Fort Collins has it all. The city celebrates the arts, bursts with fine dining, and gives travelers everything they could ever want from a mountain getaway.
The impressive list of things to do in Fort Collins ranges from sampling locally crafted brews to making your own shoes and everything in between.
Things To Do in Fort Collins, Colorado
The Northernmost city on Colorado’s front range is a hidden gem for travelers seeking unique experiences, so when Visit Fort Collins invited me to come check it out, I jumped at the chance. Most guests visiting Colorado don’t venture this far north, but they’re missing out on the wealth of experiences Fort Collins offers.
Here are the coolest things you can do in Fort Collins, many of which you can’t find anywhere else!
Attend a Class at the Colorado Shoe School
For a truly unique experience, book a class at the Colorado Shoe School. The school offers one to five-day workshops to show people how to design and make shoes from scratch. The one-day workshop covers the basics, walking students through sneaker design, while the more in-depth five-day workshop makes students do it all to create a stunning pair of boots.
Dan Huling and Annabel Reader, the school’s founders, are passionate about their craft and love sharing it with others. Reader says the school is about enabling other people to have a creative experience, and their commitment to other people’s happiness shines through in how they interact with students and the craft.
Tour a Watch Making Factory
Fort Collins is home to the only factory in America that transforms antique pocket watches into fashionable modern watches. And the best part: they allow the public to see the magic!
Vortic Watch Company loves showcasing its process to the public. They even have viewing windows to their clean room, allowing you to observe as the watchmakers use specialized tools to ensure the newly crafted watches run on time.
Due to the minimal staffing, tours are available by appointment only, so be sure to call well ahead of your trip to reserve your spot for one of the most unique things to do in Fort Collins.
Make Your Own Charcuterie Board
The Welsh Rabbit, a cozy bistro in the heart of Old Town, offers a unique culinary experience you won’t get anywhere else. The deli/wine bar/bistro lets patrons build their own charcuterie boards using a wide selection of meats, cheeses, and assortments.
The knowledgeable servers help diners find the perfect selections for their palates, while Fort Collin’s only Certified Cheese Professional ensures perfection in every slice. The small cafe has limited seating and doesn’t take reservations, so check in early to nab a table!
Sip on Craft Brews
Colorado was the epicenter of the craft brewing Renaissance. Fort Collins celebrates its state’s best breweries with a large variety of locally owned pubs and taverns, each making a perfect respite for the weary traveler.
Step into the Town Pump, Fort Collin’s oldest bar, for a drink in a cozy pub with the perfect atmosphere for relaxing. The Town Pump plays familiar tunes at a volume conducive to conversation over one of the board games available for guests while showcasing relaxing programming like Bob Ross and Natural Geographic on its big screen televisions.
If you need a little more space, head to Pour Brothers, a community tavern with an industrial vibe that invites everyone to come in and be friends. Pour Brothers offers a variety of weekly events that support the local community, from charity nights to happy hour specials for service industry workers. They also provide a free pretzel with your drink purchase during Friday’s happy hour!
Play Your Favorite Old Video Games
Recreate the fantastic game nights of your youth while sipping on craft ciders at Locust Cider, a video game/cider bar in downtown Fort Collins.
The Locust Cider has a fantastic assortment of beer and cider, ensuring everyone can find a perfect drink for their gaming adventure. The tables on the walls all have televisions with video game consoles hooked up. Most have the Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Mini, a small console holding 30 of your favorite old-school Nintendo games like Mario 3 and Bubble Bobble.
Grab a Cozy Coffee
Fort Collins hosts numerous craft coffee shops, offering patrons a cozy place to stop for a warm drink on a cold winter’s day.
Head to the Fox Den, located about two miles west of downtown near the city park, for delectable drinks and a warm welcome in one of the coziest coffee shops in Colorado. If you choose to drink your coffee in the den, you can pick from an assortment of ceramic mugs that match your style. The welcoming lounge features a variety of comfy couches, armchairs, and tables, allowing you to melt into them for your stay.
The menu also features a few breakfast and lunch items, so you can grab a snack to boost your energy.
Fort Collins Art Museum
Fort Collins proves its dedication to the arts by supporting a local art museum, an unusual find in such a small city.
The Fort Collins Art Museum aims to explore contemporary society through art. It works toward the goal with exhibits celebrating local artists, showcasing cultural expression through the arts, and highlighting the intersectionality of fine art with other crafts.
The museum is unique because it doesn’t have a permanent collection; it’s constantly curating and rotating traveling exhibits reflecting its stated goals and values.
First Friday Art Walks
If you’re fortunate to visit Fort Collins on the first Friday of the month, you must wander through the downtown area during the art walk.
Not only is the art museum free of charge on first Fridays, but local galleries open their doors to the public so you can see artists’ most current works and talk with them about their process. Many local business owners invite artists to showcase their wares during the show, so any shop you enter may have unique art on display.
The town bustles with activity during the first Friday of the evening in a spectacular display you won’t want to miss.
