15 Best Things to Do in Alamosa, CO

Alamosa, CO
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This municipality is the county seat of Alamosa County, Colorado, and the commercial hub of Colorado’s gorgeous San Luis Valley.

In 1878, the Denver and Rio Grande established Alamosa, becoming a major railway hub.

The railroad company had also built a facility in town that built, repaired, and shipped trains and train parts everywhere in the company.

Likewise, the company operated its narrow-gauge service headquarters in Alamosa, serving clients between southwest Colorado and northern New Mexico.

Today, Alamosa, Colorado, is a thriving tourist destination with several popular attractions such as the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

It also hosts the Colorado Gators, Reptile Park.

If you’re curious, the town gets its name from the Spanish word “Alamosa,” which means “of cottonwood.”

The term refers to the dense cottonwood forests growing along the Rio Grande and in the middle of town.

Do you want to know more about Alamosa, CO?

Here’s a list of the best things to do in town:

Wander the Desert at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

A wood at Great Sand Dunes park.
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Who says the United States doesn’t have deserts?

Visit Alamosa to find the tallest sand dunes in America at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

These 30-square-mile sand dunes sit amid the 14,000-foot Sangre de Cristo mountains, an inviting vista pulling you to an adventure of a lifetime.

It’s not just everywhere, either.

You’ll find lush forests in the park, such as cottonwood groves, even mountains, and tundra.

Hikers walking at Great Sand Dunes park.
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The tallest point in the park stands 13,604 feet above sea level.

Moreover, the campgrounds also sit on elevated areas, with the highest point reaching 8,200 feet.

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is open all day, 365 days a year.

After watching a short video at the Great Sand Dunes visitor center, you can enjoy the dunes.

You can spend the day sandboarding and sand-sledding, and then retire to your campsite in the evening.

A san mountain at Great Sand Dunes park.
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Learn Native American History at the Luther E. Bean Museum

Head to Adams State University in Alamosa to find the Luther E. Bean Museum, where you can check out marvelous pieces of Native American pottery.

These pieces include Santo Domingo Pueblos and Maria “Marie” Martinez.

Likewise, the museum also features weavings from the Navajo and Rio Grande Valley, including one weaving by Eppie Archuleta.

The museum also holds collections of antique furniture, Havelin china, retablos, ivory figurines, and sandstone figurines.

Many of these artifacts came from collections worldwide or donations from Mr. and Mrs. Woodard.

Likewise, the museum also contains items from the former Colorado Governor and founder of Adams State University, William H. Billy Adams.

Enjoy a Hot Cup of Joe at Blessed Brews Coffee Shop

Before heading out to explore Alamosa, grab a nice steaming cup of coffee at Blessed Brews Coffee Shop.

Otherwise, take a break with a friend or loved one and hang out over frappes and snacks.

The shop uses only freshly roasted direct-trade coffee beans to brew their drinks, from smoothies to lattes.

You can also order their signature blends and pair them with baked goods like cookies.

Try their sticky buns, muffins, homemade pies, or panini.

You’ll need to hurry, though, since they open only for breakfast and lunch.

Go Hiking up Zapata Falls

View of the Zapata Falls.
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When you reach the top of Zapata Falls, bring out your camera to capture the glory of the San Luis Valley and the Great Sand Dunes.

You just need to trek up four miles of hiking and biking trails at the bottom of the falls, starting from the parking area.

Likewise, you can follow Forest Service #852 to enter the wilderness and mountain peaks.

You’ll travel along South Zapata Creek until you reach South Zapata Lake.

Downstream from Zapata Falls.
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You can also take photos of some old cabins along the way.

Zapata Falls becomes a magical place during the winter because the rushing waterfall turns into an ice sculpture.

The water is already cold during the fall and summer, so it’s easy to see how it can all freeze.

You need to bring a jacket even if you visit in the summer because the area is naturally cold.

Likewise, you can take a dip in the water, but it’s cold, and the rocks are slippery.

Better ask yourself first if you can handle it.

Frozen waters of Zapata Falls.
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Learn Local History at the San Luis Valley Museum

Begin your visit to Alamosa by dropping by the San Luis Valley Museum, located at 4thand Hunt Streets.

