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 Mile High City boasts the Great American Beer Festival, one of the country’s largest gathering of brewers and beer tastings. It’s held over three days in late September / early October. Palisade is Colorado’s wine capital, so it’s only fitting that one attend the Colorado Mountain Winefest there in September. Distillers have grown so rapidly that there are now festivals dedicated to liquor, including the Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival in October.
Today, the museum is a center for education, research, and tourism. It is centered on family experiences and holds permanent collections and rotating exhibits. Displays of and about dinosaurs, robots, space, weather, and expert docents give every visitor a memorable trip, and the planetarium and the IMAX theater have revolving shows and delight all ages. An innovative children’s center is perfect for visits with young children.
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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.
Its original dwellers would have climbed the rock face using narrow toeholds; its limited accessibility made it easy to defend against intruders. Cliff Palace was constructed in the cliff face with sandstone blocks, mortar, and wooden beams. It once had over 150 rooms and 25 kivas and was probably used for ceremonial purposes. As with Balcony House, Cliff Palace is only accessible on a ranger-guided tour.
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