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Colorado’s Best Spots

Colorado's Best Spots

Fun, Strange and Interesting Places to Visit in Colorado

May 7, 2018
Fun, Strange and Interesting Places in Colorado

With summer just around the corner, there are many adventures to be had! If you are looking for something different to do — check out these fun, strange and interesting places to visit in Colorado. Each one is worthy of a nice long stop. Classic Colorado eccentricities await!

Carousel of Happiness in Nederland

fun strange interesting things to do in Colorado

Photo Courtesy Carousel of Happiness

Nederland’s Carousel of Happiness is a magical menagerie featuring 56 whimsical, hand-carved animals on a restored 1910 Looff carousel! This lovely carousel turns to the music of a 1913 Wurlitzer band organ. Witness the 100-year old gears churn by watching from the upper observation window. Wheelchair ramp available. Rides are just $1!

The Carousel of Happiness is located at 20 Lakeview Dr, Nederland, CO 80466. 

Bishop Castle in Rye

fun, strange and interesting places to visit in colorado

Photo Courtesy Bishop Castle

Love castles?? Check out Colorado’s Bishop Castle, made of stone and iron and built by a single man – Jim Bishop. He has been working on this incredible stone monument for 60 years. Located just West of Pueblo, Colorado, this castle stands a whopping 160 feet complete with a grand ballroom, soaring towers, bridges and fire-breathing dragon! The castle welcomes visitors every day FREE of charge. For the full story of Jim Bishop and his castle, click here.

Bishop Castle is located at 12705 CO-165, Rye, CO 81069.

Coney Island Hot Dog Stand in Bailey

fun, strange and interesting places to visit in Colorado

Photo Courtesy Coney Island Boardwalk

This iconic, giant hot dog is a favorite stop for drivers along Hwy 285 on the outskirts of Bailey, Colorado. The structure itself is a 42 foot long wiener complete with mustard, relish and bun. Built in 1966, the hot dog stand has moved from Lakewood to Aspen Park to its current home of Bailey. Coney Island Boardwalk continues to serve classic NY Coney Island hot dog stand menu items with a Colorado twist: Continental Sausage‘s antibiotic-free dogs and bratwurst and all-natural soft drinks from Rocky Mountain Soda Company. Even the condiments and potatoes for the french fries are sourced locally when possible. Stop in to try out the classic coney, a footlong hot dog smothered in meat chili and onions.

Coney Island Boardwalk is located at 10 Old Stagecoach Rd POB 973, Bailey, CO 80421

May Natural History Museum in Colorado Springs

Photo Courtesy May Natural History Museum

May Natural History Museum, in Colorado Springs, houses the world’s largest private insect collection! 7,000 species of stunning butterflies, moths, beetles, spiders, scorpions and other creepy crawlies are on exhibit. James May, museum founder, collected bugs while travelling all over the world for over 80 years. His collection of over 100,000 specimens includes bizarre beetles like the adorable acorn weevil (pictured above, right) and the Australian peacock spider (pictured above, left). Admission fees: Adults $7, Seniors 60+ $6, Children 6 – 12 $5, 5 and under are FREE.

May Natural History Museum is located at 710 Rock Creek Canyon Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80926.

Matchless Mine in Leadville

Fun, Strange and Interesting Places to Visit in Colorado

Photo Courtesy Matchless Mine Memories Facebook Page

Leadville, a Victorian-era boomtown during the Colorado silver rush, was founded by silver miner Horace Tabor. Tabor famously caused a scandal by divorcing his wife of 25 years to marry Baby Doe McCourt, who was half his age. Tabor become one of the wealthiest men in Colorado with his silver mines, including the Matchless Mine. Tabor’s fortune was lost when the price of silver collapsed after the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1893. He died completely destitute. On his deathbed he pleaded with Baby Doe to hold on to his precious Matchless Mine, believing that the price of silver would rebound. Baby Doe spent the rest of her days alone in a cabin next to the now quiet silver mine for the next thirty years, where she eventually froze to death. Surface tours are available. For more information, click here.

The Matchless Mine and Baby Doe’s Cabin are located in Leadville, CO here.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg

Photo Courtesy Wild Animal Sanctuary

Photo Courtesy Wild Animal Sanctuary

Majestic wild animals roam at The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado. The sanctuary has cared for over 1,000 animals since it opened in 1980. Visitors can catch a glimpse of the 460 animals who reside at the sanctuary now by taking a stroll along the “Mile into the Wild Walkway” overlooking the sprawling habitats. Wild animals include wolves, lions, tigers, grizzly bears, black bears, lynx and many more. General admission: $30/adults, $15/child, Children under 3 are FREE. For more information, click here.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary is located at 2999 Co Rd 53, Keenesburg, CO 80643

The Tank in Rangely

fun, strange and interesting places to visit in Colorado

Photo Courtesy Tanksounds

The TANK, which might look like a plain old water tank from the outside, is known for its amazing acoustics, drawing musicians and music lovers alike. The TANK is a fascinating oddity — it began as an unused fire-suppression system tank whose floor became bowed out underneath the weight of the structure, creating a “gentle parabola” that resonates sound beautifully. The TANK is now a venue for musicians as well as an acclaimed recording space for artists. You can visit The TANK and experience its wonders every Saturday during the summer from 9AM – 1PM for FREE.

The TANK is located at 233 Co Rd 46, Rangely, CO 81648.

