12 Attractions in Fort Collins, Colorado

Last Updated on February 20, 2024 by Emily Johnson


Fort Collins is a vibrant college town located at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in northern Colorado. With its lively mix of culture, outdoor recreation, craft beer, and historical charm, Fort Collins offers visitors plenty of attractions to fill their itinerary.

Whether you’re interested in museums, music venues, breweries, or hiking trails, you’ll find something to pique your interest in Fort Collins. From the fascinating galleries of the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery to the natural beauty of Horsetooth Reservoir, read on for 12 can’t miss attractions to add to your Northern Colorado bucket list.

The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery


The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery should be at the top of any visitor’s list when coming to Fort Collins. This interactive museum has stellar permanent exhibits as well as outstanding rotating displays on science, technology, arts, culture and history. Some of the permanent exhibits cover topics like space exploration, health science, music and memory.

Rotating exhibits highlight local history and folk arts. The museum also features an immersive simulation of traveling through space. Outside, kids will love the physics playground with larger-than-life experiments like giant musical instruments and floating balls. The museum has interactive exhibits for all ages to enjoy.

Horsetooth Reservoir

Just west of Fort Collins lies the stunning Horsetooth Reservoir. Encircled by jagged hogback ridges, Horsetooth offers visitors chances for boating, paddleboarding, and other watersports during warmer months. The reservoir also provides excellent hiking opportunities along its shores. Visitors can choose from a variety of trails ranging from easy to difficult.

Many of these trails wind upwards towards dramatic views over Horsetooth. Picnicking and wildlife watching are also popular activities here. Anglers can cast lines for trout and warm water species like walleye, crappie and smallmouth bass (with purchase of a fishing license). Whether you’re looking for aquatic adventure or scenic trails, Horsetooth Reservoir promises natural splendor at its best.

New Belgium Brewing

Beer lovers can’t miss a stop at the iconic New Belgium Brewing during any visit to Fort Collins. On site tours of the employee-owned brewery take visitors behind the scenes of New Belgium’s production process and environmentally friendly business practices. Guests will also sample a range of the company’s renowned craft beers like Fat Tire Amber Ale and Voodoo Ranger IPA.

The brewery’s Liquid Center tasting room offers an even wider selection of New Belgium’s beers. There’s also an onsite restaurant and gift shop. In warmer months, New Belgium hosts free public events with live music and lawn games. Trying those signature brews straight from the source makes any beer snob happy in Fort Collins.

Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area

Winding its way east from the Rocky Mountains through Fort Collins, the Cache la Poudre River provides ample scenic splendor. Visitors can float down the river on an inner tube or whitewater raft. Fly fishing along the trout-filled river also draws anglers. Beyond water recreation, the Poudre River trail system allows hikers and cyclists to enjoy the corridor’s natural habitats and wildlife.

This riparian corridor contains four designated state natural areas with rare plants. Birdwatchers can spot hundreds of species from bald eagles to great blue herons. Interpretative signs share the area’s cultural history from its use by Native American tribes to early European settlers. For an easily accessible slice of nature, the Poudre River offers natural escapes near downtown.

The Historic Fort Collins River District

History buffs will want to spend time exploring Old Town Fort Collins along College Avenue. Here visitors will find restored 19th century buildings housing boutique shops, cafes, restaurants and bars in an inviting walkable area. Must-see stops include the 1883 Avery House with period rooms and gardens interpreted by costumed docents.

The 1904 Northern Hotel now contains small shops and a vision of Fort Collins’ early railroad days. Sweetheart Bakery and Old Town Churn exemplify businesses operating out of Old Town’s restored structures. Throughout the summer, bands play free concerts at Oak Street Plaza. Visitors can also embark on guided ghost tours sharing Old Town’s paranormal past. For a lively and historical atmosphere, Old Town charms tourists and locals alike.

Odell Brewing Company

Since 1989, Odell Brewing Company has been crafting high quality ales enjoyed far beyond Fort Collins. Beer enthusiasts flock to Odell’s taproom not only for the ambience but also the specialty brews only available on draft. Mainstays like 90 Shilling Ale and IPA join rotating seasonal offerings and pilot batches. Free brewery tours run daily explaining Odell’s brewing process and innovations.

Odell hosts free public events during summer months as well with live local music acts and food trucks. Located in a renovated grain elevator building just south of Old Town, Odell Brewing Company provides first-rate craft beers in an upbeat Colorado vibe.

