Hilary Oliver is an adventurer, photographer, and filmmaker based in Denver, CO. We’ve asked Hilary to develop city guides for a few of Colorado’s most treasured cities. You can learn more about Hilary and her travels at her website, thegription.com and on Instagram (@junipermedia).
The beauty of Fort Collins, Colorado is that everything seems to slow down a little. In the summertime, when you’re craving the simpler life, it’s the perfect place to visit. Nostalgic about being a kid and just coasting around on a bicycle, jumping in a river, and slurping down ice cream pops? Fort collins is small enough to feel close to nature, with the mountains bulging upward from its west end, but big enough with Colorado State University to offer a bit of culture. It’s got all the grown-up versions of your favorite pastimes as a kid. Here are a few things you shouldn’t miss if you’re visiting.
Caffeinate—and check out the local literary scene—at the Bean Cycle
Start your day with the perfect cup of coffee at the Bean Cycle—they roast their beans three times a week, so it’s sure to be fresh. Once you’re inside, you won’t be able to resist wandering to the cozy nooks in the back of the high-ceilinged space for a closer look at the Wolverine Farm Bookstore, which shares space with the roastery. The shelves are stacked with new books by local authors as well as classics. It’s a nonprofit, volunteer-run shop with a particularly well curated conservation section. If Edward Abbey is your hero, this is your place.
While you’re in Old Town, take a spin through the square, where local shops hawk everything from dresses to geodes. The historic square itself is so picturesque, Disney actually modeled its Main Street USA after it.
Go play at Horsetooth Reservoir or the Cache la Poudre River
When the summer heat is weighing heavily in town, Horsetooth and the Poudre are at their best. The river flows into the north end of Fort Collins, and the reservoir separates the west edges of town from the rest of the foothills beyond. The water in both of them is cool and refreshing, and even though both of them are near town, they still feel like an escape. They’re perfect for a picnic—or a few cannonballs. Several boulder problems dot the eastern shores of Horsetooth Reservoir, and the road alongside it offers serious hills and beautiful views for motivated cyclists. If whitewater is your jam, look into kayaking or rafting the Poudre.
Chill out at the Willy Wonka-worthy New Belgium Brewery
The New Belgium Brewing Company headquarters might be the closest thing to an adult version of Charlie’s chocolate factory you’ll ever find. Born from a fat-tire bike tour through European villages famous for their beer, the brewery has been commercially pumping out Belgian-inspired brews with whimsical bike-themed branding since 1991. The lobby hops with visitors and zany bicycle memorabilia and the tasters flow deliciously at the bar. If you’re a beer geek, or just appreciate how incredibly psyched these folks are about making beer, sign up for a tour. But make sure to get your name on the list early—even days or weeks in advance—because the tours fill up quickly. If you get the itch to toodle around on a bike while you’re there, check out a cruise-y bike from the Zagster bike share rack right outside the brewery and coast along the Poudre River Trail for a bit.