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121 Things To Do In Colorado This Year

A guide to the best happenings around the state in 2016.

By |

It’s hard to be bored in Colorado, what with the Rocky Mountains in the backyard and a plethora of art openings, themed runs, beer festivals, and sporting events taking place at any given time. The truth is, we’re not sure how people squeeze in any time for work. And it’s about to get even more difficult: We’ve tracked down the best of 2016 so you won’t miss out on that inaugural mountain triathlon or the macaroni and cheese festival you never knew existed (it does). Welcome to your year.


Greatest Hits

If you only attend 10 events this year, make them these.

1. Colorado Symphony Orchestra Side-By-Side With Denver Young Artists Orchestra: 100 Year Celebration of the U.S. National Parks 

The National Park Service doesn’t celebrate its centennial until August, but it’s never too early to pay tribute to our country’s natural wonderlands. Boettcher Concert Hall, February 6

2. NHL Stadium Series

Revisit one of hockey’s biggest rivalries when the Colorado Avalanche take on the Detroit Red Wings during Colorado’s first-ever outdoor NHL series—which includes a Hall of Famer–studded alumni game. Coors Field, February 26 and 27

3. Sweeney Todd

Beloved hometown gypsy rockers Devotchka adapted the score of Stephen Sondheim’s dramatic musical to help craft the Denver Center Theatre Company’s contemporary take. The Stage Theatre, April 8 to May 15

4. Denver DerbyParty

The Mile High City’s original Kentucky Derby shindig marks its 15th anniversary in 2016—proving that seersucker and fancy hats never really go out of style. Sculpture Park, May 7

5. The 25th Anniversary of Country Jam

You’ll need your 10-gallon cowboy hat for Grand Junction’s honky-tonk music festival, headlined by Lee Brice, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, and (and!) Zac Brown Band. Country Jam Ranch, Grand Junction, June 16 to 19

6. Epic Discovery

Visitors to Vail Mountain should allow some extra time in their itineraries this summer: The resort is adding seven zip lines, an elevated roller coaster, and more to its mountaintop adventure park, which will be best enjoyed after June’s opening crowds die down. July

7.  Sesh Fest

We love any excuse to drink beer—and this festival’s spotlight on local brews under five percent ABV (aka session beers) means we can imbibe a little extra that night without feeling it quite so much the next morning. Location TBD, August

8. 106° West Triathlon at Dillon

The inaugural triathlon at North America’s highest deep-water marina (elevation: 9,156 feet) comes with $25,000 in prizes—and plenty of breathtaking views for those who’d rather spectate than sweat. Lake Dillon, September 10

9. Elk Fest

The only thing better than viewing Elk-tober’s stunning beasts (which emerge when it’s time to, uh, produce even more elk) is this event’s annual bugling contest, during which humans try to mimic the animals’ unique sounds. Various locations, Estes Park, October 1 and 2

10. Truffle Celebration

Barolo Grill’s weeklong celebration of Italian black and white truffles is a delightfully indulgent way to welcome the holiday season. Barolo Grill, November


BEST THINGS TO DO: JANUARY TO APRIL

Colorado: where sunglasses are required in January and picnics in the park happen in March. Here’s what to do, no matter the temperature. —Daliah Singer

Anytime: Warm up your belly with build-your-own s’mores at Brazen (Highland) or Telegraph (Wash Park West).

Various Dates: Need some encouragement for a snowy run? Join up with fellow fleet-footers. January 16, Frosty’s Frozen Five & Ten; February 20, Chilly Cheeks Duathlon; March 6, That Dam Run 13.1 & 5K

January 4: Expect 50 to 100 meteors an hour during the annual Quadrantid meteor shower.

January 8: You’ll be able to claim the title of world record holder after attending the World’s Largest Ski and Snowboard Lesson. Various ski resorts

January 9 to 24: Nab tickets to the National Western Stock Show; it’s a Denver tradition. National Western Complex

January 10, February 7, March 13, and April 10: The Clyfford Still Museum galleries transform into concert halls on select Sunday afternoons (in partnership with Swallow Hill Music and Friends of Chamber Music). 

January 15, 22, and 29: Improve your art lingo with Art Fitness Training, a three-part workshop (attend one or the trifecta) held at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, the Denver Art Museum, and the Art, a Hotel.

