One of the most fun things to do in NoCo (Northern Colorado) is to visit Fort Collins, a vibrant mountainside university town. An easy one-hour drive north of Denver, one of the best things to do in Denver is to naturally escape for a fun Fort Collins day trip as well. If you’re more interested in fun Fort Collins events and the best shopping in Fort Collins, you need to visit its historic downtown district, which is filled with restaurants, art galleries, breweries, and independent boutiques. Read on for more of the best things to do in Fort Collins in winter and summer.
1. Horsetooth Mountain Open Space
Consisting of Culver, Hughey, and Soderberg Open Spaces, Horsetooth Mountain Open Space is a large park that reaches an elevation of 7255 feet. It’s home to nearly 30 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails that range in difficulty. Horsetooth Mountain Open Space is also known for its namesake Horsetooth Mountain, Horsetooth Falls (which reappears in the spring), and scenic views of the Front Range – a mountain range in the Southern Rocky Mountains.
2. Fort Collins Museum of Discovery
The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery is a hands-on history, culture, and science museum, which tells the stories of Northern Colorado through local artifacts and interactive exhibits. These exhibits include Wildlands and Wildlife, First Peoples, the Music and Sound Lab, The Tot Spot, and the Schatz Family Exploration Zone. The OtterBox Digital Dome Theater is a state-of-the-art 360-degree dome theater located at the museum as well. It hosts daily shows, lectures, live music performances, and more.
3. Lory State Park
Lory State Park is scenically located between the Horsetooth Reservoir and the foothills of Rocky Mountain National Park. It features over 26 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trails, which take you through valleys and up hillsides. Popular hikes include Arthur’s Rock Trail, the Timber Trail, and the Shoreline Trail. You can also go backcountry camping in Lory State Park or hit the water at Horsetooth Reservoir to go kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.
4. Gardens on Spring Creek
One of the best things to do in Fort Collins on a sunny day is to visit the Gardens on Spring Creek. An 18-acre community botanical garden naturally located on Spring Creek, it has several themed gardens, including the Wetlands, the Garden of Eatin’, and the Rock Garden. However, a lot of people visit the Garden on Spring Creek purely to see its Butterfly House, which is home to 300 free-flying North American butterflies.
5. Downtown Fort Collins
Take a step back in time as you stroll down the city’s well-preserved downtown district. Home to 20 restored historic buildings from the 1800s, the downtown area is centered around the charismatic Old Town Square. While downtown, take your pick from over 80 restaurants, listen to live music in the Old Town Square, visit an art gallery, enjoy a beer at one of its internationally-recognized breweries, or do some serious shopping at locally-owned independent boutiques.
6. Cache La Poudre River
The Cache La Poudre River (also known as just the Poudre River) is Colorado’s only nationally-designated Wild and Scenic River. Beginning in Rocky Mountain National Park, the river flows through Fort Collins. There are many ways to experience the river, including hiking alongside it via the 21-mile paved Poudre River Trail. You can also go camping, trout fishing at Poudre Canyon, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, and whitewater rafting with a reputable company like Mountain Whitewater.
7. Annual Flower Trial Garden
The Annual Flower Trial Garden is a public garden located at Colorado State University. The garden is planted with annual flowers (flowers that only last for one growing season) every year from late May through to October. The university established the Annual Flower Trial Garden for horticultural research purposes for local students and researchers. A visit to the Annual Flower Trial Garden is one of the best free things to do in Fort Collins.
8. Spring Canyon Community Park
This city is full of beautiful community parks, including Spring Canyon Park. Connected to the Pineridge Natural Area and located adjacent to Cottonwood Glen Park, this large and modern park is home to Inspiration Playground, a dog park, a skateboard park, a free-ride mountain bike course, the Veterans Plaza of Northern Colorado, two miles of paved walking trails, and scenic mountain views. Spring Canyon Park also has recreational facilities like tennis, volleyball, and basketball courts.
9. Anheuser Busch Brewery
Anheuser Busch says there’s no other brewery experience in the world like their brewery tour, which is a sure-fire way to hook you in! They brew some of the biggest names in beer, including Budweiser, Stella Artois, and Shock Top. With a Rocky Mountains backdrop, their Fort Collins brewery brews 33 different beer brands. Visitors can go behind-the-scenes on various immersive brewery tours, or simply enjoy a beer and a meal in their large Biergarten.
10. Odell Brewing Company
On the other hand, Odell Brewing Company is an independent craft brewery based in Fort Collins. Their beer range features a lot of IPAs, as well as sour beer, a wheat beer, different ales, and the popular Colorado Lager. The city’s brewery and taproom offer multiple free brewery tours every day, a different local food truck parked out front daily for when hunger strikes, a long lineup of beers to sample, and weekly live music.
11. Fort Collins Trolley
The Fort Collins Trolley is a historic streetcar (Birney Streetcar No. 21 in fact) that’s operated on summer weekend afternoons and holidays by the local Municipal Railway Society. The three-mile round trip – along a heritage streetcar line, no less – takes guests from Howes Street downtown to City Park along Mountain Avenue and lasts for 30 minutes. For a small fee, a ride on the trolley is a fun way to see the city.
12. The 1879 Avery House
The 1879 Avery House is a sandstone home on Mountain Avenue that was built for Franklin Avery and his family in (you guessed it) 1879. Avery is to thank for the city’s wide streets, for founding the First National Bank, and for developing important water schemes. Today, visitors can go on a guided tour of the Avery House on weekends. Inside, there’s a historic costume collection, as well as artifacts donated by the Avery family.
13. Mountain Whitewater Descents
As mentioned, Mountain Whitewater is a local company that offers whitewater rafting excursions down the Cache La Poudre River, as well as equipment rentals. There are several half and full-day rafting experiences available from Fort Collins, which will take you down the river’s class II to IV rapids. For adventurers, Mountain Whitewater also offers a two-day Poudre Falls trip. This is one of the most fun things to do in Fort Collins for adrenaline junkies.
14. The Farm at Lee Martinez Park
Established in 1985, The Farm at Lee Martinez Park is one of the city’s most family-friendly attractions. It offers a hands-on and educational experience for children, as they can get up close to a variety of farm animals, including goats, pigs, sheep, and horses. The Farm at Lee Martinez Park also has a museum and farm store, supervised pony rides for a small fee, and spaces available to rent for birthday parties and special events.
15. Emmaline Lake Trail
Hiking the Emmaline Lake Trail is one of the best things to do in Fort Collins if you’re an outdoor enthusiast, as it’s an 11-mile moderate round trip. Located below the summit of Comanche Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, Emmaline Lake is a mountain-fed lake surrounded by lush alpine scenery. Highlights on the Emmaline Lake Trail include Cirque Meadow and Lake. If you want to extend your trip, there’s camping available along the trail.
16. Cathy Fromme Prairie Natural Area
The Cathy Fromme Prairie Natural Area is a nature preserve with a difference, compared to the city’s usual mountainside parks. It features shortgrass prairie land as well as wetlands, which are home to lizards, rabbits, coyotes, and rattlesnakes. The Cathy Fromme Praire Natural Area’s raptor observatory is also a great place to watch birds like hawks and eagles. Its Fossil Creek Trail conveniently connects it to the aforementioned Spring Canyon Park and Pineridge Natural Area.