards. You can even give SUP yoga a try!
  4. Get Serious About Mountain BikingIs Grand Junction the Best Biking Town in America? You be the judge… 
    Idea: Mountain biking does not have to be hard-core, check out the newly expanded Three Sisters Park. *Careful* -the adjacent Lunch Loops trail system is for advanced riders only. The kiddos would also like the easiest and most family-friendly trails in the valley: Rustler’s Loop(at Kokopelli Loops), Kessel Run (at 18 Road), or Prime Cut (Bookcliffs). 
  5. FOUR! Actually, there are five beautifully designed public golf courses. Highlights include elevated tees with a red rock backdrop of the Colorado National Monument.
    Idea: Don’t miss the #1 public golf course in Colorado as ranked by Golf Digest, The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa.
  6. 50 years and going strong at the Museum of the West. Fulfill your inner cowboy or cowgirl with a trip to a museum dedicated to the Western lifestyle in downtown Grand Junction. 
    Idea: Have you ever imagined what life was like for a pioneer? “Ride” the stagecoach to see for yourself. Or really go back in time with a dino dig at their sister museum, Dinosaur Journey. 
  7. aRT Murals on the Riverfront Trail.Artists have transformed bleak piers and skirts of overpasses on the Riverfront Trail into vibrant, colorful, artistic expressions.
    Idea: Take a walk or leisurely bike ride along the trail to see these incredible murals.
  8. Arrive and Drive Racing at the Grand Junction Motor Speedway. If you like to drive fast, take it to the track – the Kart Racing Track, that is.
    Idea: Make it a teambuilding activity for your workplace. (Talk about a memorable get together!) 
  9. Hike or ski the Grand Mesa. The world’s largest flat top mountain is your year-round paradise.  Oh, and 300 lakes = an abundance of fishing opportunities.
    Idea: Have you ever heard an elk bugle? Experience this magical love song from the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre National Forest. *Be safe and wear bright orange when hiking during big game hunting seasons.
  10. Shop Downtown Grand Junction. You won’t find big box chain stores here. You will find galleries, boutique shopping, unique toy stores, charming candy stores, bookshops, cute kids’ clothing, bike shops, outdoor gear, specialty retailers and weekly farmers’ markets.
    Idea: Watch them make the sweet tooth cure, mouth-watering almond toffee, at Enstrom Candies.

Ready to Visit Grand Junction? Order or view their Visitor Guide

10 Ways To Experience & Celebrate Rural Colorado Summer 2018

Tucked in the smaller towns in all corners of the state is where travelers will find some of their most authentic Colorado experiences: elevated western hospitality; farmers and producers supporting a superior local fine-dining and culinary experience; small town arts and culture with urban sensibility; a growing outdoor recreation scene of world-class outfitters and sporting events. Plus, Colorado’s small towns offer unique places to sleep, with new and unexpected lodging offerings, farm stays and ranch packages rounding out a visit.

Colorado.com shares these ten travel experiences set to connect travelers with some of rural Colorado’s best flavors, farmers, tours and road trips, historical landmarks, festivals, markets, outdoor adventures and natural wonders for summer 2018.

