The Annual Flower Trial Garden is a devoted horticultural research garden on the campus of Fort Collins' Colorado State University, open to the public throughout the year near the campus' Center for the Arts. The garden strives to serve as a trial space for the performance of annual plant cultivars in the region's high-altitude Rocky Mountain environmental conditions, with primary annual plantings on display between late May and mid-October. Plant varieties are grouped by genus and arranged by color, with more than 1,000 different cultivars typically on display each year. In addition to the main annual showcase, the garden also presented an annual pansy display, which is planted in fall and on display through the early spring. Perennials cultivated by the garden are also on display year-round across the street from the garden facility.
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.
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.
The Benson Park Sculpture Garden rests on ten acres of land in the heart of Loveland, Colorado. There are 148 permanent sculptures on display, representing almost every medium, and the pieces have been gathered from around the world. Beautifully landscaped and set around charming water features, the garden has wide paved walkways that facilitate wheelchairs and strollers.
Cross the peaks of the Rocky Mountains and see the many lakes, creeks and mountain ranges – there are 8 ranges in total. Climb Coney Summit, it’s 13,334 feet above sea level. Take a load off your feet and take a horseback ride, or grab a mountain bike. Explore the old mining towns and ancient Indian trails, and you can even treat yourself to a night or two at a ski resort while you’re there.
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 natural grasslands beauty can be a refreshing contrast to the beauty found at mountains or beaches. Explore the area and the prehistoric drawings, or head out to the Picketwire Canyon to see dinosaur tracks! Hit the trails on foot or bicycle, or even on horseback. You can “rough it” at the local campground or head back to a hotel to put your feet up.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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Not a drive for the faint of heart, as the trees disappear, so do the guardrails. Take your time around the curves for the sake of the views and your own safety. You’ll see mountain goats and bighorn sheep continue to graze without even batting an eye at your visit. Enjoy looking down on the world – the clouds don’t even make it up here all the time!
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Rough it and bring some camping gear – you can sleep under the stars, you’ll be so far away from the city lights that the stars seem to burn even brighter. There are plenty of cliffs if you’re a mountain climber. Hike along the South or North Rims for some excellent vistas, you’ll feel like you’re somehow closer to nature and that time seems to not exist here.
Mesa Verde (green table in Spanish) is located in southwest Colorado. The area was deemed a national park in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt. It is a gorgeous national park and World Heritage site that preserves ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings, and is an ideal destination for history and nature lovers alike. Grab your walking shoes and bring your camera when you visit Mesa Verde.
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.