7 Breathtaking Things to Do in Colorado

With the beautiful backdrop of the Rocky Mountains and the powerful Colorado River, it is little surprise that many of the best things to do in Colorado involve the great outdoors and the gorgeous natural land formations of the state. Nicknamed the Centennial State, Colorado is a year-round destination for bikers, hikers, and skiers, but there are also bustling metropolitan areas that call visitors to embrace the unique and the eclectic cultural history of this state.

Choosing where to visit and what fun things to do in Colorado can be a difficult undertaking with so many great options. Consider a few of these possibilities on your next visit to this mountain state.

1. Climb to the Cliff Palace and Balcony House

One of the most unique locations in the state is the Cliff Palace and Balcony House, a set of ancient cliff dwellings built by the Pueblo Indians in the 12th and 13th centuries. You will find both of these things to do in Colorado at the Mesa Verde National Park. The Balcony House includes 45 rooms, and it can only be experienced through a ranger-guided tour in which you will climb a 32-foot ladder and crawl through a 12-foot tunnel. Cliff Palace must also be accessed via a ranger-guided tour.

Due to the 7,000-foot elevation and the effort needed to reach both of these locations, people with heart or respiratory issues should not attempt the climb. Although there are no age or height restrictions, children must be able to climb ladders and to negotiate uneven steps independently. If you have infants you must carry them in backpacks.

  • Best for: Couples, families.
  • Season: Open year-round. Cliff Palace is open from late May until mid-September while Balcony House is open from late April until early October.
  • Address: Cliff Palace Mesa Verde National Park, Cliff Palace Loop, Mesa Verde National Park, CO 81330; Balcony House Mesa Verde National Park, CO 81330.

2. Take a Trip on the Telluride Mountain Village Gondola

The only free ride of its kind in the United States, the Telluride Mountain Village Gondola has been open for public transportation since 1996. You can take the 13-minute trip from Telluride to Mountain Village, or the opposite direction, and get some of the best views of the San Juan Mountains. You can ride the gondola with your skis or your snowboard, and you can take the San Sophia Station exit to head down the slopes, hike down the trails or stop at Alfred’s Restaurant. The Mountain Village end features all of the modern town amenities that you might need, including a grocery store, a post office, and a town hall.

All the gondolas are wheelchair accessible. The gondola is one of the best free things to do in Colorado, offering unlimited trips for all participants.

  • Best for: Couples, families.
  • Season: Open year-round, the gondolas run from 7:00 a.m. until midnight.
  • Address: 301 W San Juan Ave., Telluride, Colorado 81435.

3. Explore the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

If you are in the Mile High City, check out the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which has been occupying a space in the city since 1908. In 1926, the museum located fossil proof of life that was over 10,000 years old, and visiting the institution has become one of the main things to do in Denver Colorado ever since. Today, you can find displays about dinosaurs, outer space, weather and even robots in the permanent and the rotating collections of the museum. There is also a planetarium and an IMAX theater that frequently change shows. Or you can check out the children’s center for your younger kids.

Adult visitors can enter the museum only for $16.95, or they can add the planetarium for an additional $5. Children ages 3-18 years pay $11.95 for the museum only and an additional $4 for the planetarium. There are also fees for special traveling exhibits.

  • Best for: Couples, families.
  • Season: Open year-round, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day, except Christmas Day.
  • Address: 2001 Colorado Blvd., Denver, CO 80205.

4. Ride the Pikes Peak Cog Railway

Pikes Peak is the highest point of the Rocky Mountains. There is no better way to reach this point than to take a ride on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. This train has been one of the best things to do in Colorado Springs since it began taking travelers up the mountain in 1891. With a perfect safety record, you can scale the 14,115-foot height from the comfort of the railway cars, gazing at the rocky creek shores, several waterfalls and pine trees that are 2,000 years old. The 3-hour journey may also give you a glimpse of bighorn sheep, yellow-bellied marmots, and mule deer.

You will spend about 30-40 minutes at the summit of Pikes Peak with this trip, and most reservations should be made online. Parking is $5 per car, and you must pick up your tickets at the depot at least 30 minutes before departure. Trains run daily through the rain, snow, and sunshine. But be aware that the steep incline can cause dizziness, headaches, and nausea. Adults cost $40, and children ages 3-12 years pay $22.

  • Best for: Couples, families.
  • Season: Open year-round, hours and days vary per season.
  • Address: 515 Ruxton Ave., Manitou Springs, CO 80829.

5. See Gold in the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine

Colorado has 25 acres that have produced more gold than all of California and Alaska combined. And the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine is in the heart of that region near Cripple Creek. After you drop 1,000 feet below the earth in an elevator, take a tour through the mineshafts and the tunnels that have been working since 1889. These tours are typically led by former miners or the family of former miners. They’ll give you 45 minutes of information about equipment, mine conditions and the vein of gold that still runs through the mine.

You will pay $20 for adults and $12 for children ages 3-12 years to take this tour. Each visitor receives a free gold ore specimen that contains real gold from the mine. The mine is often 10 or more degrees cooler than the outside air, so be sure to dress appropriately. And wear tennis shoes or work boots for exploring the area. Your tour will last about an hour.

  • Best for: Couples, families.
  • Season: Open year-round, open mid-April to mid-October. From April 15th to May 26th and September 5th to October 15th they are open between 9:45 a.m. and close after the last tour leaving at 4:00 p.m. While from May 27th to September 4th they are open from 8:45 a.m. until after the last tour leaving at 6:00 p.m.
  • Address: 9388 Highway 67, Cripple Creek, Colorado 80813.

6. Visit the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave

One of the unique things to do in Colorado includes a trip to the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave that is located just outside of Golden. William F. Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, was a scout for the United State Army during the Indian Wars. He was also a famous showman who performed in many Wild West shows here and in Europe during the late 1800s. The museum contains many of his personal items, including his saddle from his days as a Pony Express rider. Buffalo Bill’s gravesite overlooks the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains and the hillside where the museum is located.

The location is open year-round at a cost of $5 for adults and $1 for children ages 6-15 years. If the weather is nice, be sure to check out the observation deck, which provides spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains.

  • Best for: Couples, families.
  • Season: Open year-round. From May 1 to October 31, you can visit daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Winter hours, from November 1 to April 30, are Tuesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
  • Address: 987 Lookout Mountain Rd., Golden, CO 80401.

7. View the Garden of the Gods

As a registered National Natural Landmark, the Garden of the Gods features many unique and jagged stone towers that reach up to 300 feet above the earth. These unusual rock formations include giant, balanced boulders against the backdrop of the distant mountains. You will find 15 miles of trails that allow you to get up close and personal with the rocks. You can even climb some if you are brave. There are also designated biking lanes for mountain biking, horseback riding, and Jeep or Segway touring.

Be sure to begin at the visitor center for a 20-minute introductory video before you explore the park. There are also several exhibits available in the gallery. Some of these exhibits explore the geology, the flora and fauna and the people and history of this Colorado region.

  • Best for: Couples, families.
  • Season: Open year-round, winter hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., while summer hours run from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • Address: 1805 N 30th St., Colorado Springs, CO 80904.

If you are looking for outdoor things to do in Colorado, the options are nearly endless in this state full of remarkable natural landscapes. Be sure that you take some time to explore the many state parks and natural landmarks spread throughout the mountains and plains of Colorado. But also visit the cities, like Denver or Colorado Springs, to experience some of the more modern educational opportunities of the Highest State.

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