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Looking to explore Colorado beyond the well-traveled I-70 route? Consider the Colorado Creative Corridor, a 331-mile arts-and-culture tour that winds through five mountain towns—Carbondale, Crested Butte, Paonia, Ridgway, and Salida—combining some of the state’s most incredible scenery with the opportunity to discover independent, creative entrepreneurs who make and sell art in these scenic locales.
“We’re all small rural towns with very unique, creative vibes,” says Sarah-Jane Johnson, a publicist for Carbondale Tourism, “and when you look at a map, it’s really a perfect scenic byway.”
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The towns have banded together to take advantage of mentorship and marketing dollars from the Colorado Tourism Office, and the result is a handy road guide that highlights a scenic route between the towns—and provides an introduction to the arts, makers, music, food, and, yes, breweries, that each state-certified Colorado Creative District offers.
“We know visitors are often coming for outdoor recreation,” Johnson says of the rural towns. “Now, when they come to Salida to be near the river, we can also show them the arts scene and make it a multifaceted experience.”
The Colorado Creative Corridor can help you plan a road trip at any time of year. You can download maps and itineraries that include art walks and gallery tours; theater, music, and film festivals; dining hotspots; plus quirky roadside attractions, outdoor adventures, and more. Or check out a few of our favorites:
The Powers Art Center is a stunning landmark housing an impressive collection of contemporary artworks, including pieces by Jasper Johns. After visiting, stop by the Rio Grande ARTway, a one-mile section of railway converted into an outdoor public art gallery.
Every Monday evening through August 20, check out free live music from the Alpenglow Summer Concert Series at the Crested Butte Center for the Arts’ outdoor stage. Then, enjoy Mexican fare at the gorgeous Bonez Tequila Bar & Grill, where contemporary art and decor feel right at home in a historical building.
Tour the Lands End Sculpture Center, one of just a few full-service, state-of-the-art sculpture factories in the country, and see how artists work with this foundry to create bronze sculptures. Next, enjoy fine art and fine wine during a visit to Azura Cellars & Gallery; tastings are available May-October, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
In this gorgeous mountain town, Old West storefronts are home to the workshops of local artisans, including the Mountain Girl Gallery, which showcases locally made mixed-media artworks, photography, and ceramics; Cimarron Art Glass, a working glass forge with a small shop; and, for the musically inclined, Cimarron Guitars, which sells exquisite guitars made in Colorado.
Whether you opt to design your own jacket or choose from what’s in the store, J2 Software’s custom polar fleece wear is the perfect souvenir. And what would a Colorado excursion be without some beer? Soulcraft Brewing offers local suds, food, and even live music with the locals.