Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Fort Collins, CO

  • Published 2022/11/25

Engaging recreational opportunities and spectacular attractions await you in Fort Collins, the seat of Larimer County in northern Colorado.

In 2019, Forbes listed Fort Collins as one of the best places to travel in the United States.

It’s an excellent place to embrace the great outdoors with its location along the Cache la Poudre River at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

Fort Collins lives up also to its reputation as the cultural capital of Northern Colorado and the Craft Beer Capital of Colorado.

Plenty of things await history buffs and arts and culture enthusiasts.

More importantly, you can unlock most of these adventures even if traveling on a budget.

Plan your next budget-friendly getaway with these free things to do in Fort Collins, Colorado!

Sample Free Beer at New Belgium Brewing Company

Aerial view of New Belgium Brewing Company

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Fort Collins’s craft beer and the culture around it make it distinct.

The city contributes a large share of craft beer produced in Colorado, and you can choose from over 20 breweries to include in your brewery tour itinerary.

Located on Linden Street, New Belgium Brewing Company is among the largest craft breweries in the city, founded in 1991.

It’s an industry leader in sustainability and social responsibility and famous for its Fat Tire Amber Ale, America’s first certified carbon-neutral beer.

Exterior of New Belgium Brewing Company

M. Doxtad, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Join a 45-minute free tour of New Belgium Brewing Company and learn about its humble beginnings inspired by the co-founders’ bike trip through Belgium.

Taste their beer and find out more about the sustainable practices of New Belgium Brewing Company.

No reservations are required for these free tours, available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Go Bird Watching at Fossil Creek Reservoir Natural Area

If you love bird watching, Fossil Creek Reservoir Natural Area on Carpenter Road will be your paradise.

The National Audubon Society identified Fossil Creek Reservoir Natural Area as an Important Bird Area since it’s a haven for breeding, wintering, and migrating birds.

The natural area encompasses 1,398 prairie uplands, wetlands, and a reservoir.

Prepare your binoculars, cameras, and a handy checklist for your visit, and spot a variety of residents and visiting birds in every season.

Most bird activities in the area are recorded in spring; you’ll see birds preparing for nesting and hear some of your feathered friends sing.

Catch beautiful sunset views, watch raptors, and gaze at the stars during summer when the skies are wide open.

Free your mind while hiking along the accessible trails found on-site during fall, or observe the bald eagles when winter comes.

Discover the Art of Brewing at Odell Brewing Company

Exterior of Odell Brewing Company

NE Ent, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Odell Brewing Company is another large craft brewery on East Lincoln Avenue, just a few blocks from New Belgium Brewing Company.

Running since 1989, Odell Brewing Company is recognized for its top-selling flagship brew, 90 Shilling, and other flavorful signature beers.

Take time to visit the brewery in Fort Collins, serving as the founding home of Odell Brewing Company, built in 1994.

It encompasses a 125-barrel custom brewhouse, a beautiful taproom, and a beer garden.

Join a free tour of the brewery where all of its packaged beer is brewed and satisfy your curiosity about the basics of the brewing process and techniques.

Chill on the outdoor patio and bask in the stunning views of the mountain.

Vibe with the seasonal live music featured at Odell Brewing Company and relax in its laid-back atmosphere.

Practice Your Shooting Skills at Fort Collins Outdoor Archery Range

If archery is your hobby, you may want to visit Fort Collins Outdoor Archery Range on the southwest side of Interstate 25 and East Prospect Road.

Fort Collins Outdoor Archery Range is open to the public year-round at no cost, but parking fees apply.

Fort Collins Archery Association built and managed the archery range while the city owned the land.

Forty-one targets are available for practice shooting on-site, including 22 targets at unmarked distances, 15 standard practice targets, and four on the FITA range.

Play and have fun with the targets showing faces of game animals while improving your focus, hand-eye coordination, and upper body strength.

Young archers can hone their skills with the kids’ target on-site!

After hours of practice shooting in the static range and field course, you may rest on the covered picnic area of Fort Collins Outdoor Archery Range.

Thrill Your Senses at the Annual Flower Trial Garden

Signage of the Annual Flower Trial Garden

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Vibrant colors and delicate scents await you at the well-maintained Annual Flower Trial Garden across Colorado State University Center for the Arts.

The Annual Flower Trial Garden was previously located at the W. D. Holley Plant Environmental Research Center until it was transferred to a 2.9-acre park on Remington Street in 2000.

Take a refreshing stroll around the garden brimming with lovely, lush flowers.

Every part of the garden is an Intagrammable spot, so wear your best outfit when visiting with your family and friends.

Spend your time taking photos, learning about the beautiful annuals, and appreciating their beauty.

You may also find inspiration for your garden during your visit to the Annual Flower Trial Garden!

