When Horace Greeley exhorted young adventurers to “go west,” he had no idea that a town named for him would become a hub of life on Colorado’s northeastern plains.

Established in 1870 as a ranching community, it was colonized by one of Greeley’s cohorts, Nathan C. Meeker. Greeley became home to one of the state’s largest meat-packing plants. The railroad made it possible for this venture to succeed, and brought many newcomers to the planned “Utopian” community.

Today, Greeley’s 90,000 residents enjoy several terrific museums, the most elaborate of which is the Centennial Village Museum. This re-creation of a plains town is gorgeously landscaped and includes some 60 structures, from granaries to Victorian homes, adobe houses to a church, representing the city’s settlement from 1860 to 1920.

The Freight Station Museum contains a scale model of the railroad that helped Greeley grow.

A lot of people think Centennial Village Museum was named for James Michener’s novel, “Centennial,” but it wasn’t. The museum got its name because it was a bicentennial project, in 1976, that turned into a town treasure.

Other museums worth visiting include the Plum Farm, where animals and crops are explored, and the Greeley History Museum, a 34,000-square-foot look at the region’s heritage.

The Greeley Freight Station Museum opened several years ago, to the delight of railroad buffs everywhere. The HO scale setup includes hundreds of hand-crafted buildings and thousands of feet of track. The museum already has had visitors from 47 states and 20 countries.

Kids will enjoy Greeley’s Family FunPlex, which includes an indoor water park with waterslides and a flowing “river,” basketball courts, inline skating track, running track, full gym, 18-hole putt-putt golf course and a video game center.

Because of the University of Northern Colorado, there’s no shortage of arts and culture, either. Check out the many art galleries in town. Great shopping can be found at the unusually charming St. Michael’s Town Square in the southwest corner of the city. Unique local shops mix with organic food stores and a variety of restaurants to create a village-type atmosphere.

Family FunPlex playground

Restaurants range from brewpubs to ice cream shops. There are loads of mom-and-pop Mexican restaurants, but Alberto’s has long been known for its sweat-inducing green chile. Other ethnic cuisines are also represented, but the steak rules on Greeley menus.

In summer, check out the huge Greeley Farmers’ Market. And if you love rodeo, don’t miss the Greeley Stampede, a two-week affair that winds up around July 4.

Outdoorsy types must hike or bike the Poudre River Trail, or spend half a day (or more) in the nearby Pawnee National Grasslands, where the prairie meets the sky and mountains are just a suggestion to the west. It’s here that Michener’s “Centennial” begins its history of Colorado, set among the buttes and rattlesnakes.

If You Go

For information on visiting Greeley, call 970-352-3566 or 800-449-3866, or go to greeleycvb.com/visiting

Linda DuVal is a freelance writer who lives in Colorado Springs.

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