12 Things To Do in Fort Collins, Colorado

Last Updated on February 20, 2024 by Emily Johnson


Fort Collins is a vibrant college town in northern Colorado that offers a mix of outdoor recreation, craft beer culture, and historical attractions. Nestled against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with the Cache La Poudre River flowing through town, Fort Collins has beautiful scenery and plenty of options for shopping, dining, and nightlife.

The historic Old Town area is perfect for strolling, with galleries, restaurants, breweries and boutiques housed in Victorian-era buildings. And as home to Colorado State University, Fort Collins has an energetic vibe and youthful population. From touring renowned breweries to mountain biking in epic terrain, here are 12 of the top things to do in Fort Collins, Colorado for visitors.

Explore the Foothills and Horsetooth Rock

One of the best places to experience Fort Collins’ natural beauty is at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space and Reservoir. Just seven miles west of town, Horsetooth Rock towers over 2,000 feet above the reservoir with spectacular views of both the mountains and prairies.

Hikers can choose from 29 miles of trails of varying difficulty, including the scenic 3-mile Satellites Trail that circles Horsetooth Rock. Cyclists and trail runners also have plenty of options to explore, and when you need a break there are spots around Horsetooth Reservoir for boating, swimming, picnicking and camping. It’s nature right at Fort Collins’ doorstep.

Sample Craft Beers and Brewery Tours

Fort Collins is consistently ranked as one of America’s top beer cities thanks to its impressive lineup of craft breweries. New Belgium Brewing Company and Odell Brewing Company helped put Fort Collins on the map for beer lovers. New Belgium offers an entertaining behind-the-scenes tour highlighting the history and brewing process complete with a tasting session.

Meanwhile, the Taproom at Odell Brewing serves up tasty brews and good times in a relaxed Colorado vibe with cornhole games on the patio. But that’s not all. More than 20 breweries now call Fort Collins home, so visitors have their pick of taprooms and tasting rooms to hit up, many clustered downtown and in the burgeoning Fort Collins Brewery District.

Wander through Historic Old Town

Charming Old Town is where Fort Collins began back in 1864 along the banks of the Cache La Poudre River. Today, it’s a National Historic District with an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, brewpubs and cafes housed in Victorian-era buildings lining the brick-paved streets. Local favorites to check out include the Cupboard specialty food store, the quirky Walrus Ice Cream shop, and boutiques like White Balloon selling fair trade imports from Nepal and India.

Every first Friday of the month, Old Town hosts First Friday Gallery Walks spotlighting new exhibits at the neighborhood art galleries and studios. Visitors can also take free guided walking tours offered by the Fort Collins Convention and Visitors Bureau for insider perspectives.

Tour Colorado State University

As one of the leading research universities in the country, Colorado State University leaves a defining imprint on Fort Collins. Visitors interested in collegiate architecture will appreciate the historic buildings done in a characteristic reddish-brown sandstone known as Richardsonian Romanesque style.

The Oval is the heart of campus where students relax beneath shady trees and the aluminum CSU Rams sculptures that seem to stand guard. University highlights also include the Lory Student Center, Morgan Library and the sendmail statue, as well as the Trail Around Campus Scenic Walkway featuring native plants and educational signage. Guided visits of select facilities can be arranged through Colorado State University Visitor Programs.

Visit the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery

For families looking for indoor activities, the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery has interactive spaces encouraging playful learning. Permanent exhibits like The Studio maker space and Music & Sound Lab provide hands-on STEAM opportunities for kids to explore concepts in science, technology and art. Recent special exhibits have focused on animation, electricity and robotics.

The museum also regularly schedules special demonstrations and events, like live animal encounters. And the onsite OtterBox Digital Dome Theater presents 360-degree FullDome planetarium shows and giant screen films on an impressive 60-foot domed screen.

Go White Water Rafting on the Cache La Poudre River

Nicknamed the “Poudre River,” this waterway provides Fort Collins with lovely parks and peaceful pathways for floating down the river. But when the spring snowmelt turns the river into a rushing rapid, the Cache La Poudre becomes a popular spot for exhilarating white water rafting and kayaking through Class III to V rapids with dramatic names like “The Kitchen Sink” and “Big Drop.”

Outfitters like Rocky Mountain Adventures offer guided full or half-day trips down the Poudre River canyon west of Fort Collins for a thrilling wilderness experience negotiating the rapids in the shadow of dramatic cliffs and rock formations.

