So, get your afternoon caffeine fix and prepare to stay up late in these four bustling cities — where there’s no shortage of nighttime delights.
Flanked by the plains and foothills of the Rocky Mountains north of Denver and home to Colorado State University, energetic Fort Collins has a lot to offer: access to the great outdoors, craft beer and a buzzy creative community.
Starlight Entertainment: Nothing screams summer like an outdoor movie on the big screen and New Belgium Brewing’s Bike-In Cinema nights put a true Colorado spin on the classic activity Thursdays in August. Pedal over with a blanket, grab a brew and some food-truck grub and settle in to watch a flick on their lawn. Need a ride? Snatch one up from the Pace bike share.
Crowd-Pleasing Bites: A wide variety of farm-to-table deliciousness is the name of the game at The Farmhouse, the elevated country eatery at historic farmstead-turned-artisan-village Jessup Farm. Past favorites on the seasonal menu include bison chicken-fried steak and golden beet carpaccio. If your gang is craving Italian, mosey next door to Cacciatore at Heller’s Kitchen for made-from-scratch pizzas and pastas.
Late-Night Cravings: Social’s exquisite cocktails, tempting menu and elegant, industrial-chic vibes will give you the urge to put on a little black dress or dinner jacket. But the underground bar is perfect for a casual post-dinner meeting with pals. Order a round of the featured cocktail, a rotating concoction dreamed up by one of Social’s bartenders, and the large cheese and charcuterie plate to share.
Cool Digs: Make yourself at home at the new Elizabeth Hotel, a sleek boutique property that pays tribute to Colorado’s natural beauty, local artists and Fort Collins’ deep-rooted music scene (there’s a Crosby record player in every room and a lending library with more than 1,000 vinyl records). Or check into the revitalized Armstrong Hotel, whose Victorian façade has welcomed visitors since 1923. Bonus: There’s a jazz lounge, chocolate cafe (yasss), butcher shop/deli and restaurant on site.
Affectionately referred to as “the city nestled between the mountains and reality,” Boulder is a community united by a love for nature, an appreciation for good eats and a forward-thinking mindset as the headquarters for the University of Colorado and several tech startups.
Starlight Entertainment: No visit to Boulder would be complete without a stroll on Pearl Street, the city’s hub for dining, shopping and people watching — and Band on the Bricks (Wednesday evenings, June–August) is a splendid opportunity to see the colorful area at its height. Hear tunes from local musicians, sip a marg, brew or glass of wine in the beer garden and show off your best moves under the stars.
Crowd-Pleasing Bites: Complete with a fire pit, dog-friendly space, corn hole games and community-style seating, Rayback Collective aces the backyard-party atmosphere. Choose from more than 30 taps (many from local brewers) at the bar and dishes from a rotating set of popular food trucks, like Ginger Pig’s street-style Chinese and Goin’ South’s Louisiana- and Texas-inspired cuisine.
Late-Night Cravings: Craving a burger after midnight? Pearl Street Pub has your back. You can’t go wrong with any burger on the menu, the fried-chicken club or fried mac ’n cheese. After some liquid courage (we salute you if you don’t need it), kiss the stuffed buffalo at the entrance — a tradition for college students — and find a spot in the dive bar’s basement to devour your feast.
Cool Digs: Minutes from Pearl Street, Basecamp Hotel’s affordable adventure-themed rooms come with a roster of fun amenities (climbing wall and sauna, anyone?) — without draining your pocketbook. Or go for something fancier by booking a room with a view of the Flatiron mountains at the St. Julien Hotel & Spa, a darling Boulder institution known for its swanky yet welcoming ambiance.
Colorado’s second-largest city possesses a bounty of treasures, from natural gems like 14,115-foot Pikes Peak to ever-evolving cultural and dining scenes enhanced by a Colorado Creative District and a growing supply of well-reviewed restaurants.
Starlight Entertainment: Pikes Peak Jazz and Swing Society hosts Jazz in the Parks (Wednesday evenings, May–August) at green spaces throughout the region. Pack a picnic and some bevvies (and your best jazz hands) for an evening of jamming and dancing to live melodies from locally and nationally acclaimed musicians.
Crowd-Pleasing Bites: Ivywild School, originally an elementary school built in 1916, now houses Bristol Brewery & Pub and an on-trend marketplace. The Principal’s Office has coffee, tea and cocktails (order the Bikini Bottom: rum, almond and lemon), while Ivywild Kitchen dishes up soft pretzels with beer-cheese sauce and Colorado-raised-beef burgers.
Late-Night Cravings: The Rabbit Hole is known for its creative after-hours bites. Pair a Buffalo Bill cocktail (Colorado apple whiskey and apple juice — we think the frontiersman would approve) with hearty plates like the bacon-wrapped rabbit meatloaf or Colorado striped bass.
Cool Digs: Views of Garden of the Gods Park’s gravity-defying red-rock formations steal the show at the Garden of the Gods Club & Resort, which offers perks like access to the 27-hole Kissing Camels Golf Course and a sumptuous spa. Looking for something more rustic? Rent a glamping tent from Royal Gorge Cabins in nearby Cañon City to bask in glimpses of alpine landscapes from the comfort of your personal fire pit and enjoy benefits like climate control and Wi-Fi. Luxe cabins are also available.
Urban sophistication meets Rocky Mountain chill in Denver, where fine culinary and craft-beverage offerings are the norm, the wilderness is within easy reach and vibrant neighborhoods are packed with activity options (think: gallery and brewery hopping, boutique shopping and more).
Starlight Entertainment: Trade in the usual recliner seat for a floating cinema experience during Dive-In Movies at Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park. The perfect way to cool off after a hot summer day, these al-fresco events make a splash on Friday evenings, late June–August. Find your way to the wave pool, where movies begin at 7:30pm. Just don’t bring any popcorn, OK?
Crowd-Pleasing Bites: The newest kid on the block in Denver’s food-hall scene is Zeppelin Station, a collection of unique food and beverage concepts and eclectic merchants in the fashionable River North (RiNo) neighborhood. Grab a bahn-mi sandwich at Vinh Xuong Bakery, a Montreal-style smoked-meat sandwich at Au Feu or a scoop of seasonal gelato from Gelato Boy (the Campfire S’mores flavor is heavenly).
Late-Night Cravings: An award-winning restaurant, bar and speakeasy, Izakaya Ronin is an easy addition to any Denver foodie bucket list. But if you’re having hunger pangs for their soft-shell crab tempura roll after regular dinner hours, don’t fret — the moguri izakaya speakeasy is open until midnight on weeknights and 1am on Fridays and Saturdays.
Cool Digs: The Ramble Hotel, another fresh addition to the RiNo neighborhood, oozes with refinement. Linger in the lobby, where the decor is a nod to French salons of the 17th century, and have a drink at Death & Co., the famed New York City-based cocktail bar that opened an outpost at the hotel. Or choose the equally plush Jacquard Hotel in the upscale Cherry Creek neighborhood. Watch the sunset from the rooftop lap pool and bar and let their doting Service Curators help you accomplish everything from planning a designer shopping excursion to acquiring tickets to a sought-after concert.
When you’ve gotten your fill of city life, plan a getaway to some of Colorado’s less-traveled thoroughfares at the Colorado Field Guide.
Check out more urban vacations in Colorado.