Remarkable in its diversity, beauty and grandeur, Colorado delivers endless powder runs, outdoors adventures, surprisingly cosmopolitan arts and dining scenes, and 300 days of sunshine.
Rocky Mountain High
The best-known Rocky Mountain state, with the highest concentration of peaks above 14,000ft, Colorado owes its public adoration to the granite behemoths that rise abruptly, crinkled and snowcapped, out of the Great Plains. Countless hiking and biking trails climb above the treeline to wildflower-strewn meadows, while a plethora of scenic drives wend their way up hairpin turns to cross the Continental Divide. This is adventure central, with world-class skiing, biking, rafting, hiking, wildlife watching and more. While the crowds are getting bigger, head up old forest service roads to see the state at its most pristine.
Ski Country, USA
The combination of light, soft powder and frequent blue skies has made Colorado winters the stuff of legend. There are big open bowls, steep mogul runs, terrain parks, bunny slopes, wide open glades, cross-country tracks and backcountry ski huts, and groomed runs that seem to go on for miles.
After the day, Colorado's mountain towns invite you to cozy up next to the fire, revel with your friends with a few tips of the ShotSki, and rage against the dying of the light with towns that ripple with the excitement of new possibilities, fresh tracks and broad smiles.
Deserts & Canyons
While it's best known for its mountains, the desert lands of the Colorado Plateau and Southern Colorado bring a new energy and new beauty to this diverse state. There are mesas, towers and slot canyons to be explored, rivers to be run, sand dunes to be climbed, desert singletrack trails to be ridden and plenty of wide open vistas to enjoy come sunset. Much of this land still bears the imprint of the Ancestral Puebloan people, who built houses on precarious cliffs and left a cultural wake for generations to come.
Colorado offers up its fair share of both high and low culture. Denver and Boulder saw the rise of performers such as the Lumineers, Tennis, Nathaniel Rateliff and more. And one of the United State's best amphitheaters, Red Rocks is found here. Boulder and Denver have experimental theater, fine arts centers, symphonies, street art and interesting foodie scenes that are evolving beyond Colorado's traditional frontiers attitude to the culinary arts. In the mountains in sophisticated enclaves such as Telluride and Aspen, you'll find world-class fine art galleries, rotating speaker series and more.
This luxury train lets you see the Rocky Mountains in a whole new way
11 min read — Published August 24th, 2021
Rocky Mountaineer's latest luxury train route runs between Denver and Moab, Utah. Lonely Planet editor Alexander Howard was one of the first to ride it.
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These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Colorado.
ParkRed Rocks Park & Amphitheatre
Why you should go When the setting sun brings out a rich, orange glow from the rock formations and the band on stage launches into just the right tune, Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a captivating experience, wholly befitting the park's 19th-century nickname, "Garden of Angels." Set between 400ft-high red sandstone rocks, the acoustics at Red Rocks are so good many artists record their live albums there. The seating capacity is upwards of 9000 seats, each one offering stunning views. The venue consistently draws a big-name line-up for its summer concert series. To see your favorite singer got to work on the stage is to witness a performance in one of the most exceptional music venues in the world. For many, it's reason enough for a trip to Colorado. Many people just come for the day while visiting Denver to check out the famed venue. And amazingly, it can be almost as entertaining when it's silent. The amphitheater is only a tiny part of a 600-acre open space park. Open during the day for free, there is a visitor center, trading post and the Colorado Music Hall of Fame all accessible from the parking lot. There are miles of hiking trails, opportunities to lose the crowds and take in the lovely rock formations. Climbing the stunning rocks is prohibited; however there are 250-plus steps that lead to the top of the theater and offer views of both the park and Denver, miles off to the east. Yoga on the Rocks and Film on the Rocks are popular regular events that attract hundreds. History The history of music at Red Rocks is ancient. The Ute Tribe once used the space as a sacred site and a gathering place for music and dance. Then as western expansion enveloped more of the state, other groups also chose to perform there. In the early 1900's John Brisben Walker produced several concerts there on a temporary stage, but it wasn't until 1936 that members of the Civilian Conservation Corps built a formal outdoor venue with seats and a stage. Though it originally hosted classical performances and military bands, it debuted as a rock venue with style; the first rock quartet on this stage was John, Paul, George and Ringo. Since then, the gamut of artists who have recorded live albums here – such as U2, Neil Young, Dave Matthews and new-age piano tinkler John Tesh – is a testament to the pristine natural acoustics. Tickets and other practicalities Red Rocks hosts numerous events throughout the year and the lineup can be found on the website where you can also purchase tickets, the prices of which vary by show. There are two vast parking lots, but they fill up and leaving can take ages. Take an Uber if that will annoy you. Most locals drive up early with coolers full of food and drinks to hang out in the parking lot and have a picnic. The food vendors inside are expensive, crowded and not great. You can bring your food into the show, but you can't bring your booze. Beer, wine and other boozy beverages are available for purchase inside as well as water and sodas. Many concert goers will bring a blanket or a cushion, particularly for events like Film on the Rocks. For concerts you'll probably be on your feet the entire time. It's cool at night at this altitude, so don't forget to dress in light layers for summer shows. Eating and sleeping near Red Rocks There aren't many choices really near Red Rocks. You can stay in Morrison, a tiny little town down the road from the park hidden from the Denver skyline by the Hogback rock formations. Made up of a main drag with a few side streets, it echoes the feel of some of Colorado's most remote mountain towns. Its a great stop if you want dinner before a show or lunch after hiking around the theater and park. But none of the restaurants are fancy, just greasy spoons and casual cafes. There is only one B&B in town called Cliff House Lodge. The decor might be a little overboard, but all the cottages have hot tubs and the garden is a peaceful place to relax.