  1. SADDLE UP: Colorado’s Dude and guest ranch offerings provide an elevated western hospitality experience, with several ranches launching new activities and packages for 2018. While horseback experiences will always be the center of any ranching vacation, more guest ranches promoting bike programs for guests that still want to be in the saddleMajestic Dude Ranch has extensive mountain biking programs with on-ranch trails available. Vista Verde Ranch launched Fat Biking as part of its winter activity line-up and has new top of the line mountain bikes for summer riding. Over at Cherokee Park Ranch in Livermore, kid’s bikes are dotted all over the ranch and available for smaller guest-riding. While guest ranches make the perfect family vacation, many ranches are holding adult-only retreats and themed weeks, often during the month of September when school break finishes. For those who can’t wait until September, Black Mountain Ranch offers adult-only weeks throughout the summer. Colorado Trails Ranch offers a painting workshop in September and The Home Ranch offers Yoga week, combining plenty of Zen with typical ranch activities.
  1. NEW RURAL CUISINE. Top-tier chefs are moving into rural areas—especially west of Denver—and raising the bar on the dining scene with small focused dinner events and intimate dining rooms offering fast-evolving menus that reflect seasonality and locality of ingredients. Guest and dude ranches are moving from pork and beans to offer 20-course fine tasting menus and molecular dining. Cloverdale Farm and Restaurant opened doors mid/late 2017 in Steamboat Springs offering an intimate, fine dining experience using locally grown and sourced ingredients alongside a curated old world wine list. Traditionally a hunting lodge, High Lonesome Ranch in Debeque launches its 2018 season of high-end dinners, serving a 20-course tasting menu overseen by Matt Chasseur and Patrick Ayers. Latigo Ranch in Kremmling will also offer a second program of fine dining, with a molecular dinner club.
  1. THE YEAR OF THE BIRD: 2018 is the Year of The Bird and Colorado offers many must-see bird watching locations and events. While not an exclusive Colorado event, International Migratory Day (IMBD) is celebrated worldwide, with events in Colorado sometimes associated with it or occurring at the same time. For details about local events visit the IMBD website. Wray’s Prairie-Chicken event attracts visitors from around the globe to see the prairie-chicken courtship calls. The Yampa Valley Crane Festival (Aug 30-Sept 2) is a great time to view hundreds of cranes from the Rocky Mountain flock which join local birds to rest and feed before continuing their journey south. The Colorado Owl Festival kicks-off in October, hosted in Pueblo by the Nature and Raptor Center of Pueblo, Pueblo County Library District, Pueblo Zoo, Arkansas Valley Audubon Society and Mark Park Environmental Center for a weekend of all things owl. Other wildlife events and festivals can be found at the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website.
  1. NEW RURAL MAKER SPACES. As maker culture grows in popularity, across rural Colorado more maker spaces and retail outlets are opening doors for budding artists and crafters. CoCo Crafted of Colorado Springs now offers budding crafters the chance to create wall hangings, art, embroidery, and painting. At the recently opened Pueblo House, weekly MakerSpace classes and events are available. Fort Collins is now home to Creator Hub offering workshops and classes covering everything from CAD design, soldering, and crafts. In Durango’s Powerhouse science center, the new Maker Lab is the first ever maker space for the Four Corners region, offering training and tools for budding inventors and designers. In Carbondale, a new mobile maker space, Rosybelle, rolls into events throughout western Colorado offering crafts for adult and kids alike. Mancos is already known for its Mancos School of the West, but coming soon to the town is an outdoor maker space.
  1. MEET YOUR FARMER. As one of the country’s leading agritourism destinations, there are many ways for travelers to connect with the growers and producers through farm stays and tours, farmer’s markets and foodie events across the region. Eastern Colorado’s High Plains Adventures connects vibrant communities into one visitor experience and spring and summer season are dotted with farm festivals and events. From Aurora to Deer Trail these towns are linked by history and commerce, by pioneers and entrepreneurs, by geography, agriculture and new business, and by adventure seekers and the local folks who welcome visitors to their towns, ranches, homes and real lives. The Guest House, Carbondale brings new farm experiences, dinners, and events to a sixth-generation family ranch in The Roaring Fork Valley. The Guest House is a working permaculture farm with expansion plans that include a high-end lodge and restaurant. Focused on principles of beauty, sustainability, and transformation, The Guest House offers guests the opportunity to eat with a connection to the