Fun stuff to do next month in Colorado?
March 9, 2011 8:32 AM   Subscribe

Going to Colorado! And looking for fun, not-so-athletic things to do.

You guys were soooo great with my San Diego question last year so here's another one for ya. I'm going to Colorado April 8-12. Woohoo! However, I know absolutely nothing about Colorado, other than their baseball team. Which is out of town that weekend.

We are landing in Denver and staying in Fort Collins. We'll probably rent a car so we can drive around some. We're staying with friends so don't need hotel recommendations. What I do need is suggestions of fun stuff to do! We love music, dancing, drinking, museums, festivals, pretty much anything and everything.

DISCLAIMER - I have a weak ankle. So I can't do any super athletic stuff. So right of the bat, that means no skiing, snowboarding, etc. Which I know is kinda the best part of Colorado. My ankle is supposedly "all better" and I can hike/walk as much as I want. I just can't do anything dangerous/risky.

One stupid cheesey touristy thing we DO want to do is stay at the Stanley Hotel where they filmed the Shining. Is it worth it, or is a total waste of money?
posted by silverstatue to Travel & Transportation around Colorado (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Fort Collins has a great microbrewery scene, the crown jewel of which is New Belgium. It offers tours daily, reservations pretty much required.
posted by Clustercuss at 8:44 AM on March 9, 2011

Drink. There are something like a dozen microbrews in Fort Collins.

Head to Estes Park, it's nearby and pretty. Odds are you won't be able to go very far into Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park, as it will be pretty snowed in.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:45 AM on March 9, 2011

Hey, Fort Collins is great! It's good for at least a day of seeing. Can you ride a bike? The city lends bicycles for free, and there are great paths all around. It's the best way to get around town and see stuff. We have several truly excellent craft breweries here; Odells and New Belgium both offer pretty good tours and have nice tap rooms. Or it's an easy, pretty drive to Laramie from FC; that's worth doing for an afternoon, too.

Boulder and the surrounding foothills is good for another half day or so of walking, driving, and exploring.

Estes Park is beautiful, and you can drive up to the mountains some from there (the pass isn't open yet, however, so you won't be able to drive to the top of the mountains). The Stanley is plenty creepy, and there's lots to look at. The rooms are sort of overpriced and are no great shakes - it would be fun to stay, though, so you can poke around Estes and go driving the next day.

Denver has music and museums and general going-out stuff.
posted by peachfuzz at 8:45 AM on March 9, 2011

Go check out Red Rocks Amphitheatre, visit the Coors Factory in Golden, take an afternoon to walk around Boulder.
posted by jrichards at 8:47 AM on March 9, 2011

There are some great breweries (beer) in Ft. Collins: New Belgium, Odell, Funkwerks, and Equinox among others. If you like classical music, the Fort Collins symphony is doing a concert of French music. There are some shows at The Aggie Theater as well that weekend.

Or on preview, what everyone else said.

We've had a long standing idea of having a Ft. Collins MeFi meetup, especially doing a New Belgium tour. Sadly all the tours are booked for that Saturday so that plan is dashed if you wanted the company. It looks like Tuesday tours are available, you should reserve soon!
posted by dr. fresh at 8:49 AM on March 9, 2011

While we're at it, would any of the advice change for a May trip? Arriving on the 20th, leaving on the 22nd, and I'll be performing a wedding, so my schedule is not my own.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:53 AM on March 9, 2011

Seconding Red Rocks, which is 15 miles of Denver; in the daytime, it's a park situated in a canyon, with breathtaking views. A set of roadways run through the area, so you won't have to worry about walking. It also has a restaurant which serves tex-mex cuisine, as a well as a visitor's center which provides more free maps of the state than you'd find at any airport, gas station or hotel.

At night, Red Rocks serves as a concert venue, and includes a music museum highlighting the various acts which played there (the first actual rock group to play were the Beatles, in 1964). The visitors center includes DVDs of some of the shows, as well.

If you enjoy a good read, The Tattered Cover in Denver is excellent. It's located in a former music hall, right next to Twist and Shout Records, a mecca for rare and used vinyl. The Fillmore Auditorium in Denver is a few blocks away from the stores, and is a great spot for alternative acts.

