Ultimate Colorado Bucket List Experiences

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The Centennial State offers boundless adventures to add to your Colorado bucket list, from conquering fourteeners to exploring underground caverns, wine tasting in quaint mountain towns, relaxing in the hot springs, and soaking up the diverse cultural festivals across the state. This Colorado Bucket List guide covers can’t-miss attractions for travelers seeking thrills outdoors, family-friendly activities, glimpses into local heritage, and everything in between.

TL;DR

  • Colorado offers unique local experiences that will immerse you in the history and culture of The Centennial State.
  • Outdoor adventures abound, with something for everyone: From the hardcore thrill-seeker to the casual nature lover, everyone will enjoy all that Colorado has to offer when it comes to nature.
  • Culinary delights are sure to appeal, and many options are available.
  • The arts and entertainment district offers shops, museums, and various historic destinations.
  • Enjoy all that the state has to offer when it comes to education on the conservation of wildlife.

Local Experiences and Culture

Beyond the natural wonders, Colorado communities host authentic local events that immerse visitors in long-held traditions.

The small mountain arts locale of Loveland celebrates Valentine’s Day in a big way. Here, residents have been hand-stamping romantic cards for 77 years, a practice visitors can partake in at the Loveland Post Office. Over 200 life-size bronze sculptures displayed downtown transform Loveland into an outdoor art gallery. Each February, couples flock here to renew their vows en masse or get married at the largest Valentine’s Day wedding ceremony.

Estes Park Wine and Dine Tours transport visitors through the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park while sampling local wines, craft beers, and spirits between gourmet small plate tastings. These tours showcase Estes Park’s idyllic small-town charm surrounded by stunning alpine scenery.

Music echoes through tiny mountain hamlets during summer concert series featuring local bands, while festivals like Telluride Bluegrass and Jazz Aspen Snowmass bring renowned talent. The Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, held on Sloan’s Lake in Denver, immerses attendees in ancient Chinese traditions with dragon boat races, martial arts demos, and Asian cuisine.

From Ute tribal celebrations to Mexican religious pageants and Greek food festivals to Japanese Obon lantern lightings, Colorado’s diverse cultural events offer visitors windows into traditions from around the world.

Outdoor Adventures

With 58 peaks over 14,000 feet, Colorado is an outdoor playground for hikers and thrill-seekers. The state’s adventurous spirit shines through across 58 fourteeners begging to be summited, rivers ready for rafting, world-class ski resorts, and vibrant cities with chef-driven dining and arts scenes. With boundless blue skies overhead, the hardest part is fitting everything in.

Visitors can conquer fourteeners, hike through wildflower-filled meadows in Rocky Mountain National Park, mountain bike over hundreds of miles of trails, or soak in the geothermal waters of Glenwood Hot Springs. From exploring underground caverns to walking across Colorado’s longest suspension bridge swinging 1,200 feet over the Royal Gorge, the state delivers heart-pounding adventures. Adrenaline junkies can also zipline over the Arkansas River in Canon City or race down the country’s steepest roller coaster in Glenwood Springs.

Yet adventures here satisfy more than thrill-seekers. Craft beer connoisseurs sip their way along the Boulder Ale Trail while foodies indulge in farm-to-table cuisine in intimate restaurants. Quaint mountain towns like Steamboat, Durango, and Aspen each have their own unique flair, with a blend of local shops, art galleries, and historical sites. And cities like Denver and Colorado Springs boast world-class museums and concert venues.

The state’s diverse landscapes, from ancient sand dunes and red rock formations to alpine forests and open meadows, provide unique backdrops for outdoor adventures and inspired arts. Visitors can explore centuries-old Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park and Pueblo petroglyphs, appreciate local Native American culture at festivals like the Southern Ute Bear Dance, browse contemporary galleries in Santa Fe arts enclave town of Crested Butte, and soak up views of one of Colorado’s National Monuments while wine tasting in Grand Junction.

With over 900 trails in Colorado’s state parks ranging from easy strolls to multi-day backpacking challenges, the state delivers boundless outdoor adventures.

Here are some places you may want to add to your outdoor Colorado Bucket List:

  • Emerald Lake
  • Manitou Springs
  • Steamboat Springs
  • The Historic Town of Fort Collins
  • Colorado River and the Arkansas River
  • The Town of Grand Lake
  • Idaho Springs
  • Browns Canyon National Monument
  • Pagosa Springs, surrounded by the San Juan Mountains
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
  • Cherry Creek State Park
  • Trail Ridge Road
  • Castlewood Canyon State Park
  • Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak (The Maroon Bells of the Elk Mountains)
  • Mount Blue Sky (formerly called Mount Evans)
  • Pikes Peak
  • Garden of the Gods
  • Manitou Incline in Manitou Springs
  • Royal Gorge Bridge & Park
  • Hanging Lake

And if you’re really feeling brave, take on each Colorado State Park (there are 42 of them!).

