The Rocky Mountain State is a wonderful place to visit if you love being outdoors. Whether you’re an avid mountain climber or just love to take in the scenery, this state offers something for everyone. Here are some tips for what to see and do on your Colorado vacation:
The capital of Colorado is located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains on the High Plains. Most people don’t realize that Denver has milder weather than other mountainous cities - the average temperature is in the 30s in the winter and averages in the 90s about 36 days a year in the summer. Additionally, Denver surprisingly gets an average of 300 days of sunshine per year, rivaling sunny Los Angeles!
While in the Mile High City, make sure to go shopping and dine in Larimer Square, the historic district established in 1858 that once represented the entire parameters of the city. Get in touch with your creative side at the Denver Art Museum or take a slow stroll in the 23-acre Denver Botanic Gardens, just east of downtown, which houses 15,000 plant species from around the world and includes a Japanese garden, tropical conservatory and sculptures and fountains throughout the space.
Catch a Colorado Rockies game at Coors Field, take a tour and tasting at Coors Brewery and visit Washington Park, which features bike and boat rentals, walking and jogging paths, tennis courts, lakes and playgrounds for the kids. The kids will also love Lakeside Amusement Park and Elitch Gardens. Serious hikers should consider ascending 14,000-foot Mount Evans for the views. If there’s a show during your Denver travels, Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater is a must-visit - the concert venue is carved into the reddish-brown cliffs, and it’s located only 15 miles southwest of the city.
Boulder is just about a 45-minute drive northwest of Denver. It’s known for its culinary scene, healthy citizens and natural beauty.
The Flatirons are a must-see symbol of Boulder. They are flat walls of rock near Green Mountain, scaled by many adventurous climbers. Instead of this intense jaunt, you can hike the trails on Green Mountain, but they’re too difficult for kids. You can also head to the park at the base for a picnic and beautiful photo op. Chautauqua Park is a local favorite and it provides some of the best vistas in the area. It’s located just south of the city on the edge of Green Mountain. Chautauqua has family-friendly trails and plenty of picnic spots.
Art-lovers should check out the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and the very unique Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art - it features a private collection of Western-themed paintings and sculptures and sit right next to the Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory, where you can visit for a free tour and tasting. Boulder is a great place for star-gazing - head to the Fiske Planetarium or the University of Colorado at Boulder for some excellent celestial sightings. Don’t miss Pearl Street Mall for awesome outdoor boutique shopping!
Colorado Springs, another major Colorado city, is located less than an hour and a half drive south of Denver. The biggest attractions in Colorado Springs are its natural wonders: Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak and Seven Falls. Garden of the Gods is a collection of red sandstone pillars that were formed over millennia and jut high above the surrounding landscape in peculiar formations. The park in front of the rocks has several different paths, many of them suitable for young children and seniors, so you can see the rocks from all angles. Take a hike on Pikes Peak or a scenic but slightly frightening drive on Pikes Peak Highway. The hikes to Seven Falls in Cheyenne Canyon are easy enough for young kids, and you’ll be treated with a spectacular view of the 181-foot series of seven waterfalls, cascading into each other in a zig-zag formation.
Colorado is one of the best places for skiing in the U.S. In the late fall, winter and early spring, people head to popular sites like Vail, Aspen, Breckenridge, Telluride, Steamboat Springs, Copper Mountain and Crested Butte for some excellent skiing and snowboarding options. In the off-season, many of these places offer rides on the ski lifts for scenic mountain views, as well as alpine slides for a bit of summer adventure.
Another must-see is the Mesa Verde National Park - a historical treasure located in Cortez near Durango. It features 600 cliff dwellings that were occupied by the Ancestral Pueblo people for more than 700 years between 600 and 1300 A.D. The most famous is Cliff Palace, which has 150 rooms, 75 open areas and 21 kiva rooms. You really can’t miss coming here!
Also nearby, just east of Durango, is Chimney Rock National Monument, which encompasses nearly 5,000 acres in the San Juan National Forest. Ancestral Pueblos lived here as well, and you can pass ancient remnants of their settlement on your hike!
Finally, don’t miss a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park near charming Estes Park - it’s a national treasure that occupies nearly 266,000 acres of pristine wilderness.