4 Colorado Cities You Need to Visit (Besides Denver)

Your guide to exploring Fort Collins, Estes Park, Loveland and Breckenridge in Colorado.
 

Estes Park, photo by Focqus, LLC/Getty Images

Whether you’re looking for a historic hotel or artistic refuge, hiking adventure or food-filled retreat, Colorado has something for everyone thanks to towns and cities such as Fort Collins, Loveland, Estes Park and Breckenridge. Here are four ways to discover this dynamic state.

Fort Collins for Food Lovers

Ginger and Baker, photo by Aaron Colussi

Where to stay: Check into The Elizabeth Hotel in Old Town, and you’ll find more than 80 restaurants on your doorstep. Start at The Emporium Kitchen and Wine Market, next to the hotel, where you’ll discover delectable dishes such as lemon and herb-roasted chicken with confit garlic and mashed potatoes.

What to do: Ginger and Baker—a restaurant, market, bakery, café, culinary school and gift store—is housed in a restored grain mill that has been a gathering place for Fort Collins’ locals since the 1900s. Try your hand at making a seasonal pie or a margarita cocktail during a class at The Teaching Kitchen.

Where to eat: Set in a 130-year-old building, Farmhouse at Jessup Farms is a laid-back eatery focused on elevated farm fare. The seasonal menus feature from-scratch dishes. Try the Detox Salad, made with golden beets, radish and baby kale, or tuck into a hearty Farmer’s Breakfast with fresh-laid eggs, sausages or bacon and house jam.

Estes Park for History Buffs

Stanley Hotel, photo by Efrain Padro/Alamy

Where to stay: Built in 1909, the historic Stanley Hotel is located just minutes from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. Take a guided tour of the property to learn about the hotel’s founder, Freelan Oscar Stanley, and to hear stories about its legendary ghosts, devastating fires and old-world charm.

What to do: Take a tour of Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park with local guide Bruce Davies. Learn how the Estes Valley was carved out by tectonic and volcanic activity and hear stories of some of the colourful characters, such as pioneer settler Joel Estes, who helped shape the rich history of the area.

Where to eat: Order the hibiscus and apple bourbon-glazed duck wings or the Isabella Bird Homemade Veggie Burger at Bird & Jim. Flip the menu over to read about the namesakes of this eatery; free-spirited Isabella Bird, a Scottish traveller, and “Mountain” Jim Nugent, a guide who lost an eye in a fight with a bear.

Loveland for Art Lovers

Benson Sculpture Garden, photo by Norman Wharton/Alamy

Where to stay: You’ll fill countless scrapbooks with your sketches of the rolling landscapes, pomegranate-coloured sunsets and rustic wooden cabins at the sprawling Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch. Wander down to the banks of the Big Thompson River or go for a sunset horseback ride to uncover even more artistic inspiration.

What to do: Take a self-guided tour of the more than 160 bronze sculptures at Benson Sculpture Garden. Stop to admire the chap in Resting on a Rough Sawn Bench, a life-size bronze by Robert McDermott. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, head to the Art Castings of Colorado foundry for a tour of the facilities.

Where to eat: At Door 222, you can admire the functional metal and wood art pieces by local artist Matt Kaufman while dining on tapas—think truffle fries and peppadew pepper stuffed with Serrano ham and goat cheese. Pair it with a Get Off Your Aspen made with Dry Town Gin, fresh lime and rosemary simple syrup.

Breckenridge for Active Travellers

Meta Yoga Studio, photo by Meigan Canfield Photography/@meiganphoto

Where to stay: Get a good night’s sleep at The Lodge at Breckenridge, a hideaway with impressive views, and awake refreshed and ready to hit the hiking trails. Local trails can be accessed across the street from the lodge, and some routes connect with the Moonstone Trail, which leads downtown to popular Carter Park.

What to do: Align and flow, but mostly have fun, at Meta Yoga Studio with teacher Leslie Glenn. Or, hit the Breckenridge Arts District—a vibrant area filled with art studios, galleries and public art. Feed your inner creative with a printmaking, textile, jewelry-making or silversmithing workshop.

Where to eat: Refuel at Aurum Food and Wine on South Ridge Street where chef Korey Sims serves up seasonal shared plates such as crispy curried cauliflower with shishito peppers, pine nuts and sweet and sour reduction and salmon ceviche, and mains such as Rocky Mountain trout with celery root and broccolini. 

[This story appeared in the April 2019 edition of WestJet Magazine.]