And of course, you could arrange for a meetup in MeFi's IRL section; The Falling Rock Tap House is a great place to unwind and chat. Say Hi to Nails the Cat and all the gang for me, if you go!
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:29 AM on March 9, 2011

One stupid cheesey touristy thing we DO want to do is stay at the Stanley Hotel where they filmed the Shining. Is it worth it, or is a total waste of money?

Small point of clarification: Stephen King stayed at the Stanley Hotel and was inspired by it to write The Shining, but the Kubrick version was filmed almost entirely on a soundstage in England, with a few exterior shots filmed at the Timberline Lodge in Oregon. None of the Kubrick version was actually shot at the Stanley.
posted by The Michael The at 9:32 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's about 2 and a half hours away from Fort Collins, but when my cousins came to CO we went to the Pike's Peak Cog Railway so they could say they climbed a mountain.

There's also Black Hawk if you're into gambling (also about 2 hours away).

The Hosetooth Rock hike probably won't be too strenuous on your ankle, and that's the big mountain overlooking Fort Collins so you can get some neat pictures that way.

Looks like CSU doesn't doesn't have a lot planned for that weekend, though there are a couple softball games and some concerts if you're interested.

The local newspaper also has a calendar of events for most days. Most of the time it's just bar advertising, but there could be something there to spark your interest.

Denver has the Museum of Natural History and Science (their big exhibition right now is pirates!), and the Art Museum. The Fort Collins Museum is kind of so-so. Fort Collins also has a few historic buildings that might be of interest. I think right now the Avery House has a Victorian clothing exhibit.

You will definitely want to spend an afternoon walking around Old Town Fort Collins. Lots of little shops and galleries to keep you entertained for quite awhile. If you've ever been to Disneyland, Disney's Main Street USA was based in part on Old Town.

A disclaimer: you're arriving during what's probably smack in the middle of prom season, so if you're planning on eating at a moderately nice restaurant Friday/Saturday night I would call ahead, and don't be surprised by all the oddly well-dressed kids.
posted by lilac girl at 9:34 AM on March 9, 2011

Response by poster: This all sounds so great. Thanks for the suggestions so far!

Thanks for the clarification, The Michael The. It's funny, I always heard he was inspired by Mohonk Mountain House (here in NY). Well, it might still be fun, if we have time.
posted by silverstatue at 9:35 AM on March 9, 2011

Well, after some more research, it's apparently slightly controversial: King may have been inspired by both, as he may (apocryphally) have also stayed at the Mohonk Mountain House during a writer's retreat. Regardless, Kubrick didn't film at the Stanley (though the TV version did).

I will say that I stayed in Estes Park and thought it was a great little town, principally because Rocky Mountain NP is one of my favorite places in the world. So gorgeous. Worth it just to drive into the park for a little bit.
posted by The Michael The at 9:42 AM on March 9, 2011

Best answer: Nthing the brewery tours. New Belgium's is quite good. I liked Odells as well.

If you're up for a bit of a drive, consider checking out Strawberry Park Hot Springs, ten miles or so north of Steamboat. It's absolutely beautiful and definitely worth the trip.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 9:44 AM on March 9, 2011

Even if there's snow on the peaks, you probably can still get into Rocky Mountain National Park (~15 min from the town of Estes Park) and drive up to Bear Lake which is a popular xc skiing and sledding area. It's also really beautiful there.

If you visit there in June/July/August/September, the drive up Fall River Road to Trail Ridge Road and back down is quite spectacular. Also, once the road is open, the Mt. Evans road (Colorado State Highway 5), about 45 min west of Denver, is really amazing -- you can drive to the top of a beautiful 14,000' mountain (which I think is much prettier than Pikes Peak).
posted by elmay at 9:57 AM on March 9, 2011

The Denver Mint tour is interesting (and free! but you have to register ahead of time through the website). And seconding the Coors Brewery Tour (bonus: free beer at the end!).
posted by amyms at 10:07 AM on March 9, 2011

Eat at Illegal Pete's! It's a casual burrito bar with some amazing food and there are always drink specials for happy hour (usually margaritas or beer pitchers, perfect combo w/ your burrito :) They have three locations in Denver and two up in Boulder. I basically survived on this deliciousness all through college!
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 10:15 AM on March 9, 2011

Best answer: Also another cheesy touristy thing that is actually kind of cool - if you are a fan of tea the Celestial Seasonings tea production plant is a great place to tour. You get to see the gallery of artwork from their boxes and taste all their teas. They have a room filled w/ mint that once you step in it just saturates and clears your sinuses!

