The Denver Museum of Nature & Science began with one man, Edwin Carter, who in 1868 moved to a one-room cabin high in the Rocky Mountains and singlehandedly amassed the largest collection of Colorado fauna in existence. In 1908, the museum in Denver formally opened, and it made world headlines when in 1926 museum researchers found fossil proof that North America was inhabited over 10,000 years ago.
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.
And then there are things to do all year, no matter the season or temperature. Biking, hiking, fishing and golfing all can be found in lower elevation places, such as Denver or Grand Junction, thanks to Colorado’s varying topography. It’s truly remarkable to enjoy a blizzard in the High Country one day and a sunny, 60 degree day peddling around Garden of the Gods the next.
Visitors can stroke sea stars and horseshoe crabs in the sea life touch zone, hold Rosie the tarantula, stroll on the outdoor nature trail, and watch bees while learning how vital they are to the future of the planet. The Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center have educational programs for all ages, from young children to seniors, and a gift shop filled with interesting items.
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If playing in a giant sandbox appeals to you, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve near Alamosa is a must-visit. This giant dune field of 30sqmi (78sqkm) features at least one dune that’s more than 750ft (229m) high. Sledding down the dunes is a popular pastime, as is hiking and camping. There are also horseback riding trails and the scenic four-wheel drive on Medano Pass.
Cliff Palace and Balcony House are ancient cliff dwellings that the ancestral Pueblo Indians inhabited in the 12th and 13th centuries. Located in Mesa Verde National Park, both are World Heritage Sites and National Monuments. Balcony House had forty-five rooms and two kivas (ovens), and it can only be accessed on ranger-guided tours. Tour participants must climb a thirty-two foot ladder and then crawl through a twelve-foot tunnel to access Balcony House.