January 21 to February 6: You won’t have to worry about a fidgety kid during Vera Rubin: Bringing the Dark to Light, a show that combines live performance with planetarium projections. Fiske Planetarium at the University of Colorado Boulder

January 27 to 31: The inaugural Fat Bike World Championships highlight the fast-growing industry with three separate courses. Crested Butte

January 30: Watch the reigning NCAA champs take on Johns Hopkins University in a University of Denver men’s lacrosse exhibition match. Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium at DU

February 6: Enjoy an evening of Colorado wine tastings, gourmet food, live music, and educational seminars at the first Winter Wine Fest. RedLine

February 7: Turn the heat up—with buffalo-sauce-topped chicken wings from Highland’s Fire on the Mountain during Super Bowl 50.

February 13 and March 26: A diverse three-piece program kicks off Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s 20th season. Aspen District Theatre

February 19 to 21: Keep your fingers crossed for sunshine during WinterWonderGrass, an outdoor music and beer festival in Avon featuring headliner Greensky Bluegrass. Nottingham Park, Avon

March 11, 12, 18, and 19: Feel the rhythm at Off Center’s new slam show, How I Got Over: Journeys In Verse, starring Denver-based slam poet Suzi Q. Jones Theatre

March 17 and 19: Ease into March Madness as Denver hosts preliminary round games. Pepsi Center

March 30 to April 3: Join 10,000 fellow foodies for the annual Taste of Vail.

April: Although details are scarce, eTown’s 25th birthday shindig is sure to be rockin’. Location TBD

April 23: With Earth Day on the 22nd, April is the perfect time to connect your kids with nature. Do it on a budget during $5 Day at the Butterfly PavilionButterfly Pavilion, Westminster

April 28: Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage combines five decades of franchise music—played live by a symphony orchestra—with projected film and TV footage. Paramount Theatre


BEST THINGS TO DO: MAY TO SEPTEMBER

Vacation days are meant to be used. This summer, spend them at these destination events.

ASPEN

Aspen Ideas FestivalJune 23 to July 2, Aspen Institute

Go for: some much-needed mental enlightenment.

Anderson Ranch Arts Center’s 50th anniversaryJuly 17 to 22

Go for: a weeklong celebration commemorating the organization’s half-century as a hub of contemporary art; expect talks from visiting artists and tours of new public art installations.

BIG CREEK LAKES

Camp at Big Creek Lakes Campground, Opens for the season June 1

Go for: 54 sites with $10-a-night fees and 9,230-foot Big Creek Falls (hello, moose-spotting opportunity).

BOULDER

Guest chef eventJune, Frasca Food and Wine 

Go for: an extension of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen (June 17 to 19) closer to home; last year, it featured James Beard winner Gabrielle Hamilton.

COLORADO SPRINGS

Barbecue UniversityJune 8 to 10 and June 11 to 14, the Broadmoor

Go for: an unofficial grill-master certification courtesy of lessons from celebrated chef and author Steven Raichlen.

All New WomenJune 11 to September 18, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center; Women of Abstract Expressionism, June 12 to September 25, Denver Art Museum

Go for: two prominent exhibits devoted to females, one focusing on women as subjects, the other as artists.

Colorado Springs Rodeo Summer Series, Starts June 15, Norris-Penrose Event Center

Go for: a new series of mutton bustin’, cattle sortin’, and steer and bull ridin’ events that will encourage you—and the kids—to compete rather than just watch.

CRESTED BUTTE

Crested Butte Wildflower FestivalJuly 11 to 23

Go for: the obvious photo ops, plus birding adventures, drawing classes, garden tours, and more.

DENVER

Elizabeth Gilbert, May 5, Paramount Theatre

Go for: a Q&A session with the award-winning author 10 years after her New York Times bestseller, Eat, Pray, Love, first hit bookstores.

Toruk – The First FlightJuly 21 to 24, Pepsi Center

Go for: Cirque du Soleil’s newest show, inspired by James Cameron’s blockbuster film Avatar.

New Works Festival, August, Historic Elitch Theatre

Go for: staged productions of the 2015 festival’s winning plays in the recently reopened 125-year-old theater.

DURANGO

Macaroni & Cheese Festival, June

Go for: gourmet mac and cheese paired with wine and beer. Need we say more?

EVERGREEN

Triple Bypass RideJuly 9 and 10

Go for: a quad-searing 120-mile bike ride over Juniper, Loveland, and Vail passes…and, if you’re really brave, reverse your route the next day.

FORT COLLINS

Bohemian Nights at NewWestFestAugust 12 to 14, Downtown 

Go for: free concerts and custom song recommendations from the Fort Collins Musicians Association.

GREENWOOD VILLAGE

Justin WillmanMay 8, Comedy Works South at the Landmark

Go for: a Mother’s Day show starring the comedian who once received a standing ovation from President Barack Obama.