One of the best things about Fort Collins is its dedication to local, small businesses. The downtown area bursts with locally owned shops, boutiques, and restaurants, with nary a chain (except for one Starbucks I could see).
Pop into a local co-op grocery store for a quick snack, or shop the variety of bookstores, antique stores, consignment shops, and niche markets for gifts, souvenirs, clothes, and one-of-a-kind items you can’t find anywhere else.
You’ll find curiosity shops next to toy stores, record stores near gem stores, and all sorts of cool, quirky merchandise while exploring the thriving downtown area.
Marvel at the Real-Life Disney
Disneyland modeled its iconic downtown area after a real small town: Fort Collins. Everything in Old Town is emblematic of America’s idealistic small towns, which Disney hoped to recreate.
While the Magic Kingdom does a fantastic job of bringing it to life, nothing compares to the original. A Stroll through Old Town fills you with the romanticism of the American Dream and brings hope for the promise of a better tomorrow. It truly is a magical area, and it’s no wonder Disney used it as a model for its town square.
The Museum of Discovery
Bring your kids to the Museum of Discovery for hands-on fun for all ages. The small museum is filled with cool hands-on activities, from the tot spot, which allows kids to learn their way, to the music lab, which lets kids of all ages get hands-on with various instruments. Strum an electric guitar or turn your group into a garage band while learning the basics of sound in this immersive exhibition.
The Museum of Discovery packs a massive punch for a small-town museum. It has exhibits on agriculture, wildlife, fossils, the universe, and early peoples, providing guests with a well-rounded museum experience that covers all the same topics of museums three times its size.
While in Fort Collins, you must stop into Nuance Chocolate, one of the town’s most divine specialty stores. Nuance offers a wonderful selection of truffles, bitters, and candy bars, all made in their local factory.
The owners, Toby and Alex Gadd, are incredibly passionate about their work. The love they pour into their chocolate seeps through in every bite. But they’re also passionate about making the world a better place, striving for ethical business practices in all aspects of their business, from the chocolate they source to the packaging made from recycled materials.
Nuance epitomizes the top reasons to visit Fort Collins. It’s full of passionate people doing what they love in the most ethically sustainable way possible.
Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising
When discussing the arts, our focus on paintings and sculpture dismisses one of humanity’s most critical genres of artistic expression: textiles.
The Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising, a small gallery on the Colorado State University campus in Fort Collins, seeks to change that. The gallery showcases textiles from different eras and with varying uses, highlighting fashion’s crucial role in showcasing cultural values and social distinctions.
The museum doesn’t just showcase the textiles. It offers small activities to make viewers actively think about what they see. The activities include questions, scavenger hunts, and posterboards where you can share your thoughts, often changing depending on the current exhibit.
Gregory Allicar Museum of Art
When visiting the Avenir Museum of Design, don’t forget to drop in next door to see the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art.
The museum has an impressive permanent collection of African art, including pottery, masks, and various wooden figurines, showcasing the vast array of talents and styles originating from the massive continent over the centuries.
It also has a room of European works from the early Italian Renaissance through the 19th century. The collection boasts over 200 objects, which are constantly rotated to fill the small gallery space.
The temporary exhibits at the Gregory Allicar Museum are often partially curated by the students, giving a rare glimpse into what artistic works the younger generations deem vital to our collective cultural story.
Flower Trial Gardens
If you’re visiting Fort Collins in the springtime, you have to cross the street after the Gregory Allicar Museum and explore the flower trial gardens.
The trial gardens are often rated as one of the top things to do in Fort Collins, and a brief stroll through the planters makes it easy to see why. In the spring, the gardens burst with color as students and researchers work to determine which plant varieties work best in Colorado’s cool mountain climate.
Hatton Art Gallery
The Gregory Allicar Museum of Art isn’t the only art gallery on campus. If you’re feeling adventurous, head to the main quad to check out the Hatton Art Gallery. The small gallery features a constant rotation of interesting exhibits, from experimental art created by the students working in the building to contemporary works by artists worldwide.
Hatton Art Gallery seeks engagement with the global arts community, so you never know what unique works you’ll find on display there. Rather than a celebration of the old masters, it aims to highlight work from current artists making their own statements on the modern era from a variety of cultural perspectives.
See a Comedy Show
The Comedy Fort in downtown Fort Collins features an eclectic lineup of comedians dedicated to making you laugh. Catch a rising star comedian on their national tour or stop in during the weekly open mic night to watch locals try their hand at stand-up.
You’ll find shows, charity events, and more at The Comedy Fort, making it a local hotspot and top attraction in Fort Collins.
Enjoy Live Music
The Magic Rat, a cozy venue attached to Fort Collins’s most impressive hotel, offers a variety of live music, making it a perfect place to cap off your evening.
The venue features all genres of music, from jazz to hip hop, though you’ll commonly hear country pop tunes emanating from the lively stage. The Magic Rat’s lounge transports you to a 1950s jazz club with inviting bright yellow sofas resting against a moody blue backdrop.
If the mood strikes, there’s plenty of seating and room to dance in front of the stage.
The Magic Rat is located at the iconic Elizabeth Hotel.
