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In the late ’80s and early ’90s, long before “IPA” became as common as “LoDo” in Colorado vernacular, two little breweries popped up in Fort Collins, precursors to the Centennial State’s craft beer explosion. While any trip to Fort Collins should include a visit to Odell and New Belgium brewing companies, there’s more to this ag-friendly college town than cold ones. Tucked up against the Roosevelt National Forest an hour north of Denver, Fort Collins’ barley-and-hops-centric scene is enhanced by the plentiful in-town adventures awaiting you when the weather warms, including cycling and snacking your way through the streets of charming Old Town.
For a bit of outdoor serenity, drive (or if you’re adventurous, ride) four miles west of town to Horsetooth Reservoir (1). This 6.5-mile-long body of water accommodates just about any activity you’re in the mood for—fishing, boating, a picturesque spot to picnic, and, yes, even scuba diving. Climbers flex their muscles at the ample bouldering area on the east side of the reservoir, but you can harness a different kind of power at the Inlet Bay Marina—namely, a WaveRunner. co.larimer.co.us
Bicycling magazine recently ranked Fort Collins 11th on its list of the most cycling-friendly cities in the country. Celebrate National Bike Month in May with a trip to the Fort Collins Bike Library (2) located inside the Downtown Transit Center. As the name suggests, the library lends bikes instead of books and is stocked with the auxiliary gear you need for a daylong tour: trail maps, suggested rides, helmets, and even trailers for kids. 250 N. Mason St., fcbikelibrary.org
True chocolate fans will appreciate the Chocolate Cafe’s (3) creative offerings, such as a chocolate martini or chocolate ravioli. Traditionalists can satisfy their sweet tooths with one of the classics: German chocolate layer cake or even something chocolate-free, such as carrot cake. 102 W. Olive St., chocolatecafeftcollins.com
If you’ve got the energy (and maybe a designated driver), head to Avogadro’s Number (4), a bar, restaurant, and music venue where you’ll find locals grooving to Colorado bands and national touring acts—everything from the latest singer-songwriter to bluegrass and jazz groups. Bonus: The spacious back patio’s tree house promises to keep the kids entertained. 605 S. Mason St., avogadros.com
For the past decade, the Brandt family has sourced and roasted coffee beans out of this cozy shop in downtown Fort Collins. Stop at the Bean Cycle (5) for an afternoon pick-me-up (we suggest the aptly named Bean Cycle Blend). Browse the new and used book selection in the attached, volunteer-run indie bookstore, Wolverine Farm Publishing, where offbeat options—like a bicycling almanac—make perfect souvenirs. 144 N. College Ave., thebeancycle.com, wolverinefarm.org
The family-owned CooperSmith’s Pub & Brewing (6) has been a Fort Collins staple since 1989. Enlist the bartender’s help for a beer recommendation—these guys have brewed more than 100 different beers since getting started three decades ago—and post up on the back patio for prime people-watching thanks to the view of Old Town Square. 5 Old Town Square, coopersmithspub.com
Part sophistication, part sass, White Balcony (7) boutique displays an extensive selection of trendy dresses, ruffled scarves, colorful handbags, and other whimsical, Colorado-made gifts. For something a bit less, well, girly, walk a few doors down the street to the boutique’s “brother store,”130 S. College Ave., whitebalcony.com
Plan ahead (sign up using the brewery’s website) if you’d like to tour New Belgium Brewery (8), particularly on a weekend. The brewery gives 11 tours a day, and you can book your spot through the website months in advance. Tours at Odell Brewing Company (9) are a little more accessible, but if the hordes still prove too much, you’ll find plenty of elbow-bending room in the recently expanded taproom. The ultimate hot-weather tip: Pair a pint of the spring seasonal, Runoff Red IPA, with a game of corn hole on the brewery’s revamped patio—simply named the Backyard. 500 Linden St., newbelgium.com; 800 E. Lincoln Ave., odellbrewing.com
—Illustration by Jackie Besteman