Exploring Fort Collins: A Hidden Gem in Colorado


Fort Collins, Colorado, offers visitors gorgeous natural scenery, a vibrant arts scene, family fun, and no shortage of craft beer.


  • Fort Collins is a popular base for outdoor recreation like hiking and biking with cultural attractions like local breweries and festivals.
  • The city provides a jumping-off point for scenic drives into the mountains and exploring iconic Colorado routes.
  • Seasonal events and activities make Fort Collins an attractive destination year-round.

Destination Overview

Fort Collins lies along Colorado’s Front Range, just 60 miles north of Denver, against a backdrop of 14,000-foot peaks. Its proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park and Roosevelt National Forest has earned it the nickname “Gateway to the Rockies.”

Located in Fort Collins, Colorado, Colorado State University (CSU) stands out as a prominent public research institution within the state. Renowned for its excellence in fields such as agriculture, veterinary medicine, engineering, and environmental science, Colorado State University upholds a legacy of academic prowess and innovation.

Outdoor enthusiasts are drawn to the hiking and biking trails that wind through the foothills and along the Cache La Poudre River. The downtown area boasts a vibrant arts and entertainment scene, complete with local eateries, shops, galleries, and numerous craft breweries.

Fort Collins offers visitors an authentic small-town feel combined with outdoor adventures, from rafting and fishing to downhill and cross-country skiing. The area provides easy access to drives like the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway and Trail Ridge Road, perfect for leaf peeping.

Local Experiences and Culture

Fort Collins exudes Colorado charm with a pedestrian-friendly downtown dotted with locally owned boutiques, bookstores, and restaurants. Visitors can shop for arts and crafts at the Foothills Mall or peruse the Farmer’s Market for fresh produce and baked goods.

The city comes alive for annual events like the Colorado Brewer’s Festival and the Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest music festival. Fans of performing arts can catch live music at the Lincoln Center and play at the Bas Bleu Theatre. The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery offers family-friendly exhibits and programs year-round.

Visitors can embrace the friendly local lifestyle by chatting with the artists and brewers who call Fort Collins home. Strolling Old Town Square is one of the best ways to enjoy the small-town ambiance and soak in the culture.

Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Drives

Surrounded by 1.6 million acres of national forest, Fort Collins is one of the best places in Colorado for outdoor recreation. Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park sit just 30 miles away. Adventurers can challenge themselves on the steep switchbacks of Trail Ridge Road or take in the fall foliage along the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway.

Closer to home, visitors will find miles of hiking and biking trails winding through the foothills. Horsetooth Mountain Open Space offers stunning views, while Lory State Park boasts gently sloped trails perfect for families. After working up an appetite, rafters, and kayakers can grab a bite in downtown Fort Collins before heading back out on the Cache La Poudre River.

For those looking to summit a 14er, the Fort Collins area offers easy access to Cameron Pass, Trail Ridge Road, and Rocky Mountain National Park for ascending peaks like Longs Peak and Mount Meeker. Winter visitors can ski at Eldora Mountain Resort just 21 miles away, or snowshoe through the Roosevelt National Forest.

Seasonal Attractions and Events

Each season in Fort Collins brings its own special charm. As the aspens turn gold in September, visitors flock to Lory State Park and Horsetooth Mountain Open Space for the best fall hikes. Families enjoy hayrides, corn mazes, and pumpkin patches at local farms like Berry Patch Farms and Anderson Farms.

The city sparkles during the winter holidays with light displays, ice skating, and seasonal festivals. In January, ice climbers test their mettle at the Ouray Ice Festival while skiers and snowboarders hit the slopes at Eldora Mountain Resort.

Spring offers budding greenery and wildflowers, perfect for mountain biking or scenic drives. From June through August, rafting and kayaking reach their peak along the Cache La Poudre River. Visitors can also attend summer events like the Bohemian Nights Music Festival or the Colorado Brewer’s Festival.

Family and Educational Experiences

Fort Collins offers families plenty of kid-friendly attractions, like hands-on science exhibits at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery and the Butterfly Pavilion. The city’s trail system provides easy hiking and biking opportunities, especially around Horsetooth Reservoir.

