Lots of folks around Colorado head to Fort Collins on fall weekends to cheer on the CSU Rams.
And though you could just go up for the football game and come home again, consider making it a weekend getaway.
Football weekends bring crowds and lots of energy to the town, which buzzes with excitement on game day.
Even if you don’t love football or have a student at Colorado State University, this Front Range city is accessible -- close to the mountains without the tricky mountain driving – and has lots of great shopping and dining as well as inviting outdoors adventures.
Stop by the Bike Library downtown and check out a bike – literally. You can borrow one for the day, to pedal your way around town instead of polluting the air with auto exhaust.
Or pedal up Poudre Canyon, not far from town, for a scenic ride along the Poudre River. Cycling is possible most of the year, because Fort Collins – like other Front Range cities – often has sunny, 60-degree days in the middle of winter.
When it’s cold, there’s snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, sledding and ice fishing around Horsetooth Reservoir, just over the hill from this city of 155,000 people.
When it gets cold enough, go ice skating on City Park Pond. Or, if that sounds too cold, go indoors to the EPIC arena, where you can ice skate -- or swim, depending on your whim.
If you’re a beer lover, this town’s for you. There are now 16 breweries or brew pubs in the area.
At CooperSmith’s Pub, for example, you can get a delightful mug of Nut Brown Ale or Horsetooth Stout – maybe even a green chili beer! Don’t forget a pizza or burger to round out your meal.
Plan to take a “Foam on the Range” tour of the Anheuser-Busch complex and sample some freshly made Budweiser. And be sure to visit the world-famous Clydesdale horses who live here. They’re gorgeous.
Just down the road is the Fort Collins Brewery. Here, you can sample their pilsners, lagers, ales and even a barley wine in its full-service restaurant.
You’ve probably already sipped some craft beers from the New Belgium Brewery – like a Fat Tire Ale, maybe. This environmentally friendly brewer also offers free samples after the tour.
Head into Old Town, the original downtown area, for fun restaurants, shops and nightlife.
Long-time favorite dining spots include Bisetti’s for great Italian food, Rio’s for Mexican fare or a dozen of other ethnic restaurants. There’s also a Beau Jo’s (for Colorado-style pizza) and the original Egg & I – for breakfast or lunch.
Fun shops downtown include such charmers as The Right Card (with so much more than cards), Tula (an upscale women’s clothing store) and assorted import shops that feature goods from Santa Fe to Kathmandu.
The Fort Collins Museum is a gem, with cabins dating back to 1859, 1864 and 1882, as well as a 1905 schoolhouse. Besides historic displays there also are some very cool interactive exhibits in the Discovery Science Center. The two merged a couple of years ago into a state-of-the-art building and kids will adore its hands-on approach.
One of Fort Collins’ unique attractions is the Swetsville Zoo. It’s a collection of Dr. Seuss-like metal sculptures made by a retired farmer with a bad case of insomnia and an amazing imagination. His name is Bill Swets. Now isn’t that a great name for a farmer?
The “zoo” – on Harmony road -- is somewhat hidden these days due to surrounding development. But you must find it! Admission is free or by donation – when the gate is unlocked. It’s one of those cases of “Open when it is; closed when it isn’t.” But make the attempt.
I mean, where else can you see a spaceman or a ladybug built from sprockets, gears and wheel covers or an autosaurus – made from used car parts, naturally?
So game day or just a free weekend, make Fort Collins a special getaway any time of year.
You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it before.
IF YOU GO
For general information about visiting Fort Collins, go online to http://www.visitftcollins.com/ or call 800-274-3678.
For information on brewery tours and brewpubs, visit http://www.visitftcollins.com/brewery-tours.
For a list of 150 things to do in Fort Collins, visit http://www.visitftcollins.com/sites/default/files/u362/150%20Things%20to%20do%20in%20Fort%20Collins.pdf
Linda DuVal is the former travel editor for The Gazette, a freelance travel writer and winner of several Lowell Thomas awards. She is the co-author of Insider’s Guide to Colorado Springs and writes a local Web site, Pikes Peak on the Cheap (www.pikespeakonthecheap.com).
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