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!
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.
The Rocky Mountains
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.
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!)
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!)
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
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
- Things To Do In Golden Colorado
- The Colorado Railroad Museum – I took the kids here and we had a blast nerding out about trains!
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!
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
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!
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!
The most photographed mountains in America, Maroon Bells. Not my favorite, but seems to be a “spot”.
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!
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!
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.
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!!!