Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Fort Collins, Colorado is a fantastic city that offers a blend of outdoor adventures, a thriving craft beer scene, family-friendly activities, and a vibrant arts community.
Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a craft beer aficionado, or a family seeking fun-filled experiences, Fort Collins has something for you.
I have family in Laramie, Wyoming, which is only an hour’s drive north of Fort Collins. I’ve visited Fort Collins several times and love the city’s blend of urban amenities, outdoor adventure, and raw natural beauty.
Best Things to Do in Fort Collins
For me, one of the best things about Fort Collins is its proximity to the Rocky Mountains, which offer endless hiking trails, camping spots, and scenic drives. The craft beer is superb here too!
The city itself has plenty to explore, with its charming Old Town area filled with independent shops and restaurants.
Are you ready to explore the top things to do in Fort Collins, Colorado like a local? Let’s go!
Discovering Downtown Fort Collins
Begin your journey in the heart of Fort Collins by immersing yourself in the charm of downtown.
With its historical buildings, delightful local boutiques, cozy cafes, and rich history, downtown Fort Collins is a great place to explore on foot.
Start your discovery of this fantastic city in the central Old Town Square area.
1. Stroll through Old Town Square
Old Town Square is the beating heart of Old Town Fort Collins. It has a vibrant atmosphere and lots of attractive architecture, public artwork, and gorgeous flower displays.
As you explore the area on foot, you’ll discover an array of shops and independent restaurants, each with its own unique charm.
Happy Lucky’s Teahouse is a local institution and one of my favorite places to grab a drink or a snack in the center of the city.
The Exchange is another popular place to hang out, with a great selection of food and drinks.
Throughout the year, Old Town Square hosts a range of events such as outdoor concerts, art walks, and holiday celebrations, ensuring there’s always something fun happening in this lively area.
2. Shop at local boutiques and galleries
As you wander through the streets of downtown Fort Collins, take the opportunity to explore some of the local boutiques and galleries, showcasing the creativity and talent of the city’s artisans.
For example, Kansas City Kitty is a fantastic boutique with a great selection of unique clothing and hand-made accessories. You’re sure to find something special and memorable to take home with you.
3. Immerse yourself in history
Fort Collins is steeped in history, with many fascinating stories just waiting to be discovered.
One such tale is that of Franklin C. Avery, a leading force in the town’s development and the founder of the First National Bank.
Avery was responsible for creating water projects that allowed agriculture to flourish in northern Colorado.
You can visit the Avery family home – Avery House – and explore its beautiful grounds for a unique glimpse into the past.
4. Enjoy the CSU Annual Flower Trial Garden
The Colorado State University’s Annual Flower Trial Garden showcases the plants and flowers that thrive in Colorado’s high-altitude climate.
It was established to help conduct horticultural research in the unique environment and climate of the Rocky Mountains and the High Plains region. Botanical experts carefully evaluate the plants to determine the best performers.
Bring your family and spend the day surrounded by the natural beauty of the garden and the fascinating story it tells.
Outdoor Adventures in Fort Collins
Fort Collins is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, offering a wide range of adventures that cater to all interests and abilities.
From exploring the breathtaking Horsetooth Reservoir to hiking the trails at Lory State Park and cycling the picturesque Poudre River Trail, there’s always a new outdoor experience waiting to be discovered.
Here are some of the best outdoor things to do in Fort Collins, Colorado.
5. Explore Horsetooth Reservoir
Discover the beauty of Horsetooth Reservoir, a stunning outdoor destination that offers a wealth of activities for all ages.
From hiking, biking, and horseback riding around the reservoir to kayaking, swimming, and stand-up paddleboarding in the water, there are many ways to enjoy this natural gem.
The reservoir’s remarkable setting and crystal-clear waters make it a must-visit location for anyone who loves the great outdoors.
6. Hike the trails at Lory State Park
Venture to Lory State Park and explore its scenic trails, each offering unique vistas and varying levels of difficulty.
For a rewarding hike with stunning views, tackle the popular Arthur’s Rock trail, a 3.4-mile out-and-back hike of intermediate difficulty.
As you ascend the natural stairway to the top of the rock, you’ll be greeted with breathtaking views of the open meadows and towering mountains. It’s a fantastic spot for a picnic!
7. Cycle the Poudre River Trail
Cycling enthusiasts will love the Poudre River Trail, a bike trail that runs along the Cache la Poudre River.
The route passes through beautiful scenery. It offers lush woodlands, magnificent peaks, and several river access points for a truly memorable cycling experience.
Rent a bike from a local shop and enjoy a leisurely ride along the river, taking in the natural beauty of Fort Collins.
For an added shot of adrenaline, check out the nearby Poudre River Whitewater Park where you can raft, kayak, or tube down the river.
Embrace the Craft Beer Scene
From touring the iconic New Belgium Brewing Company to visiting local breweries and attending beer festivals, there’s always a new brew to discover and savor in this beer-loving city.
8. Tour New Belgium Brewing Company
Experience the legendary New Belgium Brewing Company, one of the largest craft breweries in the United States.
During a guided tour, you’ll learn about the brewing process and sample some of their iconic beers, such as Fat Tire Amber Ale and Voodoo Ranger IPA.
This iconic brewery is a must-visit for anyone with a passion for craft beer and its rich history.
9. Visit other local breweries
Fort Collins is home to many other local breweries.
Most breweries in Fort Collins have taprooms where you can taste the local brews. Spend an afternoon brewery-hopping and get a taste of what makes Fort Collins’ craft beer scene so special.
10. Attend a beer festival
If you’re visiting during one of Fort Collins’ beer festivals, such as Small Batch (usually held at the beginning of June), you’re in for a treat.
