Rocky Mountains in the backdrop, Colorado might just be one of the most photogenic vacation spots around. With everything from breathtaking mountains and wildlife, to thriving urban cities and plenty of western heritage, Colorado is the perfect place to visit anytime of the year. Here are 15 reasons to plan a visit to scenic, exciting Colorado.
The views around Colorado are simply breathtaking. The majestic peaks of the Rocky Mountains alone are worth the visit, but the beauty of the state doesn’t stop there. In fact, Colorado has some of the most varied landscape in the world. Visitors can marvel at red rock formations, prairie grasslands, serene lakes and forests, plenty of wildflowers, some of the highest sand dunes in North America, as well as some beautiful towns throughout.
One of the major draws for people visiting Colorado is the climate. Colorado receives around 300 days of sunshine, making it the perfect place to visit all year round, and while state sees more than 300 inches of snow at mountain resorts (perfect for ski season), winters aren’t so bad down in the city, making it easy to get around. Plus, the changing seasons provide some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, especially in the fall.
With everything the great outdoors has to offer, Coloradans spend a lot of time outside. Hiking is a must throughout the state, and there are trails for every level of ability, including 54 mountain peaks that rise 14,000 feet (4270 meters) or more above sea level (“fourteeners”). In summer and fall, visitors and residents alike enjoy backpacking, camping, four-wheeling, hunting and fishing, horseback riding, and plenty of riverside and lakeside activities. In the winter, activities include skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and even dog-sledding.
Along with Colorado’s landscape comes a wide array of wildlife and wildlife-watching opportunities. Colorado is famous for it’s bighorn sheep, mountain goats, moose, and elk. The Colorado Birding Trail leads birdwatchers enthusiasts to over 400 species of birds across the state, including everything from pinyon jays and snow geese to bald eagles. Even some of Colorado’s predators, like mountain lions, bobcats, and black bears are visible—just don’t get too close.
Colorado has four must-see national parks. Rocky Mountain National Park outside Estes Park features all the grandeur of the Colorado mountains. Mesa Verde National Park southwest near Cortez features Ancestral Pueblan cliff dwellings, some of the most studied and well-preserved in the world. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve near Alamosa features a dune field of 30 sq. miles (78 kilometers²), with some dunes standing 750 feet (228.6 meters) high. Finally, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park near Montrose features a 53-mile (85-m) stretch of plummeting black walls along a narrow gorge.
Colorado isn’t just about the outdoors; its major cities are thriving destinations as well. Denver is a booming metropolis with a vibrant arts and culture scene worth taking some time to explore. Colorado Springs is the state’s second largest city, boasting many family-friendly attractions, as well as stunning natural landmarks just a stone’s throw away. Boulder, known for its hippie holdout reputation, is a beautiful city at the foot of The Flatirons rock formation with sophistication and charm.
For history buffs, Colorado is brimming with history straight out of the Old West. Find remnants of the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush, which brought many early explorers, fur trappers, and prospectors to the state. Or follow the Colorado Gold Trail, a scenic tour of these mining hot spots of the 1850s; several mines are also available for tours. Colorado also has several scenic mountain railroads still in operation that allow guests to take rides into the past.
Colorado has a strong reputation for excellent cultural opportunities, reflected in the many museums and other cultural venues throughout the state. Colorado museums, such as the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and History Colorado Center, feature local, pioneer, and natural history artifacts. Niche museums display everything from dinosaurs to aircrafts to mining and more. Colorado also has many performing arts organizations and venues, including the Denver Performing Arts complex, the second-largest arts campus of its kind in the country.
Colorado has much to offer art lovers in particular. Denver Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, and Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center provide citizens with to- level exhibits. Many cities also have Colorado Certified Creative Districts featuring art galleries and studios that host showcases and art walks to promote local artists.
Colorado has a wealth of amazing live music venues worth checking out. Denver and Boulder both see world-class acts in several of their downtown venues, and a few music festivals attract big names each year. A vibrant and eclectic local music scene makes it easy to find live music in bars and jazz clubs throughout on weekends. Colorado also has several outdoor music venues that blend the beauty of the natural scenery with the live music experience, the most notable being Red Rocks Amphitheater, often noted as one of the top music venues in the world (as well as the most difficult to book).
Colorado has no shortage of festivals, and the atmosphere is a thriving part of Colorado culture. Find festivals happening in just about every city throughout the summer and fall, taking advantage of the weather and beauty and highlighting Colorado’s art, food, and music scenes. Popular festivals take place in the major cities and mountain towns alike, often drawing thousands of people from around the state and beyond.
Come to Colorado prepared to eat. The state is home to several award-winning restaurants and has a great love for farm-to-table dining. Find plenty of greasy pub fare to sink your teeth into, as well as some famous Colorado-style green chile. Colorado also has over 100 wineries on the Western Slope near the towns of Palisade and Grand Junction, many of which offer tastings and tours. There are also a growing number of distilleries in throughout the state, and many local bars feature cocktails with Colorado spirits.
Colorado loves its beer. In fact, there are over 200 craft breweries throughout the state and Colorado breweries. Colorado even plays host to the Great American Beer Festival, the largest domestic beer festival in the United States, each fall in Denver. You’ll find most of the breweries are heavily concentrated on The Front Range, including Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver, and Colorado Springs, but more and more are popping up in the mountain towns as well. Be sure to take advantage of all the brewery tours and tastings as possible.
Marijuana is legal in the state of Colorado and pot tourism is certainly a draw. Plenty of guides help plan a 420 vacation, from choosing the right dispensaries, to finding 420-friendly lodging, to even booking marijuana-themed events and activities. Visitors can book classes like “Puff, Pass, and Paint” or take a cannabis cooking class, book a cannabis massage, take a grow tour, or even take cannabis yoga.
Colorado has plenty of other offbeat experiences to offer those looking for something a little different. Find plenty of haunted buildings and ghost towns to visit (including the infamous Stanley Hotel in Estes Park), and unique dining experiences abound for those brave enough to try some Colorado game meat at Buckhorn Exchange or The Fort. Consider participating in Frozen Dead Guy Days, a festival in Nederland celebrating a cryogenically frozen dude in a Tuff Shed.