land, be cared for at the highest of standards, and build their own connections to themselves and their community. Cabin hospitality experiences launched December 2017, along with a community dinner program and events each month. Rick and Kristi Cranston of Tall Grass Farms Alpacas in Bennett on the Eastern Plains are always eager to share their love for alpacas. Tours of the farm are available to get acquainted with the alpaca herd and their friends, which include dogs, cats, horses, chickens, and llamas, check out the handmade fiber products for sale at their store or request a fiber-arts class. There are many farming regions to choose from to taste Colorado’s finest local produce. La Junta and the Arkansas Valley are famous for corn, cantaloupes and watermelons.  Farm markets are typically open between July and October to the delight of residents and visitors alike seeking the good bounty from this fertile land, and market season offers a delightful time to visit, with more than ten farms markets available. From July through September, chefs from critic-approved restaurants in Boulder and beyond whip up meals for farm suppers under the stars at Lyons Farmette. The intimate organic farm grows ingredients for the dinners, local restaurants, and on-property weddings. The events include a tour of their fields and the chance to mingle with their alpacas, a goat named Waylon and a llama named Cuzco. The farm also offers great workshops on chicken keeping, beekeeping, and other topics. Celebrate rural Colorado farmers & producers at one of the world’s leading event for locavores when Slow Food USA and Slow Food International comes back to Denver for its second U.S. Slow Food event, July 13-15, 2018Slow Food Nations combines the energy of a street food festival, gravitas of a food systems conference and inspiration of a cultural exchange, while showcasing some of Colorado’s leading culinary influencers, farmers and producers who participate in markets, dinners and events that demonstrate why Colorado is one of the leading local food destinations in the country
  1. REGIONAL TOURS & TRAILS: There are new ways to plan a rural road-trip, with regions offering a new lens to see the cultural, historical or epicurean highlights. For Summer 2018, The Colorado Creative Corridor will offer visitors to the State an invitation to pair destinations for a unique arts and cultural experience. The “Corridor” will take visitors some 331 miles through five Creative District destinations, traveling through several different regions that tell the rich story of Colorado mountain culture. The arts communities of Carbondale, Salida, Crested Butte, Delta County/ North Fork and Ridgway all offer unique event programming and activities, alongside mountain town eclecticism, outdoor recreation, and authentic Colorado flair. The Colorado Distillers Guild is launching a Colorado Spirits Trail in 2018 inviting visitors to discover the spirits of the West. The trail highlights more than 50 participating distilleries from every corner of the state, and offers a map and interactive website to folks interested in tasting the amazing and creative spirits being produced across Colorado.  Individuals can pick up a map at participating distilleries, Denver International Airport and tourist information offices throughout the state.   Each travel season, the Colorado Tourism Office brings a new collection of inspiring travel ideas via its online trip-building platform, the Colorado Field Guide, which is designed to take travelers off the well-trodden path and into new corners of the state where untapped and lesser-known experiences are for the taking. Summer travel highlights include Lamar to La Junta via the Santa Fe Trail, Three Days of Heritage Sites on the Royal Gorge, All About Wildflowers in Crested Butte, and Zero Impact in The Vail Valley.
  1. RIDES THE RAILS: A symbol of a bygone era, Colorado’s historic railroads have been lovingly restored and expertly maintained so riders can relish access to jaw-dropping landscapes and a steady supply of family-friendly fun. As if spectacular views of the Royal Gorge weren’t enough, Cañon City’s Royal Gorge Route Railroaddoesn’t shy away from a themed outing.  In springtime, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad sets a course for Cascade Canyon, a 26-mile journey through the San Juan National Forest along the Animas River. Opt for a Historic Narration Coach to hear tales of what it took to build the rails, or combine the trip with a Snowmobile Adventure Package for two hours of thrills around Molas Pass. Scenic wonders are revealed around every curve as the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad’s century-old steam engine takes you back in time to the gold-mining days of these eponymous towns just west of Colorado Springs. The relaxing, four-mile round trip passes the old Midland Terminal Wye, historic mines and Echo Valley, all set to an educational narration. Departing from Alamosa with a stop in Fort Garland, the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad chugs toward Fir Summit on weekends June through September, where an outdoor amphitheater awaits at the top of La Veta Pass. This one-of-a-kind concert venue is home to the Mountain Rails Live concert series, an occasion to see how the West was sung. Another way to connect with Colorado’s railroad culture is through a visit to the Colorado Model Railroad Museum which hosts themed events throughout the summer season, starting with Dinosaur Days (June 8-9) bringing dinosaur-related activities into the railroad space.
