No matter what you like to do or see or experience, Colorado is one of the best places to visit in the country at any time of year. There’s something for everyone in the Centennial State! Whether you love history, nature, great food and drink, sports, cities, national parks, luxury, friendly folks, adventure, or relaxation, there are plenty of options to help you to enjoy all of the above when you visit Colorado.
Read on to learn about our best suggestions and tips for your next Colorado vacation. You’re sure to fall in love with this beautiful and mountainous state, and once you visit once, you’ll want to return time and time.
Best Things to Do in Colorado
1. Explore National Parks
Two of the most alluring things in Colorado are its beautiful landscapes and rich history. There’s no better place to celebrate these things than on land managed by our country’s National Park Service. Colorado is home to four national parks, three national historic sites, five national monuments, one national recreation area, and four national historic trails.
Each of these sites is so different and unique. The state’s four national parks each have stories that will amaze you. Rocky Mountain National Park is home to some of the state and nation’s tallest mountains and abundant wildlife. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park exists to highlight one of our country’s deepest and darkest canyons. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is a remnant of a giant inland sea and some of the dunes left behind today reach heights taller than fifty-story buildings. Mesa Verde National Park gives us some insight into how the ancient people of this region lived long ago.
There’s something for every type of curious traveler at these four parks, but the state’s other National Parks Service sites contain even more thrills. Don’t miss places like Florissant Fossil Beds, Dinosaur, Hovenweep, and Yucca House National Monuments or the National Historic Sites at Bent’s Old Fort, Sand Creek, and Amanche. Outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds will love fishing, hiking, boating, kayaking, windsurfing, paddle boarding, and more at the three reservoirs that make up Curecanti National Recreation Area, too.
Colorado is full of natural beauty and interesting history, and every visitor to the state should immerse themselves in it at these sites.
2. Go Skiing and Snowboarding
When people from outside of Colorado think of Colorado, their minds often first go to skiing and snowboarding – and with good reason. Colorado is home to dozens of world-class ski resorts; many of the resorts and mountains in this great state are considered to be among the best on the planet.
Skiiers and snowboarders flock to Colorado every winter to try out the state’s high- elevation mountains and constant fresh powder. The skiing and snowboarding season is long and intense; it starts in October and some mountains stay open into April and beyond.
Whether you love skiing and snowboarding or not, there’s so much to do in Colorado ski towns in the winter months. The largest and most popular ski resorts support surrounding towns that are full of high-end accommodations, top-notch restaurants and breweries, endless shopping areas, and constant other activities during the peak of the season. Everyone should visit Colorado ski resorts during the skiing and snowboarding season at least once in their lives, and chances are, once you go once, you’ll want to return in future years as well.
3. Enjoy Outdoor Activities
Certainly, outdoor activities in Colorado include the suggestions we’ve already made above – enjoying national parks and immersing oneself in the Colorado skiing and snowboarding scene for a few days or a week or more certainly qualify. However, those opportunities are only the beginning when it comes to outdoor adventures in the Rocky Mountains and in Colorado in general. There’s so much more to try.
What do you want to do? Colorado has it all. Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts will love everything about this great state. Wildlife and beauty are everywhere, and you’ll never run out of outdoor activities to try or new places to explore.
Do you like hiking, mountain biking, road biking, or motorsports? According to a guidebook put out by the state in 2017, Colorado has 39,000 miles of trails within it. That number includes 5,683 miles of hiking trails, 6,821 miles of mountain biking trails, and 1,746 miles of paved bike trails. You’ll never run out of options.
How would you like to soak in some natural hot springs? Colorado has dozens from which to choose. Strawberry Park Hot Springs near Steamboat Springs and Glenwood Hot Springs Pool in Glenwood Springs are two of the state’s most popular, but you could visit a different one each day for an entire month and never visit the same one twice.
Do you like scenic drives? If so, take a drive up Mount Evans, the highest paved road in North America. That’s only the beginning, though – there are over two dozen scenic byways in Colorado. Thirteen of the state’s twenty-six byways have been designated as America’s Byways by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation – more than in any other state.
How about camping? For people looking for overnight outdoor adventures, there are so many opportunities for camping in this state. Colorado State Parks alone offers over 3,900 campsites, and that’s only a small portion of available options – there are even more on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, in National Park Service sites, and in privately owned campgrounds, too.
Looking for somewhere to swim, fish, raft, and boat? Colorado has lots of places for those activities, too. Visit one of the state’s many reservoirs for all of the above, or try one of Colorado’s numerous rivers and streams.
4. Visit Denver
Many people are drawn to Colorado to experience its nature, but what about its cities? There are numerous cities in Colorado that are worth visiting, but the state’s biggest and capitol city, Denver, is a great place to start. The Mile High City has so much to offer residents and visitors and that, in part, explains why it’s expanding so rapidly – its population grows by over one percent each year and has done so consistently for decades.
This city in the middle of Colorado’s Front Range region is big, but not too big. There’s traffic, but not too much, and plenty to do, but not so much that it’s overwhelming. Denver supports teams from the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, and MLS, so there are plenty of sports to enjoy. It’s home to twenty-eight institutions for higher learning and over twenty museums focusing on art, science, history, and more. Since Denver was a planned city, you’ll find lots of parks, pedestrian walkways, and open spaces to enjoy within it.
