Must-Visit Attractions in Colorado

The Garden of the Gods Park is a beautiful place to visit year-round in Colorado
The Garden of the Gods Park is a beautiful place to visit year-round in Colorado | © ClassicStock / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Stephanie Harper
2 September 2021

Colorado’s mix of attractions is as diverse as its terrain of mountains, prairies and red rock formations. Whether it’s the call of the majestic Rocky Mountains, historical monuments or one of several cultural establishments, it has something for every traveler. Here’s our pick of the must-visit sights throughout the Centennial State.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Park
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© Sean Xu / Alamy Stock Photo
Rocky Mountain National Park is a mountain paradise with stunning landscapes and plenty of activities. You can explore the park by foot on one – which is part of Culture Trip’s specially curated small-group Colorado tour – of the many hiking trails or by taking a scenic drive on the famous Trail Ridge Road or other passageways. Other activities include camping, biking, water sports and horseback riding. There are also many opportunities for wildlife viewing, including elk, moose, bighorn sheep, bears and mountain lions.

Breckenridge

Ski Resort
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Breckenridge is both a mountain town and a ski resort and is packed with plenty of Colorado history. It’s the oldest and largest town in Summit County, with about 250 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, making its Main Street an absolute dream to wander. There are tons of arts events and festivals all year, plus galleries, studios and shops worth checking out. In summer, you can enjoy the wildflowers in bloom in the surrounding areas, while in winter, Breckenridge Ski Resort provides some 2,908 acres (1,177ha) of the best skiing in the state.

Hanging Lake

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature
Map View
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Coloradans are outdoor enthusiasts, and one of their beloved hiking spots is Hanging Lake. The Hanging Lake Trail sits off Interstate 70, just 10mi (16km) east of the town of Glenwood Springs. The trail itself is short, just a little over a mile, but it can be a challenging hike because it’s steep and rocky. However, reaching the end is worth it. Hanging Lake is a unique geological feature, complete with a stunning hanging garden.

Mount Evans Scenic Byway

Natural Feature
Map View
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Those looking for a scenic mountain drive will love the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, the highest paved road in North America. The highway rises to a height of 14,264ft (4,348m) above sea level and takes you right to the top of Mount Evans. Along the way, you might spot mountain goats and bighorn sheep as you pass alpine lakes and rock formations. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime drive with plenty of places to stop and snap a photo.

Argo Gold Mine and Mill

Historical Landmark
Map View
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Take a tour of the Argo Gold Mine and Mill to learn about its history, including its tunnel, which processed more than $100m worth of gold ore after its completion in 1893. This Idaho Springs attraction also provides insight into the history of the gold rush in Colorado. You and your family will not only get to tour the mine and museum, but you can also try your hand at panning for gold.

Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave

Museum
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The Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, about 6mi (10km) outside the center of Golden, pays tribute to Wild West legend Buffalo Bill Cody. It sheds light on his life and Wild West shows and contains artefacts such as Sitting Bull’s bow and arrows, show outfits and other objects from the Old West. The gravesite and museum sit in Lookout Mountain Park, overlooking the natural beauty of the Great Plains and the Rockies. You may even catch sight of the herd of buffalo and other wildlife that live in the area.

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre

Park
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Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre provides a unique natural landscape in which to listen to live music. Surrounded by and created from the incredible red sandstone monoliths from which it gets its name, the park offers a world-class line-up of musicians during concert season, from late spring to fall, the Film on the Rocks program and yoga sessions. You can walk around the stage and explore trails throughout the park.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Museum, Park, Theater
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The Denver Museum of Nature and Science has been the city’s leading cultural institution for more than 100 years. Here, you can enjoy a variety of exhibits on everything from natural history and the universe to biology and even Colorado history. In City Park, the museum also has an IMAX theater, a planetarium and a host of exciting temporary exhibits annually.

Denver Art Museum

Building, Museum
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© Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo
The Denver Art Museum is well known for its world-class permanent collection, including its large Indigenous Arts of North America collection. It also brings in plenty of special exhibits throughout the year. The Frederic C Hamilton Building, which houses modern, contemporary, African and Oceanic art, is a work of art in itself.

