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.
Spring hits and so does the focus on warm weather fun. Party one last time at your favorite ski area’s closing day. They usually have live music, contests, food, drinks and if you’re lucky, pond skimming and bikini-inducing weather. Kick off your May with Denver’s Cinco De Mayor in Civic Center Park, then start planning your upcoming getaways and festivals.
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.
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.
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.
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Vail is a tiny town at the foot of the Vail Mountains and nestled in the White River National Forest. The picturesque town is a prime ski resort destination in the winter, but also provides ample entertainment in the summer. Vail also has a creek that literally runs through town – follow the winding curves of Gore Creek on a walk some peaceful afternoon.
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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.
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.
Still haven’t packed enough into your Colorado vacation? Make time to see some of the great Colorado mountain attractions — tour a ghost town near Aspen, sail above the mountains in a balloon over Breckenridge, rock out at a music festival in Telluride, check out the nightlife scene in Vail and try your luck at a casino in Black Hawk, Central City or Cripple Creek.