Historic BuildingUnion Station
Gorgeously restored, historic Union Station is Denver's main transportation hub, used by RTD light-rail lines, commuter buses and Amtrak. But it's way more than that. It's more of a central gathering place for downtowners and visitors alike. Inside, the main hall doubles as a waiting area and lounge with leather couches and chairs, shuffleboard and free wi-fi. Its the perfect place to find a spot to work for a few hours. Denver's famed Tattered Cover book store has a small outpost here and there is even a flower cart selling the most beautiful seasonal blooms. Swanky restaurants and coffee shops line the building inside and out along with boutiques and bars. Even one of Denver's best hotels – the Crawford – calls it home. In summer, a farmer's market sets up outside every Saturday from 9am-2pm which draws a huge crowd. Just beyond, a pop-up fountain comes to life, enticing kids (and kids at heart) to run and play through the urban sprinklers. Visiting Union Station As the main transportation hub, its easy to take the light-rail from nearly anywhere in the city right into the station. Once there, you can take a tour, offered by The Crawford Hotel on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm and most other days at 4pm. Tours are $20. You can also wander around, have a coffee or cocktail and just enjoy the ambiance. Don't forget to venture outside where there is plenty more to enjoy. Where to stay The Crawford Hotel of course. Set right in the station, the Crawford is an example of Denver's amazing transformation. Rooms are luxurious and artful, with high ceilings and throwbacks such as the art-deco headboards and claw-foot tubs. Service is impeccable. There is light-rail service to Denver's International Airport just steps away and the hotel shuttle, a Tesla, provides door-to-door service for guests within a 2-mile radius. Where to eat and drink From scoops of artisan ice cream to James Beard Award winning chef prepared meals, Union Station has some of Denver's most sought after tables. Check out Snooze, Denver's favorite spot for pancakes, if you're into the brunch party. The Terminal Bar and The Cooper Lounge have classy, cool cocktails while Ultreia, Stoic & Genuine and Mercantile have up-market, award winning dishes for a variety of eclectic tastes. There are also sandwich shops and pizza spots and a coffee shop for lunches and on-the-go meals.
MuseumDenver Art Museum
The Denver Art Museum (DAM) is home to one of the largest Native American art collections in the USA, and puts on special multimedia exhibits that vary from treasures of British art to Star Wars costumes. The Western American Art section of the permanent collection is justifiably famous. This isn't an old, stodgy art museum, and the best part is diving into the interactive exhibits, which kids love. Hamilton building The landmark $110-million Frederic C Hamilton wing, designed by Daniel Libeskind, is quite simply awesome. Whether you see it as expanding crystals, juxtaposed mountains or just architectural indulgence, it’s doubtless an angular modern masterpiece. If you think the place looks weird from the outside, look inside: shapes shift with each turn thanks to a combination of design and uncanny natural-light tricks. For the children, there are various play areas on every floor, a treasure hunt and make-your-own-postcard stations. Tickets and tours Admission is $13 for adults and free for anyone under 18. Booking tickets online in advance is recommended to avoid disappointment. 'Free Days' are available to all on certain days throughout the year – check the museum's website for regular updates. Virtual tours of DAM exhibitions past and present are available online, as well as bespoke audio tours for specific exhibits if you're visiting in person.