While it may go without saying, it would be a shame not to mention adding a ski trip to your Colorado bucket list. Staying at one of the many ski resorts and experiencing a Colorado Winter trip is a definite must!

With options from family-friendly adventures to heart-pounding thrills, Colorado’s wealth of outdoor and cultural attractions promises experiences to satisfy travelers of all ages and interests.

Culinary Journey

Colorado’s culinary scene reflects the convergence of cultures and traditions woven into the state’s heritage. In Denver, the immigrant-rich neighborhoods of Five Points and Santa Fe Arts District offer a tapestry of Latin, African, Asian and European influences. But you’ll also find unexpected ethnic cuisine popping up in unlikely mountain towns.

Like the Nepali restaurant serving yak momos (dumplings) in Buena Vista, or the intimate Spanish tapas bar tucked down a side alley in Crested Butte. And the award-winning vegan eatery pumping out tofu banh mi sandwiches from its tiny kitchen in ultra-athletic Gunnison.

The state’s rich ranching and agricultural roots also nurture a thriving farm-to-table movement. Menus highlight regional specialties like Palisade peaches, Olathe sweet corn, Rocky Ford cantaloupe, and craft beers featuring Colorado-grown hops.

Food pilgrims can follow destinations like the Boulder Ale Trail, which links microbrew tap rooms peddling small-batch suds, or the Colorado Piedmont Wine Trail winding through orchards and vineyards near Grand Junction and Palisade along the Western Slope.

Epicurean adventures also lead visitors to restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs like James Beard Award winner Alex Seidel in Denver or dig into unexpected Colorado culinary trends like the Korean corn dog craze whipping through ski towns and an exploding assortment of pupuserias dishing up Salvadoran stuffed tortillas.

From high-altitude charcuterie boards to vegan sushi, Colorado’s dining scene nourishes adventure-fueled appetites with global flavors as memorable as the state’s iconic mountain vistas.

Arts and Entertainment

Colorado’s awe-inspiring landscapes, blended cultures and athletic zeal fuel a flourishing creative community breathing life into historic opera halls, indie music venues, world-class museums and galleries that spill canvases into the streets.

The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is the second-largest performing arts center in the nation. Its soaring glass walls house the Colorado Ballet, Opera Colorado, the Colorado Symphony, and Broadway touring productions. Mid-century architectural gems like the Buell Theatre and the Ellie Caulkins Opera House host more intimate concerts and events.

Colorado Springs is also home to its own impressive performing arts scene, with venues like the Ent Center for the Arts and the Colorado Springs Philharmonic Orchestra housed in the striking angular façade of the Pikes Peak Center. Cultural attractions like the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center broaden artistic perspectives with exhibits spanning southwestern heritage to contemporary works. And history comes alive at the local Flying W Ranch dinner theater with chuck wagon meals and Wild West skits performed by frontier characters.

Smaller mountain towns nurture thriving arts colonies, luring visitors to galleries, festivals, and one-of-a-kind events. Like Crested Butte’s wildflower celebrations, where residents don whimsical floral costumes and transform into “Petal Pushers” to parade down Elk Avenue. Or when frozen dead trees light up the snowy forests surrounding the mountain hamlet of Breckenridge during the annual International Snow Sculpture Championships.

From world-class venues to small-town charm, Colorado’s vibrant arts and entertainment scene set stages, galleries, and streets ablaze with creativity against the state’s unmatched mountain backdrop.

Wildlife and Nature Conservation

With over 900 animal species calling Colorado’s varied ecosystems home, visitors discover abundant opportunities to safely view wildlife in their natural habitats across the state’s extensive park and refuge systems.

Younger kids delight in the hands-on science exhibits at the Wow! Children’s Museum in Lafayette and butterfly enclosures in the Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center in Westminster.

At the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, the new Mountaineer Sky Ride offers panoramic views of the zoo’s 169 acres and beyond. Elevated walkways transport guests over the rocky terrain to see bighorn sheep, Amur tigers, and mischievous meerkats eye-to-eye. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s conservation efforts also help protect threatened species like red pandas, spider monkeys, and African penguins.