You’ll find various exhibits displaying the San Luis Valley area's diverse arts and cultural heritage.

For instance, you’ll find authentic costumes from the 1860s, which the frontiersman Tom Tobin wore.

Likewise, you’ll see several Native American artifacts and clothes taken from the 19thcentury.

The museum also redesigned one of its rooms to look like a historic trading post.

You’ll even find remains of exotic insects and arrowheads in the museum.

The museum also holds a memorial wall to honor the sacrifice of the local men who fell in World War I and World War II.

Experience Farming at the Rio Grande Farm Park

This 38-acre property along the Rio Grande is fertile ground for various crops like corn, beans, and squash.

Residents of nearby Alamosa also enjoy exploring the Rio Grande Farm Park because of its hiking trails leading straight back to town.

You can also check out the local flora and fauna living along the river wetlands during your visit.

You can even try farming crops if you’re curious where your food comes from.

Today, the Rio Grande Farm Park has built a trail system six miles long and allocated 16 acres for community farming.

The property also contains a grove of fruit trees, a children’s play area, and gathering spots for San Luis Valley cultural events.

See the Animals at the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge

Landscape at Alamosa National Wildlife refuge.
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These vast 11,169 acres of desert and wetlands are home to various wildlife species in the San Luis Valley.

Take a trip to the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge and challenge yourself to a long hike.

The park stands on a high alpine basin, reaching 7,800 feet above sea level, covering over 100 miles of space from north to south and 50 miles from east to west.

You can see the majestic Rockies standing far in the distance.

Fall landscape at Alamosa National Wildlife refuge.
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If you look in the east, you can see the peaks of the Sangre de Cristo, while in the west lie the San Juan Mountains.

Go to the Bluff Overlook to observe the animals living in the park.

For instance, you can see migratory birds passing by when the snow melts.

Otherwise, you can see native animals like elk, rabbits, mule deer, and coyotes all year.

You can go hunting, too.

However, fishing is prohibited.

Wetlands at Alamosa National Wildlife refuge.
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If you want to bring home a beautiful souvenir, look no further than the Firedworks Gallery in Alamosa.

The gallery opened in 1979 as a simple display space for the studio to display its pottery.

Six years later, they decided to diversify and start selling artwork from other people, earning them the title of “gallery.”

Over the years, they have also expanded their space to 4,000 square feet.

They sell and display lively and colorful art, which you can hang proudly in your home.

Besides displaying artworks, the gallery also hosts a framing shop that boasts more than 2,000 styles.

You can have your purchase framed before leaving the gallery.

Try Craft Beer at San Luis Valley Brewing Company

The San Luis Valley Brewing Company is located inside the restored San Juan Building in downtown Alamosa.

During your visit, you can sample eight handcrafted beers and two home sodas, which you can pair with a diverse selection of fresh and delicious food.

You can also take a tour of the place or simply wallow in the dining room's ambiance, with local art hanging on the brick and metal walls.

The brewery also recycles its bottles, so always return your empty bottles after you drink.

This family-owned brewery has provided refreshing drinks to Alamosa since 2005.

Experience Railroad History at the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

Train at Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.
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Alamosa’s history is deeply intertwined with the history of trains in the United States.

What better way to explore such a town than by taking an old-fashioned steam-powered locomotive?

Drop by the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad for an unforgettable journey through time and place.

Powered by a coal-fired steam engine, the locomotive will let you experience what it was like to travel during the golden age of trains.

Rocky mountains and trees at Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.
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Look out the window to see the shifting landscapes across Colorado and New Mexico border.

Moreover, you can only see these rare beautiful landscapes on the train’s unique route.

The train offers passengers their choice of carriage, from the Victorian Parlor Car, the Deluxe Car, or the affordable Coach Car.

You can also enjoy a bountiful buffet lunch with your ticket.

Catch a Live Concert at the Society Hall

Located at the heart of Alamosa, the Society Hall is the town’s premier venue for live music because of its excellent acoustics and intimate atmosphere.

It was once a vacant building until a local musician community transformed it into a concert space.

Besides, the building already had a stage and more than 200 chairs.

