WHY VISIT COLORADO
Prepare for epic mountain ranges, great plains, enchanting national parks, ancient ruins, lively cities, and lavish ski resorts: Colorado will knock your socks off. Known as the Centennial State, Colorado is perhaps most famous for its beautiful Rocky Mountains, which are quite literally the backbone of the state.
Colorado’s capital, Denver, is a city you wish you could move to, set upon high rolling plains with a spectacular mountain backdrop. It’s home to a buzzing arts scene and beautifully restored Victorian architecture. But if you think Denver is cool, wait until you visit hip-and-happening Boulder. Here you can hike towards the famous Flatirons that overlook the city, chill out in one of the city’s parks or cafés, cycle around like a local, enjoy a night out on the Hill amid partying students, or take in one of many film and music festivals.
For pure luxury, grab your platinum card and head to Aspen. The beloved retreat of A-list celebrities and the ultra-wealthy, Aspen boasts first-class ski lodges, luxurious shopping and dining, and a beautiful, redbrick downtown area. If Aspen is a bit too exclusive (or expensive), try Telluride, a picturesque, Old West town turned outdoor Mecca. Ski down fluffy powder in winter, then hike, bike and raft to your heart’s content in summer.
Colorado’s national parks are equally exhilarating. The must-see Rocky Mountain National Park crams in colossal peaks, lush green forests, glistening lakes, and endless meadows. Mesa Verde’s impeccably preserved ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings are a sight to behold, while the mesmerizing high desert of Great Sand Dunes National Park can’t fail to impress.
WHAT TO SEE IN COLORADO
- Denver: the Mile High City is a great mix of western frontier spirit, mountain chic, and good old-fashioned fun. Colorado’s capital was built on gold and silver, and the thrills live on in its historic hub LoDo (Lower Downtown) and Larimer Square, both of which have been renovated with craft breweries, great bars, and cutting-edge cuisine, and trendy retailers. Catch a Colorado Rockies baseball game at the stunning Coors Fields or browse the Native American and Western art at the Denver Art Museum. Denver is a youthful, fun city and has been named one of the best places for singles in America.
- Aspen Snowmass: this well-known ski town started its life as a mining camp. After the 1960s it transformed into one of the world’s premier ski resorts and mountain towns in the world and actually boasts four mountains of terrain. Aspen Snowmass also has world-class music festivals, an unbeatable downtown, and some of the hottest nightlife in the Rockies. Perfect for all seasons, it’s not a cheap place to hang out, but few other mining towns can boast celebrity chefs and six-star lodges.
- Mesa Verde National Park: although most of the famous Native American sites are found to the south in Arizona and New Mexico, a visit to Mesa Verde National Park will give you an excellent immersion into the ancient living off the desert’s indigenous people. The park contains the most impressive cliff dwellings in the entire Southwest, with highlights like Cliff Palace, Square Tower House, and Spruce Tree House. The park covers 52,000 acres so there’s plenty to explore, depending on how deep you want to go down the rabbit hole of ancient Native American culture.
- Great Sand Dunes National Park: a surprising attraction awaits visitors who venture into Colorado’s San Luis Valley. Over millions of years, a seemingly endless amount of sand was pushed up against the slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The result is a massive area of soft sand dunes at the foot of towering 14,000-foot mountains. A joy to play in, the dunes are open to slip, slide and wander around, and during the spring a river actually flows through them, offering a chance to add water to the sandy scene. Hiking and camping are right on the doorstep, and hotels are just down the road in Alamosa.
- Telluride: this Victorian mining town was a rowdy spot back in the 1880s, and went to sleep until someone developed one of North America’s best ski resorts above the town. Its location in a sheer box canyon is nothing short of magical, and the cute old area remains intact and fully restored, awakened from its slumber. Telluride has a superb summer festival schedule and a great range of amenities with only 1,000 residents. Hike from your condo door, sip coffee on Main Street, or admire the sheer peaks and red rock canyons rising around you.