Denver is full of performing arts venues that attract national and international acts. The city is full of history and culture, and the food and dining options are top-notch and endless. And, Denver loves to party – there are countless events and festivals happening year-round, and you’ll always find something new to check out.
The Mile High City is the perfect place to start your Colorado adventure. Don’t miss it!
5. Discover the History of the West
History buffs will love visiting Colorado because it’s a state that’s especially rich with it. No matter where you go in the state, you’ll hear tales of people and events that happened thousands, hundreds, or dozens of years ago.
You’ll be able to learn about all different eras of geologic, natural, and human history during your visit. Dinosaur fossils and tracks can be spotted and enjoyed in places like Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, Florissant Fossil Beds in Florissant, and Dinosaur National Monument in the northwestern corner of the state. There are geologic wonders all over Colorado, too – many visually document thousands of years of land formation.
As for human history, people wishing to learn more about the Ancestral Puebloans will be amazed by the ancient ruins at Hovenweep and Yucca House National Monuments and at Mesa Verde National Park. Visitors can learn about Colorado’s role in early westward expansion at Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, and can mourn the lives of innocent Native Americans lost at Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. The state’s newest NPS site, Amanche National Historic Site, teaches about Colorado’s role in Japanese internment during WWII as well.
Numerous historical museums exist in Colorado as well if that’s how you like to learn. History Colorado in Denver, the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum in Colorado Springs, the Museum of the Mountain West in Montrose, the South Park City Museum in Fairplay, and the National Mining Hall of Fame in Leadville are all just a few of the many options available.
Further, the Old West is still alive and well in Colorado mining towns, and historic districts in cities both large and small give visitors the opportunity to feel like they are stepping back in time. No matter where you go in Colorado, the history of the West is on full display everywhere you look, and you’ll be richer for having taken the time to learn about it here.
Where to stay in Colorado
Colorado caters to visitors that wish to get to know it, so there are dozens of fantastic accommodations options all over the state. People who enjoy camping, glamping, or staying in cabins will find plenty of those; travelers who like vacation rentals will have countless from which to choose. Further, there are historic hotels, luxury resorts, and other hip properties to consider for vacationers who love traditional hotel stays. Here are a few you’ll want to consider around the state.
- The Broadmoor; Colorado Springs
- The Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center; Aurora
- The Brown Palace Hotel & Spa; Denver
- The Ramble Hotel; Denver
- Hotel Boulderado; Boulder
- The Little Nell; Aspen
- Madeline Hotel & Residences; Telluride
- The Hotel Colorado; Glenwood Springs
- The Sonnenalp; Vail
- The Strater Hotel; Durango
How to Get Around in Colorado
Most visitors to Colorado fly into the state’s main airport: Denver International. However, Denver International Airport isn’t your only option; if you’d rather land closer to your final destination, there are smaller airports all over the state as well. No matter where you land, though, you’ll probably want to rent a car.
Although there is good public transportation in Denver, and you can take shuttles to the ski resorts from the airport, anyone who wishes to really explore the state at his or her own pace will want the freedom that a rental car provides. Fortunately, there are rental car offices at all the state’s airports and many in the towns that you’ll visit, too, so you’ll have many opportunities to rent a vehicle for your Colorado adventures.
Travel Tips Colorado
Colorado is a unique and special place. You’ll feel right at home as soon as you arrive, but there are a few tips that will help you feel comfortable and like a true Coloradan during your stay.
Pack for All Types of Weather
It may be cliche, but Colorado’s saying about the weather is always true: if you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes. It’s always changing in one direction or another, no matter where you are and regardless of the time of year that you visit. Therefore, it’s wise to pack for anything and everything, so you won’t be too cold when the snow starts nor too hot when the sun comes out. Layers are key, and be sure to bring a hat!
Visit More Than One Place
Colorado is diverse. Even though we’re sure you’ll like it all, you’ll surely see that each place you visit within its borders has its own character and vibe. Southwest Colorado is nothing like Denver, and the mountains are nothing like the eastern plains. To really get a feel for Colorado overall, be sure to visit several different places during your stay.
Expect Friendly Folks
For the most part, you’ll find that Coloradans are very friendly. They look forward to meeting you! Don’t be surprised if someone you’ve never met before strikes up a conversation with you and starts asking questions. It may seem like they’re being nosy, but really they’re just curious and outgoing. Be kind, and they’ll be kind right back.
Do Something Adventurous
If you want to fully experience everything Colorado has to offer, be sure to do something adventurous during your visit. As described above, there are so many opportunities to try and to enjoy outdoor adventure and other new-to-you things in the Centennial State, and if you take a step out of your comfort zone, you’ll be sure to enjoy Colorado to the max.
Try the Beer (& Food, Too!)
People who like craft beer and quality food will love their visit to Colorado because the Centennial State is full of both! There’s a wide array of restaurants representing all types of cuisine in Colorado, especially in Denver and in the larger ski towns. Further, don’t miss out on Palisade peaches – they’re one of the state’s best local products – and try some Rocky Mountain oysters, too, if you dare. You can wash it all down with beer from one of the state’s 425 breweries; Colorado has more breweries than any other state in the country.