Bargaining is not typical in Colorado. The only time you might hear haggling is at fairs, farmers markets or flea markets; if it does happen, the exchange is low-key and polite.
Dangers & Annoyances
- Like all urban areas, Colorado's cities have occasional crime and mishaps; common sense and awareness of your surrounding are the best way to steer clear of problems.
- Most traffic mishaps on the highway are due to driving too fast, especially in bad weather and in vehicles without sufficient traction.
- On trails and in the mountains, be sure to bring plenty of water and heed all warning signs (including weather reports and area closures, especially at ski resorts).
- In wildlife areas, follow instructions for what to do if you encounter animals.
Visitors to Colorado should look into all the standard national and international discount cards – you can find all sorts of ways to shave costs off hotel rooms, meals, rental cars, museum admissions and just about anything else that can be had for a price.
- Ask for a student discount whenever booking a room, reserving a car or paying an entrance fee.
- Discounts will generally be only 10% or so, but sometimes as much as 50%.
- Full-time students should consider buying a Student Advantage Card (www.studentadvantage.com) or an International Student Identity Card (www.isiccard.com).
- Always carry your proof of student status.
- Non-students up to 30 years old can get the International Youth Travel Card (www.isic.org), which offers similar benefits to the ISIC student card.
Seniors (Over 62)
- Ask for a senior discount whenever booking a room, reserving a car or paying an entrance fee.
- Discounts will generally be only 10% or so, but sometimes as much as 50%.
- Consider buying an America the Beautiful Senior Pass ($90; http://store.usgs.gov/pass), which is valid for the lifetime of the pass owner and offers 50% discounts on fees such as camping on federal recreational lands.
- Always carry proof of age.
Travelers between the ages of 50 and 62 should contact the American Association of Retired Persons (www.aarp.org) for travel discounts, which are typically 10% to 25% off hotels, car rentals, entertainment etc.
Card-carrying members of automobile associations are entitled to travel discounts. AAA has reciprocal agreements with several international auto associations, so bring your membership card from home.
Other people whose status might lead to discounts are US military personnel and veterans, travelers with disabilities, children, business travelers and foreign visitors. These discounts may not always be advertised – it pays to ask.
- Discount coupons can be found at every tourist locale. They always have restrictions and conditions, so read the fine print. Some are hardly worth the effort, but scour tourist information offices and highway welcome centers for brochures and fliers, and you’ll find a few gems.
- For online hotel coupons, browse www.hotelcoupons.com.
Embassies & Consulates
While there are no embassies in Colorado, a handful of countries have consulates or honorary consuls in the state; each offers a different level of assistance to travelers. Check out www.consularcorpscolorado.org for contact information.
International travelers who want to contact their home country’s embassy while in the US should visit www.embassy.org, which lists contact information for all foreign embassies in Washington, DC.
Emergency & Important Numbers
All phone numbers have a three-digit area code followed by a seven-digit local number. For long-distance and toll-free calls, dial 1 plus all 10 digits.
|International dialing code||011|
|Directory assistance (local)||411|
Entry & Exit Formalities
- Every foreign visitor entering the USA needs a passport valid for at least six months longer than the intended stay.
- Apart from most Canadian citizens and those under the Visa Waiver Program (https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta), all visitors need to obtain a visa from a US consulate or embassy abroad.
- For a complete list of US customs regulations, visit the official website for US Customs & Border Protection (www.cbp.gov).
All foreign visitors must have a visa to enter the USA unless they are Canadian citizens or part of the Visa Waiver Program.
- How to Dress Jeans, yoga pants and puffy jackets are all part of Colorado's casual uniform. For special nights, wear cowboy boots or high heels.
- General Conversations Use tact when talking about politics or football – it is a purple (and blue and orange) state, after all.
- Talking About Colorado Don't compare anything in Colorado to something in the Midwest. Or California. Those are sore spots (for different reasons).
Gay & Lesbian Travellers
Colorado is very much a mixed bag for gay and lesbian travelers. In general cities and college towns have more progressive attitudes – Denver especially has a thriving gay and lesbian scene.
Some other areas in the state are characterized by conservative attitudes and old-school ideas of machismo. The more affluent ski areas and artsy communities are less uptight about same-sex relationships, but you still couldn't mistake the region for San Francisco.