Nature lovers may glimpse elk, bighorn sheep, black bears, and over 200 bird species in Rocky Mountain National Park or observe wolves, foxes, lynx, and river otters that call the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center near Divide home.

The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center provides a sanctuary for gray wolves, foxes, coyotes, and other rescued animals. Visitors can observe the wildlife residents up close from walking paths and during special photography workshops and “Feeding with the Founders” events.

Garden enthusiasts will marvel at the diversity of ecosystems showcased at Denver Botanic Gardens. Through its certificate program, the Denver Botanic Gardens trains the next generation of horticulturists in rare plant conservation. The Gardens’ living collections represent ecosystems from high-altitude alpine to tropical rainforests. Interactive exhibits in the Science Pyramid educate visitors on critical pollinator conservation efforts.

With travelers increasingly seeking meaningful experiences, supporting Colorado’s wildlife conservation centers and nature preserves helps fund research, breeding, and reintroduction programs that ensure vulnerable species like black-footed ferrets, boreal toads, and pikas thrive for future generations.

Adventure Parks and Recreation

From heart-stopping roller coasters to family-friendly water parks, Colorado’s wealth of amusement and adventure parks deliver gravity-defying thrills.

Adrenaline junkies can zipline over the Royal Gorge at 50 mph while families take tamer rides across the gorge on the Royal Rush Skycoaster swing. At Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, thrill-seekers race down the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster, winding its way down Iron Mountain at a 40% grade, making it North America’s steepest roller coaster. Here, visitors can also soar on the Giant Canyon Swing perched high above Glenwood Canyon and explore glittering grottoes on cave tours.

At Elitch Gardens in downtown Denver, roller coaster fanatics can experience one of the world’s only launches inside a piece of original architecture: the Sidewinder weaving through a 19th-century church. Nearby Lakeside Amusement Park’s classic rides have been entertaining families along the shores of Lake Rhoda since 1908.

Water parks make a splash in Colorado’s high desert, with attractions like Water World’s 50 acres of slides and Surf River wave riders. Bounce City in Aurora spans over 50,000 square feet of wall-to-wall trampolines and ninja warrior courses.

With adventures spanning underground caverns to scream-inducing coasters, Colorado parks deliver heart-pounding thrills from altitude.

Seasonal Events and Festivals

A long growing season nourishes Colorado’s lively festival scene that enlivens mountain towns and Front Range cities with events spanning culinary celebrations, craft fairs, film festivals, and concerts.

As the harvest gets underway, food and wine festivals like the Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade and the annual Food and Wine Classic in Aspen gather top chefs and artisan producers. Beer enthusiasts can sip unlimited samples along the Front Range at events like the Great American Beer Festival and the Falling Rock Tap Takeover during Denver Beer Week.

Summer music series rock mountain towns like Telluride Bluegrass, RockyGrass, Jazz Aspen Snowmass, and the Seven Peaks Festival in Buena Vista. In winter, ski resorts host everything from daredevil snowmobile stunt shows to costumed downhill parades and mountain music concerts.

From funky small-town celebrations like Frozen Dead Guy Days in Nederland to world-class events, including the Boulder International Film Fest, Colorado’s diverse festivals entertain visitors year-round.

FAQ

How To Get Around Colorado Without A Car?

Colorado’s extensive bus and railway networks offer car-free access to adventures via services like Bustang coaches connecting Denver to cities along the Front Range and Winter Park Express train service from Denver to family-friendly winter fun. Many mountain towns also offer free shuttles.

Where To Find The Best Skiing In Colorado?

With over 30 world-class ski resorts spanning glitzy Aspen to laidback Arapahoe Basin and family-friendly Winter Park, the state is a prime winter playground. Annual snow totals averaging 300+ inches combined with thrilling terrain parks, tree skiing, and stunning views make Colorado an iconic ski destination.

What Is There To Do In The Summer?

Warmer months reveal Colorado’s boundless outdoor recreation. Visitors hike through wildflower meadows in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, conquer fourteeners, mountain bike over hundreds of miles of trails, paddle Class IV rapids, and relax in hot springs.

Shannon-Persad

About the author

Shannon Persad

As a seasoned journalist and Colorado native, I bring a deep-rooted connection and comprehensive understanding of Colorado to my work at ReadyColorado.com. My appreciation for the state’s rich history, vibrant culture, and pressing environmental issues drives my commitment to exploring its evolving landscape—from the bustling urban centers to the tranquil mountain towns.