Hike to Natural Areas and Waterfalls

Many Fort Collins natural areas and parks have hiking trails showcasing the region’s foothills landscapes and ecosystems. Lory State Park has meadows filled with wildflowers in summer plus panoramic views from Arthur’s Rock Trail. Gateway Natural Area encompasses nearly 9,000 acres of open prairies, pinyon-juniper woodlands and diverse wildlife; try the relatively easy Maxwell Natural Area Trail.

For a refreshing hike to waterfalls, the 3.6-mile Arthur’s Falls Trail winds through a natural maze of granite boulders and pines to reach a scenic cascade. The dramatic hike to Horsetooth Falls is another favorite, located a few miles west of Fort Collins in Horsetooth Mountain Open Space.

Bike the Poudre River Trail


Cycling is hugely popular in the Fort Collins area thanks to the many designated bike lanes citywide and the towering mountains providing epic terrain for mountain biking. For a leisurely ride, pick up the Cache La Poudre River Trail from Old Town heading northwest to wind alongside the river, through natural areas and parklands out to the town of Greeley.

The paved multi-use trail stretches 21 miles one-way making a perfect activity for biking novices and families. As sections can get crowded on nice days, long-distance riders may prefer heading out early. The trail also links up with other regional trails for those looking to pedal further.

Explore Fort Collins’ Craft Beer Scene


We’ve already covered New Belgium Brewing and Odell Brewing, but the breadth of Fort Collins’ craft beer landscape deserves more attention. Dozens of breweries and taprooms are now spread throughout Fort Collins so visitors also shouldn’t miss landmark spots like CooperSmith’s Pub & Brewing known for beers using local malt and hops plus imaginative Air Force pilot-themed décor; and Equinox Brewing focusing on traditional English-style beers right in Old Town.

The self-guided Fort Collins Ale Trail makes it easy for people to navigate between destinations. And for those seeking rare brews or specialty pours, check out establishments like The Mayor of Old Town, Tap and Handle and Prost Brewing Co serving a frequently rotating lineup of taps.

Catch a Show at the Historic Venues


Culture comes to life in Fort Collins at several notable entertainment venues that are also worth seeing for their unique architecture. Both the Lincoln Center Performance Hall and Bas Bleu Theatre Company present full seasons of music, dance and quality stage productions in striking contemporary buildings.

For a more historic night out, the Art Deco-style Fort Collins Lincoln Center transformed a former high school auditorium built in the 1920s into an acoustically superb 1,200-seat concert hall hosting national and local acts from reggae to orchestra performances. And every summer, the historic Holiday Twin Drive-In Theatre set in a retro 1950s setting screens double features under the stars that you can watch from your car.

Shop the Farmer’s Market


On Saturday mornings from mid-June through mid-October, locals and visitors flock to Fort Collins Old Town Square for the bustling Farmer’s Market. The Fort Collins Farmers Market boasts being one of the largest in Colorado with vendors stretching several blocks. People turn out for the feast of fresh, seasonal produce from local farms – organic vegetables, fruits like Paonia peaches and Palisade peaches, farmstead cheeses and ready-to-eat slices of just-baked bread.

Unique handcrafted items like natural soaps, jewelry and textiles further round out the lively scene. Arrive hungry as specialty food trucks and booths also assemble around the square selling everything from steaming tamales to cold brew coffee and crepes, while musicians entertain the long lines.

Check out the Brewery Scene


We’ve already touched on New Belgium, Odell and CooperSmith’s, but Fort Collins’ brewery scene extends well beyond those iconic operations. Relative newcomers like Horse & Dragon Brewing Company, Maxline Brewing and Funkwerks specialize in award-winning beers often only available at their taprooms. Then innovators like Intersect Brewing fashion recipes featuring unusual ingredients – think beers made with candy, doughnuts or incorporating CBD oil.

Visitors can explore them all on any of the various Fort Collins craft beer tours by tour companies like Colorado Beer Tours. Or easily make your own route thanks to how many breweries, taprooms and ale houses there now are not only downtown, but also in the Fort Collins Brewery District along Lincoln Avenue on the southeast fringe of the city.

Conclusion


With epic nature as a backdrop, historic districts for wandering, an outdoor lifestyle culture and vibrant beer scene, Fort Collins perfectly blends cosmopolitan attractions with close mountain access. From hiking and biking trails galore to a dynamic arts environment and sophisticated local dining and nightlife, visitors have an impressive and eclectic range of things to experience in Fort Collins, Colorado.

The city’s many craft breweries and emerging distilleries provide tasty ways to toast everything Fort Collins has to offer after days spent exploring. And any time of year, travelers will discover memorable things to see and do in Northern Colorado’s standout Foothills city.

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