Things to do in Fort Collins: why this city is Colorado’s next big hit
Ever been to Denver and Boulder? Here is your new favorite.
Nestled in the country of farms and ranches about an hour’s drive from Denver (not far from the birthplace of Noosa yogurt!), Fort Collins, Colorado happens to be one of America’s best hubs for craft beer, outdoor adventure, festivals, and farm-to-table food.
Like Denver, Boulder and the many mountain towns, Fort Collins — or FoCO — has become an increasingly popular hub for transplants in California (as this guy). Its young and friendly atmosphere permeates every restaurant, store and many others, a lot breweries (there are about 25, so about one for 7,000 inhabitants).
If all of this, plus excursions like hiking, biking, and kayaking in the state’s beautiful exteriors seem like a plan to you, here’s what you’ll want to check out on your next trip to the northernmost city of the state. Colorado.
Where to stay in Fort Collins
Among the most notable FoCO landmarks that line College Avenue, the city’s main downtown thoroughfare, is Armstrong Hotel. Recently restored to its chic 1920s majesty, every room and lobby features eclectic original artwork, from old locomotive prints to portraits of Napoleon Dynamite, but its resident food and drink offerings are the best part. Think bottomless mimosas and dreamy Wafnut (it’s a waffle-donut situation) for Sunday brunch at Cafe des As; later, sip a Monte Carlo with live jazz in the underground Ace Gillett’s.
And not to be outdone, the city center Elizabeth Hotel houses its own library of instruments in the lobby, a turntable and vinyl records in every room, The Magic Rat concert hall and the Sunset Lounge on the roof with views of the mountains.
Stroll through the old town
Despite being surrounded by great nature, FoCO is more like a colorful and well-appointed market town, especially in its core, the historic old town. Dating back to the 1860s, the majority of the historic buildings in the Old Town have been converted into lively bars, restaurants, shops and hotels. Its squares and flower-filled parks are the site of free art and music festivals in summer, such as Bohemian nights.
Sample locally distilled tacos, donuts and spirits in shipping containers turned into food stalls at The exchange, dip in a dripping tuna fondant with an alcoholic shake Union Bar and Soda Foundation, try the authentic Indian at Tajmahal, and sip the most aromatic gin and tonic of your life at The Old Elk Distillery Reserve.
While you’re around, experience dual functionality at one of the country’s oldest drive-in theaters, or the biggest open-air concert halls by the river.
Let’s move on to FoCO’s claim to fame! Foam specialists seem to pop up with every block, but the real heart of the brewing scene lies at New Belgium Brewery, the powerhouse largely responsible for the Colorado craft beer explosion. Inspired by a young couple’s bicycle trip through Belgium at the end of the 1980s, the company’s flagship brewery is today a vast facility with numerous patios, food trucks, concerts on weekends. end and taprooms with artfully crafted beer varieties ranging from the famous Amber Fat Tire to a huge assortment of sours and IPAs.
In the same way Odell, another of FoCO’s long-standing great craft beer hubs, it’s worth taking a look at some of the smaller and lesser-known places: Snowbank, set in an unpretentious business park that conjures up a new iteration of chocolate stout every Friday; Horse & Dragon, home to one of the tastiest dark beers in all of Colorado, Sad Panda; Goal, located a few miles south of downtown but worth a visit across the CSU campus for its ever-evolving experimental beers; and Stodgy Brewing, the newcomer to town with a huge outdoor space dotted with seats carved from huge tree trunks.
Oh, and if beer ain’t really your thing, there’s always the new OBC wine project, a tasting room and a patio for sipping canned liquid grapes.
Eat extremely well
You could spend an entire year tasting local fare at Fort Collins’ best restaurants. But if we had to choose, it would have to be Jessup Farm, an old farmhouse dating from the early 1900s that now functions as a brewery, craft village and restaurant offering produce from local farmers and fresh farm produce.
There is also Little on the mountain, a little neighborhood gem with queues at the door and locally sourced bone marrow burgers, duck, lamb and salads; Rare italian, with its succulent boards of cheeses and meats at an insanely affordable price; and The regional, a new bistro in the old town whose taste creativity is just as evident in its cocktails as in its aperitifs and fresh seasonal dishes.
Hit the trail, the river and the mountains
Fort Collins is located at the foot of the foothills of the Rockies, where cyclists and hikers can explore miles of endless trails. The Horsetooth Reservoir serves as a centerpiece in the summer for all kinds of water sports, from swimming and wake surfing to boating and stand-up paddle boarding. Rent equipment at What is SUP to explore the motorless corners of Satanka Cove.
FoCO is also found along the shores of Cache la Poudre, the only Colorado Designated wild and scenic river, winding through the glacier-formed and ponderosa pine-strewn walls of Poudre Canyon and into the scintillating fields of wildflowers and ranches that surround the city limits. Here, the boos of the approaching tubers can be heard far downstream, and kayakers and surfers are entertained with their tips on the waves at Poudre River Whitewater Park.
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