Pueblo is a sunny playground nestled on the banks of the Arkansas River, but it was once a rough-and-tumble mining town inhabited by cowboys, gold-seekers and infamous ruffians like Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody, modern-day. Immerse yourself in Pueblo’s history, play outdoors in what is often one of the state’s warmest locales and savor some of the best green chile in the world.
Kick off your visit in the quaint and colorful Union Avenue Historic District, the town’s original city center, which once housed trading posts, gambling saloons and second-story brothels. Today, the area’s beautiful brick and sandstone buildings, 70 of which are on the National Register of Historic Places, house a collection of boutiques, art galleries and sidewalk cafes.
Check out the Historic Arkansas River Project (HARP), a 32-acre waterfront plaza with a riverwalk, a nature center and the world’s longest painting — a colorful two-mile-long mural on the side of a 65-foot-high levee. Enjoy a morning stroll along the picturesque riverwalk, or get your heart pumping on one of the bike trails, many of which connect to nearby Lake Pueblo State Park. If you’d rather be in the water than next to it, head to the river’s Whitewater Park, where you can kayak, bodyboard and surf.
If you’re traveling with children, your next stop should be The Buell Children’s Museum, part of the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center and ranked the No. 2 children’s art museum in the nation by Child Magazine. Little ones will have a blast exploring the museum’s several galleries, such as Sensations, a high-tech display devoted to stimulating the senses, and the Artrageous Studio, a hands-on art space where kids can create their own sparkly, feathery, beribboned works of art.
Next, head to the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum by the Pueblo Memorial Airport. Originally a World War II army air base in 1943, the museum boasts nearly 30 vintage aircraft, including a massive B-29.
Find a fresh-air reprise at City Park, where the 30-acre Pueblo Zoo houses more than 420 animals, from naked mole rats to African lions. After meandering through the zoo’s lush landscaping, take a ride on the park’s historic carousel.
Watch the city melt into gold, red and orange during a 15-minute sunset gondola cruise down the river or splurge on an hour tour that includes drinks and appetizers.
Afterward, head into historic Old Town for a bite to eat, making sure to sample the town’s de facto mascot, the chile pepper. Livability.com recently named Pueblo a top-10 Surprising Food City, in part because of this spicy, fire-roasted treat, which is perhaps best enjoyed in savory pork green chile. For a unique Pueblo culinary experience, try a Slopper, a hamburger patty served open-faced in a bowl on a grilled bun and smothered in green chile.