Dating back to well to almost 1,000 years ago, the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park represents some of the best-preserved of their kind. In fact, they’re the best preserved in all of North America. Who built them? The Puebloans did, indigenous people of this region of the Americas who constructed the stunning cliff-based buildings back in the 1190s AD. These have been given names like Balcony House, and Cliff Palace, which has 150 rooms. For one of the most interesting things to do in Colorado, ranger-led tours can (and should – trust us) be arranged before your visit.
Just a few hours’ drive from Denver lies the historic settlement of Georgetown. Besides its heritage buildings and districts steeped in silver mining history, Georgetown (established in 1859) is a chilled out mountain town to explore for a day. But here it isn’t just about pavement pounding and ducking into a few cute cafes and eateries along the way. It’s also about the train.
Begin your Colorado trip in Denver – that’s the best base, we’d say – by learning about the history in the capital of Colorado itself. The sights here date back to the Old West era and a good place to start is Union Station: it’s not just a transit hub, it’s a vibrant landmark in itself with loads going on. Feels (looks) like Europe. From here walk 10 minutes to the oldest part of the city, Larimer Square.
Rocky Mountain National Park is arguably the most accessible park in the Western USA, being only a few hours away from Denver. It is also one of the most impressive national parks in the entire nation and receives a boatload of visitors. Spend a day exploring this park, either renting a car to drive the superlative Trail Ridge Road (summer only) or via one of the many trails.
Casa Bonita is possibly the most famous, most outrageous place to eat dinner in Denver, and is one of the very best things to do in Colorado at night. If you’ve never heard of it, get ready to really, really want to go: it’s a replica of a Mexican village in a strip mall. This crazy restaurant seats 1,000 people at a time, makes like you’re in a fiesta the whole time, features puppets, shoot-outs, and crazy characters, making it a pretty, um, special place to dine. There’s cliff diving and a haunted cave, but you probably remember South Park‘s Cartman telling you that.
The Royal Gorge is a pretty epic spot. Hosting the tallest suspension bridge in the world, the soaring walls of this cut in the Earth tower 1,000 feet above the raging Arkansas River. If you’re up for the challenge, how about some white river rafting to best soak up the dramatic natural scenery? Even though it’s one of the most adventurous things you can do in Colorado if you’re a first-timer, don’t worry: it can be done! It’s the sort of experience that’ll either make you think, “wow, I really need to do this again!” … or “that was terrifying, let’s never do that again.” Who knows? But you won’t know unless you try!
Boulder – Boulder is Denver’s neighbor city, well-known for its liberal-minded and affluent population. The town itself is smaller and pretty quiet compared to Denver but is much closer to the Rocky Mountains. Some of the best attractions near Denver are located around Boulder including the Flatirons, Eldorado Canyon, and Isabelle Lake. Visit Boulder for a chance to get outdoors and play around a bit.
It’s not just any old amusement park – but it is old. Lakeside Amusement Park was opened back in 1908 on the shores of Lake Rhoda and is still a family-run affair to this day. Take a picnic along and visit the park for one of the most fun things to do in Colorado with kids. Complete with views of the mountains from the tops of the rides, you can try out bumper cars or hit the roller coaster. If you’re travelling with young children, no sweat – there’s even rides for smaller children here too. Then again, visiting this slice of history is a pretty cool experience, no matter what age you are.
That’s right: the Georgetown Loop Railroad takes you out of the city on a narrow gauge railway, along and across Clear Creek, for some prime mountain views on a history-laden steam train, complete with vintage carriages to match. Any sort of person wanting to soak up the past of this area will enjoy this one, but if you’re a train fan… this day trip in Colorado is going to make your head explode. In a good way.
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Located south of central Denver, Washington Park is consistently praised by Denverites and visitors alike for its ample facilities and enjoyable atmosphere. Occupying 165 acres, this immense park boasts miles jogging paths, swaths of gardens and, most notably, two massive lakes. Washington Park is a popular weekend hangout spot thanks to the variety of things to do here. You can spend your time simply relaxing on the grass, or you can take advantage of the park's eight tennis courts, boat rentals and Recreation Center, which houses a pool and offers scheduled fitness classes and swim lessons.