In 1922, the Society Hall opened as a church for the Christian Science Society.

It’s a historic building whose interior comprises a central aisle leading to a stage.

The floor also slopes, allowing people to see the stage from the back.

The community retained the name “Society Hall” out of respect for its history.

Today, the Society Hall has hosted shows, from concerts, comedy specials, concerts, fundraisers, even puppet shows.

You can also have beer and wine, along with light snacks served at the building.

Check Out the Gators at the Colorado Gator Farm

Besides sand, Alamosa also offers a host of reptiles for curious tourists.

You can find these reptiles at the Colorado Gator Farm, an oasis in the heart of the desert.

In 1977, the farm’s owners meant to start a tilapia farm, taking advantage of the valley’s geothermal waters.

However, a problem quickly presented itself.

Hundreds of fish died. Instead of disposing of them, the owners brought in 100 baby alligators to solve the problem.

These baby gators grew up and thrived in the warm waters, which drew attention from the curious locals.

So, in 1990, the owners changed course and opened the Gator Farm.

They still raise tilapia, too.

Over the years, the farm also became a refuge for exotic animals.

They took in abused, illegal, and unwanted reptiles from worldwide.

Besides gators, you can check out iguanas, giant tortoises, all sorts of venomous snakes, and giant snapping turtles.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Learn Military History at the Fort Garland Museum

American flag at Fort Garland Museum.
ForgottenColorado, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Just 27 minutes away from Alamosa lies the nearby town of Fort Garland, where you can find the Fort Garland Museum.

In 1858, the United States Army built the fort to help defend the settlers in the area from Native American attacks.

The legendary figure Kit Carson helmed the fort.

A white tent at Fort Garland Museum.
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Today, the museum contains memorabilia and items showcasing Carson’s stellar career and family life.

During your visit, you can explore the fort’s parade grounds and duck inside the still-standing adobe buildings.

You can even find displays about the famous Buffalo Soldiers there.

Likewise, the museum contains artifacts collected from the early pioneers of the 19thcentury.

Igloo shaped rock at Fort Garland Museum.
ForgottenColorado, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take a Dip at the Sand Dunes Recreation

Who says a desert can’t have a hot spring?

Head 22 minutes away from Alamosa to the nearby Hooper, where you can find the Sand Dunes Recreation.

It’s a hot spring that’s open all year, with the best snack bar in all of Colorado, The Mile Deep Grille.

During the early 1930s, oil drillers kept poking around the area for black gold when they struck geothermal water near Hooper.

So, they decided to turn it into a hot spring.

Sand Dunes Recreation funnels the hot spring water to a massive 150,000-gallon pool, heated at 118 degrees Fahrenheit.

Depending on the season, the spring water for the family pool stays between 98 to 102 degrees.

They also have a therapy pool that can accommodate 24 people, and its water sticks to 108 to 109 degrees.

Grab a bite from The Mile Deep Grille and head to the pool you want.

In 2015, Sand Dunes Recreation also built a Greenhouse containing four soaking pools, a sauna for ten persons, and The Steel Box bar.

See the Wildlife at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge

Sandhill cranes flying at Monte Vista National Wildlife refuge.
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Drive 23 minutes away from Alamosa to reach the nearby town of Monte Vista, which holds the fantastic Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge.

This refuge is a haven for Colorado’s most wonderful birds.

It stretches 50 miles from east to west and 100 miles north to south.

Likewise, it’s a high place, reaching 7,800 feet above sea level on average.

Sanhill cranes walking at Monte Vista National Wildlife refuge.
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You can take a hunting rifle and aim for some waterfowl. Just follow all federal, state, and local hunting regulations.

Otherwise, you can simply explore the place along the four-mile scenic drive.

You’ll see various wildlife in the area, such as migratory waterfowl, yellow-headed blackbirds, and sandhill cranes.

The year-round fishing prohibition is also lifted for one day in June, called “Take a Kid Fishing Day.”

A bird flying at Monte Vista National Wildlife refuge.
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Final Thoughts

Alamosa is an excellent desert getaway that should offer you new sights to see and places to explore.

Try something new the next time you go on a trip, and book your Alamosa weekend today!