Travel Colorado: Fort Collins

We at Colorado Springs Moms Blog love to travel this beautiful state. We suspect you do, too. Our newest series called "Travel Colorado" highlights our writers' favorite spots, in no particular order. We hope this compact, virtual guidebook provides you with the inspiration and the tools for your Colorado adventures. Last month? Telluride. Next month... Pagosa Springs.


An easy drive north of Denver (barring the typical traffic snafus, of course) you’ll find a dynamic city packed with fun adventures for the whole family. Fort Collins boasts that it’s the craft beer capital
of our very beer-oriented state. Home to Colorado State University, Fort Collins has all the amenities of a college town. Art, eateries, and outdoor recreation everywhere you turn.

Here are some highlights if you want to explore FoCo as a day trip or an overnight experience.

History of Fort Collins

The Cache La Poudre River runs through Fort Collins, so named after a group of French Canadian fur traders supposedly tried to lighten their load after being caught in a snowstorm in the early 1800s. They buried their store of gunpowder (poudre in French) in a hiding place (cache) along the river.

In 1862, a fort was built by Kansas cavalry to protect travelers on their way west. Two years later, a flood sent them scrambling for higher ground to what is now Old Town Fort Collins. The railroad soon followed, and later the Colorado Agricultural & Mechanical College built its first classrooms in 1879. (The school took the name Colorado State University in 1957.)

{Rafting Cache la Poudre River Fort Collins-Photo Credit: Richard Haro/ Visit Fort Collins}

Getting There

Roughly an hour up I-25 from Denver (a solid two hours from Colorado Springs), Fort Collins is the last major northern city before you hit Wyoming. (It’s also less than an hour from Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Cheyenne, Wyoming, so you have plenty of other options to explore if you decide to check things out!)

Five Must Dos

Breweries/Cideries/Wineries/Distilleries – Pick your poison! Fort Collins is home to seven distilleries and more than 20 craft breweries. Choose your libation of choice and have fun! O’Dell Brewing Company  and New Belgium are especially popular with families (and right down the road from each other) because kids can enjoy some craft root beer and play games on their epic outdoor patios. There’s often live music, too!

{Odell Brewery- Photo credit: Odell Brewing Co/Visit Fort Collins}

Explore the Iconic Old Town – Did you know that Disneyland’s Main Street USA was based off Downtown Fort Collins? Even the alleys have been upgraded into walkable marketplaces. Fun shops abound. You can also take advantage of their monthly First Friday Artwalks to explore Fort Collins’ vibrant arts scene in Old Town. Not to be outdone, there’s also a Foodie Walk on the third Friday of the month!

Bohemian Nights Concert Series – A free music series in the heart of Fort Collins (August 10-12th). It features more than 80 bands covering all genres from Blues to Gospel to Hip-hop and Indie Folk. There’s also a Kids’ Music Adventure stage! Headliners include local legend and guitarist Trace Bundy, the rock band Blondie, and the Decemberists.

Explore Horsetooth Reservoir – Just minutes from downtown, Horsetooth is 6.5 mile long reservoir, a rarity in the high desert of Colorado. You can boat, hike, sail, fish, and if your kids are older, rent paddle boards or kayaks.

{Horsetooth Reservoir: Photo credit AJ Cohen/Visit Fort Collins}

City Park Pool – Can you beat an outdoor pool with a 30-foot drop slide, an open curly slide, lazy river, and wading pools for the littles? How about the fact that every Tuesday night starting at 5:30 to dusk is a family-friendly food truck rally along with live music! On summer Saturdays, they also run a trolley car into Old Town.

{City Park Pool- Photo Credit: Visit Fort Collins}

Five Family Friendly Activities

The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery – Although it may seem small by some standards, this museum is great for kids to explore. There’s a music and sound lab, a science exploration zone, animal encounters that reflect the wilds of Colorado. Plus a toddler area that includes a huge train table, a water zone, and a crawl-through tree! There’s also a 35-foot dome theatre with shows for young kids to adults.

Twin Silos Park – A huge park on the east side of Fort Collins, Twin Silos is named for the giant grain silos that form part of the tallest slide in Fort Collins. There are gardens, trails, a creek to play in, and more.

Noontime Notes Concert Series – Each Tuesday through July, enjoy kids’ music in the Oak Street Plaza in Old Town Square. Kids can run through the fountain in the square, so bring a change of clothes!

Fort Fun – For traditional family fun like mini golf, batting cages and go-karts, look no further than Fort Fun!

The Farm at Lee Martinez Park – Introduce your kids to farm animals and other interactive family fun, with hayrides and pony rides on the weekends. Open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10am to 5pm (Sundays open at noon).  

{The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery-Photo Credit:Richard Haro/Visit Fort Collins}

Five (OK, Four) Great Places To Stay

The Elizabeth Hotel – Brand new. It has a great rooftop/jazz/cocktail lounge (adults only) that overlooks all of Old Town, just on the east side of Old Town Square, within blocks of New Belgium and O’Dells. If you’re on your own (without kids) this is definitely the place to stay!

The Armstrong Hotel – Historic, on College Ave (main street) with tons of neighboring restaurants and shops.

Remington Flats – A boutique, remodeled historic home just one block east of College Ave.

Horsetooth Hideway Bed and Breakfast – Just steps away from the Marina at Hoorsetooth Reservoir, this place will be hopping all summer long. It attracts bikers, so if you don’t like noise from boats or bikes, stay elsewhere.

{Old Linden Hotel Fort Collins-Photo Credit:Tim OHara/Visit Fort Collins}

Five Great Eateries

Restaurant 415 – Every time we visit Fort Collins, we eat at 415. Quick and fresh, there’s always a lot of kids cleaning their plates here.

Silver Grill Café – The most famous, oldest spot in Old Town is known for its delicious cinnamon rolls. Yum!

Rainbow Restaurant – On the north side of CSU campus, this is the place if you’re vegan or vegetarian.

Lucile’s Creole Café – If you’re hankering for something different, consider Lucile’s famous Creole/Cajun offerings.

Beau Jo’s Pizza – A Colorado staple for epic pizza. Plus the best dipping honey for your pizza crust.

{Photo Credit:Richard Haro/Visit Fort Collins}

And a few more…

Walrus Ice Cream – The best ice cream, with lots of gluten-free, egg-free, and even dairy free sorbet options among their 29 daily flavors.

Bindle Coffee – The theme of this shop is “sip and savor,” and we guarantee you’ll love their scratch-made pastries and direct-soured coffee.

The Chocolate Café – In the Armstrong Hotel building (see places to stay, above) you can grab a meal or something super sweet.

{Old Town Square- Photo Credit: Richard Haro/Visit Fort Collins}

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Kate is a Hoosier by birth but knew in her mid-teens that she’d live near the mountains. In college she spent a glorious summer in Colorado Springs volunteering at Glen Eyrie and vowed she’d come back somehow. She's now lived at the foot of Pikes Peak for more than a decade. She and her husband and two boys live downtown in a home almost as old as the city itself. Kate attempts to garden in her free time, making a commitment to grow something strange and new each year. So far luffa sponges, quinoa, and various pumpkins have fed nothing but the squirrels. Prior to staying home with her boys, Kate wrote and edited for a nonprofit that transformed the lives of children all over the world. She is passionate and nerdy and is continually surprised at the joy she has found in this season of motherhood.