15 Best Things to Do in Fort Collins, CO

Fort Collins, CO
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Are you looking for the best college town in the country?

Luckily, Fort Collins isn't just famous for being the perfect community for diverse and adventure-seeking college students.

It is also a haven for anyone who craves spectacular recreational activities, arts, culture, and local cuisine.

Incorporated as a town in 1873, Fort Collins was initially referred to as Camp Collins in honor of the late Lt. Col. William O. Collins, a commander of the Ohio Cavalry troops.

According to the 2020 United States Consensus, Fort Collins has a total population of 169,810, making it the fourth most populated city in Colorado.

Do you want to experience unique fun in this vibrant city?

Check out these best things to do in Fort Collins, Colorado:

Get Wet and Wild at the Cache la Poudre River

The rapids of Cache la Poudre River
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The Cache la Poudre River is a certified wild and scenic river by the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

It forms part of the Cache la Poudre River Heritage Area or CALA historical sites alongside the Fort Collins Water Works, the Great Sugar Beet Flume, and the Eaton House.

The river's French name translates to "Hide the Powder," a reminder of an incident in the late 1980s where French trappers buried their gunpowder in a cache near the river's mouth while caught in a snowstorm.

Whitewater rafting on Cache la Poudre River
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Extending 125 miles, the river originates among the Rocky Mountains, drops around 7,000 feet to the Great Plains, passes through the City of Fort Collins, then joins the south Platte River east of Greeley.

The Cache la Poudre River is famous among rafters and kayakers.

The International Whitewater Rating System classifies its rapids from Class I to VI, which characterizes the difficulty of navigating the river from easy to extreme and exploratory rapids.

If you wish to fish, the area is also an excellent choice, for it is considered one of the west's finest trout routes and streams.

A footbridge over Cache la Poudre River
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Take a Tasty Tour around New Belgium Brewing

Exterior of New Belgium Brewing
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Fort Collins isn't just your typical college town.

It is also dubbed the "Craft Beer Capital," producing 70% of the craft beer in Colorado.

It has over 20 award-winning local craft beer breweries you don't want to miss visiting!

Most of these breweries are microbreweries or those that produce a limit of 15,000 beer barrels annually.

At the top of the list is New Belgium Brewing—one of the world's largest and leading craft breweries.

New Belgium Brewing was born from a bike trip through Belgium in the late 1980s, which inspired its founders, Kim Jordan and Jeff Lebesch, to bring the century-old Belgian brewing flavors to Fort Collins.

A glass of beer in New Belgium Brewing
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In August 2020, New Belgium Brewing's Fat Tire became the country's first certified carbon-neutral beer after nearly three decades in business.

You can experience their brewery in four exciting ways—tour teaser, guided tastings, brewery tour, and private brewery tour.

The tour teaser is a 45-minute free tour of their brewhouses with free beer sampling.

Meanwhile, expert guides will discuss their beer history in detail during their paid guided tastings.

You will also have your own tasting booklet with descriptions of their world-class beers.

Visit New Belgium Brewing on Linden Street, Fort Collins.

Come Out and Play at Horsetooth Reservoir

A boat docked at Horsetooth Reservoir
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Nestled at the foothills west of Fort Collins, Horsetooth Reservoir is a 6.5-mile-long reservoir with a maximum depth of 200 feet.

It was built in 1949 and serves as one of the principal reservoirs in the city.

The name Horsetooth is inspired by the unique rock formation above the large water body.

Dubbed the third busiest reservoir in the state, this outdoor paradise receives over 500,000 annual visitors.

Sandstone quarry near the waters of Horsetooth Reservoir
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It is famous for recreational boating, kayaking, paddleboarding, and canoeing.

Swimming is another activity you can enjoy here but only in designated swimming areas.

If you're not a fan of water sports, Horsetooth Reservoir's surrounding area also offers an exhilarating hiking experience for you and your loved ones.

Ranging from moderate to difficult, the area's hiking trails take you through sprawling meadows filled with beautiful wildflowers during springtime.

A hiking trail of Horsetooth Reservoir
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Hop into an Immersive Experience at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery

Exterior of Fort Collins Museum of Discovery
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Do you want to tickle your creativity?

At the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, there's always more than meets the eye.

With their immersive plus innovative virtual and hands-on activities, you and your children are certainly off to a puzzling adventure.

Their "Discovery" activities range from daily fun crafts and experiments you can do at home to virtual educational programs and Facebook Live activities for every family member.

The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery also boasts amazing photography exhibitions and thought-provoking and fully interactive exhibits about wildlife, the earth, and all other heavenly bodies in the universe.

They also have toddler-friendly designed exhibits that will surely bring out your child's inner scientist.

If you wish to keep a souvenir from your trip, don't forget to drop by the museum store.

Find the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery on Mason Court.

Enjoy an Interactive Farm Weekend at Lee Martinez Farm

Established in 1985, the Farm at Lee Martinez Park is a happy place for every animal lover.

What was an old dairy farm from the 1920s to the 1960s remains home to farm animals such as goats, cows, sheep, horses, pigs, and chickens.

Kids and kids at heart will enjoy a day of educational and interactive experience with their farm animals.

Here, their Barnyard Buddy Pass covers an unlimited number of visits for four people.

Pay it forward and adopt an animal.

The Farm at Lee Martinez Park allows visitors to become farm parents to their chosen farm animals for a period of one year by simply donating.

This attraction is located along North Sherwood Street.

Bask in the Blooms at the Annual Flower Trial Gardens

Information board of Annual Flower Trial Gardens
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If you're not an adrenaline junkie, you can enjoy Fort Collins' piece of heaven on earth.