For the latest news, events and goings-on in Denver, Boulder and beyond, check out the online edition of Out Front Colorado (www.outfrontonline.com), Out Boulder County (www.outboulder.org), and the website of The Center (www.glbtcolorado.org), the largest LGBT community center in the Rocky Mountain region.
Good national guidebooks include Damron Women’s Traveller, Damron Men’s Travel Guide and Damron Accommodations, with listings of gay-owned or gay-friendly accommodations nationwide. All three are published by Damron (www.damron.com).
Another good resource is the Gay & Lesbian Yellow Pages, a directory of LGBTQ-friendly businesses in select cities.
Finally, if you believe you've been the target of discrimination or a hate crime, contact the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and/or Lambda Legal, both national organizations dedicated to protecting LGBTQ civil rights.
No matter how long or short your trip, make sure you purchase adequate travel insurance before departure.
Consider coverage for luggage theft or loss and for trip cancellation. If you already have a homeowner’s or renter’s policy, see what it will cover and consider getting supplemental insurance to cover the rest. If you’ve prepaid a large portion of your trip, cancellation insurance is a worthwhile expense. A comprehensive travel insurance policy that covers all these things can cost up to 10% of the total cost of your trip.
If you will be driving, it’s essential that you have liability insurance. Car-rental agencies offer insurance that covers damage to the rental vehicle and separate liability insurance, which covers damage to people and other vehicles. Most major credit cards also provide some level of insurance for rentals.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
- Accommodations, cafes, restaurants, bars etc that provide guest computer terminals for going online are identified by the internet icon; the wi-fi icon indicates that wireless access is available. There may be a fee for either service.
- Free or fee-based wi-fi hot spots can be found at major airports. Virtually all hotels and motels in Colorado offer wi-fi; many tourist information centers, museums, bars and restaurants offer it, too.
- Free public wi-fi is proliferating. Even some state parks are now wi-fi–enabled.
- To find more public wi-fi hot spots, search www.wififreespot.com.
- Public libraries have internet terminals (online time may be limited, advance sign-up required and a nominal fee charged for out-of-network visitors) and free wi-fi access.
- People arrested for a serious offense in the US have the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney and the right to make one phone call. They are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
- International visitors who are arrested and don’t have a lawyer or family member to help should call their country's embassy or consulate.
Recreational pot has been legal in Colorado since 2014, but you can’t just roll a joint and start puffing away on the street. Here's how the rules break down:
- You must buy cannabis from a dispensary, not some random in a bar. Only licensed dispensaries may legally sell marijuana.
- You must be 21+ to purchase marijuana products, and will be asked at the dispensary door to show a government-issued ID.
- Adults can possess up to one ounce (28g) of cannabis products at a time; lower limits for out-of-towners have been removed.
- You can 'gift' up to an ounce of recreational bud to another adult as long as it's done in-state.
- Most dispensaries are cash-only. Some have ATMs on-site.
- It’s illegal to transport pot across state lines, and it is not allowed in airports.
- Do not mail marijuana in any form. It can be considered a federal offense.
- It's illegal to drive with an open container of Mary Jane in your car. The definition of 'open container,' however, is vague; to be safe, put your dime bag in the trunk (or, in a hatchback, behind the back seats).
- It's illegal to smoke, vape or use cannabis edibles in public areas, including parks, sidewalks, alleys, restaurants, bars and even inside dispensaries. Federal properties, like national parks, also are off-limits.
- It's illegal to use it in your car or in a taxi, regardless if you're a passenger. Driving while high can be prosecuted like a DUI.
- You can consume MJ in specially designated limousines or buses, like the ones used for cannabis tours.
- You can light up in your house or in someone else’s house, as long as it's in an area not visible to the public (like a front porch).
- Some hotels allow marijuana smoking in certain rooms, and even cater to pot-tourists; be sure to ask in advance.
- In late 2016, Denver voters approved the creation of 'social clubs' to address the lack of public places to legally use pot, especially for visitors. Look for them to start opening once the city council hammers out the necessary regulations.