  1. NEW OUTDOOR ADVENTURES: The Eagle River Park will open Summer, 2018, unveiling a world-class whitewater park featuring an in-stream design optimizing the river’s natural morphology, and will offer riverside recreation areas, where there will be riparian plantings and restoration. The Eagle River Park with its layers of recreation opportunities and proximity to I-70 will be a gathering spot for is destined to attract tourists/travelers, athletes, and events from around the region. Splash-In Sea Planes (July 14) offers a highly unique spectator event as seaplanes land in Kenney Reservoir, RangelyThe Seaplane Pilots Association is taking advantage of one the two private lakes where the aircraft can land in Colorado. Kenney Reservoir is owned by the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District. A new outfitter is offering week-long classes in the art of elk hunting and butchery. Timber to Table of Hotchkiss, empower first-time hunters with specialized courses—including special programs just for women hunters— to hunt the land and then butcher and cook the game. Timber to Table aims develop respectful and ethical hunters, who understand the benefits of defending public lands while responsibly sourcing their food. The Run, Rabbit, Run 50 and 100 Mile Endurance Runs of Steamboat Springs recently announced the creation of the inaugural $100,000 “Rabbit Cup.” Paired with the Run, Rabbit, Run’s existing $65,000 purse, the combined $165,000 prize package makes this – by far – the largest trail ultra purse in the world. The Rabbit Cup also is the first event of its kind in the world. Run, Rabbit, Run returns September 14-15, 2018.
  1. NEW CULTURAL VENUES TRANSFORMED FROM OLD SPACES. Rural communities are rebirthing old or unusual spaces into venues for culture, the arts and music: The Tank Center for Sonic Arts  is a former silo in Rangely now renovated into a stunning music venue with outstanding and renowned acoustics; The 1887 brick building that was originally the Salida Edison Electric Light Co. is now the Steamplant Event Center, drawing guests to its scenic riverside location for community gatherings, art showings, movie screenings, live music and a sculpture garden. Established in 1915, The Sherbino has been the heart of Ridgway, providing a venue for community events ranging from music to poetry. Now in a period of rebirth, the Sherbino continues to stand out as the hub of community activity throughout Ouray County. The Rocky Mountain Land Library is a former historic ranch dating to 1862 in South Park, taken over by Jeff Lee and Ann Martin, two longtime bookstore employees who have stockpiled some 32,000 natural history books over the years for an ambitious library project. Renovations at Buffalo Peaks Ranch are ongoing, but visitors can already participate in workshops on poetry, ecology, botany, painting and more — or simply come to soak up the invigorating Southwestern landscape that inspired so many of the books in Lee and Martin’s collection. A former Western-style dry goods shop in downtown Trinidad. The A.R. Mitchell Museum has brought this vintage gem back to life and filled it with artist Arthur Roy Mitchell’s work and collected pieces on subjects like cowboys, horses, cattle and frontier landscapes. The horseshoe-shaped mezzanine is something to behold, and the building’s original pressed-tin ceilings and wood floors are beautifully intact.
  1. ON YOUR BIKE:It’s no secret that Coloradoans love their bikes and there’s plenty of cycling events all over the state throughout 2018. From the quirky to the fat tire, to the high-altitude to the scenic prairies, there are many events to watch or participate in. Known as one of the most unique and quirky festivals in the country, Frozen Dead Guy Days takes place in the Colorado mountain town of Nederland — three days of frosty merriment featuring 30 live bands in heated super tents and outrageous events like coffin racing, costumed polar plunging, frozen t-shirt contests and much more. Celebrating its 17th year in 2018, Frozen Dead Guy Days continues to be a world-renowned spectacle.  Pedal The Plains launches into its sixth year (Sept 15-17) Governor Hickenlooper and The Denver Post launched a one-of-a-kind cycling event celebrating the agricultural roots and frontier heritage of Colorado’s Eastern Plains, with a loop beginning and ending in Ordway. Described by the Governor as “a ride for the rest of us,” Pedal The Plains seeks to engage riders of all abilities, from seasoned cyclists to first-time riders, in an educational and recreational experience.

