Updated: 11/2/2015

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1. The Great Outdoors

Enjoying Colorado’s natural beauty is the most obvious budget-friendly option. Just-right temperatures year-round draw outdoor enthusiasts to our open lands and thousands of miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, wildlife watching, fishing and much more. Check out 99 Gorgeous Places, Quick Guide to Colorado National Parks and Magical Moments on Colorado's Public Lands for ideas on where to head first.

2. National Wildlife Refuges

Colorado is home to seven National Wildlife Refuges that are free and open to the public. The refuge system was created to conserve America’s fish, wildlife and natural areas across the country. Each of Colorado’s refuges is home to diverse ecosystems where visitors can spot everything from bison and moose to hawks and bald eagles living and nesting among some of the state’s most spectacular scenery. Learn more about wildlife watching in Colorado >>

U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel in Colorado Springs
U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel in Colorado Springs
Denver's 16th Street Mall
Denver's 16th Street Mall
Red Rocks Amphitheatre's towering sandstone rock formations in Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheatre's towering sandstone rock formations in Morrison, CO

3. Geologic Marvels

In Colorado Springs’ Garden of the Gods, those who walk the trails that meander around the park’s otherworldly red-rock figures search for geologic formations in the shapes of kissing camels, cathedral spires, praying hands and sleeping giants — and a few that seem to teeter in gravity’s grip. Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre in Morrison is comprised of massive, slanting red-rock outcroppings that rise from the earth to create an acoustically ideal natural amphitheater. Joggers love to run up and down the calf-burning steps (on non-concert days), hikers weave around the rock formations on a network of easy trails and all visitors enjoy the views of downtown Denver

4. People Watching

16th Street Mall and Pearl Street Mall — in Denver and Boulder respectively — are the two most popular outdoor pedestrian malls in Colorado. They’re also the perfect place to get to know the character of these two Front Range towns. Peek in the shops, lounge on green areas and benches, and watch the local characters come and go.

5. Air Force Academy and the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum

Take in two symbols of American pride in Colorado Springs. The U.S. Air Force Academy’s visitor center and iconic chapel give you a glimpse of cadet life, academy history and the chapel’s beautiful stained-glass windows. At the Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum, permanent and rotating exhibits highlight the history and culture of the Pikes Peak region. View artifacts from Ute, Cheyenne and Arapaho cultures; photography by local artists depicting the history of the area and a special exhibit about Colorado Springs founder General William Jackson Palmer.

6. Brewery, Winery & Distillery Tours

With more than 200 breweries, 100 wineries and 54 distilleries (and counting) Coloradans are known for their creative libations. Many around the state offer tours of their operations. See how major producers use the mountain spring water and Colorado ingredients to make locally inspired varieties and seasonal blends. Learn more about brewery, winery and distillery tours >>

7. Dinosaur Walks

In Picket Wire Canyonlands outside La Junta, you can stand in a three-toed impression left in the bedrock by a brontosaurus 150 million years ago. The footprints, located in North America’s largest dinosaur track site, are reached after a very flat five-mile hike, bike or horseback ride. At Dinosaur Ridge near Morrison, you can take self-guided tours (guided tours are $4) of exposed fossils and footprints, as well as the excavation sites, including the site where the world’s first stegosaurus was discovered in 1877. For more, read Where to See the Dinosaurs of Colorado >>

8. Only-in-Colorado Events

Coloradans celebrate heritage and holidays with great pageantry. Events listed on our site range from holiday fests to historic tributes to just plain zany gatherings. Check our events page for free winter carnivals, farmers’ markets, artwalks, Oktoberfests, balloon festivals and much more, which can be searched by city, region, date and event type.

9. Scenic and Historic Byways

While driving is not technically free, you won’t have to pay admission on Colorado’s scenic and historic byways — 25 routes that pass through the Rocky Mountains, the canyons and gorges of the Western Slope and the sun-kissed prairies of the eastern plains. With so many pathways connecting the dots between historic sites and vast acres of majestic scenery, Colorado’s the best state in the union for road tripping. Learn about quirky roadside attractions in Colorado >>

10. Historic Districts

Colorado Historic Districts in classic mountain hamlets such as BreckenridgeCrested ButteDurangoTellurideGeorgetown and Manitou Springs have maintained several of the structures built in the towns’ earliest days, giving visitors a peek into the past. Check each town’s visitor center for walking tours of sites with the most storied bygones. 

11. Colorado Ghost Towns

Abandoned yet well-preserved mining towns offer a fascinating window into the state's rough-and-tumble past, when fortune-seekers, outlaws and cowboys roamed the West. Many Colorado ghost towns are accessible by off-road vehicle or ATV in the summertime, including Independence near Aspen, St. Elmo near Buena Vista and Animas Forks near Silverton

12. Free Museums

From the works of local artists to authentic moon rocks, Colorado's free museums house a bounty of treasures. Stroll through the sculpture garden at Leanin' Tree Museum & Sculpture Garden of Western Art in Boulder; or learn how Loveland earned the nickname Sweetheart City USA at the Loveland Musuem/Gallery. More >>

Want More?

See for Free: 6 Delicious Colorado Tastings
Free Things to Do in Colorado with the Kids
Free Tours in Denver, Boulder & Colorado Springs


Photos: Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force Academy; courtesy of Visit Denver, The Convention & Visitors Bureau/Steve Crecelius, Red Rocks Amphitheatre.