Photo: Travis Swan
Morning: After sipping a cup of organic coffee at the Bean Cycle in Old Town, explore more of the historic downtown by foot. Walk to the Museum of Art or the Center for Fine Art Photography. Both are free of charge and house diverse pieces. For $5, the Global Village Museum of Art and Cultures is another option. You don’t have to be indoors to see art; pause and play the painted pianos scattered throughout Old Town and snap some pictures of the detailed outdoor paintings by local artists.
Tip: Fort Collins is a super casual town. Nice jeans and a shirt are the norm for almost all occasions. Although dinner and a show justifies a nicer outfit, anything too fancy may have you feeling overdressed.
Lunch: Continuing south, you’ll come across Big City Burrito on the edge of Old Town. Despite its grungy feel, there’s a line out the door every day at noon when locals come to get a massive burrito stuffed with spicy chicken mole and heaps of fresh guacamole for $7. Ask for the strawberry habanero sauce.
Afternoon: Check out Old Town’s eclectic boutique stores. Drop by White Balcony for quirky gifts, Nepal Tibet Imports for spiritual items, or Wear It Again, Sam for vintage dresses and jewelry. Stop at the fountain in Old Town Square on your way to Happy Lucky’s Teahouse, where you can choose from a variety of international teas to take home or sip in the store.
Evening: Head to Bisetti’s in Old Town. It’s a small, dimly lit place with rich Italian entrées ranging from $10 to $30. Like many restaurants in Fort Collins, Bisetti’s uses ingredients from local farms. Kilwins, next door, has a huge selection of homemade chocolates, toffees, and fudges, prepared right in store.
Just outside Old Town, the Lincoln Center hosts a ton of acts, from stand-up comedians to acrobatic troupes. Shows range in price, and you’ll want to book ahead of time.
Tip: Fort Collins hosts First Friday on the first Friday of every month. Take a self-guided tour through the art galleries and museums, which are free of charge and open late.
Morning: Fuel up for the day with an early breakfast at Vern’s Place, a small restaurant known for their giant, gooey cinnamon rolls and country breakfasts. Take a short drive uphill to Arthur’s Rock trailhead in Lory State Park. The 3.6-mile hike provides sweet views of Horsetooth Reservoir along the way.
Enjoy a picnic lunch and mountain panoramas at the summit. Pack and drink a lot of water for your trip. Many out-of-towners aren’t used to the high altitude and thin air, so staying hydrated will help you to avoid headaches and fatigue while hiking.
Afternoon: Roll down the windows on the 30-minute drive to Inlet Bay Marina, where you can rent canoes, kayaks, and boats to take out onto Horsetooth Reservoir. Rentals run between $10 and $200 per hour, and there are some neat coves and private spots to explore.
Alternative: Mountain Whitewater Descents offers half-day whitewater rafting trips down the Cache La Poudre River, for $67 per person.
Evening: For dinner, dig into spicy Indian dishes at Taj Mahal in Old Town. After, walk over to catch a documentary at the Lyric — a tiny, independent theatre with comfy couches. They serve a variety of drinks, from local beer to bubble tea.
Morning: Start your morning with sugarcoated beignets and Southern flavor at Lucile’s, a crowded creole cafe. Then hop on the bus for an informational farm-to-table tour. You’ll spend a few hours visiting local food producers and listening to their stories while sampling fresh-grown products.
Essential info: Farm-to-table tours with Magic Bus Tours start at $25 and are available from July to October, on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month. Tours leave from the visitor center in Old Town. Check their website for times and additional tours.
Lunch: Sticking with the farm-to-table theme, eat lunch at FoCo Cafe, the first nonprofit restaurant in Fort Collins with a menu based on locally grown food. At this progressive restaurant you’ll find a donation jar instead of a cash register. You choose how much your meal was worth — pay more to pay it forward. Those in the community with no money can eat in exchange for doing a few dishes.
Afternoon: Take a free, 90-minute tour inside New Belgium Brewery. The trick is reserving a spot; tours fill up quickly. However, you can’t book more than two months beforehand. Sample their award-winning Fat Tire beer, a FoCo favorite.
Tip: If you’re visiting in August, check out Tour De Fat, an annual citywide event hosted by New Belgium. Thousands of locals bike around in their wildest costumes to show support for creating a more sustainable community through biking.
Evening: Dine at Gravity 1020, the restaurant inside the Fort Collins Brewery. Each beer has a recommended entrée pairing. Drinking spicy Red Banshee beer? This meshes well with the $12 Cubano sandwich — stuffed with pulled pork that’s been soaked in the brewery’s chocolate stout.
For dessert, drive over to Jay’s Bistro for crème brûlée and live jazz Wednesday through Sunday night. With your last few hours, take a horse-drawn carriage ride through Old Town.
Getting there and around
Fort Collins is about one hour north of Denver International Airport (DIA). A shuttle service runs from DIA to Fort Collins for about $40. However, renting a car is a good idea. Outdoor activities like hiking, boating, and rafting are outside the downtown area and lack connection to public transport. Taxi services are available but pricey.
If you’re planning to spend all your time in downtown Fort Collins, it’s possible to get around without a car. Old Town is super compact, bicycle friendly, and walkable. The greater downtown has bus routes, including the newest bus line, Max, that runs to south Fort Collins and back.