Family Travel: 11 Colorado Waterfalls

Waterfalls are one of the best side effects of a Colorado hike. They might be tiny, wispy ones you happen by along a scenic trail, or they might be bigger destinations unto themselves.

Colorado.com shares these Colorado waterfalls that are worth making the trip.

1. South Mineral Creek Falls
Reached via the South Mineral Creek Campground, hikers will trace South Fork Mineral Creek on the way to these falls, which flow into an ethereal turquoise pool, with red and grey peaks standing sentinel in the distance. Nearby towns: Durango and Silverton (featured image)

Bridal Veil

2. Seven Falls
Trek up 224 steps alongside the Seven Falls (or take the in-mountain elevator), which tumble 181 feet down the canyon in seven distinct segments. Nature trails and views of Colorado Springs and the sprawling Great Plains to the east add to this attraction’s natural appeal. Nearby Town: Colorado Springs

3. Bridal Veil Falls
The well-preserved Victorian-era town of Telluride — nestled at the foot of a box canyon — is a beguiling sight all on its own. But 365 feet above, the white spray of Colorado’s tallest waterfall plummets to the canyon’s depths, adding the final touch to a charming scene. Nearby Town: Telluride

4. Helen Hunt Falls
Colorado Springs’ North Cheyenne Cañon Park is home to these falls, which can be reached after a steep but manageable hike amid spectacular views. A visitor center gives details about the area and the falls’ geology. Nearby Town: Colorado Springs

5. Fish Creek Falls
These waterfalls are spectacular any time of year, but they are most breathtaking in the spring. When temperatures rise and the snowmelt reaches its peak and winds its way downhill, water whooshes over Fish Creek’s cliff, emitting a thunderous sound and a gentle spray that serves as a cool reward to those who’ve trekked in to see the water works. Nearby Town: Steamboat Springs

6. North Clear Creek Falls
For a hidden treasure along the Silver Thread Scenic Byway, keep your eyes out for Forest Road 510 on your left, just past Spring Creek pass. A short distance down the road affords views of gushing North Clear Creek Falls as it plummets from a willow-covered bench into a box canyon. Nearby Town: Lake City

7. Zapata Falls
As hikers approach the Zapata Falls along a windy trail at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the way to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, it feels a bit like they’re chasing it — they can hear the roar of the 40-foot-tall gusher and feel its cooling effect long before they can actually see it. Nearby Town: Alamosa

8. Box Canyon Falls
Tucked in a narrow Ouray box canyon, Box Canyon Falls‘ 280-foot cascade can be experienced top to bottom via staircase, hiking trail and suspension bridge. As thousands of gallons of water rush and roar their way down, take a moment to look up — the National Audubon Society has named the area an important bird site. Nearby Town: Ouray

9. Ouzel Falls
On the path to Ouzel Falls inside Rocky Mountain National Park, in one of the greenest, must lush spots in the state, hikers come across several smaller falls and cascades that entreat them to keep moving to the mother lode. Breathtaking Ouzel drops more than 40 feet through a sliver in the dark rock wall surrounding it and flows into a chilly pool filled with boulders and fallen trees. Also check out the park’s Columbine Falls, near Chasm Lake, with view of Longs Peak in the distance. Nearby Town: Estes Park

10. Rifle Falls State Park
On a hot summer day, the mist that drifts from the exhilarating gush of water over 70-foot-high limestone cliffs and the dark caves below them in Rifle Falls State Park are a sublime natural air conditioner. Nearby Town: Rifle

11. Hanging Lake Colorado
Appearing to cling to the edge of a mountainside, this almost supernaturally teal-green Hanging Lake is surrounded by moss-covered rocks and a meandering trail. Waterfalls cascade quietly off a cliff into the lake’s still depths, adding to an already surreal atmosphere. Note: This is a busy place. Find out how to navigate it and help preserve its beauty here. Nearby Town: Glenwood Springs

Staycationing in Denver? The Urban Corridor’s Best Summer Adventures

My editor says summer is half-over, and I’m thinking, nope, we have two-thirds left. However you see it, the end of July and month of August are actually the biggest vacation spans for families in America. And, in June, we were just tempting you with ideas. Here’s our definitive list of Colorado spots in addition to the top eight (link) we released in early June starting with Colorado’s Urban Corridor. Happy, safe and vigilant travels. It’s wildfire season, please travel with caution. Mountain towns and resorts are up next. Where do you like to go on the Front Range?