LAKE CITY

Teach the kids to fish, Lake City

Go for: a family outing to Deer Lakes and Big Blue Creek to find numerous small trout.

MEEKER

Range CallJuly 2 to 4

Go for: this normally sleepy town’s massive Fourth of July celebration, complete with a parade, rodeos, barn dancing, fireworks, and more.

MESA VERDE

Mesa Verde National Park, August

Go for: photo ops at the Cliff Palace on Colorado’s only World Heritage site; visit on the National Park Service’s 100th birthday (August 25).

MORRISON

Mountain Goat Kids trail run series kickoffMay 15, Bear Creek State Park

Go for: short races (founded by the husband of a 5280 editor) that get kids off the couch and outside.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre’s 75th anniversary, June

Go for: any of the myriad acts expected to play the acoustically perfect venue this month—as if you needed an excuse.

PUEBLO

Bands in the BackyardJune 17 and 18, Vineland

Go for: the cultural offerings of this oft-overlooked town (and headliners Kid Rock and Alabama).

SALIDA

FIBArk Whitewater Festival, June 16 to 19, Downtown

Go for: a wet weekend of cheering on or participating in stand-up paddleboarding events and slalom kayaking during the country’s oldest white-water festival. Did we mention the beer garden?

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS

Steamboat Wine Festival, August 10 to 14, Various locations

Go for: a boozy few days of wine-pairing dinners and hot air balloon rides.

VAIL

Vail International Dance FestivalJuly 30 to August 13, Various locations

Go for: outstanding performances by renowned dance companies from around the world.

EVERYWHERE, COLORADO

The Colorado 54, August 6

Go for: a chance to raise money for Nicaraguan communities in need of clean drinking water—and the bragging rights of bagging yet another fourteener. 


BEST THINGS TO DO: SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER

This fall, find an activity perfectly suited to your lifestyle.

If you go everywhere on two wheels…

Check out…Tour de Fat, New Belgium Brewing’s annual cycling festival, which brings together nearly 20,000 people for lessons in sustainable living. September 10, City Park

Or…add some sparkle to your weekend at Mine Rush’s downhill mountain bike race, the first in North America to weave through an underground gold mine. Late summer Central City

If your music taste isn’t mainstream…

Check out…Four Corners Folk Festival. It’s not the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, but you won’t care once you hear the first foot-stompin’ notes from Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys. September 2 to 4, Pagosa Springs

Or…cross over to the electronic side and catch EDM bands for a steal during Sonic Blossom. October, Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom & Cervantes’ Other Side

If you like sitting in a dark theater…

Check out…Equinox Theatre Company’s world premiere of One Death, Please?, a dramedy by local playwright Christian Munck. November 11 to December 3, The Bug Theatre

Or…buy a ticket to the Dairy Center Honors, Denver’s version of the famed Kennedy Center Honors. The lineup is a surprise, but all the acts pay tribute to local creative leaders. September 10, The Dairy Center for the Arts, Boulder

If you want to prep your stomach (and liver) for the holidays…

Check out…Denver Beer Festivus. Only Mile High breweries are invited to this bash—sorry, Boulderites. December, Location TBD

Or…prove that there’s more to movie food than popcorn at the Flatirons Food Film Festival’s culinary screenings featuring A-list guests. October, Boulder

If Halloween is your favorite holiday…

Check out…Mummies: Secrets from the Tombs, which features around 20 mummies and dozens of artifacts on loan from Chicago’s Field Museum. October 13 to February 5, Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Or…whack some piñatas during the Day of the Dead celebration at this eclectic gallery; also enjoy temporary altar installations. October 14 to 30, Pirate: Contemporary Art

If you’re in need of a brain boost…

Check out…Colorado River Canoeing: Star Gazing with Tito Salas, a stargazing trip with the operations manager at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Fiske Planetarium, after which you’ll finally be able to identify those obscure constellations. September 3 to 5, Loma, centennialcanoe.com

Or…brainstorm the right way—with liquid ingenuity—at Brew: Ideas & Creation Lab. Guests at this salon-style series sip craft beverages while discussing how to innovate in their fields. October 20, Breckenridge, breckcreate.org

If you’re looking for a new way to view fall’s golden hues…

Check out…the Flaming Foliage Relay, which gets its name from its route over three mountain passes just as the aspens are changing. September 9 and 10, Idaho Springs to Buena Vista

Or…stay in the car—perhaps while test-driving a Tesla Model S—during the Telluride Festival of Cars & Colors. This luxurious event showcases some of the world’s most coveted automobiles alongside San Juan foliage. September 29 to October 2, Telluride

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