- Boulder: the Republic of Boulder, as this narcissistic city on the Front Range fancies itself, is an oddball mix of hippies, outdoor fanatics, and college students. There’s really no other place like it in Colorado with just the right balance of urban and natural pleasure. It’s got loads of slick cafés, brewpubs, and shops along pedestrian Pearl Street and a lovely walking and biking path along bubbling Boulder Creek. The college scene sprawls along The Hill, and the striking Flatiron’s rock formations create the western border of town home to the University of Colorado. If you like college sports, catch a football game to see the mascot, Ralphie, a real-live buffalo stampede through the stadium followed in tow by her ranch hands.
- Rocky Mountain National Park: while there are millions of wilderness acres protected in Colorado, most of them require a desire to backpack or go backcountry. Rocky Mountain National Park is close enough to Denver to make it the popular choice for travelers with little time to venture by car deep into the Rockies. However, it has 415 square miles of snow-capped peaks, lakes, rivers, meadows, and all the wildlife you’d hope to see so by no means will you feel short-changed. You can hike, bike, fish, and camp, though there are also comfy lodges right on the edge of the park for those who like a hot bath at the end of the day.
- Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre: if you’re an audiophile or just a lover of great music, a visit to Red Rocks should be on your bucket list. With acoustically perfect audio thanks to their unique geography, Red Rocks is as much a fantastic concert venue as it is a beautiful place to hike and enjoy the outdoors. They also show cult-classic films and offer yoga and workout classes throughout the summer.
- Garden of the Gods: a registered National Natural Landmark in Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods has 300′ towering sandstone rock formations set against a backdrop of the snow-capped Pikes Peak and brilliant blue skies. Enjoy trails for biking, horseback riding, and hiking as you take in breathtaking views of the birds, cliffs, and landscapes.
WHEN TO GO TO COLORADO
The best period to visit Colorado is from June to September.
With nearly 300 days of sunshine each year, Colorado’s weather is some of the best in the US to enjoy its outdoor activities. The only real variance in the climate is whether you are in the mountains or elsewhere. In Denver and other cities along the front range of the Rockies, the summer temperatures are dry and hot during that day, rarely breaking 90°F, and mild at night. Humidity is rarely a problem in Colorado, so the heat feels nice. In the mountains, the temperatures hover more around the upper 70s° F during the day and become wonderfully nippy at night. The higher you go in elevation, the cooler the weather.
Powerful afternoon thunderstorms are the norm throughout the state during the summer months from June to September. When fall arrives in late September things cool off quickly. But this is a magical time of year, with daytime highs in the 60s°F through the end of October when winter knocks on the doorstep. From November until April it can snow buckets at any time. Winters in the mountains and along the plains are very cold, occasionally windy, and often snowy. Daytime highs stick around freezing in January and February, dropping below freezing at night. Fall is usually the driest season, and precipitation falls occasionally as either rain or snow most of the year. In general, Colorado is a dry state.
WHAT TO DO IN COLORADO
Catch a concert at Red Rocks
There are outdoor amphitheaters, and then there’s Red Rocks, a venue so perfect people will forgo seeing a band in their hometown just to watch it here. The setting alone would make it among the world’s best venues. It’s encased by red rock walls that look ripped from a Disneyland roller coaster and lead down to the stage and the valley beyond. Those walls create natural acoustics that can’t be recreated indoors. The visual and aural bliss will make every concert you see afterward seem a little dull.
Following is a list of typical festivals and celebrations in Colorado.
- Boulder Creek Festival: each May the hip town of Boulder, Colorado takes a few days off, puts up a load of tents, and throws itself a street party. The entire downtown area around Pearl Street and along bubbling Boulder Creek burst into life, with food vendors, live music, craftspeople, and carnival games. It’s the big event of the year in the Republic of Boulder and usually coincides with the Bolder Boulder, one of America’s best 10-k runs.
