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No matter what you like to do, see, or experience, Colorado is one of the best places to visit in the country at any time of year.
There are options to suit various interests 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 enjoy all of the above when you visit Colorado.
Read on for 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 the National Parks
- 2. Go Skiing and Snowboarding
- 3. Enjoy Outdoor Activities
- 4. Visit Denver
- 5. Discover the History of the West
- Where to stay in Colorado
- How to Get Around in Colorado
- Travel Tips for Visiting Colorado
- Pack for All Types of Weather
- Visit More Than One Place
- Expect Friendly Folks
- Do Something Adventurous
- Try the Beer (& Food, Too!)
Best Things to Do in Colorado
1. Explore the National Parks
Colorado’s beautiful landscapes and rich history are two of the most alluring things. There’s no better place to celebrate these things than on land managed by our country’s National Park Service.
Colorado has 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, Yucca House National Monuments, or the National Historic Sites at Bent’s Old Fort, Sand Creek, and Amanche.
Outdoor enthusiasts will love fishing, hiking, boating, kayaking, windsurfing, paddle boarding, and more at the three reservoirs that make up Curecanti National Recreation Area. 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 outside 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 resorts and mountains in this great state are considered 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 or snowboarding, there’s so much to do in Colorado ski towns in the winter months. Some of our favorites are Breckenridge and Aspen.
The largest and most popular ski resorts support surrounding towns full of high-end accommodations, top-notch restaurants and breweries, endless shopping areas, and constant other activities during the season’s peak.
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 of outdoor adventures in the Rocky Mountains and Colorado. 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, drive up Mount Evans, the highest paved road in North America. That’s only the beginning, though – Colorado has over two dozen scenic byways.
Thirteen of the state’s twenty-six byways have been designated 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 many camping opportunities 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.
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 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? Numerous cities in Colorado are worth visiting, but the state’s biggest capital, Denver, is a great place to start.
The Mile High City has so much to offer residents and visitors, which partly 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 – countless events and festivals are 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 the 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 state’s northwestern corner.
There are also geologic wonders all over Colorado – 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.
Colorado has numerous historical museums 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 options.
Further, the Old West is still alive and well in Colorado mining towns, and historic districts in cities, both large and small, allow visitors 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 who wish to get to know it, so there are dozens of fantastic accommodation 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 choices.
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. No matter where you land, 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 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 towns you’ll visit, too, so you’ll have many opportunities to rent a vehicle for your Colorado adventures.
Travel Tips for Visiting Colorado
Colorado is a unique and special place. You’ll feel right at home as soon as you arrive, but a few tips 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 it, 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 or 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 character and vibe.
Southwest Colorado is nothing like Denver, and the mountains are nothing like the eastern plains. To 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 has a conversation with you and starts asking questions.
It may seem like they’re being nosy, but 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 enjoy outdoor adventure and other new-to-you things in the Centennial State. 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! A wide array of restaurants represent all types of cuisine in Colorado, especially in Denver and 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.
- About the Author
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Christy is was born and raised in upstate New York but she has lived in Denver, Colorado for the past decade with her partner, Billy, and their cat, Lucy. Traveling is her favorite thing to do in the whole world, but she also loves writing, reading, being outdoors, seeing live music, cooking, creating art in many mediums, napping, spending time with friends and family, and laughing heartily as often as possible.