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.
William F. Cody, aka “Buffalo Bill,” was a skilled bison hunter, a scout for the U.S. Army during the Indian Wars, and a world-famous showman who performed Wild West shows across the United States, in Europe, and in front of Queen Victoria, who was fascinated by him. The small museum outside of Golden, Colorado looks at Buffalo Bill’s life from its beginning in Iowa Territory in 1846.
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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Visit any of the 5 visitors centers in the park; one is registered on the National Registry of Historic Places and was designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. There is a variety of landscapes to explore, from mountains to mountain tundra, and a wide array of wildlife. Whether you come for a day and do a short hike, or stay and camp out to go on longer treks, the scenery will impress you. Don’t miss the Arapaho National Forest or Indian Peaks Wilderness.
Breckenridge is both a mountain town and a ski resort and is packed with plenty of Colorado history. It’s the oldest and largest town in Summit County, with about 250 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, making its Main Street an absolute dream to wander. There are tons of arts events and festivals all year, plus galleries, studios and shops worth checking out. In summer, you can enjoy the wildflowers in bloom in the surrounding areas, while in winter, Breckenridge Ski Resort provides some 2,908 acres (1,177ha) of the best skiing in the state.
Margaret “Molly” Brown is famed for surviving the sinking of the Titanic, but the woman was so much more than that. Born in Hannibal, Missouri in 1867, Margaret Tobin Brown was a socialite, philanthropist, and activist who tirelessly pursued rights for women, workers, and children, passionately believing in universal education and literacy. She helped to establish the first juvenile court in the United States and ran for Senate, albeit unsuccessfully.
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.
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.
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.
Mesa Verde has been inhabited since 7500 BC by nomadic tribes, and the experts estimate that the first pueblos were built in 650 AD. The impressive cliff dwellings that still bring visitors to the park were built in 1200 AD. See the Cliff Palace and spend some time learning about these native americans at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum. Don’t forget to explore the Mesa Top Loop Road for some excellent viewpoints and canyon overlooks.
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The castle continued to grow and eventually become known as the Bishop Castle. As the Castle grew larger, it gained popularity. Throughout the years, volunteers would verbally agree to help Bishop build the castle, but they would never show up. Eventually, Bishop stopped seeking out volunteer builders and decided to finish the castle by himself. The Bishop Castle is known as the country’s largest castle that was built by one man.
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 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.
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