These events celebrate the city’s love for craft beer, featuring local breweries and their unique offerings.
Enjoy live music, food trucks, and, of course, a wide variety of craft brews as you toast to Fort Collins’ thriving beer culture.
Family-Friendly Activities in Fort Collins
There’s no shortage of family-friendly things to do in Fort Collins. It’s a fantastic destination for families, offering a variety of activities that both kids and adults will love.
11. Visit the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery
Take the family to the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. Here you can enjoy screenings at the Digital Dome Theater, learn about the science of sound at the Music & Sound Lab, and explore the various other interactive exhibits.
With its educational fun and engaging displays, the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery is the perfect destination for a day of family learning and entertainment.
12. Explore the Gardens on Spring Creek
Discover the beauty of the Gardens on Spring Creek.
This 18-acre community botanical garden opened in 2004 and features several themed gardens and an enchanting tropical Butterfly House home to hundreds of North American butterflies.
The Gardens also puts on regular educational seminars, wellness programs, and other special events throughout the year.
It’s a beautiful oasis of calm and a fantastic destination for families seeking a peaceful and educational experience.
13. Enjoy outdoor fun at City Park
Spend a day at City Park, where you’ll find a variety of outdoor activities for all ages.
Some highlights include the picturesque Sheldon Lake, playgrounds for young children, and sports facilities for tennis, basketball, and soccer.
There’s also an outdoor family pool (open in the warmer months) with slides where your little ones can paddle and cool off.
Experience Fort Collins’ Vibrant Arts and Culture Scene
Immerse yourself in Fort Collins’ vibrant arts and culture scene. With a diverse array of artistic experiences on offer, you’ll leave Fort Collins feeling inspired and enriched.
14. Attend a performance at the Lincoln Center
Catch a performance at the Lincoln Center, Fort Collins’ premier performing arts venue. Offering a wide range of thrilling shows, including theater productions, musical concerts, dance performances, and comedy shows.
There’s always something fun on here. Check their website for upcoming events and to book tickets for when you’re in town.
15. Discover local art at the First Friday Art Walk
The Fort Collins First Friday Art Walk is a self-guided walking tour that’s held in downtown Fort Collins on the first Friday of each month.
It usually runs from 6–9 pm and is a great way to experience the city’s vibrant creative scene. The tour takes you to various galleries studios, and pop-up exhibits showcasing the work of local and up-and-coming artists.
With an ever-changing lineup of art on display, you’ll be amazed by the talent and creativity found in Fort Collins.
16. Enjoy live music
Fort Collins’ live music scene is diverse and thriving. From intimate jazz clubs like Ace Gillett’s Lounge to larger concerts at the Aggie Theatre or The Armory, there’s always a show to catch in this music-loving city.
Whether you’re into jazz, rock, classical, country, hip-hop, or electronic music, you’re sure to find a venue and performance that strikes a chord with you.
Culinary Delights: Eat Like a Local
Savor the culinary delights of Fort Collins, a city that boasts a diverse and delicious food scene.
With the city’s abundance of outdoor seating venues, you can even dine al fresco while taking in the beautiful surroundings.
17. Indulge in brunch
With a focus on fresh, locally sourced ingredients, these establishments offer unique dishes and cozy atmospheres that will leave you craving more.
From classic Benedicts to inventive twists on traditional favorites, brunch in Fort Collins is a culinary adventure not to be missed.
18. Sample tasty treats at Jessup Farm Artisan Village
Tease your taste buds at Jessup Farm Artisan Village, a charming destination for food lovers.
Sample delicious pastries at The Loafing Shed, savor fresh bread at the Farmhouse or enjoy a cup of expertly-brewed coffee at the bustling espresso bar.
With its delightful array of food offerings and artisanal goods, Jessup Farm Artisan Village is a must-visit for anyone seeking a unique and tasty culinary experience.
19. Dine al fresco at outdoor seating venues
Dine al fresco at one of Fort Collins’ many outdoor seating venues, taking in the beautiful surroundings and enjoying the vibrant atmosphere.
From casual cafes to fine dining establishments, you’ll find an array of options to suit your taste and budget. Nick’s Restaurant And Bar is one of my favorite spots in the city for proper NYC-style pizza.
So grab a seat, order your favorite dish, and soak up the sunshine.
FAQs About the Best Things to Do in Fort Collins, Colorado
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the best things to do and places to visit in Fort Collins.
What is Fort Collins, Colorado known for?
Fort Collins is known for being a gateway to the Rocky Mountains, for Colorado State University, and for being the Craft Beer Capital of Colorado. The city is responsible for producing a staggering seven percent of America’s craft beer.
Is Colorado Springs cheaper than Fort Collins?
Overall, the cost of living in Colorado Springs is about 5% lower than in Fort Collins.
What is the best time of year to visit Fort Collins?
Summer is the best time to visit Fort Collins, with warm weather and plenty of outdoor activities and events to enjoy. Unless you want to ski, in which case it’s best to come between November and May.
Are there any annual music festivals in Fort Collins?
There are several annual music festivals in Fort Collins. Fort Collins Music eXperiment festival (FoCoMX), held in April, is one of the biggest and most famous.
What are some family-friendly attractions in Fort Collins?
Fort Collins offers a variety of fun and educational activities for families, such as the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, The Gardens on Spring Creek, and City Park.
Final Thoughts on Visiting Fort Collins
From exploring the charming streets of downtown, heading out into the great outdoors, and experiencing the craft beer scene, to enjoying family-friendly activities, there’s no shortage of great things to do in Fort Collins, Colorado.
With its rich history, thriving arts and culture scene, and exceptional culinary offerings, Fort Collins is a destination that will leave you with lasting memories and a desire to return.
I fully intend to come back later this year – maybe I’ll see you there!