Colorado’s famed outdoors continue to show off in the town of Fort Collins. Just an hour from Denver International Airport, Fort Collins offers incredible hiking and biking adventures along with vast reservoirs to explore.
Fort Collins was once a military base, but over the years has transformed into a thriving city that maintains much of its heritage and architecture. There is no greater example of this than within its Historic Old Town.
While the city’s University of Colorado University campus provides the city with a lively energy and a vibrant nightlife, one of the most popular things to do in Fort Collins is paying a visit to one of its many craft breweries.
In this post, we'll cover:
12. Colorado State University
Established as an agricultural university in the late 19th century, it should be no shock the Fort Collins’ Colorado State University campus is stunning and well worth exploring.
Aside from getting lost between the floral gardens and old academic buildings, one of the best things to do here is to explore The Oval. Serene and full of century-old elm trees, this is the perfect spot for a picnic. Especially on a crisp fall afternoon.
11. Lory State Park
For leisurely outdoor adventures, a trip to Lory State Park is a must-do. The park offers a range of hiking, biking and horse riding trails for you to enjoy.
Importantly, Lory State Park’s 26 miles of trail never exceed a 12 percent grade. For the uninitiated, that means the trails feature steady inclines, perfect for casual day hikes.
The eastern side of the park offers some of the best views in the area along with access to parts of Horsetooth Reservoir. Come here for some easy kayaking.
If you are looking for a simple overnight trip while in Fort Collins, Lory State Park has several backcountry spots for a beautiful starry night.
10. Fort Collins Municipal Railway
On summer weekends and afternoons, the Fort Collins Municipal Railway runs a restored streetcar through downtown. The Fort Collins Trolley starts off in City Park and ends up on Howes Street, creating the perfect historical activity for families to embark on.
The ride lasts for 30 minutes and is run entirely by a volunteer organization. The trolley, Birney Car 21, is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places, after running between 1919 and 1951.
Since 1984, upon being restored, the trolley returned to action and is a great way to experience Fort Collins like locals did in the first half of the 20th century.
9. 1879 Avery House
Constructed by Franklin and Sara Avery towards the end of the 19th century, this classic house is one of the oldest remaining homes from the early days of Fort Collins. The striking sandstone house received several additions over the years, the highlight of those being the Queen Anna Tower.
Franklin Avery played a huge role in the development of Fort Collins, being the brains behind the city’s wide streets. He founded the First National Bank and was influential in the development of agriculture in northern Colorado.
Although you cannot tour the house’s interior, you can roam the outside of this historic landmark. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, you will be able to see the fountain, carriage house and the Margaret Merrill Memorial Gazebo. The home also features a series of interpretive signs in the garden areas.
8. Gardens on Spring Creek
Focusing on plants found within the Front Range of the Rocky Mountain, the Gardens on Spring Creek are open for the public to explore. Featuring a large area of botanical and community gardens, Spring Creek is one of the most picturesque parts of Fort Collins.
The Gardens on Spring Creek is home to a variety of individual gardens, including the Children’s Garden, Entryway Garden and the Rock Garden, among others.
There are many nature programs designed to further appreciation of the natural world, such as Plant it Forward. While adults will love the Garden to Fork cooking classes.
The fun isn’t just for adults, with several children’s programs like Read and Seed. Throughout the year there are also special events, such as walking tours and the Halloween Enchanted Garden. You can also rent the classroom for personal events, such as birthday parties.
7. Flower Trial Garden
One of the best free activities to do in Fort Collins is to visit the Flower Trial Garden. The annual garden has occurred since 1971 and moved to its current location on Lake and Remington in 2000.
As the name suggests, the garden is a trial put on by horticulture students from the University of Colorado. The trial helps to assess the students’ ability to help different flowers grow in the local climate. The result is a beautiful garden that must be explored.
The months between May and October are the best times to see the gorgeous annuals. Pansies are planted in the fall and can be seen through to the end of spring.
The garden isn’t just for fun, as the university hopes to inspire an appreciation of horticulture, flowers and the ever-changing environment in which we live.
6. Horsetooth Reservoir
To experience some of the best scenery in Fort Collins, then head to the revered Horsetooth Reservoir. Just minutes from the Old Town, the reservoir offers an outdoor paradise to match any in the state of Colorado.
Horsetooth Reservoir has long been loved by locals and ever so slowly travelers are catching on. It is the perfect spot to get out on the water while you are in Fort Collins. You will find plenty of opportunities to fish and swim. While on-water activities like boating, stand-up paddleboarding, sailing and water-skiing are tremendously popular.
If you don’t feel like getting out on the water, then you will find several hiking and mountain bike trails that take you to memorable views. The eastern end of the reservoir has some of the best trails in the region.
5. Fort Collins Museum of Discovery
A combination of two museums, the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, has something for young and old. One museum focuses on the natural and cultural history of Fort Collins. This provides an excellent insight into how Fort Collins grew from a burgeoning military camp into the city you see today, along with a thorough exploration of local flora and fauna found in the region.
The other museum specifically focuses on education and entertaining the young ones. With a view of teaching science in a fun and exciting way, children can learn all about the world through brilliant interactive experiments.
Kids can learn all about the dinosaurs and even how light functions in our world.
4. Horsetooth Mountain Open Space
Found west of the Horsetooth Reservoir, this sprawling open space offers outdoor enthusiasts almost 30 miles worth of hiking, biking and also horseback riding trails.
The land was once a homestead for four prominent families at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, the Horseshoe Mountain Open Space is broken up into three sections named after the homesteaders. That being the Culver, Soderberg and Hughey Open Spaces.
The spectacular ranges don’t dip below 5,000 feet, so immediately you are traveling in the alpine country. There are trails to be found here that suit all ages and abilities, from short treks to multi-day excursions.
For the best vistas, look for trails that offer views to Horsetooth Rock and the Front Range. The trek to Horsetooth Falls is a local favorite.
3. Historic Old Town
If you have ever been to Disney World, then you may have deja vu. After all, Main Street USA was modeled after Fort Collins’ Historic Old Town. Many of the original buildings here remain intact, 28 buildings to be exact, and make you feel like a 19th century pioneer.
Today these ancient brick buildings are home to delightful cafes, art galleries and boutique stores. Along with being one of the best sections of the city to walk on foot, Old Town is home to over 80 restaurants. If you’re ever feeling hungry in Fort Collins, this is the place to go.
2. Cache La Poudre River
As Colorado’s only designated ‘wild and scenic’ river, the Cache La Poudre River is one of the top attractions in Fort Collins. But it isn’t just the river that is highly rated, it is also the drive in. In order to get to Cache La Poudre, visitors have to travel along State Highway 14, a Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway.
Once you are at the river, you have an abundance of choices. Those that love adrenalin and adventure will be happy to know that the rafting along the river is first class. Cache La Poudre has class III and IV rapids.
Those that prefer to stay on steady ground will enjoy fantastic hiking, biking and fishing. While there are several camping spots to enjoy a night under the stars.
1. New Belgium Brewing
Serving Belgian-style brew, New Belgium Brewing is one of the biggest craft breweries in the USA.
One of the best things to do in Fort Collins is embarking on a tour of the facility. Open seven days a week, the 90-minute tour takes you behind the scenes where all the magic happens.
Discover how the process begins, such as the brewing and fermentation process, before seeing the huge conveyor belts transporting the now-bottled beer. End the tour by sampling the brewery’s nine unique blends and limited edition products.