Where Cherry Creek and South Platte River meet is the nexus and plexus of Denver's sunshine-loving culture. Thousands of outdoorsy Denverites flock here to relax and play in the water when the heat gets a little too much. Tubing and kayaking Confluence Park makes a stunning setting for an afternoon picnic and there's a short white-water park for kayakers and tubers. No need to worry about lugging your own equipment with you as there's plenty available to hire from Confluence Kayaks. Located across from the Downtown Aquarium, this kayak shop offers gear rental and lots of advice about the area’s white water from laid-back, amiable staff. If you’re a beginner, consider taking a lesson either in the shop's indoor pool or nearby Chatfield Reservoir. There's also a small beach and shallow water area that is ideal for kids to splash about in and build sandcastles. Hiking and biking Head south from here along the Cherry Creek Trail and you can get all the way to Cherry Creek Reservoir. If you go southwest along the Platte Trail, you'll eventually ride all the way to Chatfield Reservoir. By heading north and connecting to the Clear Creek Trail, you can get to Golden. If the heat is a little too much for you, just hop on the Denver Trolley to enjoy a leisurely trip next to the river. Nearby shopping and dining A stroll along the Cherry Creek Trail will bring you to Cherry Creek Shopping Center. A large collection of exclusive international brands (Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Tiffany) decorate the corridors of Denver’s high-end shopping facility, anchored by the large Neiman Marcus department store. There's a movie theater and indoor play area, which are perfect air-conditioned options for families who need a break from fun in the sun. Food choices range from cheap-and-quick mall standards such as Panda Express to the Tuscan fare and elegant linen-draped dining room of Brio.
MuseumClyfford Still Museum
Dedicated exclusively to the work and legacy of 20th-century American abstract expressionist Clyfford Still, this fascinating museum's collection includes more than 2400 pieces – 95% of his work – by the powerful and narcissistic master. His works are exhibited in thoughtful rotating exhibits. Architecture In his will, Still insisted that his body of work only be exhibited in a singular space, so Denver commissioned architect Brad Cloepfil to build him a museum. The imposing concrete structure took almost two years to complete and provides over 9000 sq ft of gallery space. The entrance area has been deliberately designed as a dark space to allow visitors to become more sensitive to the creative use of light inside after bright sunshine. Tickets and tours Tickets are $10 for adults and can be purchased online or at reception. It's free for anyone under 17 but a ticket is still required for admission. While the museum is less geared to children than the neighboring Denver Art Museum, there's a fun scavenger hunt that little ones will love. Free tours are offered throughout the week; check the website for dates and times.
This historic landmark park is the gateway to Boulder’s most magnificent slab of open space adjoining the iconic Flatirons; its wide, lush lawn attracts picnicking families, sunbathers, Frisbee folk and students from nearby CU. It also gets lots of hikers, climbers and trail runners. It's a popular site so parking can be a hassle. During the summer the city of Boulder runs a free shuttle on the weekends from downtown and satellite parking lots (http://parktopark.org).
Archaeological SiteCliff Palace
The only way to see the superb Cliff Palace is to take the hour-long ranger-led tour. The tour retraces the steps taken by the Ancestral Puebloans – visitors must climb down a stone stairway and four 10ft ladders. This grand engineering achievement, with 217 rooms and 23 kivas, provided shelter for 250 to 300 people. Reserve in person. They allow up to two days advance purchase.
National ParkMesa Verde National Park
A fascinating, if slightly eerie, national park. Anthropologists will love it here; Mesa Verde is unique among American national parks in its focus on maintaining this civilization's cultural relics rather than its natural treasures. About 20 miles from the park entrance, the Chapin Mesa Museum has diorama of Ancestral Pueblo life, a few artifacts and good history lessons. The park also offers plenty of hiking, skiing, snowshoeing and mountain-biking options. Visitors can camp out or stay in luxury at the lodge.
ParkMount Zirkel Wilderness
One of the five original wilderness areas in Colorado, Mount Zirkel Wilderness is an untamed, roadless expanse dotted with icy glacial lakes and granite faces, and is rife with opportunities for isolated backcountry hiking and camping. It’s intersected by the Continental Divide and two major rivers, the Elk and the Encampment. Locals swear by the Zircle Circle hike, which connects Gilpin and Gold Creek Lakes in a glorious alpine trek over roughly 10 miles.
Whether it’s a guided tour of a historic landmark, private tasting of local delicacies, or an off-road adventure — explore the best experiences in Colorado.
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