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.
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
Start in Bighorn Canyon if you’re an experienced whitewater rafter. You can go for days and camp on the side of the river for a true nature experience. Royal Gorge and Browns Canyon are locations friendly to experienced or new rafters, with opportunities to do a multi-day trip or just try it out for the day. Take the time to explore this beautiful part of Colorado and maybe find a new hobby.
While its Denver counterpart might be more popular, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs is the most interesting Colorado zoo experience you’ll find. It sits about 6,800ft (2,073m) above sea level and features exhibits built into the mountainside. You can also feed the giraffes, ride an open chairlift over the zoo, walk through an aviary of free-flying birds and expect plenty of animal encounters.
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre provides a unique natural landscape in which to listen to live music. Surrounded by and created from the incredible red sandstone monoliths from which it gets its name, the park offers a world-class line-up of musicians during concert season, from late spring to fall, the Film on the Rocks program and yoga sessions. You can walk around the stage and explore trails throughout the park.
It is a place of wonder, especially considering that Jim Bishop himself has laid every stone and worked every piece of wrought iron. Bishop Castle is open every day, and admission is always free, although there is a donation box if you wish to contribute. Construction is ongoing and not sealed off; parents are advised to keep a close eye on their youngsters while at the castle.
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The Denver Art Museum is a world-class conservatory of over 70,000 works of art from around the world and in varied media. It has an excellent collection of American Indian art, which represents nearly every tribe across North America, and has the world’s foremost collection of American West art. Lovers of European art will be delighted by its inclusion of works by Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, and Pissarro.
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.
Coloradans are outdoor enthusiasts, and one of their beloved hiking spots is Hanging Lake. The Hanging Lake Trail sits off Interstate 70, just 10mi (16km) east of the town of Glenwood Springs. The trail itself is short, just a little over a mile, but it can be a challenging hike because it’s steep and rocky. However, reaching the end is worth it. Hanging Lake is a unique geological feature, complete with a stunning hanging garden.
The National Museum of World War II Aviation in Colorado Springs focuses on education, primarily in helping visitors and K-12 students understand the role of aviation in the Second World War and how it shaped our world. The museum has twenty-two flyable aircraft in a hangar adjacent to both the Colorado Springs airport and Peterson AFB. In a second hangar visitors can watch volunteers restore World War II planes.
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.
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.
Whether you visit Colorado in the summer or winter, take some time to get to know Vail. Enjoy a resort vacation in the winter for snowboarding or skiing, and treat yourself to some hot chocolate while looking at the mountain views. Or, explore the hiking trails around town or play a leisurely round of golf. If you plan ahead, you can drop in during one of their charming summer festivals.
Whether fact or fiction, real or mythical, these events celebrate historic traditions. The West is Colorado’s culture and there’s no better place to soak that up then the Colorado State Fair. It’s an eleven-day extravaganza with rodeos, concerts, crafts, carnivals and livestock. Denver’s National Western Stock Show embodies the spirit of the west over sixteen days.
If you’re going to summit one of Colorado’s “fourteeners” – a mountain peak that’s at least 14,000ft (4,267m) high – there’s no better way to do it than on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. The views you’ll see on the world’s highest cog railroad inspired the song America the Beautiful, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a gorgeous ride, which takes place year-round.
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.
Although it’s tucked away in Colorado’s southwest corner, Telluride parties so much its known as the festival capital of the West. One of its most well known is the Telluride Film Festival, which attracts celebrities and visitors from around the world. It also claims one of the country longest running film fests, the Mountainfilm Festival, held in late May. Carbondale showcases the 5Point Film Festival in late April, catering to adventure.
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.
Bishop Castle is an incredible feat of one man’s desire to singlehandedly build a fortress in the midst of the San Ysabel National Forest. Jim Bishop purchased the land in 1959 and began building his castle after he got married in 1967. He wanted to build a simple stone cabin for himself and his bride, but he never stopped building, and now the castle is a huge masterwork of turrets, crenellations, arches, and an enormous steam-producing dragon built from stainless steel plates.