Boulder

Always a nice choice for families is Chautauqua Park located at the base of the Flatirons in Boulder. This National Historic Landmark has rental cottages with 48 miles of hiking trails and thousands of acres of natural lands right outside the front door.

(Dining Hall)

On weekends in July, Arts in the Open will take audience members on a moderate hike amidst the scenic backdrop of Boulder Open Space while scenes from “Goldilocks” are performed along the way.

The historic Chautauqua Dining Hall (a tradition since 1898) has recently undergone a huge overhaul and the wraparound porch offers some of the best patio dining in Colorado. If you visit on a Saturday, be sure to also visit the Boulder’s Farmer’s Market (voted the best in Colorado by USAToday readers). Still need more? Head to the trendy, historic Pearl Street Mall’s restaurants, shops, street performers and Pop Jet Fountain–they never fail to entertain. (boulderdowntown.com)

Colorado Springs

We love Colorado Springs staples like the Garden of the Gods Park, Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain, the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center and Manitou Cliff Dwellings but the big news this summer are additions like the country’s first indoor drone racing facility, a public marketplace and a new adventure experience at Cave of the Winds Mountain Park. Don’t miss Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s new Gray Wolf pups, either. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s newish $13.5 million exhibit Encounter Africa. Highlights include an amphitheater that allows guests to see elephant training, enrichment and husbandry, a new exhibit for the African lion pride and a “Skybridge” that takes guests from the exhibit to the barn, enabling them to see the elephants from above. (cmzoo.org)

(Broadmoor’s Soaring Adventure)

For a thrill, check out the Cave of the Winds’ Wind Walker Challenge Ropes Course that is located on the rim of a 600-foot drop into Williams Canyon.  Colorado Wolf Adventures have teamed up to host “Up Close with the Wolves” this summer. The 4,400 square-foot Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument’s Visitor Center offers more fossils on display and interactive exhibits.  If a train ride is on your bucket list, the South side of the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park takes on a new look with the addition of Pinon Ridge Play-Land, a 2,000-square foot playground built specifically to blend into the natural surroundings. And last but certainly not least, The Broadmoor Soaring Adventure consists of 10 zip-lines that range in distance from 300 feet to 1,800 feet as well as moderate hiking and rope bridges while you enjoy the Seven Falls area. Dine at the new Sevens Falls Restaurant 1858 and don’t miss their trout fritters, honey lemonade and peach cobbler. (visitcos.com)

 Denver

 Denver is exploding with commerce from new hotels, restaurants, breweries, kid gyms, it seems to be at its peak in terms of construction and neighborhood transformations from RiNo and lower downtown, to Stanley Marketplace lies right on the line of Denver and Aurora, Denver is in an epic era. Here’s what families need to know to experience this sizzling summer in the city. If your family is around during Independence Day, make sure you venture over to Civic Center Park on July 3 to enjoy a concert, light show and fireworks display that you will never forget. If you haven’t ventured to the RiNo art district, this summer it’s going to be on the bucket list, especially with Central Market, Shake Shack and new family-friendly joints in the urban mecca. This district features colorful murals as well that the children will enjoy. Hotels are popping up monthly it seems and there is plenty of exploring to be done.

(Arapahoe County Fair)

As always, visit the Denver Art Museum, it’s one of our favorite Rocky Mountain cultural institutions, and arguably, one of the best art museums in the nation! From rotating exhibitions to great family programming, adventure backpacks and fountains to splash in out front of the museum, it’s a great choice on a hot day to cool off, plus, it’s FREE for kids! (dam.org) The Arapahoe County Fair, July 26-29, is a summer tradition since 1906 with carnival rides, rodeos, concerts, fireworks, 4-H shows, tractor pulls and so much more.