For up-to-date information on everything related to Colorado cannabis, check out the following:
- The Cannabist (www.thecannabist.co)
- Colorado Pot Guide (www.coloradopotguide.com)
Possession of any kind of illicit drug – including cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, heroin, hashish, methamphetamines or more than one ounce of cannabis – is a felony potentially punishable by lengthy jail sentences. For foreigners, conviction of any drug offense is grounds for deportation.
ATMs are widely available. Credit and debit cards are accepted by most businesses.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Generally, tipping is expected in restaurants and bars, and anytime a service has been provided. Specifically:
- Bars $1 per drink
- Guides 15–20% of the cost of the tour
- Luggage Attendants $1–2 per suitcase
- Restaurants 15–20% of the bill
- Spas 20% of the treatment
- Taxis 10–15% of the fare
High-season hours follow. In rural areas, many businesses close on Sunday.
- Banks 8:30am–5pm Monday to Friday, 9am–noon on Saturday
- Bars & Pubs 4pm–midnight, to 2am on Friday and Saturday
- Businesses 9am–5pm Monday to Friday
- Restaurants Breakfast 7am–10:30am (weekend brunch 9am–2pm); lunch 11:30am–2:30pm; and dinner 5–9:30pm, later on weekends
- Stores 10am–6pm Monday to Saturday, noon–5pm Sunday; shopping malls often extend to 8pm or 9pm
- Supermarkets 7am–9pm; most cities have 24-hour supermarkets
No matter how much people like to complain, the US Postal Service (www.usps.com) provides great service for the price. Check the website for locations throughout the state.
Private shippers such as United Parcel Service (www.ups.com) and Federal Express (www.fedex.com) are useful for sending more important or larger items.
- New Year’s Day January 1
- Martin Luther King Jr Day Third Monday of January
- Presidents' Day Third Monday of February
- Easter March or April
- Memorial Day Last Monday of May
- Independence Day July 4
- Labor Day First Monday of September
- Columbus Day Second Monday of October
- Veterans Day November 11
- Thanksgiving Fourth Thursday of November
- Christmas Day December 25
- Smoking cigarettes is banned at all workplaces, including bars and restaurants.
- Private residences and automobiles are exempt unless used for child day-care.
- Some hotels/motels and other businesses may have designated smoking rooms or areas.
- Local governments may have stricter smoking regulations than the state government.
- Keep in mind that there are even more rules related to smoking cannabis.
|Area codes in Colorado||303, 719, 720, 970|
|International access code||011|
Coverage can be unreliable in mountain regions. SIM cards are readily available in large stores like Walmart or Target.
- A prepaid SIM card can be cheaper than using your home network. Check with your carrier about rates before making calls.
- There are plenty of holes in coverage around the area; don’t assume you’ll have reception, particularly when between cities.
Colorado is on Mountain Standard Time (MST), seven hours behind GMT/UTC. Colorado switches to Mountain Daylight Time, one hour later, from the second Sunday of March to the first Sunday of November.
|Denver||GMT/UTC minus 7 hours||noon|
|Washington, DC||GMT/UTC minus 5 hours||2pm|
|London||GMT/UTC plus 0 hours||7pm|
|Cairo||GMT/UTC plus 2 hours||9pm|
|Tokyo||GMT/UTC plus 9 hours||4am|
- Parks and wildlife areas often have basic bathrooms near the parking lot (think composting toilets or porta-potties); if there's a visitor center, head inside for flushing toilets.
- In cities, public toilets are harder to find. Look for them in gas stations, public libraries, department stores and supermarkets.
Bureau of Land Management Colorado Provides information on historic sites, trails, and more.
Camping USA A great resource, with more than 12,000 campgrounds in its database.
Colorado Parks & Wildlife Manages 42 state parks and more than 300 wildlife areas; handles reservations for campgrounds.
Colorado Road & Traffic Conditions Provides up-to-date information on Colorado highway and traffic conditions, including cycling maps.
Colorado Travel & Tourism Authority Offers detailed information on sights, activities and more throughout the state.
Travel with Children
With amazing mountain trails, ghost towns, hands-on museum exhibits and interactive art spaces, river rafting and some of the country's best family-friendly skiing and cycling, traveling families are spoiled for options in Colorado. The endless blue skies, fresh air, archaeological ruins and wild country do wonders to detach kids from their tablets, cell phones and iPods.
