Colorado is an underrated vacation destination. But it’s becoming less of a secret every year. In 2017, a record 86 million visitors brought in more than $1 billion in tax revenue for The Centennial State.
The vast majority of those tourists came from within the United States. But 1 million came from out of the country to visit Colorado. State officials say the number of domestic visitors has gone up 41 percent since 2009.
Colorado’s known for breathtaking mountain peaks, but those mountains aren’t the only reason to visit Colorado. When you explore Colorado, you’ll find out there’s much more to the state than meets the eye. Even though what initially meets the eye is still pretty cool.
Keep reading for the top 7 reasons to become a Colorado tourist.
Sun and Snow Co-Exist
Colorado gets a lot of snow, but their winters aren’t gloomy and dreary. For that, you can think the state’s plentiful sunshine.
When visiting Colorado, you may hear that the state gets 300 days of sunshine per year. That’s not accurate, but it does get a lot of sunlight.
That sunlight makes the winters feel downright pleasant and cheerful. Don’t forget to bring a reliable pair of sunglasses along with a good winter coat.
Camping and More
If you want flatlands, you’ll have to head east to Kansas. In Colorado, you can go camping in beautiful natural parks.
In fact, it’s an outdoor paradise. Northern Colorado boasts the iconic Rocky Mountain National Park. If you’ve ever wanted to camp along the Continental Divide, now’s your chance.
But if you head to the southwest corner of the state, you’ll find places like Mesa Verde National Park. It’s home to thousands of archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings.
Ancient Pueblo tribes made such cliff dwellings their home for hundreds of year. Now you can explore these well-preserved pieces of history for yourself.
The Sporting Life
Colorado is a great place for fans of both indoor and outdoor sports. There’s no shortage of hiking trails when the weather is nice. You have plenty of options when it’s not as nice, too.
The Denver area is home to several professional sports teams. If you’re visiting in the fall, it’s worth a trip to Broncos Stadium at Mile High to see the NFL’s Denver Broncos play. If you’d rather be indoors, check out either the Denver Nuggets basketball team or the Colorado Avalanche.
In case you can’t tell by the name, the Colorado Avalanche play hockey. Hockey is a fun, frantic sport wherever you go, but it’s especially cool to watch in a winter climate like Colorado’s.
Unique Urban Environments
Speaking of Denver, how many major cities can say they’re located a mile above sea level? In America, there’s only one, and that’s Denver.
Denver is young and hip, which means it can also be pricey. It’s more affordable than West Coast cities like Seattle and San Francisco, at least for now.
There’s a lot of cool stuff happening in Denver, but it often takes visitors a bit to adjust to the altitude. The air is thinner, which means you may have more trouble drawing in oxygen at first.
If Denver is too crowded, head to trendy college towns like Boulder or Fort Collins. Boulder is the home of the University of Colorado, while Fort Collins is the site of Colorado State University.
Arts and Culture (Including Festivals)
Denver is one of the 20 biggest cities in the country, but the culture scene extends way beyond the city limits. The state is a good place for artists, entertainers, and athletes.
The festival circuit is impressive. Other cities shut down their events calendars in winter, but not Colorado. In January, you can check out ice festivals, snow sculpture championships, and even ESPN’s Winter X games.
See here for more on the festival scene when you’re visiting Colorado. Whether it’s the middle of winter or the middle of summer, you’ll doubtless find an event worth attending.
Food and Drink
You’ve probably heard that the best restaurants in the United States are in one of two places: The East Coast or West Coast. Colorado’s cuisine proves that’s not true.
Colorado is sometimes referred to as the Napa Valley of Beer. Golden, Colorado, is home to the massive Coors Brewery, but they’re not the only game in town.
In fact, Colorado has some amazing craft breweries that specialize in smaller batches. New Belgium and Great Divide are two names worth checking out when you’re in the state.
Don’t forget to get some quintessential Colorado dishes while you’re around. Green chili is a condiment rather than a dish unto itself, and Colorado residents think they do this spicy side better than anyone.
Feeling brave? Go for some Rocky Mountain oysters, also known as bull testicles. It’s common bar food, so you might as well order some for the whole table.
Next time you’re in Denver, you’ll no doubt hear plenty of jokes about how the Mile-High City has a couple of different meanings. Indeed, Colorado is one of a handful of states to legalize and tax recreational weed products.
That doesn’t mean a Colorado tourist will feel pressure to get high as soon as they cross the state line. But if you’re into that sort of thing, it’s completely legal here.
Colorado is even home to several bud and breakfasts. They’re like bed and breakfasts, except people go there specifically to smoke weed. Such places draw tourists from all over the United States and the world.
If you go, make sure you’re over 21, though. Since the state legalized pot, the number of teens lighting up has actually decreased. If you aren’t able to legally buy alcohol in Colorado, then you also can’t buy weed.
How to Visit Colorado
If you want to visit Colorado, then what are you waiting for? It may feel weird to plan a visit in winter. But as mentioned above, you can head to Colorado any time of year and get a good dose of Vitamin D.
Of course, it’s not always as easy as packing a bag and heading to the airport. If money is an issue, we understand. Read our guide to taking an annual vacation for tips that will help you get out of town.