Denver Zoo, History Colorado Center, Main Branch of Denver Public Library, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Children’s Museum, City Park, Washington Park, Sloan’s Lake, Denver Mint, Capital tours, Highlands neighborhood, Old South Gaylord Street—family fun, summer educational opportunities and so much more have never been more prolific in Denver. Summer in the city! (visitdenver.org)

Fort Collins

Visit the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery and don’t miss out on the Tornado Tunnel, it’s a kid and adult favorite. More kid fun includes wandering through the Gardens at Spring Creek, a trip on the Magic School Bus offering up kid tours, farm tours and history tours. Stroll down Main Street (College Avenue) near the CSU Campus and take in the coed culture and the blooms at the Annual Trial Garden. The Farm at Lee Martinez Park is an agricultural oasis smack dab in town. And, to top off any day, had to The Colorado Room for some of my favorite local eats in town, may I recommend the bison poutine?

Photo: Richard Haro

Got a kiddo who likes to groove, the new 164-room Elizabeth Hotel in Old Town (111 Chestnut Street) opened to the public in November and pays tribute to FoCo’s deep-rooted music scene. With record players in the guest rooms, a piano in the hotel’s Sky Bar, jazz music at the rooftop Sunset Lounge, a lending library chock full of musical instruments you can borrow and even a Music Suite complete with a baby grand piano, the musical theme permeates this modern luxury hotel. 

I scream, you scream . . .The latest endeavor from Denver fave Little Man Ice Cream – called Churn – opens this summer at The Exchange, an innovative new development featuring food, entertainment, mercantile and creative outdoor areas (located at 200 North College Ave). Fittingly, Churn will anchor the open-air central quarter.

There is weekend ‘Toons at The Lyric Cinema’ on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 9 am till around noon for free cartoons on the big screen. You never know what’s playing – old-school Looney Tunes, maybe The Tick or Johnny Bravo – but you can count on an all-you-can-eat cereal bar for just $5 and a full brunch menu from the kitchen. (lyriccinema.com/weekend-toons).

Ready for a little pinball revival? Pinball Jones, an Old Town original since 2011, recently expanded to a second location. This “barcade” is a true arcade, chock full of vintage and brand-new pinball machines, as well as pool tables, air-hockey tables, skeeball and more.

Get your junior jam on at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, which features a permanent music-oriented exhibit. The Music & Sound Lab explores the physics of sound, the history of the Fort Collins music scene and some of the technology behind everything from Edison wax cylinders to iPods. The museums’ OtterBox Digital Dome Theater hosts concerts as well as a monthly “Acoustic Treatment” event, where a rising local musician shares tales in between an intimate acoustic set.

Don’t forget that Fort Collins has Colorado’s only Wild & Scenic River that is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Systems. Cache la Poudre River located in the northern Front Range and dubbed the “Poudre” by local residents and longtime visitors, the main and south forks of the river originate in Rocky Mountain National Park and then flow north and east through the Roosevelt National Forest before eventually passing through Fort Collins.

If you would like a little guidance on your first adventure, Fort Collins-based Front Range Ride Guides is ready to take you on your first fat-bike adventure. (visitfortcollins.com)

Photo: Visit Golden

Golden

Summer is in full swing in Golden! The Golden History Museum Grand Re-Opening was on June 23rd! New inclusions added to the museum include The History Lab, The Salon, Touch Gallery, and Epic Events. This renovated museum is not something you want to miss this summer. The inaugural Artsweek Golden occurs during the week of July 16 – 22. This is a weeklong arts celebration full of art festivals, sidewalk paintings, performance art, beer and art pairings, and so much fun! Don’t forget to explore Golden Summer Nights every Saturday & Sunday with free carriage rides, live music, extended store hours, activities and more. (visitgolden.com)

 Loveland

If you are on your way to the Rocky Mountain National Park, you must make a stop in Loveland. The Larimer County Fair & PRCA Rodeo (August 3-7), is something that you can’t miss. It is the biggest event that happens in The Ranch, for good reason. There are an abundance of activities including parades, concerts, and fireworks. Don’t forget to bring your swimsuits because Loveland is also a huge water destination that includes Boyd Lake State Park, Carter Lake as well as Lake Loveland Swim Beach. If you are looking to spend a day truly connecting with your family check out Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch dude ranch vacations. This is a great way for the whole family to unplug and reconnect with each other. Kids have the option to learn horseback riding and go to kids camp with fun activities. (VisitLovelandCO.com)