The Annual Flower Trial Gardens is an outdoor display established outside the University Center for the Arts at Colorado State University.

It serves as a trial for newly introduced perennials and is displayed all year round.

It has over 1,000 different cultivated varieties of annuals which bloom from May through October.

In 2021, the garden named the Bidens Brazen Imperial Luck from Syngenta Flowers its best new variety.

These are a golden yellow and saturated red mound of flowers that are densely branched and sit beautifully against the dark green foliage.

The Annual Flower Trial Gardens aims to harness the learning of students, researchers, and industry representatives through horticultural research and demonstration projects in an environment that mimics the conditions of the High Plains region.

Visitors can immerse themselves in the beauty and calmness of the garden along Remington Street.

Feel the Rhythm at Jazz Alley

A mural at Jazz Alley
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They say music and art are the guiding lights of the world.

True enough, your eyes are in for a colorful treat once you witness the street art murals at Jazz Alley.

This hidden alley located off East Mountain Avenue and Walnut Street is filled with beautiful creations by local artist Terry McNerney.

The murals will introduce you to the rich music history of Fort Collins.

Among the music icons featured in these murals are Subdudes, Liz Barnez, and many more.

A self-guided tour of Jazz Alley is available for easy navigation.

Experience Music and Art in at Pianos About Town

Bethoven piano of Pianos About Town
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Fort Collins should easily be one of your go-to places when you think of art in public spaces.

Established in 2010, Pianos About Town sprung as a collaboration among the City of Fort Collins Art in Public Places Program, Bohemian Foundation, and the Downtown Development Authority.

It brings music and art to the streets by transforming donated pianos into public visual art.

These pianos are whimsically painted by talented local artists.

An artist painting a piano for Pianos About Town
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In 2018, the community welcomed its 100th piano, whose artwork was inspired by the conversations between local artist Karina Branson and other diverse individuals.

Pianos About Town's hand-painted pianos are located throughout the downtown area, including the Oak Street Plaza, Jaz Alley, and Old Town Square.

Colorful piano painted by Pianos About Town
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Explore the World of Theater Arts at Bas Bleu Theatre

Bas Bleu Theatre is a creative avenue that gathers writers, directors, poets, designers, and visual artists together to improve their craft.

It was founded in 1992 by Eva Wright and Wendy Ishii with a production, Due for One.

The name Bas Bleu was inspired by 18th-century European literary salons known as the Bluestockings.

After acquiring its present space on Pine Street, it opened as a 49-seat theater in 1994 and performed its first-ever Fort Collins productions, Happy Days and Krapp's Last Tape by Samuel Beckett.

Bas Bleu Theatre's season tickets provide you a single pass for all five mainstage performances and five readers' theater performances.

Open Doors to the Past at the 1879 Avery House

Exterior of the 1879 Avery House
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As its name suggests, the 1879 Avery House was built by Franklin Avery in 1879.

He was a surveyor who helped to engineer the street layout for Fort Collins.

The historic house was built from locally-sourced sandstone, which explains its mix of light tan and varying shades of red caused by iron oxide.

This brownstone beauty sits on green meadows and is adorned with a mini sandstone fountain on its patio.

For more than eight decades, Avery's family lived in the house until 1962.

In 1974, the City of Fort Collins purchased and restored the house.

Historic pieces that you need to look out for inside the house include the Avery family's costume collection from the 1900s.

The 1879 Avery House is located along West Mountain Avenue.

Explore the Campus at Colorado State University

Exterior of a building at Colorado State University
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Something is always happening at Colorado State University.

Surely, your trip to Fort Collins will not be complete without taking a day at one of the nation's top public research universities.

Aside from strolling through the exquisite Annual Flower Trial Gardens, you can also arrange a quiet picnic next to the CSU Lagoon.

The lagoon is located west of the university's Lory Student Center.

It is famous for hosting summer concerts featuring different bands, which run from June through August.

Welcome sign of Colorado State University
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At Colorado State University, you can also explore rich art galleries like the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art and Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising at the University Center for the Arts.

These galleries showcase diverse exhibitions ranging from metal and painting collections plus textiles and interior furnishings that reflect stories of people across the globe.

There's also a lot to check out at the SCU Duhesa Gallery, which exclusively displays contemporary Native American Art.

Exterior of Colorado State University's stadium
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Other Things to Do Nearby

Experience the Great Outdoors at Lory State Park

Scenic view of Lory State Park
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Established in 1975, Lory State Park is a 2,492-acre state park located west of Horsetooth Reservoir and is only a 15-minute ride from downtown Fort Collins.

It was named after Charles A. Lory, the man directly involved in irrigation projects on park lands like the present-day Lory State Park.

With its grassy open meadows, incredible rock formations, and shrubby hillsides, Lory State Park is every outdoor enthusiast's dream.

Signage of Lory State Park
Jeffrey Beall, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The park's dominant forest trees include the large-crowned, Ponderosa pine and the rounded evergreen tree, Rocky Mountain Juniper.

Here, you can also find Arthur's Rock, an iconic rock formation with a breathtaking elevation of 6,780 feet, giving you a stunning view of the city.

The park offers 26-mile trails from valleys to mountainous hillsides, perfect for mountain biking, hiking, picnicking, and even horseback riding.

Check out the Lory State Park Visitor Center if you wish to purchase books, postcards, and other outdoor essentials.

Landscape of Lory State Park
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Final Thoughts

All paths lead to Fort Collins.

Whether you're a beer lover, an adventure seeker, or a laidback traveler, there's always something for you in this vibrant college town.

What are you waiting for?

Take this list of the best things to do in Fort Collins, Colorado as your initial guide for your next best trip.