Pearl Street Mall

Shopping Mall
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No visit to the city of Boulder is complete without a stroll down Pearl Street Mall, the delightful pedestrian promenade that also serves as the city’s heart for dining, shopping and the arts. You’ll find hundreds of businesses along this stretch, most being locally owned and operated. While you take in the shops and some of Boulder’s best restaurants, be sure to enjoy the many street performers who are usually out and about showing off their skills.

Celestial Seasonings

Art Gallery, Building, Shop
Map View
© Kristoffer Tripplaar / Alamy Stock Photo

You don’t have to love tea to enjoy a tour of Celestial Seasonings. Its headquarters, just outside Boulder, not only provides a behind-the-scenes look at how tea is made but also has some unique attractions that are a whole lot of fun. Take a whiff inside the Mint Room and see how long you can stand it. Spend some time in the tea shop or enjoy a casual outing at the Celestial Café. It also has an art gallery and a herb garden.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Park, Zoo
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While its Denver counterpart might be more popular, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs is the most interesting Colorado zoo experience you’ll find. It sits about 6,800ft (2,073m) above sea level and features exhibits built into the mountainside. You can also feed the giraffes, ride an open chairlift over the zoo, walk through an aviary of free-flying birds and expect plenty of animal encounters.

Garden of the Gods Park

Park
Map View
© Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo
A registered National Natural Landmark just outside Colorado Springs, the Garden of the Gods Park is open year-round and offers stunning views of its 300ft (91m) sandstone rock formations, along with hiking, horseback riding and camping. The Visitor and Nature Center has all kinds of interactive exhibits. If you’re looking for souvenirs, the Trading Post, which lies on the edge of the park, features artwork by local artists. Admission to the park is free.

Pikes Peak Cog Railway

Historical Landmark
Map View
© Randall Runtsch / Alamy Stock Photo

If you’re going to summit one of Colorado’s “fourteeners” – a mountain peak that’s at least 14,000ft (4,267m) high – there’s no better way to do it than on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. The views you’ll see on the world’s highest cog railroad inspired the song America the Beautiful, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a gorgeous ride, which takes place year-round.

Mesa Verde National Park

Park
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© imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo
Mesa Verde National Park, near Cortez, is perhaps the greatest archaeological wonder in the United States and a Unesco World Heritage site. Learn about the lives and history of the Ancestral Pueblo people as you visit Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House, incredible cliff dwellings and mesa-top villages built between 600 and 1300. There are also a few hiking trails available within the park, including one to a petroglyph panel.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Park
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© Arthur Greenberg / Alamy Stock Photo

If playing in a giant sandbox appeals to you, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve near Alamosa is a must-visit. This giant dune field of 30sqmi (78sqkm) features at least one dune that’s more than 750ft (229m) high. Sledding down the dunes is a popular pastime, as is hiking and camping. There are also horseback riding trails and the scenic four-wheel drive on Medano Pass.

Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Natural Feature
Map View
© Janice and Nolan Braud / Alamy Stock Photo

The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, in southern Colorado, is a coal-fired, steam-powered train just like those that ran throughout the state during the days of cowboys and settlers more than 100 years ago. The train will take you through the remote beauty of the San Juan National Forest. There are a variety of packages available.

Dinosaur National Monument

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
© Phil Degginger / Alamy Stock Photo

On the Colorado-Utah border, Dinosaur National Monument is an incredible testament to the natural and geological history of the area. You can see more than 1,500 fossils on display on the cliff face inside the Quarry Exhibit Hall. There are also petroglyphs of lost cultures and the abandoned homesteads of early settlers. For the adventurers, there are camping and whitewater rafting opportunities.

Interested in visiting Colorado without having to plan your own itinerary? Consider joining Culture Trip’s eight-day small-group Colorado and Utah tour, led by our local insider.

These recommendations were updated on September 2, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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