Join Budget Travel as we continue our new series Discover USA. Discover USA explores states, counties, cities, and everything in between. Each week we will explore a new US destination to help you find things to do, itinerary ideas, and plan where to go next.
This week, the beautiful state of Colorado. Colorado is known for unparalleled adventure and recreational pursuits, a thriving arts scene, a rich cultural heritage, flavorful cuisine and 28 renowned ski areas and resorts.
Explore the Outdoors
Nearly 40 percent of Colorado is federal public land, including four National Parks and eight National Monuments, 42 state parks, as well as hundreds of regional parks and open spaces. Public land is part of what makes the state’s landscape so breathtaking and lifestyle so rich, offering outdoor recreation, wildlife habitats, clean air and water. As the colder weather sets in, Colorado continues to provide exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities and in a much quieter landscape.
Cross-Country Ski at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park offers incredible groomed cross-country skiing trails including the South Rim Drive, which swishes Nordic skiers and snowshoers to staggering views of Gunnison’s snow-dusted “black” rock walls.
Winter Hike in Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks: With the appropriate hiking gear, winter can be a wonderful time to experience many of the 155 miles of trails Boulder offers. Enchanted Mesa provides a variety of trails winding among ponderosa pine forests and small meadows, while providing stunning views of the Flatirons. The trail is relatively flat and free from slippery ice, but take strap-on boot traction, like Yak-tracks or Micro-spikes, just in case.
Ice Fish at Eleven Mile State Park: Spend quality time with friends near Lake George in a homey ice fishing hut while reeling in fleshy kokanee, trout and pike. Out-of-towners or newbies can visit 11 Mile Marina for equipment rentals or guided trips.
Watch Eagles at Fossil Creek Reservoir Natural Area: Among Fort Collins’ greatest outdoor treasures are its 50+ Natural Areas. Every Friday and Saturday beginning Dec. 17, take part in an Eagle Watch from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at Fossil Creek Reservoir Natural Area. Bald eagles from the north make Fort Collins their winter home. Volunteer Naturalists are stationed at the viewing pier and explain the eagles’ natural history and help visitors view them through spotting scopes and binoculars.
Nordic Ski on the Grand Mesa: The Grand Mesa, the world’s largest flat-top mountain, rises east of Grand Junction and is considered some of the best cross-country skiing terrain in the country. The professionally groomed cross-country ski trails, a network that both novice and expert skiers can enjoy, are maintained by the Grand Mesa Nordic Council.
See Frozen Falls Near Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve: When many people think of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, they think of a desert-like landscape. After all, the park boasts a whopping 30 square miles of sand dunes reaching heights up to 750 feet. The vastness feels even more visceral in winter with the treasurable quietness that a fresh blanket of snow affords. But a real treat is when the famous Zapata Falls, just 11 miles outside of the park, freezes into a 25-foot icy monument.
See the Snow Goose Migration at John Martin Reservoir State Park: Every winter, particularly in January and February, the snow goose northern migration begins on the Great High Prairie. In a typical year, 80,000 to 100,000 snow geese returning from their wintering grounds and heading to their breeding grounds, stop at John Martin Reservoir State Park, just west of Lamar to rest and feed on leftover grain in nearby fields.
Golf at Lathrop State Park: Spanish Peaks Country in southern Colorado is home to Lathrop State Park—Colorado’s very first state park. Proud to have Colorado’s only “state park golf course,” Lathrop attracts visitors year-round who want to get in a game on those warm, winter days. The Walsenburg Golf Course in Lathrop State Park is open daily as long as temperatures are above 32 degrees.
Sled at Mueller State Park: Mueller State Park, 40 minutes outside of Colorado Springs, offers sledding, plenty of snowshoe and cross-country skiing trails and cozy winter cabins with modern amenities for those who prefer to celebrate winter by snuggling up next to a fire with a good book.
Snowshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park: Rocky Mountain National Park offers some of the best ranger-led snowshoe programs in the state. Two-hour excursions begin at both the west (Grand Lake) and east (Estes Park) entrances January through March.
Yurt Overnight at Ridgway State Park: Ridgway State Park’s three yurts are found on the park’s Dakota Terraces, where mountain views are indescribable and the potential for coziness abounds. The round, tent-like structures can be rented for two nights at a time and are warmed by a propane heater/gas log stove.
Watch Wildlife in State Forest State Park: The winter landscape grants some of the best opportunities to watch mammals in their natural habitat. State Forest State Park, just east of Walden, is home to more than 600 moose that roam the park’s enormous 71,000 acres.
Horseback Ride in the Wet Mountain Valley: On a bluebird day, with the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the west and the Wet Mountains to the east, there’s hardly anything as magical as exploring the Wet Mountain Valley landscape in south central Colorado from horseback. Take a winter ride through a large, unpopulated Colorado valley with Music Meadows Ranch or Bear Basin Ranch.
Arts and Culture
Meow Wolf – courtesy colorado.com
Meow Wolf Denver: The immersive arts and entertainment company, Meow Wolf, opened “Convergence Station,” their third permanent installation and most ambitious project yet in Denver on Sept. 17. Created by 110 collaborating artists and over 300 creatives, this 4-story exhibition is home to 70-plus installations, including cavernous spaces 30 feet high. Akin to an everlasting gobstopper, guests discover psychedelic, mind-bending art, and an underlying rich narrative, taking them on a journey of discovery into a surreal, science-fictional epic.
