Want to be happy? Travel more.
This advice comes from sciences and a conference hosted in collaboration with the World Tourism Organization of the United Nations.
The Happiness 360 Conference, an international symposium, presented research and experts on the connection between travel and happiness.
Why Does Travel Make You Happy?
According to the conference, travel opens your mind; builds your relationships with the people you travel with; it builds new connections with the people you meet on your adventure, and is a gateway to meaningful cultural lessons.
Research also clearly shows that experiences are more satisfying than things.
Inspired by that expert research, here are five ways you can tap into the happy travel bug during your next Colorado vacation.
Visit the Happiest Cities in America
This year's Gallop-Healthways poll of the happiest cities in America named two Colorado communities on the top 10: Boulder and Fort Collins.
Fort Collins pulled rank at No. 4.
In the summer, don't miss the Annual Flower Trial Garden. This remarkable and always-changing display of more than 1,000 different types of plants and flowers is free and open to the public from late May through October. You can see pansies from the fall through early spring, and you can even catch perennials on display year-round.
The "trial" part of this garden is an evaluation of different plants under various environmental conditions. It's educational and a stunning sight.
Plus, flowers have been shown to improve emotional health.
"The presence of flowers triggers happy emotions, heightens feelings of life satisfaction and affects social behavior in a positive manner far beyond what is normally believed," according to AboutFlowers.com.
So even if you miss the trial garden, take time to stop and smell the blooms elsewhere in Fort Collins. During warmer weather, the wildflowers at Horsetooth Reservoir are sure to make you smile.
Open Your Mind: A Cannabis Tour
You don't have to use it to learn about it, and with the legal, recreational cannabis industry still a novelty to most visitors, you probably have many questions and a lot to learn.
A cannabis tour can get you behind the scenes at dispensaries (and some even bring you to growing greenhouses) so you can educate yourself about this emerging industry that is helping shape Colorado's culture and economy.
Build Relationships: Off the Grid
One of the best ways to build relationships with your friends, family and travel buddies is to truly focus on them, with no distractions.
A hike up a trail in Rocky Mountain National Park — or better yet, a summit of one of Colorado's "fourteeners" (mountains that reach above 14,000 feet) will put you far off the grid and deep in nature.
For a more relaxing but equally as secluded getaway, rent a mountain cabin. Oleo Guest Ranch, between Creede and Lake City, features rustic cabin rentals in a super remote stretch of southwest Colorado. At more than 10,000 feet above sea level, you can expect incredible views overlooking the valley. This deep in nature, there's no "light poisoning," so you can see the stars in their natural, twinkling glory.
Oleo Ranch is near many miles of hiking trails and five stocked ponds and streams for private fishing.
Connect With Locals: Local Pizza and Beer
Here's a local favorite: Beau Jo’s Pizza in Idaho Springs (with a branch in Fort Collins) serves up Colorado "mountain pies" that are massive. So big, in fact, that they're ordered by the pound, and served with honey on the side for dipping the massive, braided crust into. This is how Colorado does pizza.
If you really want to interact with locals, skip the Coor's tour and head to a small microbrewery. You can find one in just about every city. Look for small gems, like the City Star Brewery in Berthoud, which feels rustic and homey, with an oversized, community-style picnic table and plenty of board games to keep you busy while you taste a flight.
Experience Colorado Culture: Creative Districts
Eighteen different Colorado communities are specially designated Creative Districts.
Denver's Santa Fe Art District is one of the most prominant with more than 70 different galleries. But dive extra deep in the "Corazón de Trinidad," or heart of Trinidad.
Trinidad is just about three hours south of Denver and has seen a recent influx of working artists, due to its more affordable cost of living. Plan a special trip to Historic Trinidad.
Here, art is everywhere, from the professional Southern Colorado Repertory Theatre's year-round shows to the architecture — one of the biggest groups of Victorian houses west of the Mississippi River. Trinidad also has a quality selection of art galleries.
For something fun, hop on the free Trinidad Trolley Tour. Or spring through October, brave the Haunted Corazón Tour, a nighttime walk through the town, complete with ghost stories, murder accounts and Old West characters, including famous Billy the Kid. These are all parts of Colorado's culture and history.