Admire the Diverse Collections at the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art

A short walk from the Annual Flower Trial Garden will lead you to the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art.

The museum is on the first floor of the Colorado State University Center for the Arts, with a growing collection of over 5,000 works of art.

Founded in 2009, the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art covers 10,000 square feet of galleries and an additional 4,000 square feet for storage facilities and exhibition preparation spaces.

Find personal meaning in the artworks displayed inside the museum, ranging from paintings and photographs to sculptures and ceramics.

Encounter a variety of cultures around the world represented by the historical and traditional items on exhibit.

The permanent collection installations of the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art showcase African Art and Native American works, and the Hartford-Tandstad Collection comprises 200 artworks.

Don’t miss its largest gallery, the Griffin Foundation, which is host to rotating exhibitions.

Enjoy a Picnic at Fort Collins City Park

Swing overlooking the waters at Fort Collins City Park

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Prepare your picnic basket for a nice outdoor feast at Fort Collins City Park on West Mulberry Street.

The city park was established in 1912 on the 62-acre land Fort Collins purchased from John Sheldon, which included a reservoir called Sheldon Lake.

Fort Collins City Park is a beloved site among park-goers for its vast green spaces and picnic areas where families and friends can bond and rest on a casual and serene day.

Take a stroll around the lake and relish the fascinating scenery it has to offer.

Picnic table at Fort Collins City Park

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Watch kids burn their energy at the expansive playground.

Don’t forget to snap photos with the miniature replica of the Statue of Liberty at Fort Collins City Park.

For a fee, you can cool down at the City Park Pool featuring thrilling slides and a play structure if you’re visiting during hot summer days.

Playground at Fort Collins City Park

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Check Out the Wonderful Artworks at 3 Square Art Gallery

Feast your eyes on fine contemporary art at 3 Square Art Gallery, crafted by local, national, and international artists.

Located on Donella Court, 3 Square Art Gallery aims to foster a space where artists can create, share their works with art lovers, and learn in the presence of other artists.

Explore the art gallery featuring rotating exhibits that will widen your perspective and inspire creativity.

Try to figure out the meaning of the art by paying close attention to the details or discussing it with your companion.

You may also have the chance to meet some of its dedicated and talented studio artists who engage in monthly gallery openings.

Go Kayaking at Poudre River Whitewater Park

The waters of Poudre River Whitewater Park

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Plan your visit before going to Poudre River Whitewater Park, offering aquatic fun for kayakers, tubers, and anyone looking for a place to cool down.

Poudre River Whitewater Park opened in 2019 on East Vine Drive, just north of Old Town.

The park was designed to improve the condition of the Poudre River and features riverbank access, an overlook plaza, and a pedestrian bridge to Poudre Trail.

A kayaker on Poudre River Whitewater Park

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There’s no lifeguard on duty, so take note of the current water depth and flow to the health regulations at the park.

Wear safety gear and put your whitewater skills to the test at Poudre River Whitewater Park.

Or you can hang out while capturing the lovely views at the park and finding relaxation amid the sound of the rushing waters.

Kayaking on Poudre River Whitewater Park

marekuliasz /

Enjoy the Night Sky with Northern Colorado Astronomical Society

Introduce yourself to the science of astronomy with the Northern Colorado Astronomical Society, a non-profit organization that leads several observation events in different locations in Fort Collins each year.

Learn more about the stars, planets, and galaxies with the help of volunteers who provide telescopes and relevant information.

Be captivated by the starry night skies and take photos to make you remember and ponder the infinite beauty of the Earth and universe.

Wear warm clothes, as it may get very chilly at night, and bring a blanket or chair for the complete experience.

Check out the Northern Colorado Astronomical Society website for its schedule of events or the City of Fort Collins Engage website for more details.

Stay Active at Spring Canyon Park

Pack your workout essentials and prepare to burn off some energy when visiting Spring Canyon Park.

Open since 2007. This 100-acre community park boasts several traditional and unique features where you can do plenty of physical activities.

Bring your bike and enjoy a ride on Spring Canyon Park’s bike course, or engage in a competitive, fun game in one of the various sports fields and courts.

Spring Canyon Park is an excellent place to bring the kids to play.

They can go to the seasonal large splash area and inspirational playground, universally accessible.

There’s also a two-acre dog park with a lake for dogs that love making a splash!

Spring Canyon Park provides easy access to Cottonwood Glen Neighborhood Park, Pine Ridge Natural Area, and Spring Creek Trail for additional outdoor fun.

Drop by this verdant park at the west end of Horsetooth Road between Tafthill Road and Overland Trail Road.

See the Ruins of a Historic Cabin at Arapaho Bend Natural Area

Ruins of Strauss cabin at Arapaho Bend Natural Area

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Arapaho Bend Natural Area also gives plenty of opportunities to spot Colorado wildlife.

