Bent’s Old Fort had an important secondary role as the only permanent settlement on the Santa Fe Trail, and it was a godsend for travelers and soldiers who could stop for repairs, replenish their supplies, and enjoy good food, water, and company. Disaster and disease closed the fort in 1849; reconstruction began in 1876, and guided tours of the fort are a must for families and history buffs.
A registered National Natural Landmark just outside Colorado Springs, the Garden of the Gods Park is open year-round and offers stunning views of its 300ft (91m) sandstone rock formations, along with hiking, horseback riding and camping. The Visitor and Nature Center has all kinds of interactive exhibits. If you’re looking for souvenirs, the Trading Post, which lies on the edge of the park, features artwork by local artists. Admission to the park is free.
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science has been the city’s leading cultural institution for more than 100 years. Here, you can enjoy a variety of exhibits on everything from natural history and the universe to biology and even Colorado history. In City Park, the museum also has an IMAX theater, a planetarium and a host of exciting temporary exhibits annually.
With over 750 animals of 170 species, the zoo is world-class, and contains the largest herd of reticulated giraffes in any zoo anywhere. A special feature of the zoo is the fact they allow visitors to hand-feed the giraffes, which are very tame. Hoping to inspire conservation action, the zoo has thoughtfully housed all of its animals in as natural an environment as possible so that visitors can understand the needs of each animal of each species.
On the Colorado-Utah border, Dinosaur National Monument is an incredible testament to the natural and geological history of the area. You can see more than 1,500 fossils on display on the cliff face inside the Quarry Exhibit Hall. There are also petroglyphs of lost cultures and the abandoned homesteads of early settlers. For the adventurers, there are camping and whitewater rafting opportunities.
Although the Bishop Castle does not offer guided tours, large groups are encouraged to visit and explore the Castle. If a school visits the Bishop Castle for a field trip, they are welcome to listen to an inspirational presentation from Mr. Bishop himself. Although there is no fee for Mr. Bishop’s presentation, schools are encouraged to make a donation.
Mesa Verde National Park, near Cortez, is perhaps the greatest archaeological wonder in the United States and a Unesco World Heritage site. Learn about the lives and history of the Ancestral Pueblo people as you visit Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House, incredible cliff dwellings and mesa-top villages built between 600 and 1300. There are also a few hiking trails available within the park, including one to a petroglyph panel.
The thirteen-minute trip from Telluride to Mountain Village or vice versa lasts thirteen minutes and gives dramatic all-round views of the San Juan Mountains. The gondolas are wheelchair accessible, have ski, snowboard, and bike racks, and operate from 7:00 a.m. until midnight year-round. Blankets are provided at each station for your comfort during the winter season.
Kids will enjoy the carousel and trips in airplanes and trains that entertain without being frightening. Island Kingdom Water Park is a huge wet playground within Elitch Gardens with a whole assortment of water slides, including ones with enormous drops, and others that hurtle you at high speed. For families and children there are a lazy river, a wave pool, and slides geared to small tykes.
The museum’s holdings of African art include rare sculptures and focus on the works of the Yoruba people of West Africa. The museum is family-friendly, providing backpacks of activities for visiting children to help them explore the world of art, and it offers free admission every day for youth under the age of 18. The museum has a popular restaurant, Palette, and a gift shop full of interesting souvenirs.
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Make your Memorial Day memorable at Craig’s Grand Olde West Days or MountainFilm in Telluride. June, July, August and September are perhaps the hardest hitting when it comes to sheer number of events. Every single weekend you’ll have a handful of fun festivals to choose from. Splash around at FIBArk in June or the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo over Labor Day.
Buffalo Bill gained famed during his buffalo-hunting days, but he later went on to run a popular Wild West Show, drawing in big names like Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull. He died here in Colorado at Lookout Mountain, and Buffalo Bill’s Museum was built here to commemorate him. See his firearms and Native American artifacts, or learn more at Golden Buffalo Bill Days, a true celebration of the Wild West festival in the historic town of Golden.
Rocky Mountain National Park is a mountain paradise with stunning landscapes and plenty of activities. You can explore the park by foot on one of the many hiking trails or by taking a scenic drive on the famous Trail Ridge Road or other passageways. Other activities include camping, biking, water sports and horseback riding. There are also many opportunities for wildlife viewing, including elk, moose, bighorn sheep, bears and mountain lions.
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Tread of Pioneers Museum is a regional Colorado history museum housed within Steamboat Springs' historic 1901 Zimmerman House. Permanent exhibits and artifacts are showcased within the renovated Queen Anne-style home, including pieces from the museum's extensive firearms collection and a replica chuckwagon from the region's pioneer days. Visitors can also view exhibits on the region's indigenous history, skiing industry, agriculture, and infamous Wild West outlaws such as Harry Tracy of Butch Cassidy's Hole in the Wall Gang. Read more & Admission
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The Annual Flower Trial Garden is a devoted horticultural research garden on the campus of Fort Collins' Colorado State University, open to the public throughout the year near the campus' Center for the Arts. The garden strives to serve as a trial space for the performance of annual plant cultivars in the region's high-altitude Rocky Mountain environmental conditions, with primary annual plantings on display between late May and mid-October. Plant varieties are grouped by genus and arranged by color, with more than 1,000 different cultivars typically on display each year. In addition to the main annual showcase, the garden also presented an annual pansy display, which is planted in fall and on display through the early spring. Perennials cultivated by the garden are also on display year-round across the street from the garden facility.
The multi-tower buildings are still well preserved after eight hundred years, and seeing them is worth driving to the remote location on the Colorado/Utah border. Dogs are welcome on the hiking trails. The Square Tower Group has a small interpretative center, and rangers are available throughout the park to answer questions and give guidance. Hovenweep has a primitive 31-site campground that fills up on a first-come, first-served basis.
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The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad starts in Antonito, Colorado, and runs all the way through to Chama, New Mexico, spanning a track of 64 miles. Take a trip back in time on this old fashioned, narrow gauge heritage railroad and enjoy the countryside as you pass through it. You’ll have a front seat view of Toltec Gorge, the inspiration for the name of this railroad.