Tucked up against the spectacular foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Fort Collins is a lively university town with a thriving beer culture and deep history. Foodies will relish seasonal, locally-sourced menus while craft beer connoisseurs might have a tough time choosing between several fantastic breweries. History and architecture buffs might favor the historic downtown district, and outdoor enthusiasts won't hesitate to enjoy more than 285 miles of trails and mountain biking paths. Whether you're headed north to Wyoming or south to the Mile High City, it's worth an overnight stay to explore some of the many things to do in Fort Collins, Colorado.
The only original city streetcar still operating in the Western U.S. is Birney Car 21 near Old Town. The Fort Collins Municipal Railway Society works with the local museum to preserve the electric railway line as part of the city's living history. Completely staffed by volunteers, the trolley runs for a small fee on summer weekends and holidays. The three-mile round trip travels along Mountain Avenue from City Park, through a lush suburban neighborhood, and ends just a few blocks from the Old Town District before returning. The historic Avery House and St. Joseph's Catholic Church are steps from the final stop, as is the eatery and brewery-laden College Ave.
Located along the foothills to the west, Fort Collins' first public works project sits on 26 acres of historic property. A guided tour provides access to old buildings and beautiful scenery, as well as portions of the Overland and Cherokee Trails. A marvel of its time, the original Gothic Revival-style pump house is a spectacular sight, inspiring numerous paintings by local artist, Carl Judson. Wander the picturesque grounds after the tour, stopping for a few selfies beside the cottonwood trees and irrigation canal. The facility hosts an open house every second Saturday of the month from May to October. Admission is free, but a donation is recommended.
The historic Avery House is the stunning former residence of the original town surveyor, Franklin Avery, and his family. The Fort Collins resident originally built the home in 1879, and the Averys continued to occupy the house for almost another 100 years. Several additions, including the distinctive Queen Anne tower, were constructed over the years to give the red sandstone structure its recognizable silhouette. Admire the historic costume collection before heading to the gazebo and carriage house to enjoy some fresh air. Tours are available during summer weekends for a small fee; be sure to check online for more details.
Fort Collins' Old Town is a living time capsule, with more than 1800 registered historic buildings and homes within its boundaries. The main shopping avenue, home to small niche and antique businesses, is also an inspiration for Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A. For a modest fee, you can take a guided tour of Haunted Old Town. You'll have access to restricted basements and underground areas with backstory into local urban legends. Pick up a Fort Collins Visitors Guide to find local art projects, well-known architecture, and even old ghost signs on self-guided walking tours. Afterward, relax at a restaurant or café to people-watch or catch a free, live performance at the summer concert series.
The Soapstone Prairie Natural Area is a wide-open landscape with an astounding comeback story. Fort Collins purchased the land in 2004; since then, the city has done a phenomenal job of conserving the environment and reintroducing native species into the ecosystem. The open space is 28 square-miles of native grasslands and shrubbery, with trails ranging from a quarter of a mile to miles-long hiking and biking paths. Photograph the wildflowers in the spring, or the majestic Yellowstone Buffalo saved from the brink of extinction. You may also catch glimpses of deer, black-footed ferrets, and migrating birds, so don't forget your binoculars.
Stunning, snow-covered landscapes and exciting cold-weather adventures make Fort Collins one of the best wintertime destinations. The same picturesque biking trails you love to ride during the summer are also accessible in the snow on fat-tire bikes. If you're feeling bold, rent some gear for snowshoeing in Poudre Canyon. The Mineral Springs Gulch Trail is excellent for beginners, and the nearby Shambhala Mountain Center is a peaceful departure from the modern world. Hike to the stupa for some silent reflection, or stay for a retreat with someone special. After a long trek in the cold outdoors, head into town for some warm comfort food or a hot chocolate.
Whether you enjoy walking with your pooch or cruising on a bicycle, there's a trail in Fort Collins waiting to take you into the wilderness. Cycling enthusiasts have the option to take advantage of Pace, a bike-sharing system that lets renters park at any local bike rack 24/7. Tour local breweries for an afternoon, or pedal your way through a self-guided flower garden tour at Colorado State University. Serious mountain bikers may wish to contact the Fort Collins Cycle Club for information on moderate or experienced trail group rides.
A lack of pet-friendly accommodations can sometimes make or break a travel destination. Luckily, Fort Collins is home to several establishments that welcome furry friends when you're ready to trade natural open spaces for delicious eateries, bustling breweries, or comfortable and historic hotels. Multiple off-leash dog parks in the area give you a chance to let your companion run free, with Spring Canyon Park being a favorite among the locals. Tunnel obstacles, a doggie pond, and shared tennis balls make for a destination your pooch won't want to leave.
The parks in and around Fort Collins set the bar high when it comes to vacationing for nature lovers. Mountain biking enthusiasts will love the endless paths and scenic routes through the foothills at Devil's Backbone or Horsetooth Reservoir. Cache la Poudre River Canyon is one of Colorado's most precious reserves with majestic cliffs, verdant landscapes, and impressive rock formations abound. Camp near this nationally designated Wild and Scenic River to practice a wide range of water sports from fly-fishing to whitewater river rafting. Highway 14, leading into Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest, is a Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway. Drive along this picturesque route past beautiful canyons and forests, and don't forget to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy with the breathtaking views.
Fort Collins is the Craft Beer Capital of Colorado. The beer culture arising from the region's hefty production not only makes it a prime destination for beer enthusiasts, it's also a great place to learn more about the brewing process and to develop a more refined palate for beer tasting. All breweries in Old Town are accessible on a self-guided walking tour, while Brewery Row along College Ave is four miles of distinct restaurants and microbreweries. The Anheuser-Bush Brewery Experience is essential for fans of Budweiser, while the South FoCo Breweries are amongst a wide range of new businesses, hotels, and eateries in the area. You can tour many Fort Collins breweries by bus, a guided bike tour, or with a designated driver.