Young visitors can attend summer camps focused on science, technology, arts, and the outdoors at locations like the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. Families can also learn about local history and culture at the Fort Collins Museum of Art and the Global Village Museum of Arts and Cultures.

The Little Red Schoolhouse gives kids a glimpse of early 20th-century education, while the Farm at Lee Martinez Park demonstrates daily farm life. Nearby ranches allow visitors to interact with horses, cows, chickens, and other farm animals.

Local Gastronomy and Breweries

Fort Collins is a paradise for craft beer lovers, with over 20 breweries located downtown. Establishments like New Belgium, Odell, and Equinox get visitors’ pint glasses overflowing with IPAs, stouts, sours, and more. Beer fans can explore them all on the Fort Collins Ale Trail.

The city’s dining scene offers farm-to-table cuisine, with many restaurants sourcing ingredients from local producers. Foodies can sample inventive dishes made with regional flavors at eateries like The Regional, Blue Agave Grill, and Jax Fish House. Culinary highlights include bison, elk, Rocky Mountain trout, Palisade peaches, and Olathe sweet corn.

Visitors can taste local specialties by embarking on a food tour from companies like Northern Colorado Food Tours. These tours stop at beloved institutions like the historic diner The Silver Grill Cafe, which has been serving up stick-to-your-ribs breakfasts since 1933.

Arts and Entertainment

Fort Collins celebrates visual and performing arts in venues across town. The Fort Collins Museum of Art houses rotating fine art exhibits, while the Bas Bleu Theatre Company performs contemporary plays. Music fans can purchase tickets to the Fort Collins Symphony as well as Broadway musicals at the Lincoln Center.

Smaller galleries and cooperatives like the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art provide more intimate settings to peruse works from local artists. On the first Friday of every month, visitors can gallery hop as downtown establishments throw open their doors for the Fort Collins Art Walk.

The historic Aggie Theater and Washington’s FoCoMX festival deliver plenty of live music. Comedy fans get their fix at the Improv Comedy Theater and Club. For performing arts, Midtown Arts Center provides musical theater productions in an antique mall, while the University Center for the Arts brings in ballet, opera, and orchestra performances, as well as guest lecturers.

Planning Your Visit

Spring and fall tend to be the most pleasant seasons for visiting Fort Collins. Average highs reach 65-85°F from May to October, perfect weather for biking, hiking, rafting, and patio dining. Be sure to book accommodations well in advance for popular events.

Getting to Fort Collins is easy via the Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport or Denver International Airport, located 60 miles away. Free public transportation like the FLEX bus system makes getting around town a breeze.

Visitors can pick up maps and brochures at the Fort Collins Visitor Center while enjoying panoramic views from atop the Colorado Building. Expert staff help customize itineraries and recommend the best things to see and do.


What is the best time of year to visit Fort Collins?

Late spring through early fall provides the most pleasant weather and accessibility for outdoor recreation. Summertime offers cultural festivals and events combined with peak rafting and kayaking conditions.

Where are the best areas to see fall foliage?

The most vibrant fall colors happen along scenic drives like Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park and the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway west of Fort Collins. Popular hikes include Lory State Park and Arthur’s Rock Trail.

What is there to do with kids in Fort Collins?

Top family-friendly activities include exploring hands-on science exhibits at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, hiking easy trails around Horsetooth Reservoir, and interacting with farm animals at city parks or nearby ranches.

Where can I sample local craft beer in Fort Collins?

With over 20 breweries in downtown alone, Fort Collins is a craft beer mecca. Top picks include New Belgium, Odell, and Equinox Brewing. Visitors can explore them all by following the Fort Collins Ale Trail.

What is the best way to experience the local arts and culture scene?

Art lovers shouldn’t miss the Fort Collins Museum of Art, Gregory Allicar Museum of Art, and Bas Bleu Theatre Company. The Fort Collins Art Walk offers a fun way to gallery hop on the first Friday of each month.


About the author

Ransom Patterson

My expertise in Colorado life extends beyond just residing here; it’s also about living actively within the community. I spend my time cycling through Denver’s trails, experimenting with local cuisines, and immersing myself in the local music scene. These activities give me a unique perspective on the cultural and outdoor offerings of Colorado. This hands-on approach allows me to provide insider tips and personal recommendations that resonate with both locals and visitors alike.