- Telluride Bluegrass Festival: bluegrass music and mountains go hand in hand, and the sublime town of Telluride hosts one of America’s most popular bluegrass festivals. Every June, the box canyon reverberates with mandolins, banjos, and guitars for four days of headlining musicians and an overall atmosphere of hearty excitement.
- Fat Tire Bike Week: America’s original and longest-running festival dedicated to the sport of mountain biking takes place in Crested Butte, famous in itself for its mountain biking trails and love of all things with two wheels. In late June, four days of races, workshops, family activities, and other events fill the streets of this small town and its ski resort sponsored by one of Colorado’s most loved breweries.
- Aspen Music Festival: between June and August the glamorous town of Aspen hosts nine weeks of musical concerts featuring over 800 performers. Concerts are held at three different venues, including the historic opera house. Since its first year in 1949, this renowned musical event has been attracting the best classical, jazz, and folk musicians in the world.
- Telluride Film Festival: held each fall over Labor Day in September, the festival has steadily grown into one of America’s premier cinematic events. Celebrities, directors, and film fans pack into the little ski town of Telluride where everything from independent films to monster blockbusters is screened indoors in the historic theater and outdoors at Town Park.
- Great American Beer Festival: Colorado is America’s craft brewing nexus, and the annual craft brew festival in Denver is the country’s main event. Hundreds of small breweries converge at the Denver Convention Center in mid-October for three days of tasting, sharing, and competing for top honors in dozens of beer categories. Loads of fun events featuring food and music are planned around this long weekend of pints.
- Denver Parade of Lights: every December the downtown area of Denver, Colorado lights itself up for the Christmas holiday with a parade of hot air balloon floats, horse-drawn carriage rides, live music, and other festive activities. Lights are strung all over LoDo, creating a truly magical scene in the historic center of the Mile High City.
Food and Wine Classic in Aspen: the ultimate trek for gourmands, the Aspen Food and Wine Festival held annually in June sees top chefs from across the nation bring cooking to life through seminars, panels, and tasting events. They celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2012 with demonstrations and samplings from epicurean masters like Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, and Emeril Lagasse. Save your pennies though, tickets costing a whopping $1500 apiece.
- Frozen Dead Guy Days: if you like weird, you’re in the right place. Every March in Nederland, the town celebrates Grandpa Bredo, their cryogenically frozen mascot who’s turning 109 this year. It’s a festival full of live music, coffin races, ice turkey bowling, a polar plunge, and brain freeze contests.
HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THROUGH COLORADO
Train travel is only a practical option if you are arriving in Denver from somewhere east of Colorado. The Amtrak stops right in the heart of downtown at Union Station. The line goes no further into the mountains but does run north to Boulder and south to Colorado Springs along the front range of the Rockies. The train is reasonably priced and an easy way to get between these three cities, but few use this option.
Long-distance Greyhound buses are a more popular form of transportation because they are cheaper, have better schedules, and cover nearly every town in Colorado and beyond. They are the best way to travel to the small mountain towns in the Rockies if you prefer not to rent a car or are scared to drive the steep inclines. The fares are very cheap and the seats comfortable enough for a few hours.
Only Colorado’s largest cities have extensive public transport systems. Denver has a solid bus network and a light rail line that runs to a few select destinations around the city and its suburbs. There are also local public bus systems in the mountain towns that typically link a ski town like Aspen with neighboring towns down the valley. These buses aren’t of much use to visitors but are popular with residents commuting to work.
Main airports are:
GENERAL INFORMATION ON COLORADO
health tips & vaccination: none
local currency: US Dollar
local time zone: GMT-7 (-6)
electricity: type A and type B (120V – 60 Hz)
WHAT TO DO IN COLORADO
Typical food in Colorado
- Rainbow trout
- Buffalo and Elk steaks
Souvenirs from Colorado
- gold earrings and necklaces
- Native American jewellery
- Navajo rugs and handicrafts such as pottery, wind chimes and wildlife sculptures