Grab a Drink at a Speakeasy
Travel back to the 1920s with a visit to an underground speakeasy. The Social is a lively lounge hidden under the main square in downtown Fort Collins. A bouncer standing near a light post next to a staircase leading down to the bar is the only indication that something intriguing lurks nearby.
The Social fills up quickly. Guests line up next to the light pole to wait their turn to descend into the 1920s atmosphere, featuring hand-crafted cocktails reminiscent of the era and shareable appetizers to keep you energized.
The club hosts numerous events throughout the year, celebrating the roaring 20s of the 1900s. Wear your favorite flapper dress and party like it’s 1924!
Catch a Live Show
The Aggie Theater in Fort Collins is constantly rocking with trendy acts from around the country. It’s a small venue, so you won’t typically catch the biggest names you hear all over the radio (though legends such as Ice T and huge names like Insane Clown Posse have played there in the past), but it does offer stage space to smaller acts, cover bands, and rising star musicians trying to get their names out in the world.
Shows at the Aggie span genres. You’ll find rap, rock, country, pop, jazz, and everything in between at this historic theater that has served the Fort Collins community for over 100 years.
Enjoy a night of pinball and games at Fort Collins’s biggest pinball bar, Pinball Jones. The bar features nearly 40 pinball machines and a wide array of arcade games, including the original arcade favorite Ms. Pacman and some of our favorite 90s cabinets like The Simpsons and Time Crisis 3.
Players can also enjoy a game of skeeball or air hockey while sipping on their favorite locally sourced-craft brew. The variety of games and drinks makes a stop at Pinball Jones one of the most fun things to do in Fort Collins.
One of the best things to do in Fort Collins is just outside the city in the fantastic waters of the Cache la Poudre River. The river originates deep in the Rocky Mountains and is Colorado’s only nationally designated “Wild & Scenic” River.
Numerous outfitters along the bank stand ready to take you out for a fantastic voyage on the rapids. The river features all types of rapids, ranging from class I to class V, making it an ideal place for beginners to dip their toes in and for expert adventures to have an epic ride.
Fort Collins rests on the Rocky Mountains front range, offering visitors many outdoor recreation options. Enjoy hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, or a pleasant stroll through a fresh spring meadow.
Get outside and get some fresh air while enjoying the majestic view of the mountains in the distance.
Where To Eat In Fort Collins
Fort Collins abounds with exquisite culinary experiences. There’s something spectacular (and local!) for every meal and palate in Fort Collins.
Head to one of Fort Collin’s many cozy coffee shops for a quick bite on your travels, or stop into the Silver Grill Cafe, the oldest restaurant in Fort Collins serving up signature breakfast dishes like the Rocky Mountain Trout and Eggs alongside traditional favorites like Denver Omelets. The Silver Grill also bakes homemade cinnamon rolls in-house to satiate your sweet tooth!
For lunch, grab a delicious deli sandwich at Choice City Butcher and Deli, which offers a selection of perfectly crafted deli sandwiches from classic Reubens to mouthwatering cheeseburgers.
If you want Mexican food, check out Vatos Tacos, often called the best taco shop in town, or drop into Illegal Petes for a quickly crafted burrito. The downtown area bursts with delicious options from various cuisine styles to fit any budget.
You have to check out Ginger and Baker for at least one of your dinners in Fort Collins. The upscale eatery offers cozy Southern-style cuisine with a local twist. Start with a savory bowl of pumpkin bisque and then indulge in their number-one-selling chicken pot pie for a hearty meal to keep the winter chill at bay.
Ginger and Baker sources as many ingredients as possible from their local farm and then looks to the local community to fill in the rest. They feature local merchants and artisans in their gift baskets, market, and cuisine, showing their commitment to the community.
For a fine dining experience, head up to The Cache, Ginger, and Baker’s steakhouse, which offers perfectly cooked steaks, lamb chops, salmon, and more, or Jax Fish House for fresh, sustainably sourced seafood.
Where To Stay in Fort Collins
There are numerous lodging options in Fort Collins for every budget. The area features plenty of budget chains, including Comfort Inn and La Quinta, and big-name hotels like Hilton and Marriot.
Guests who want an ideal stay near the downtown region should stay at the Elizabeth Hotel, Autograph Collection. The pet-friendly property features an onsite restaurant, the Magic Rat live music venue, and the most comfortable hotel beds you could ever want. In addition, each room includes a record player, and the vast library of records scattered throughout the hotel offers guests the opportunity to kick back and relax with smooth sounds after a fun-filled day of exploring.
Getting to Fort Collins
Fort Collins rests near Colorado’s northern border, but it’s only an hour from the state’s biggest cities. Visitors flying into Denver can rent a car and drive up to Fort Collins or schedule a shuttle service in advance.
Those who don’t want to drive can fly directly into Northern Colorado’s regional airport, offering 11 non-stop flights to Denver daily.
Enjoy your Stay in Fantastic Fort Collins!
Book your trip now to experience all the wonderful things to do in Fort Collins. You won’t be disappointed.