Fort Collins may not be the first place that pops into mind when you think “weekend getaway,” but maybe it should.
This Front Range college town, home to Colorado State University, is accessible – close to the mountains without the tricky mountain driving – and has lots of good shopping and dining, as well as great outdoor adventures.
In winter, there’s snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice skating on City Park Pond, snowmobiling and sledding around Horsetooth Reservoir, just over the hill from the city of more than 130,000 people.
In summer, the nine-mile-long reservoir buzzes with water sports. Bring your own jet skis, or rent a canoe, houseboat or other watercraft at the Inlet Bay Marina. Any time of year, you can ice skate indoors or go for a swim at the city’s EPIC arena.
Tour the local breweries to learn how beer is made – Budweiser (with its stable of gorgeous Clydesdales) and New Belgium, which has become famous for its “green” practices.
Head into Old Town, the original downtown area, for fun restaurants, brew pubs and nightlife. At CooperSmith’s Pub, for example, you can get a delightful mug of Not Brown Ale or Horsetooth Stout – even a green chile beer! Round out your meal with a pizza or burger.
Other longtime favorite dining spots in town include Bisetti’s and Canino’s for great Italian food, Rio’s for Mexican fare and dozens of other ethnic restaurants. Locals also like Jay’s Bistro or Fish Restaurant for special occasions. There’s also a Beau Jo’s (for Colorado-style pizza) and the original Egg & I eatery – for breakfast or lunch.
Fun shops downtown include such charmers as Mountain Woods Furniture, with unique, hand-made home furnishings; The Right Card, with so much more than cards; Tula, an upscale women’s clothing store; and assorted import shops that feature goods from Santa Fe to Kathmandu.
Stop by the Bike Library and check out a bike – literally. You can borrow one for the day, to pedal your way around town instead of polluting the air with auto exhaust. Speaking of which, there’s plenty of free or inexpensive parking downtown, so leave your car and do some walking.
Or take a bike up Poudre Canyon, not far from town, for a scenic ride along the Poudre River. Cycling is possible much of the year, because Fort Collins – like other Front Range cities – often has sunny, 60-degree days in the middle of winter.
The Fort Collins Museum is a little gem, with cabins dating to 1859, 1864 and 1882, as well as a 1905 schoolhouse. Inside, there are historic displays along with some very cool interactive exhibits in the Discovery Center. Kids adore it, and its summer camp is the hottest ticket in town for youngsters.
Lodging ranges from the 1923 historic Armstrong Hotel downtown to elegant and contemporary Cambria Suites on Harmony Road.
If You Go
For information about visiting Fort Collins, go to www.visitftcollins.com or call 800-274-3678.
Linda DuVal is a freelance writer who lives in Colorado Springs.