Popular for grand views and adventurous living, Colorado is a great destination. Colorado’s diversity means there are a lot of things to do for many different types of people—but there are so many options, choosing how you want to spend your time can be tough! However, some attractions in the Centennial State rise above others. Here's your guide to the top things to do in colorful Colorado.
Located in Denver’s historic Cheeseman Park neighborhood, the Denver Botanic Gardens features so much more than western plants. The 23-acre space features a conservatory and seven unique garden landscapes, including alpine meadows and the High Desert. Currently, Denver Botanic Gardens is home to North America’s largest collection of global temperate plants.
On top of the gardens, Denver Botanic has a sunken amphitheater that hosts a variety of musical artists throughout the summer. Nothing beats a classic Colorado summer night, spent listening to your favorite songs and surrounded by beautiful gardens.
Colorado’s Royal Gorge is more than 1,000 feet deep—but you’re safe and sound at the top of Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. Thrill-seekers can board a zip line course for some toe-curling action, stroll along the nation's highest suspension bridge, ride a sky coaster or aerial gondola, or go on a professionally-guided hike through the mountains.
High on the Colorado Plateau in the western part of the state, you’ll find the jaw-dropping formations and big sky of Colorado National Monument. Sheer canyons rocket through the ground, bighorn sheep ramble around the desert landscape, and eagles soar through the air at this classic American West destination. You can drive along historic Rim Rock Drive, camp, or hike 40 miles of well-maintained trails.
Long before pioneers settled the Wild West of Colorado, it was inhabited by the ancient Puebloans. The Pueblo peoples made their mark at Mesa Verde National Park, which was designated a UNICEF World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978. Mesa Verde features several ancient cliff dwellings, including the sprawling Cliff Palace, the intricate Balcony House, and the suburban Spruce Tree House. The park is also home to the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, and several scenic trails to enjoy the panoramic views of southern Colorado.
Let’s face it: Everyone loves the zoo. While Denver has an excellent one, Colorado Spring’s Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is consistently rated as one of the top zoos in the country. Named for the mountain that it sits on, the 140-acre attraction is home to a whole range of animals, including bald eagles, grizzly bears, lemurs, and coatis. At 6,714 feet high, Cheyenne Mountain also happens to be the highest zoo in the U.S.
At most Colorado ski resorts, you must drive or catch a bus to get from town to the slopes—but not in Colorado's most famous mining town. The Telluride Mountain Village Gondola takes passengers on a 13-minute ride over the breathtaking San Juan Mountains, between Mountain Village and Telluride. It's also free for both visitors and Telluride residents, and is 100 percent ADA accessible. What more could you ask for?
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is a mix of permanent fixtures and temporary exhibits that will capture your imagination, no matter your interests. The 716,000-square-foot museum is in Denver's City Park neighborhood, and houses more than one million viewable objects and exhibits. Learn about the natural history of Colorado through detailed dioramas, explore the planet’s weather patterns on a holographic Earth, or catch a movie at the museum’s IMAX theater.
When 15-year-old Jim Bishop bought a small plot of land in Central Colorado, he only intended to build a small cottage for his family. However, his neighbors noted that the cottage looked more like a castle due to its surrounding rock wall. So, Bishop kept building, and turned his home into a rambling and towering stone construction. Forty odd years later, Bishop Castle has become a popular roadside attraction, and Bishop continues to build his personal monument to this day.
Note for families: Families with children should note Jim Bishop has strong opinions and will regularly share them out loud with colorful language.
Colorado has a rich military tradition, with several military bases stationed around the state. At the National Museum of World War II Aviation, you can get up close to aircraft and vehicles that helped secure Allied victory, and check out the jackets worn by fighter pilots. To learn more about aviation during this era, sign up for a guided tour of the museum's many exhibits.
Colorado features one of the nation’s strongest craft brewery industries—but you can argue that Fort Collins’s New Belgium Brewing is the mastermind behind the beer that put Colorado on the map. Opened in 1991, New Belgium has become the fourth largest craft brewery in the U.S. Here, you can find tasting rooms, a food truck serving up munchies, and brewery tours (complete with a beer tasting, of course). If you’re an aficionado, you can upgrade to a more detailed tour that doles out beer that hasn't yet hit the shelves.
Unlike other national parks in Colorado, Great Sand Dunes National Park is open all night for some of the best stargazing in the entire country. A diverse landscape, the park features lakes, creeks, meadows, rolling hills, and (as one would expect) the tallest sand dunes in North America. Strap a board to your feet or boogie board down the rolling dunes for a truly unique experience.
Red Rocks Amphitheater is consistently named one of the top outdoor venues in the world, earning Pollstar's "Best Small Outdoor Venue" award a record 11 times. The natural rock formations surrounding the stage lend to an acoustic experience unlike any other. When you’re not enjoying music, walk up to the porch for spectacular views of Denver and the rolling plains of Colorado. Even if there’s no one playing, you can still visit Red Rocks for hiking or a stop at the Colorado Music Hall Of Fame.
If you want classic Colorado alpine beauty and craggy peaks, set your sights on Rocky Mountain National Park. RMNP offers dozens of miles of hiking and biking trails, scenic overlooks and drives, and a gondola to see the Rocky Mountains’s natural beauty from above. You can spot elk, cast your line for trout, take a guided hike, or partake in dozens of other activities. Late spring is one of the best times to visit RMNP for the wildflower bloom and mild conditions.
Want to get up close to Colorado's peaks but don’t have the energy for miles of hiking? Try the Georgetown Loop Railroad. Located only a few miles west of Denver, the family-friendly attraction takes you down a 3-foot narrow gauge track through the mountainous—and incomparably beautiful—landscape. In the summer, you can sign up for a historical mine tour, whereas winter transforms the loop into Santa's Lighted Forest.
If you’ve ever seen an old Western or read about the Wild West, you’ve heard of William Frederick Cody—more popularly known as Buffalo Bill. As an Army scout, Pony Express rider, ranch hand, gold prospector, entertainer, and more, Buffalo Bill embodied the Western spirit. You can pay homage to Buffalo Bill by visiting his museum and grave, located in the Denver suburb of Golden, Colorado. The museum features both permanent and temporary exhibits about Buffalo Bill’s life and his impact on the American West.