Named for Horace Greeley, a New York newspaperman who urged young Americans to “Go West,” the city of Greeley was one of the first planned communities in the United States.
Located approximately 50 miles northeast of Denver, at the confluence of the South Platte and Cache la Poudre rivers, Greeley was primarily an agricultural development, with some of the first successful irrigated farmland. Agri-business still provides a solid economic basis, with Weld County (of which Greeley is the county seat) consistently ranking in the top 10 agricultural producing counties in the nation.
Greeley is also home to the University of Northern Colorado, founded in 1889 as the State Normal School (teacher education), but is also recognized today for its quality business, performing arts and nursing programs. The university draws an array of guest artists and speakers who brighten the cultural landscape. Each spring, one of the nation's largest jazz festivals has the whole town tapping its toes.
The city has several other signature events, including August’s AgriCULTURE Fest and Feast, a celebration of the community’s agricultural heritage, and the Greeley Stampede, a nearly 100-year-old northern Colorado tradition featuring rodeos, concerts and other fun. Recognized as a Colorado Certified Creative District, downtown Greeley and surrounding neighborhoods also hosts year-round happenings. The monthly First Friday art walk is a favorite with locals and visitors.
Centennial Village Museum attracts visitors from around the world. The museum is a collection of vintage homes, a church, schoolhouse and other structures on five-and-a-half acres that date back from pre-settlement days into the early 20th century. The village is open primarily from April–October — it's worth planning a visit to town just to see it.
You can also visit the historic home of Nathan Meeker, credited with being the town's founder. Meeker led early Union colonists to the area to create their vision of a western utopia with treelined streets wide enough to turn a wagon with full hitch.
The 1835 Fort Vasquez, on Hwy. 85 between Denver and Greeley, will also give you a good idea of what life was like before Westerners permanently settled the area. Additionally, the Colorado Model Railroad Museum is truly a wonder, drawing train-lovers of all ages to see its operating model railroad, plus more than 600 railroad-related artifacts. Watch as the mini-train cars chug along a track that's built in a 5,500-square-foot layout, surrounded by thousands of handmade features.
Another famous name attached to the city is author James A. Michener, who received his master's degree from the University of Northern Colorado in 1935, taught there for several years, and eventually used the setting in his historical Colorado novel, Centennial.
Read Greeley & Loveland: Art in the Outdoors.