Colorado has had record breaking levels of tourists these past few years. According to the Denver Post, 86 million tourists visited the state in 2017. Colorado is becoming a favorite destination for US travellers. On the one hand, this means that I-70 gets a little more crowded every weekend. On the other hand, it means that you don’t even have to leave the state next time you need a vacation. The state’s many charming towns offer an endless supply of adventure and escape. Keep reading to find out which town to plan your next Colorado staycation.
The Mile High City has expanded quite a bit in the last decade. Hip new districts are popping up left and right, and 16th Street Mall is no longer the only attraction downtown has to offer. If you usually favor going west toward the mountains, consider taking a trip to the city for a change to see what you’ve been missing.
- Murals in the River North Arts District: Just a couple of years ago, this area was a just old warehouses and hidden murals. Now, however, the street art spans more than ten blocks wide and three streets deep. In between the murals are a plethora of craft breweries and coffee shops. It’s a hipster’s dream come true.
- Sweet Cow or Little Man Ice Cream: The local debate has been going on for years about who has the better ice cream. We say, try them both on your next downtown staycation and decide for yourself.
- City Park Jazz: Definitely don’t miss Jazz in the Park if you plan your staycation during the summer. Every Sunday, City Park hosts live music and food trucks to make a Colorado summer night that much more perfect.
- Museum of Contemporary Art: The Denver Art Museum usually takes most of the credit for Denver art. Sitting just out of the limelight is the Museum of Contemporary Art. The MoCA always has quirky new exhibits, every one of which is worthwhile to see.
- Food Halls: We aren’t sure when Colorado caught onto the food hall trend. All we know is that Denver does food halls better than almost any other city. Take your pick from Avanti, The Source, Zeppelin Station, the Milk Market, or Denver Central Market for a seriously good meal.
- Swing Dance at Mercury Cafe: Another local gem is Mercury Cafe. This fun cafe will take you back to the Footloose days with its Blues, Swing, Tango, and Jazz nights.
Most people, even locals, forget that south of Denver is a gold mine. No, not a literal goldmine. Although, Canon City did start as a mining town. We referring to the treasure trove of culture, sightseeing, and adventure that can be found in the southern part of Colorado.
- Historic Downtown: Grab a scone at a local cafe and wander down the streets of Historic Downtown for a relaxing day in the Rockies. This little town is filled with shops and galleries galore.
- The Royal Gorge Bridge: If you’ve lived in Colorado for a while and still haven’t gone to the Royal Gorge, you’re missing out. The bridge itself is an incredible sight. Check out the view of the gorge from the gondola or zipline if you want your breath taken away.
- Glamping: Soak up the Canon City area by staying right in the mountains. Get your “glamp on” and enjoy luxury camping in a cabin or tent. Comfortable beds makes a weekend getaway in the Rocky Mountains that much more relaxing.
- Raft the Arkansas River: Put yourself in the pit of the gorge with a rafting trip along the Arkansas River. Sometimes an adrenaline boosting trip is exactly what you need on a weekend getaway.
Crested Butte is probably one of the farther trips from Denver on this list, but it’s worth the distance. Exploring this classic mountain town is one of the best ways to make the most of an in-state vacation.
- Festivals: If you plan a staycation in the summer, Crested Butte is definitely the place to do it. Plan your trip around any one of the town’s fun summer events: Bike Week, Independence Day weekend, the Music Festival, the Wildflower Festival, the Art Festival, or the Wine and Food Festival.
- Izzy’s Bagels: Before heading out to explore the great outdoors, fuel up with a bagel from Izzy’s. The tasty shop has been around for years, and locals swear it gives them all the energy they need for their rugged adventures.
- Hit the Trails: Hike in the Elk Mountain Range if you want to adventure by foot. Or rent a bike and link up to any of the trailheads located right in town.
- Kayaking and Stand Up Paddle Boarding: Another reason to head up during the summer is for the local water sports. There are places in town to rent kayaks and paddle boards and plenty of nearby lakes and rivers to test your skills.
You didn’t think we’d leave out our favorite hippy town, did you? You may not have ever thought of dedicating a staycation to this college town, but we think the Boulder area deserves more than a day trip.
- Lucile’s Creole Cafe: Start at least one of your mornings off at Lucile’s while you’re in Boulder. There aren’t many places in Colorado where you can get biscuits and jalapeno cheese grits (you heard us) as good as these.
- Hiking: Our two favorite hiking spots are up at the Flatirons and down by Eldorado. Whichever you pick, you won’t be disappointed by the amazing rock formations and the views.
- Pearl Street Mall: The mall is one of the most charming outdoor malls in Colorado. Spend an afternoon shopping, relaxing, and watching the endless supply of street performers for a truly memorable Boulder trip.
- The National Center for Atmospheric Research: A science geek favorite, NCAR is both a research center and museum. You can’t find it’s unique displays and exhibits anywhere else.
If you love Rocky Mountain National Park as much as every other Coloradan, then this town is a no-fail staycation spot for you. In fact, this area has many gems besides the park that you never even knew existed.
- Aerial Tramway: If you want some stunning views, we suggest you set aside time in the morning to take a trip on the tramway. We bet you haven’t seen the Rocky Mountains quite like this.
- Rocky Mountain National Park: The park can be a haul if you’re driving from the Denver Metro area. Therefore, one of the best parts about staying nearby is beating the crowds to RMNP favorites like Chasm Lake and Sky Pond.
- The Stanley Hotel: A trip to Estes Park isn’t complete without a stay at the iconic Stanley Hotel. The Stanley is crawling with over a century’s worth of history. Whether or not it’s also crawling with ghosts is for us to wonder and for you to find out.
The great thing about Vail is its location. It’s only an hour and a half from Denver (without traffic), yet has ultimate access to nearby hiking trails. Sitting right between Copper Mountain and Beaver Creek, this well developed mountain town provides a weekend escape that’s only a short drive away.
- Hike a Fourteener: Vails sits between some of the most favorited Colorado peaks. If you plan a staycation here, take advantage of the town’s proximity to Mount Quandary, Elbert, Gray’s, Torrey’s, or Evans.
- Gerald R. Ford Amphitheatre: There’s no better ending to a day of mountaineering than a relaxing concert or show at the outdoor Ford Amphitheatre. This beautiful venue hosts concerts, dance performances, and other shows year round. We recommend buying the less expensive seats on the lawn and bringing a stellar picnic basket.
- Farmer’s Market: Despite being a small town, Vail hosts a pretty spectacular farmers market every Sunday. Besides fresh food, you can buy jewelry, home decoration, and other goodies from local artisans.
- Colorado Snowsports Museum: Get a behind the scenes look at Colorado’s unique skiing and snowboarding history at Vail’s Hall of Fame. The museum covers everything from ski fashion, ski competitions over time, and the history of the sport.
Who said the tourists should have all the fun? Make the most of our beautiful home state by exploring one of these beloved towns for a weekend. You’ll learn a thing or two and come home loving the Centennial State even more than before.