Here, you can look closely at more than 80 species of birds and other wild animals, including rabbits, foxes, deer, and so on.

You may also study a variety of plants that are either native or exotic in the region.

It’s also a fishing paradise where you may reel in bass, bluegill, or yellow perch.

Moreover, you can view the ruins of the historic Strauss Cabin, home of Robert Strauss, an early Poudre River Valley homesteader.

Paddleboard on the waters of Arapaho Bend Natural Area

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It’s one of the earliest log cabins restored in 1997 but burned two years later.

It was off-limits for some years until the city acquired and cleaned the property.

The city reminds everyone to visit with respect.

Check out Arapaho Bend Natural Area on East Horsetooth Road and treat yourself to striking mountain vistas, lovely sunrise or sunset views, and a brief look into the city’s past.

A trail at Arapaho Bend Natural Area

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Enjoy a Carefree Day at Twin Silo Park

Twin Silo Park is one of the unique parks where you can spend leisure time in the city, distinguishable by the two 48-foot tall farm silos moved out from Prospect and Timberline Roads.

Located on Ziegler and Kechter Roads, the park sprawls over 54 acres with various recreational amenities catering to the needs of different park-goers.

Twin Silo Park became accessible to the public in 2017, and its design pays homage to the agricultural heritage of Fort Collins’ south side.

Spend time with the kids in the park’s creative play areas, where they can climb, jump, crawl, and run around!

Take in all the splendid natural views you’ll encounter as you traverse the paved trails and the vibrant colors and rejuvenating scents from the community gardens.

Break a sweat by riding a bike at the BMX track or a fun game at the pickleball courts.

There’s also a dog park for your fur buddies!

Take a Peaceful Stroll at Red Fox Meadows Natural Area

A bird perched on a tree at Red Fox Meadows Natural Area

Eric H. Forbes /

If you have little time to spare to experience Fort Collins’ natural areas, you may drop by Red Fox Meadows Natural Area.

This neighborhood’s natural area is located near South Taft Hill Road and serves as a stormwater detention site to mitigate flood risk.

It’s a small oasis but offers a quiet retreat from the urban streets with approximately one mile of flat soft surface trail.

Look at the trees and flowers that adorn Red Fox Meadows Natural Area.

Discover several bird species and wild animals that frequently visit or take habitat in the natural area.

The Red Fox Meadows Natural Area is also an excellent place to bring dogs for a walk.

Go Fishing at Riverbend Ponds Natural Area

Fishing enthusiasts must check out Riverbend Ponds Natural Area if they’re around Fort Collins.

It’s a famous fishing site with seven former gravel mine ponds stocked with largemouth bass, crappie, channel catfish, and other warm-water species.

Feel a sense of accomplishment and build confidence whenever you reel in a catch at Riverbend Ponds Natural Area.

Master different techniques as you bond with your fishing buddies, and take time to soak up the beautiful scenery surrounding you.

Riverbend Ponds Natural Area is also a birders’ haven where you can find more than 200 species of birds, such as herons, ducks, and pelicans.

Don’t forget your binoculars, cameras, and sketch pads when visiting the natural area where the birds feed, rest, and nest.

Wear comfortable shoes and clothes to explore approximately three miles of natural surface trails and a boardwalk from the entrance at Cherly Street.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Look for the Bison at Soapstone Prairie Natural Area

Animals at Soapstone Prairie Natural Area

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If you’re traveling between March and November, add the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area to your itinerary.

Create a core memory by seeing the bison in their pasture spanning 1,000 acres inside the treasured natural area of Fort Collins.

You can only observe them from the road and viewing areas, so bring your binoculars and spotting scope to keep these wild animals!

Besides checking out the bison, you can also find native plants and wild birds here, so bring some educational materials and checklists with you.

Cyclist at Soapstone Prairie Natural Area

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Soapstone Prairie Natural Area also features easy to challenging trails for hikers, cyclists, and equestrians.

If you’re going for a hike or ride, plan and pack everything you need since the site presents a “remote, backcountry experience.”

Visit the Fort Collins site for directions to Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, located on Rawhide Flats Road, Wellington, Colorado, 40 minutes from Fort Collins.

Stone cairn along Soapstone Prairie Natural Area

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Final Thoughts

You’ll never regret traveling to Fort Collins, Colorado, for a marvelous and restful vacation on a budget.

From heart-pounding adventures to leisure activities, you’ll find something you can enjoy in the city, with several conserved natural areas, over a hundred miles of trails, and other interesting indoor attractions.

Make the most of your travel by filling up your itinerary with engaging activities and recreational opportunities from the city and volunteer groups at no cost.

If you’re hesitating to get that well-deserved vacation due to financial concerns, try the free things to do in Fort Collins, Colorado!

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