Colorado’s high country is home to hundreds of festivals and community activities — from blues festivals to culinary celebrations — that have become signature activities on their year-round calendars of events.
But we’ve found some lesser-known events at Colorado destinations to consider when making your vacation plans. So head up to the high country – there’s a whole lot of fun waiting.
Well known: Beaver Creek Arts Festival
Little known: Beaver Creek Rodeo Series
The whole family can watch and participate in this classic western event in Avon, with bareback bronc’ riding, calf scramble, team roping, bull riding, barrel racing, burro racing and mutton bustin.’ Pre-rodeo activities include pony rides, face painting, mechanical bull and a barbecue. Free for kids 12 and younger; free shuttle from Beaver Creek. (Thursday nights) June 28, July 5,12,19 and Aug. 2, 9, 16, 6-8 p.m..
Well known: Breckenridge Music Festival
Little known: Arts District of Breckenridge
Get in touch with your inner artist at the arts campus in the renovated historic buildings in the center of town. Visiting and resident artists offer workshops, demos and lectures for all ages throughout the summer in a variety of mediums including drawing, painting, textiles, ceramics, photography and creative writing. Also, the 31st annual Festival of Film June 7-10 offers a great opportunity to learn about film making.
Well known: Wildflower Festival
Little known: Opera
This little town will be presenting a big opera with big talent — Carmen —conducted by David Syrus, head of music for the Royal Opera of Covent Garden, London, and directed by Metropolitan Opera Director Sarah Meyers. Met bass-baritone and Colorado native Keith Miller will be joined by other stars from around the country. July 28, 29 and Aug. 9th.
Well known: Narrow Gauge Railroad
Little known: Agritourism
Find out where your food comes from. This new tourist attraction takes visitors on tours of organic farms and ranches in the area where they will learn about sustainable farming and ranching. See bees make honey, watch dogs guarding free-range chickens and sample veggies you pick from the garden.
Well known: Longs Peak Scottish Irish Highland Festival
Little known: Wool Market
This 21st annual market is all about wool — the animals it comes from, how we get it and the products made from it. Learn from contests, exhibits and demonstrations that include shearing, fiber preparation, spinning, weaving and how to pack a llama. Shop for wool items in more than 50 booths. June 9-12.
Well known: FIBark Whitewater Festival
Little known: Riverside Fine Arts Festival
This new gathering of juried fine artists from 15 states debuted in 2009 at Riverside Park and, combined with continuous music on both days, turned out to be one of the best in the country. Not surprising, as Sunset magazine named Salida “best art community in the west.” Aug. 11-12.
GRAND JUNCTION (Gateway)
Well known: Wine Country
Little known: Gateway Auto Museum
This unusual museum contains 45 of the most prized classic cars of the $11 million collection owned by John Hendricks (founder of the Discovery Channel) and family. The automotive history is arranged in a timeline of more than 100 years — from the 1906 Cadillac Model H Coupe to the 2008 Tesla Roadster. Gateway is one hour southwest of Grand Junction on Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway 141.
Well known: Jazz and Bluegrass Festivals
Little known: Telluride Yoga Festival
For yoga devotees, there isn’t a more beautiful place to breathe deeply than the San Juan Mountains. World-class instructors will offer workshops for all levels with morning meditations. July 12-15.
Well known: Vail International Dance Festival
Little known: Vail Lacrosse Shootout
Though it’s known in lacrosse circles, tourists may not know about this prestigious invitational club tournament now in its 39th year. More than 3,000 athletes from national high school and college (elite) teams in men’s and women’s divisions as well as men’s masters, supermasters and grandmasters play throughout the Vail Valley. The elite games are scheduled near the July 4th holiday for exciting spectator thrills. June 30-July 8.
Claudia Carbone of Denver is an award-winning freelance journalist and author. Her website is claudiacarbone.com.