It's a fact, there's a lot to do in Colorado. Camping, hiking, fishing, skiing, biking, eating, drinking, kayaking...it's one of the only places I know of that has prairie, mountains, urban areas and desert all in one place. The problem is there are so many things to do, so many places to see that I tend to forget about a few tried and true areas that never disappoint - like Ft. Collins.
Sixty-six miles north of Denver and tucked between I-25 and the Roosevelt National Forrest, Ft. Collins is a highly underrated city for a number of reasons - but let's talk about what makes it great.
Its a college town. And with that comes young people, smart people, active people, entrepreneurial-minded people, attractive people and people who want to be with those aforementioned people. It creates lively sections of town - like Old Town and University Park - and it gives people something to universally root for (Colorado State) and something to universally root against (The Buffs).
People bicycle everywhere. And its not just bikes, people are generally active in Ft. Collins, but they literally bike EVERYWHERE. There are a lot of places in Colorado known for their active lifestyle and environmentally-minded nature...Ft. Collins is both and doesn't brag about it. Towns in Italy are really the only thing I can draw a comparison to (from my somewhat limited experience) when it comes to the number of people using pedals to get from point A to point B. Very cool.
Beer. Denver has a lot of microbrews, true. But Ft. Collins has a lot of really, really good and fun-to-tour breweries. Odell, Ft. Collins Brewing Company, Funkwerks, CooperSmith's and, of course, New Belgium Brewing. The great part is that you can tour all of these via a cruiser bike in one afternoon. Be prepared to meet some genuinely nice, somewhat hipster-ish (in a good way) and definitely knowledgeable taproom workers whose job is most likely cooler than yours. Grab a taste test or two, a growler and some schwag...you won't be disappointed.
Cache la Poudre Valley (and Mishawaka). Denver has I-70 and the gateway to Summit County, Vail, Frisco, etc. But if you want a really true, non-resort mountain experience, head west from Ft. Collins on Highway 14 and follow the Cache la Poudre River. The scenery is amazing, you can find a drive-in camp site fairly easily, there's very little traffic and the river is great for fishing, paddling or just falling asleep to the sound of in a tent. If you're into big resorts, spas, furry boots and hot tubs, it probably won't be for you. And that's a good thing. Oh, and I really need to give Mishawaka its own post because there's just so much good about it...but I'll just say that its a bar/amphitheater a few miles from Ft. Collins, on the river, that is a one-of-a-kind experience. Plan a trip around a concert...its the type of place that makes you appreciate life.
I could go on, but let me just offer up my perfect 48 hours in the Ft. Collins area:
Friday night - Drive to campsite along the Cache la Poudre River, set up camp, grill your dinner, start a fire and open a few beers/wine/Strannahan's with friends, fall asleep to the sound of the river flowing outside of your tent.
Saturday - Eggs, bacon and coffee over the camp stove; wake up a little by grabbing a quick hike or just read a little; venture into Ft. Collins with your bikes; tour 2-5 breweries; make some friends; grab a bite to eat in Old Towne Ft. Collins. Make your way back up Highway 14 to Mishawaka, tailgate a little before the concert, enjoy some live music in the mountains and along the river. Drive back to campsite, start a fire, discuss who brews the best beer in Ft. Collins with friends. Fall asleep to the sound of a river flowing by.
Sunday - Eggs, chorizo, peppers and onion scramble over the camp stove, with coffee; relive Mishawaka concert memories with friends; fish or hike for a few hours; pack up camp and head home.