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Fun Things To Do In Colorado When You Go To Visit

Fun Things To Do In Colorado When You Come To Visit… Travel tips and ideas including the Rocky Mountains and hiking, dining and shopping, road trips and adventure. Features top cities and national parks sites to visit. Good for adults and families on vacation.

Okay, honestly this might be the weirdest, “what to do in Colorado” post ever! It is for my friend Jeannette who is going to visit and is kind of a… “here are cool things you figure out to do after you have lived there for years!” Includes my tips and ideas and then actual references that will help you find all the cool stuff!

My husband and I moved to Colorado for 8 years between living in Florida and now all my Southern friends ask me what they should do when they go visit… here are my best tips and spots that I only share with my besties!

The Weather

Let's talk about the weather, because you might think Colorado is nothing but snow and cold like I did.

First off, it is at the edge of a desert region and at very high altitude so there is very little moisture in the air. This means that it FEELS much warmer than the temperature reads. For example, in Florida we turn on our heat when it hits 60 degrees, but it can be 40 and sunny in Colorado and you just need a sweatshirt or light jacket.

Packing For Colorado

Unless you are going in winter-winter or planning to go up in the mountains, you probably won't need a heavy winter coat. A sweatshirt with a windbreaker is perfect because then if you get too hot you can take off layers.

Also, if you go in the summer, make sure you take heavier sweaters or sweatshirts. This is a picture of me and Sammy in the mountains in July at Brained Lake! It wasn't super cold in the air, but for sure I was glad to have my jacket and jeans.

July In Colorado

The Rocky Mountains

The Rocky Mountains
When we first moved there we realized that everything is talked about in relation to the mountains. Directions were given with the mountains to the left of you or to the right!

This was the view from our back porch (180 degree view up and down the Rocky Mountain range) and is one of the things that I miss most about living in Colorado. Make sure you do at least one trip up in the mountains while you are there!

Georgetown Loop Railroad & Idaho Springs

THIS IS MY FAVORITE DAY TRIP IN COLORADO!

This one is super fun!!! There is a little tiny railroad, The Georgetown Loop, that takes you into mountain-ish areas and past some old gold mines.

You can also go into Georgetown proper for a wee bit of shopping… it was okay, maybe not as good as at the next town over…
Just got some super cute stuff at the Shoppe International in Georgetown

The railroad and Georgetown are super cool, but then you trot yourself over to the next town, Idaho Springs, to the Tommy Knocker brewery for yummy food and a great beer (I like the Rye IPA or Porter when it is available!)

Tommyknockers

Oh, oh, oh, on the way there make sure to stop at the Genesee Park exit to see the buffalo beside the road. I know it sounds dorky, but we got super close to them by driving around a bit (writing this post I am starting to think we spent a lot of time in Colorado harassing large mammals!)

Estes Park

When you think about going up in the mountains, Estes Park is probably your “perfect” trip. Sitting right outside of Rocky Mountain park it has all the “stuff” you want from a mountain town.

The Elk in Estes Park

We went to Rocky Mountain Park one year during “rutting” time when the Elk are trying to find love. Down a little trail by a river we found a big bull elk who was calling out to two little ladies who he was trying to woo… maybe one of the coolest nature events in my life! He was huge and old and totally didn't care that tiny humans were trying to take his picture! Wildlife Watching Elk In Estes Park

The Shining

If you ever watched the movie The Shining, it is based on the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. While the movie wasn't filmed there, it is said to be the spooky, creepy reason that Stephen King wrote The Shining. 6 Things You Didn't Know About the Stanley Hotel

Shopping and Food

For sure there is LOTS of shopping and eating to do in Estes Park proper. If you are looking to get Colorado “stuff” and hang out, this is the place for you! Downtown Estes Park

Oh and just down the road is Rocky Mountain National Park. A quick little hike is Sprauge Lake, totally flat and only about a mile.

Horseshoe Park and the Alluvial Fan

Horseshoe Park and Alluvial Fan

If you are only going to do one park visit, make it this one!!! You can sit right up there on that rock and all the water rushes right past you!

But that is not the “cool” thing about the Alluvial Fan. Here is how it was made…

On July 15, 1982 at 5:30 a.m. Lawn Lake broke through the terminal moraine that had held it since the end of the last ice age, thousands of years ago. The release of 29 million gallons of water swept trees and car-sized boulders four miles down to the valley floor. In addition to tons of lighter rocks, gavel and sand creating a 42-acre alluvial fan. A trash collector heard the waters crashing down the Roaring River and called park rangers, who evacuated campers at Aspenglen campgrounds. Two were lost to the flood at the campground and one along the Roaring River. Much of the flood's force was weakened while submerging the meadows of Horseshoe Park, but still had enough force to flood the town of Estes Park to a depth of six feet. Lake Estes to the east of town contained the floodwaters preventing further damage.[1]

I always think that things happened so far in the past, but NO! This was two years before I graduated high school… that is not all that long ago!