The Denver Art Museum’s Martin Building Undergoes $150 Million Renovation: The Denver Art Museum’s Martin Building (formerly North Building), is undergoing an extensive, multi-year renovation including the new Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center, two new dining spaces, the Bartlit Learning and Engagement Center and updated galleries. The entire building is scheduled to reopen to the public on Oct. 24, 2021, in celebration of its 50th anniversary at the end of 2021.
Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA): The DCPA recently announced the return of the Broadway, Theatre Company, Cabaret and Off-Center seasons featuring 30 shows, which kicks off in November with the Theatre Company’s A Christmas Carol in the newly renovated Wolf Theatre. Broadway shows will also return, starting with Disney’s The Lion King, Hamilton is set to follow with a tentative February 2022 premiere, among several others.
The Beer Spa, a modern-day wellness space that combines a day spa with a craft beer bar, opened recently in Denver. Enjoy beer-inspired spa services while sipping on a locally sourced craft beverage.
The Culture Museum is a new immersive, multi-room art installation in Denver dedicated to celebrating iconic moments in Black pop culture. The museum, which recently opened in the RiNo Art District in Five Points, explores an array of Black culture expressions with themed rooms ranging from ‘90s sitcoms and iconic films, to hip hop music, to the barbershop and family reunions. The featured artists are Sarah Iverson, Jeremiah Black, Regine Cotton, Zaida, Decay Renew, Freedom Waves, and Chance.
Courtesy of rockymountaineer.com
Rocky Mountaineer: Rockies to the Red Rocks Route- Rocky Mountaineer, the luxury train operator, will run its first full season in the Southwest United States in 2022. The Rockies to the Red Rocks route is a two-day rail journey between Denver and Moab with an overnight stay in Glenwood Springs. The company works with local tourism organizations, hotels and tour operators to curate custom packages that feature tours, activities and stays, so guests can experience even more of the region.
Herbert Bayer Center: With a soft opening in December 2021 and grand opening in June 2022, the new Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies will focus on preserving and honoring the art of Bayer, who designed the Institute’s historic campus, influenced the foundations of modern Aspen, and whose work is an iconic expression of the Bauhaus movement in America.
CampV: a reimagined historic mining camp, welcomes travelers with restored cabins, glamping tents, curated airstreams and camp spots as well as immersive arts experiences.
Courtesy of museumofwesternco.com
The Dinosaur Journey Museum near Grand Junction is a regional paleontological and geological museum that tells the story of the history of life in western Colorado and surrounding areas. The hands-on, interactive museum includes over 15,000 fossil specimens in its collections, exhibits and displays featuring discoveries from the region, a viewable paleontology laboratory where dinosaur bones are prepared for display, an earthquake simulator and a “quarry site” where kids can uncover actual Jurassic dinosaur bones.
Located near Golden, the legendary Red Rocks Historic Park & Amphitheatre, celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, is more than just a beautiful place to see a concert. It encompasses 738 total acres of deer, dinosaurs, pines and prairie, geological wonders and spectacular vistas. Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a geological phenomenon — the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world.
The Colorado Chautauqua in Boulder is considered the western representation of the “Chautauqua movement” that swept the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is the only Chautauqua west of the Mississippi that has continuously operated with its original structures intact. Located at the base of Boulder’s iconic Flatirons, the Colorado Chautauqua offers outstanding musical, arts and educational programs, charming accommodations in historic cottages and lodges, fine dining at the historic Dining Hall, and direct access to 40 miles of trails and thousands of acres of open space.
Breckenridge Distillery Debuts Interactive Spirits Lab: The Breckenridge Distillery’s new interactive spirits lab allows guests to not only taste award-winning spirits, but the opportunity to delve behind the scenes of spirit production and aging while thieving directly from barrels, blending their own bottles and sampling paired bites from the award-winning kitchen and producer partners.
Deviation Distilling Opens in Denver’s Dairy Block in Fall 2021: Deviation Distilling transformed an 1800s firehouse into a lively patio, intimate lounge and event space in the heart of Dairy Block’s mixed-used alley in Downtown Denver. Distilling, known for its use of unique global ingredients, will be releasing a new cocktail menu and Dairy-block exclusive spirits as well as offering light, sharable bites.
Courtesy of Tocabe
Tocabe Launches Indigenous Marketplace in Denver: Popular fast-casual Denver restaurant Tocabe has helped elevate Native American food culture and made Native grown and produced foods more widely available, all the while strengthening Indigenous food-supply chains in the U.S. This summer Tocabe expanded operations to launch the Tocabe Indigenous Marketplace. The virtual pantry offers staples and ingredients from Native and Indigenous producers, farmers, ranchers and suppliers throughout the contiguous United States, and delivered directly to people’s doors.
America’s First Full-Service, Alcohol-Free Bar, Awake Opens in Denver: Awake, an inclusive alcohol-free spirit store, bar, and coffee shop opened in Denver this past spring with a charitable mission. Awake is Colorado’s first alcohol-free bar with America’s most comprehensive, carefully curated selection of alcohol-free beer, wine, spirits and mocktail elixirs.
– Grand Junction is home to James Beard award semi finalist Josh Nierenberg and his restaurants Bin707 and Taco Party, which is undergoing a major expansion in spring of 2022. Nierenberg has recently partnered with Ramblebine Brewery on a custom menu of perfectly paired bites under the new BlockParty GJ brand and collaborated with local winemaker, Carlson Vineyards, to create the custom High Desert Wine Lab label, which is the house red and white wine for Bin707 and Taco Party.
On Saturdays in Boulder, visitors and locals gather at the Boulder Farmers Market. This outdoor market has been a hub for local food and community for nearly 30 years. Unlike many markets, everything is strictly local — grown or raised in Colorado.
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