With prairieland sprawling to the east and lush and rugged mountains jutting skyward to the west, Greeley and Fort Collins are booming college towns whose proud heritage have spawned two of the most genuine destinations in Colorado.
A Historical Preservation Commission walking tour is a great introduction to downtown Greeley, where you’ll learn about the city’s East Coast-inspired layout — the founders were partial to wide, tree-lined streets and central parks.
Numerous museums tell the story of Greeley’s celebrated characters, such as Rattlesnake Kate, who hunted 140 rattlesnakes and had a dress, shoes, necklace and headband made. See the strangely fascinating dress at the Greeley History Museum.
Railroad buffs will be enthralled at the new Greeley Freight Station Museum, where you can marvel at more than 1,100 railroad artifacts, 20 scale miles of track and hundreds of miniature buildings. There is also the Centennial Village Museum, a collection of vintage homes, a church, schoolhouse and other structures on five and a half acres that date back to pre-settlement days.
Another option for the morning is to get boots-deep in the agritourism hot spots sprinkled throughout the area. Lose yourself in a corn maze, pick produce or visit the Plumb Farm Learning Center for hands-on activities. In April and May, the farm celebrates Baby Animal Days, showcasing spring newborns, including llamas, cows, horses, chicks and ducks.
Point your compass northwest to Fort Collins. Start with a visit to the Old Town Historic District, with its fine bookstores, galleries and shops. Other historic must-sees include the Fort Collins Museum and Avery House (a Victorian home), as well as a self-guided historic walking tour of downtown.
Embrace the local “green” way of life and check out some two-wheeled transportation at the Fort Collins Bicycle Library. These loaner bikes are free and can be checked out for up to seven days.
If you’re craving some time to explore the surrounding natural beauty, visit nearby Horsetooth Reservoir, a favorite for boating and beaching. Red-stone cliffs and 2,000 acres of public lands (perfect for rock-climbing and hiking) flank the 6.5-mile lake.
Or drive the Cache La Poudre/North Park Scenic Byway and look out at thick national forest and the tumbling Cache La Poudre River as you twist up the canyon. To really experience Colorado’s only federally designated National Wild and Scenic River, call ahead and book a guided fly-fishing or whitewater rafting trip.
Head back to Fort Collins to sip on the latest hoppy creations and tour some of the state’s most notable craft breweries, such as New Belgium, Fort Collins Brewery and Odell Brewing. You’ll also find plenty of restaurants serving fresh Colorado cuisine. Home to Colorado State University, the city has all the liveliness, dining and nightlife you would expect of a thriving college town.
Or, take in dinner and a show at Greeley’s elegant Union Colony Theater, which The Denver Post calls “a classy joint on the second floor of a smartly renovated downtown brick building.”
Photo: Courtesy of Fort Collins Downtown Business Association; courtesy of Greeley Museums; Matt Inden; Andrea Golod; courtesy of New Belgium Brewing Company.