Best Regions for Kids
- Front Range
Museums and amusement parks are the main kid-friendly attractions in the Front Range. Numerous city parks and day-trips to the mountains make for fun family outings.
- Central Colorado
Ski resorts bring family fun year-round in Central Colorado – from snowboarding and outdoor adventure parks to bike trails and white-water rafting.
- Northern Colorado
It's all about the great outdoors in Northern Colorado – moose and elk herds at Rocky Mountain National Park and T rex bones at Dinosaur National Monument. There's a great ski school at Steamboat, too.
- Southwest Colorado
Explore cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park and take the whole fam mountain biking in Fruita.
- Southeast Colorado
A mix of city and outdoors options makes the Southeast an easy go-to for family travel: camp at the Great Sand Dunes National Park, feed giraffes at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo or stroll through the Garden of the Gods.
Colorado for Kids
In Colorado’s main cities, junior travelers should head for the many hands-on science museums, playgrounds, theme parks and family-fun centers, as well as the main attraction of wide-open spaces.
Denver, despite being the state capital, sets the tone as a truly outdoorsy city, with miles of cycling and walking trails, riverside parks and gardens and outdoor events and theme parks. Beyond the capital there are historic railroads to ride, canyons and peaks to climb and old Western towns to explore.
Most national and state parks have some kid-oriented exhibits, trails and programs. Join organized wildlife-spotting tours in the parks and reserves, or hook a trout in a tumbling mountain river. Tubing and rafting on some of these rivers is as exhilarating for kids as it is for parents, and camping and hiking opportunities abound.
The family-friendly icon is used in our listings to denote places that cater to families.
Festivals & Events
- Boulder Creek Hometown Festival (Boulder) Pie-eating contests, the Great Zucchini Race and a kid-friendly 5K race.
- Cherry Creek Arts Festival (Denver) Three days of food, fun and arts.
- Great Fruitcake Toss (Colorado Springs) The cake that flies the furthest wins!
- Hot Air Balloon Festival & Art in the Park (Steamboat Springs) Dozens of colorful balloons fly high above as an arts-and-crafts show unfolds below.
- International Snow Sculpture Championship (Breckenridge) Watch snow art being made and vote for the best in show.
- Lights of December (Boulder) A classic Christmas parade.
- Ouray Ice Festival (Ouray) Four days of climbing competitions, plus an awesome ice-climbing wall for kids to scramble on.
- Strawberry Days (Glenwood Springs) A fun, long-running, community festival.
- Buell Children’s Museum (Pueblo) Classic cars, bridges, jellyfish, fairy lands and more…
- Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave (Golden) For the young cowboys and cowgirls.
- CU Wizards (Boulder) Monthly science shows at Boulder’s university.
- Children’s Museum (Denver) Engaging exhibits and activities, including cooking classes.
- Denver Art Museum (Denver) Hands-on exhibits highlight world-class art.
- Denver Museum of Nature & Science (Denver) The IMAX Theater and Planetarium are always a hit.
- Fiske Planetarium (Boulder) Spectacular shows on a 65ft-diameter dome ceiling.
- Manitou Penny Arcade (Manitou Springs) Introduce the next generation to the last generation’s games.
- Morrison Natural History Museum (Morrison) Guided tours of spectacular dinosaur bones, most found nearby.
- Overdrive Raceway (Colorado Springs) Two-story indoor race track delights kids (and big kids) alike.
- Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience (Cañon City) Handle Jurassic-period fossils and life-size fossil casts. Play on the multistory ropes course afterwards.
- Woodward Barn (Copper Mountain) Practice snowboard, BMX and skate-park tricks.
- Drowsy Water Ranch (Granby) Horseback riding and home cooking, with accommodations in Western-themed cabins.
- Echo Basin Ranch (Mancos) Basic, affordable and offers the whole gamut of ranch experiences.
- Beaver Meadows Resort Ranch (Red Feather Lakes) Horseback riding, rafting, fishing and hiking activities.
- Vista Verde Guest Ranch (Steamboat Springs) The most luxurious dude-ranch experience in Colorado.
