We uncover more than 60 supersecret restaurants, vistas, hikes, attractions, and quirky, only-in-Colorado experiences you probably don't know about—but should.
Your guide to Colorado’s quietly quirky attractions.
One of Colorado’s hottest après bars never gets above freezing. The Ice Bar at Crested Butte’s Uley’s Cabin serves cocktails—including an expansive White Russian menu—as long as it can keep its counter from melting. Drinks usually flow from December through April.
“Budget friendly” isn’t typically used to describe Telluride, but on North Pine Street, you’ll find the best deal in Colorado. Started by a group of locals in the 1970s, the “free box,” which is really more of a free shelf, has held everything from fur coats and flat-screen TVs to everyday items like gloves, goggles, and long underwear—all donations from anonymous do-gooders.
How a tiny mountain town like Creede manages to produce top-notch theater productions (this summer: Annie Get Your Gun, among others), we’re still not sure. But we’re damned happy to take our seat in the audience. And we aren’t alone. While the town only maintains a regular population of about 400, the Creede Repertory Theatre regularly sells nearly 20,000 tickets each season.
Mystery meat reaches a whole new level of eww at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Alferd Packer Restaurant & Grill. Named for the infamous cannibal who survived a winter stranded in the Rockies in 1874 by snacking on the clients he’d promised to lead through the peaks, the Grill has dedicated an entire menu section to Packer: El Canibal Mexican Specialties.
At Monte Vista’s Best Western Movie Manor there’s hardly a bad seat in the house. Fifty-three of the hotel’s 59 rooms have tuned sound and an unobstructed view of the Star Drive-In’s massive screen. The movies—all new releases—are free with your $79-a-night-and-up room from May through September.
Fifteen miles from the Nebraska border, among the grain silos and rolling grasslands, sits one of the golf world’s greatest glories: Ballyneal Golf Club. Named one of the top 100 courses in the world by Golf Digest, Ballyneal’s fescued fairways resemble Scotland’s majestic links courses. The members-only course offers the public a limited opportunity to play; nonmembers can call for a one-time-only tee time.
A quarter doesn’t get you much these days, unless you’re in Burlington, where two bits earns you a five-minute ride on a carousel that’s worth millions. Each of the ornate, circa-1905 Kit Carson County Carousel animals is valued up to $200,000. They giddyup daily May through September.
Running for more than three miles along the Arkansas River, the Pueblo Levee Mural Project, initiated largely by paint-wielding college students in the 1970s, holds the Guinness World Records title for longest consecutive stretch of murals.
The call of the wild isn’t an abstract idea in Divide, where 28 wolves, foxes, and coyotes live at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center. Forget howling; you’ll be hard-pressed not to gasp when you meet the beautiful wolf-hybrid ambassador Bella on your tour.
Five Under-The-Radar Festivals
Crested Butte, April 2–6
Crested Butte’s spring fete—which celebrates the “flushing out of winter” and the welcoming of spring—marks its 45th year this April, complete with a massive parade, costumes, kooky competitions, and an evening of polka dancing (experience not required). gunnisoncrestedbutte.com
Glenn Miller Swing Fest
Fort Morgan, June 19–22
Each summer, swing and jazz fans descend on the small Eastern Plains burg of Fort Morgan—where 20th-century big-band leader Glenn Miller (think “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and “In the Mood”) graduated from high school—for a weekend of concerts, dances, meals, and historical tours. glennmillerswingfest.com
Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour
Keystone, June 21–22
There are few things Coloradans love more than beer. Bacon might just be one of them. Enter Keystone’s Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour. There’s plenty of sizzling hog on offer (last year’s tour featured more than 3,000 pounds of the stuff), live music, and demonstrations that will teach you more than you ever wanted to know about your favorite breakfast (and lunch and dinner) meat. And don’t forget about Colorado’s Biggest Bacon Bloody Mary Bar. Mmmm, bacon...and booze. Does it get better? keystonefestivals.com/index.php/bacon-tour
Pagosa Springs, July 19–20
Finally, a triathlon you don’t have to train for. Cruise-a-Thong features a cruiser ride, a walk over the Pagosa Springs River Walk (in flip-flops), and, finally, tubing down the San Juan River. Making the podium seems entirely unimportant, but if winning really matters to you, consider entering the Hair of the Dog disc golf tournament the following day. cruiseathong.com
Mile High Horror Film Festival
Denver, October 30–November 2
In 2013, the five-year-old Mile High Horror Film Festival managed to deliver 60 scary films from 16 countries to Denver. A year before that, Corey Feldman was on hand to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Lost Boys, the 1987 cult classic. Organizers are still dreaming up the horror picture shows they’ll present this year, but with a possible venue like Alamo Drafthouse (organizers were wrapping up the deal as of press time), it almost doesn’t matter what’s on the big screen. milehighhorrorfestival.com