It's located just north of Boulder and is about an hour south of Fort Collins (or you could make it a pit stop on your way up from Denver.)
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 10:26 AM on March 9, 2011

Best answer: Native Denverite here -- popped in to say that (from second-hand experience), actually staying overnight at the Stanley Hotel isn't really worth it -- but a friend and I visited the place on a whim and happened upon a tour of the place. I tried finding mention of it on the website, but only saw the one you have to reserve in advance. This was about four or five years ago when we were there -- I think it was free for us, but we might have paid -- but we certainly didn't reserve in advance.

And yep, The Shining with Jack Nicholson was not filmed here -- however, the 1997 mini-series was. As was the "Aspen" scenes from Dumb & Dumber (and our tour guide had an intresting story about Jim Carrey and the infamous room #217). I may have been more interested in that than the ghost stories. We were also there when the guys from Ghost Hunters were checking it out (which didn't mean anything to me until afterwards).

But it's a lovely drive -- going through Estes Park. We drove through Lyons on the way back, a town that just so happens to be home to one of my favorite breweries (food's tasty, too). Not that you don't get enough breweries in Colorado, right?

I'm not as familiar with Fort Collins, and any other thoughts I had were already previously mentioned -- but if you do go on the Coors Brewery Tour, give yourself a little bit of time to wander Golden. It's not that big (at least, the main street isn't) and there are some interesting shops. And if you aren't sick of beer, I'll throw in another plug for what is my favorite brewery: Golden City Brewery. Can't link to it from work, but they bill themselves as the 2nd largest brewery in Golden. It's pretty much run out of a guy's garage, and their IPA is the tastiest thing I have ever had.

Not too far from Golden (up Lookout Mountain -- Golden sits at its base) is Buffalo Bills Grave.

Also in the foothills of Denver is Dinosaur Ridge. I had a friend who used to work there so I may be a little biased, but it's a pretty interesting place anyway. I haven't been since they've totally revamped the visitor's center, though. You take a self-guided tour if you just want to drive around at your own pace.
posted by paisley sheep at 11:05 AM on March 9, 2011

Seconding Celestial Seasonings tour ... it's great fun. Estes and RMNP are wonderful, but the Stanley is better for a lobby visit/meal than for a hotel. (Check the Tripadvisor reviews.)
posted by cyndigo at 11:27 AM on March 9, 2011

Best answer: If you're looking for shows to attend, the Denver Westword calender is a pretty good resource. (Fort Collins would be in the Outside the metro area, Northern colorado box option)
posted by girih knot at 12:06 PM on March 9, 2011

I stayed at the Stanley last summer and I thought it was nice. The room I had was not fancy but it was clean and comfortable (it was just down the hall from the famous room). I kind of like old creaky hotels but if you expect chain hotel standards you might not like it. You can just visit and have drinks or eat in the restaurant if you prefer.

They do have a ghost tour. I don't know that you have to register in advance but when we tried to register the same afternoon all the tours were full. So if you want to be sure you get on the tour, register in advance. The ghost stuff is indeed cheesy, but I really enjoyed having coffee on the veranda in the morning and just relaxing.

Estes Park and Rocky Mt. National Park were both nice and it is a pretty drive.
posted by interplanetjanet at 2:51 PM on March 9, 2011

There are loads of good threads in AskMe that talk about things to do in Colorado. I'll just plug Estes Park and the Stanley Hotel. Estes is in a super beautiful location in the mountains and even though it is touristy it still just great. The Stanley is a wonderful historic hotel and has a great cheesy ghost tour. Highly recommended. Did anyone mention O'dell yet? O'dell is a brewery in Ft. Collins that rules. Enough said, take a tour. Also, Colorado is better known for New Belgium Brewery (the folks that make Fat Tire)...I think their beer isn't nearly as good but it would also be a fun tour.
posted by fieldtrip at 5:58 PM on March 9, 2011

Also, Boulder isn't far away and is great to visit. It has loads of casual hiking in the foothills.
posted by fieldtrip at 5:59 PM on March 9, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the help, everyone! I marked the suggestions with places I'm most likely to go to, but everything sounds great. I can't wait for my trip!
posted by silverstatue at 8:54 AM on March 10, 2011

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