- Yellow Pine Guest Ranch (Cuchara) Terrific accommodations in deluxe log cabins.
Burly mountains (and altitude!) can be a challenge to little legs. Families with smaller children might want to stick to hikes under 3 miles. Some of our favorites:
- Chautauqua Park (Boulder) Lots of fun rock scrambling.
- Eldorado Canyon State Park (Boulder) Combine hikes with visits to the public pool.
- Fish Creek Falls (Steamboat Springs) An easy hike with views of a spectacular 283ft waterfall.
- Maroon Bells (Aspen) An iconic mountain setting with trails for all levels of hikers.
- Mesa Verde National Park Check out ancient rock carvings on the 2.8-mile Petroglyph Loop.
- Quandary Peak (Breckenridge) Colorado's 'easiest' fourteener: the summit is 3 miles from the trailhead.
- Rocky Mountain National Park Try Wild Basin to Calypso Falls, or Lumpy Ridge for good family-friendly hikes.
- St Mary’s Glacier (Idaho Springs) Bring a sled for some summertime play in the snow!
Perhaps the most difficult part of a family trip is avoiding the temptation to squeeze in too much. Distances are deceptive, and any single corner of Colorado could easily fill a two-week family vacation.
Choose a few primary destinations and connect them with a flexible driving plan with potential stops. Book rooms at the major destinations and make advance reservations for horseback rides, rafting trips, scenic train rides and educational programs or camps (particularly in peak season), but allow time between bookings to follow your fancy.
Don't forget about the small mountain towns. Their festivals, rodeos and state fairs can be excellent family entertainment.
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
Discounts for Kids
Child concessions often apply for tours, admission fees and transportation, with discounts as high as 50% off the adult rate. The definition of 'child' ranges from under 12 to under 16 years. Most sights also give free admission to children under two.
- Colorado Parent (www.coloradoparent.com)
- Family Travel Colorado (www.familytravelcolorado.com)
- Mile High Mamas (www.milehighmamas.com)
What to Pack
Temperatures can vary widely throughout the day, especially in the mountains. Remember to bring layers and a warm hat, even in the summer.
Infant- and toddler-specific items like disposable diapers (nappies), wipes and formula are easy to come by, even in the smallest of towns. Prices tend to be lower in bigger towns, though; if you're driving, consider stocking up in the first city you hit.
Travellers with Disabilities
Travel within Colorado is getting easier for people with disabilities, but it’s still not easy. Public buildings are required by law to be wheelchair-accessible and to have appropriate restroom facilities. Public transportation services must be made accessible to all, and telephone companies have to provide relay operators for the hearing-impaired. Many banks provide ATM instructions in Braille, curb ramps are common, many busy intersections have audible crossing signals, and most chain hotels have suites for guests with disabilities. Also, some ski resorts offer programs specifically designed for skiers with disabilities. Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
A number of organizations specialize in the needs of travelers with disabilities:
Opportunities for volunteering in Colorado are many and varied, and it can be a great way to break up a long trip. Volunteering can also provide truly memorable experiences: you’ll get to interact with people and the land in ways you never would if just passing through.
There are numerous casual, drop-in volunteering opportunities in the big cities, where you can socialize with locals and help out nonprofit organizations. Check weekly alternative newspapers for calendar listings, or browse the free classified ads online at Craigslist. The public website Serve.gov (www.serve.gov) and private websites Idealist (www.idealist.org) and VolunteerMatch (www.volunteermatch.org) offer free, searchable databases of short- and long-term volunteer opportunities nationwide.
More formal volunteer programs, especially those designed for international travelers, typically charge a hefty fee of anywhere from $300 to $1000, depending on the length of the program and what amenities are included (eg housing or meals). None cover the costs of travel to the USA.
Seasonal work is possible in national parks and other tourist sites, especially ski areas. These are usually low-paying service jobs filled by young people (often college students) who are happy to work part of the day so they can play during the rest. You must be legally able to work in the US or be eligible (and sponsored) for a temporary work visa through your potential employer. For information about opportunities, contact park headquarters or local chambers of commerce well in advance of the work season – you can’t depend on finding a job by just arriving and looking around.