Botanical Gardens of Fort Collins

Nature lovers adore the Botanical Gardens of Fort Collins showcasing specialized gardens across 24 acres. Here visitors admire flourishing high plains flora from delicate rock gardens to water wise perennials and native wildflowers. The tranquil Japanese Garden mesmerizes with stone pathways, tranquil koi ponds and a historic tea house structure.

The Mediterranean Garden dazzles spring through fall with vibrant blossoms and herbs. Shaded nature trails wind past a fragrant rose garden. Inside the Visitor Center, budding botanists explore interactive exhibits highlighting regional vegetation. The gardens also host creative art and music happenings, yoga classes, garden seminars and kids’ programs. For horticultural inspiration, the gardens proffer a delightful afternoon.

Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour

As the nation’s largest brewery producing America’s iconic Budweiser beer, Anheuser-Busch’s Fort Collins facility amazes visitors with its sheer size and operations. Free walking tours provide an inside look at the brewing process from raw ingredients through packaging. Along the way, guests peer down on the factory floor bustling with activity and automated machinery.

At tour’s end, ticketholders 21 and over enjoy free beer samples choose from Anheuser-Busch brands like Budweiser, Michelob Ultra and Goose Island craft beers. The Biergarten Taproom pours additional beers only available at this location. Visitors also explore exhibits detailing the company’s history and innovations within its Visitor Center. Anheuser-Busch’s behind-the-scenes experience illustrates mega scale brewing up close.

Lory State Park

Encompassing 797 acres along the foothills west of Fort Collins, Lory State Park delights outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking trails ranging from easy to challenging terrain take visitors through montane forests and wildflower meadows with panoramic vistas. Cyclists zoom down the park’s steep single-track routes and canyon roads. Rock climbers scale the park’s dramatic sandstone cliffs and boulders near the visitor center.

The park also features a handicapped accessible swimming pool, ample shady picnic areas with grills, as well as campgrounds for overnighters wanting to further immerse themselves in nature. Wild inhabitants from mule deer to black bears also roam the park. Close yet seemingly worlds away, Lory State Park guarantees memorable Rocky Mountain escapades.

Poudre River Whitewater Park

For fast-paced thrills within Fort Collins, the Cache la Poudre River Whitewater Park floods with excitement. Here visitors can watch expert kayakers charging down a rushing manufactured rapids right through downtown. Dual channels accommodate beginners while advanced daredevils brave the more extreme chutes with waves up to seven feet high alongside an amphitheater and grassy spectator park.

Thrill seekers can take whitewater rafting trips with guided tours launching from the park as well. Free parking allows easy accessibility for visitors to see these heart-pounding runs from the riverside observation areas. As the first whitewater park built in Colorado, it catalyzes nonstop summertime action from June through August.

The Magic Rat Live Music

Northern Colorado’s premier concert venue, the Magic Rat Live Music stages talented local and national acts seven nights a week. Intimate yet energy-filled, the Rat packs in music lovers seeking quality performers across genres from rock, funk and blues to indie and bluegrass. P

ast acts run the gamut from rising groups like Spafford and Big Something to artists like Robert Randolph, Bonnie Raitt and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. While mostly standing room only besides some bar stool seating, the Rat rolls out topnotch acts in a small theater setting not found elsewhere in Fort Collins. Arrive early on weekends to score spots for popular shows at this historic venue on North College Avenue’s main drag.

CSU Oval and Gardens

At the heart of Colorado State University’s verdant Fort Collins campus lies the Oval lined with stately historic buildings and vibrant flower beds. Visitors admire the Oval’s lush central grass lawns shaded by mature trees such as those within the Alumni Garden. Following the stone pathways around the Oval, guests take self-guided tours of the Oval’s buildings detailing 19th century architecture and campus history.

Many structures house small museums open to the public like the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising and the University Historic Costume Collection. The Oval also acts as hub for CSU community gatherings from student group rallies to weekend festivals. For an idyllic college campus scene, the tree-lined Oval never disappoints.

Conclusion

With its lively culture, plentiful recreation and superb beer, Fort Collins entices Colorado travelers seeking small city adventures. Visitors uncover fantastic attractions from natural beauty along the Poudre River to historical discoveries in Old Town to adrenaline-filled fun at the Whitewater Park. Beyond outdoor exploits, destinations like the Botanical Gardens and engaging museums satisfy cultural cravings. Not to mention, Fort Collins’ thriving brewery scene tempts everyone from casual drinkers to hardcore beer geeks. Whether playing outdoors or pursuing indoor intrigues, Fort Collins delivers memorable experiences to last long after your Northern Colorado vacation ends.

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