Kenosha Pass

Okay, this one is weird and hard to explain but it is AWESOME! First off, Kenosha Pass is this big flat open area up in the Rocky Mountains that you drive through on the way to somewhere. Except we made it a “trip”!

If you are looking for a “great place to take pictures of your family doing cool outdoors stuff”, this is the trip for you!

Coming from Denver the first thing you come to is this hiking trails area. There is a cattle gate you drive over and then abandoned railroad tracks and hiking trails to roam around on. Day Hikes Near Denver – Kenosha Pass Hiking Trails

Once you are done with that you go down the road a bit and pull over again to look across the entire Kenosha Pass… the kids thought this was AWESOME!

Kenosha Pass Kids

If you are a South Park fan, Fair Play is the real town that show is based off of. It was a “drive through” for us, but fans do a some things to see!

Golden Colorado

Okay, I LOVE Golden and wish we had moved closer to there when when we picked our house! Before we had the kids, my Mother In Law and I frequently went to Golden for craft fairs, shopping and yummy, yummy food.

It is relatively close to Denver, making it a super place to get a feel for old Colorado without having to travel way out of your way.

Capitol Grille Golden Colorado

Driving Around The Mountains

Driving Around The Mountains

Maybe my favorite part of Colorado is driving around in the mountains. We almost bought a house on Coal Creek Canyon Road, which is one of the main ways to get into the mountains!

Functionally what you do is drive up Coal Creek Canyon Road through the mountains, then hit Nederland for a wee bit of lunchy lunch and then drive down the mountains into Boulder and pop back out!

When you get to Nederland you will learn about the “Frozen Dead Guy”… that is something that needs to learned about in person!

Coal Creek Canyon Road Loop

Downtown Denver

Downtown Denver

This would be my last “visit a city” on my list. I loved the concept of visiting Denver when we moved there, but there isn't a whole lot to do unless you are specifically going to a to a show or having dinner.

Pearl Street In Boulder

Pearl Street In Boulder

As much as I hated downtown Denver I loved downtown Boulder. It is a cool, hip shopping area and has great food and drinks. Definitely plan at least an afternoon to bum around and see everything! The Insider's Guide to Pearl Street

Hiking In Colorado

Okay, living near the mountains you have to know that the people who live out there are tree hugging, rock climbing hippies for the most part. Okay, maybe that is a little exaggeration, but I spent SO MUCH TIME trekking around in nature!

Seriously, it is great exercise and something I miss now that I live in flat, flat, flat Florida again!

Hiking In Colorado

Rattlesnake Gulch Eldorado Canyon

Okay, this one seemed a wee bit hard to me, a former smoker, but come to find out it is a normal kind of climb!  I didn't die, so there is that!

Rattlesnake Gulch, El Dorado Canyon

Maroon Bells

The most photographed mountains in America, Maroon Bells. Not my favorite, but seems to be a “spot”.

Maroon Bells

Rattlesnake Gultch

You get to this one from Eldorado Canyon State Park – Walker Ranch. It was an okay one and not so far a drive to get to!

Rattlesnake Gultch

Random Fun Things We Did Outside of Denver!

Okay, while most of our fun was either in the Denver metro area or in the mountains, we did some super fun things a little further away!

Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad – Maybe my all time favorite thing in Colorado was taking a trip with my Dad and his husband in the back car of the Durango Silverton. We went in the winter which meant a shorter trip, but dang it was FUN!

Durango Silverton Railword

Breckenridge – I KNOW, everyone is supposed to like Aspen better, but Aspen was super generic and Breckenridge had more of that Colorado charm left!

Fort Collins – If you are further north, make sure to visit downtown Fort Collins. They have fun shopping and the BEST jalapeno beer at the Fort Collins Brewery.

Gambling! – Oh my gosh, so fun to take a day trip up in the mountains and do a wee spot of gambling! Central City and Blackhawk are a super fun time with a mix of Vegas style casinos and little old fashioned pool hall joints.

Additional Resources

Great guide to 100 Best Things To Do In Colorado!

Visiting Colorado Wrapup

Well there you have it… I am sure I will think of more as time goes by, but that is a great start to things to do in Colorado!

Having done this post I realize I spend a lot of time stalking animals and drinking beer… Colorado was great for both of those and I miss living there from time to time! Maybe a trip back is in order soon!!!

Fun Things To Do In Colorado When You Come To Visit… Travel tips and ideas including the Rocky Mountains and hiking, dining and shopping, road trips and adventure. Features top cities and national parks sites to visit. Good for adults and families on vacation.

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