Colorado's Best Spots Guides

10 Places to Explore Dinosaurs and Fossils in Colorado

April 4, 2018
dinosaurs in Colorado

In Colorado, we are familiar with the Gold Rush that shaped our great state in many ways, but how about the Great Dinosaur Rush? In the late 1800s, Colorado was center stage to a ruthless and intense hunt for fossils. The rush was the start of a paleontologic breakthrough with an astounding number of dinosaur discoveries, including the Stegosaurus, the Allosaurus, the first Tyrannosaurus Rex teeth, and many other prehistoric creatures. Recently, a Torosaurus was discovered in Thornton by the Saunders construction crew. The crew quickly realized they had come upon something special, and the 68 million year old fossils are now being carefully preserved at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The Thornton Torosaurus is the most complete Torosaurus ever found in the world. Dinosaurs are fascinating, and we have many opportunities to witness their glory all around the state. Here are 10 places to learn, discover and explore dinosaurs and fossils in Colorado.

10 Places to Explore Dinosaurs and Fossils in Colorado

[Interactive Map]

 #1 Dinosaur Ridge – Morrison, Colorado

places to see dinosaurs in colorado

Photo Courtesy Paul Hermans, Wikipedia Commons

Take a walk along a path that the dinosaurs themselves traveled 100 million years ago at Dinosaur Ridge. This is the very spot where the first stegosaurus was discovered in 1877! The hike, just over two miles, is an easy, paved stroll with over 300 dinosaur tracks on view. In addition to the famous dinosaur tracks, visitors have the chance to see dozens of dinosaur bones from the Jurassic period, still nestled in the layers of sandstone along the trail. The site will have you imagining the Morrison ridge as it was millions of years ago, a coastal beach on the edge of an ancient ocean. Round out your adventure by checking out the Visitor’s Center and Discovery Center to explore Colorado’s changing landscape over the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods with numerous fossil displays, hands-on dinosaur exhibits, kids dig areas and more.

The walk through Dinosaur Ridge is FREE. For admission to the exhibit halls, the Discovery Center and a 45 minute guided bus tour, tickets are $9/Adults (12+), $7/Youth (3-12), Kids under 3 are FREE. For ticket info, click here. Dinosaur Ridge is located at 16831 W Alameda Pkwy, Morrison, CO 80465With the Morrison Dino Pass, gain admission to Morrison Natural History Museum as well as Dinosaur Ridge exhibits for a discounted price: $17/Adults, $13/Youth.

#2 Denver Museum of Nature and Science – Denver, Colorado

dinosaurs in Colorado

Photo Courtesy Denver Museum of Nature and Science

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is home to many of Colorado’s prehistoric creatures found in places like Dinosaur Ridge and Garden Park, as well as very recent local dinosaur finds like the Thornton Torosaurus! Visit the Prehistoric Journey exhibit to learn about our planet’s changing climate over billions of years, view fascinating dinosaur bones and fossils, and explore the rise of mammals. Displays include skeletons of the stegosaurus, allosaurus, diplodocus and many more. Observe scientists working on fossils from the recent discovery by construction crews of the Thornton Torosaurus, the first torosaurus ever discovered in Colorado as well as the most complete torosaurus skeleton ever found in the world.

Tickets prices for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science: $16.95/Adults, $11.95/Kids 3-18, $13.85/Seniors 65+, Kids  2 & Under are FREE. Denver Museum of Nature and Science is located at 2001 Colorado Blvd, Denver, CO 80205.

#3 Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center – Woodland Park, Colorado

Dinosaurs in Colorado

Photo Courtesy Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center

Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center is a kid-friendly museum featuring unique and spectacular dinosaurs including T-Rex, raptors, giant flying and marine reptiles, huge carnivorous fish and life restorations. Visitors can witness an actual fossil preparation laboratory, making casts and preparing fossils for museums around the country.

Ticket prices for Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center: $11.50/Adults 12+, $7.50/Children 5-12, $10.50/Seniors, Kids 4 and under are FREE. Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center is located at 201 S Fairview St, Woodland Park, CO 80863.

#4 Dinosaur Journey Museum, Fruita, Colorado

Dinosaurs in Colorado

Photo Courtesy Dinosaur Journey, Museums of Western Colorado

Dinosaur Journey, part of the Museums of Western Colorado, concentrates its exhibits on the geology and paleontology of Western Colorado and Eastern Utah. The museum features interactive exhibits, animatronic dinosaurs, fun events, educational programing, and area dinosaur trails. Dinosaur Journey hosts special exhibitions every summer running from mid-May to September that YOU can join!

Dinosaur Journey admission prices: $9/Adults, $7/Seniors, $5/Children, $25/Immediate Family Groups (Up to 6 people). Dinosaur Journey is open Mon – Sat 10AM – 4PM and Sun 12 – 4PM until April 30 and will be open 7 days a week, 9AM – 5PM starting May 1st. Located at 550 Jurassic Ct, Fruita, CO 81521.

#5 University of Colorado’s Museum of Natural History – Boulder, Colorado

Dinosaurs in Colorado

Photo Courtesy University of Colorado Boulder’s Museum of Natural History

The University of Colorado Boulder’s Museum of Natural History is home to a variety of prehistoric fossils in its Paleontology Hall. The museum houses 150,000 catalogued specimens from all over the United States and the world, but the fossil vertebrate collection is focused on the Rocky Mountain region. In addition to prehistoric creatures, the museum houses invertebrates and plants, including beautiful pieces of petrified wood. Family friendly and full of interesting exhibits, CU’s Museum of Natural History is one of Boulder’s best free spots for learning and exploring.

Admission to the museum is FREE. The museum is open during Monday – Friday 9-5, Saturday 9AM -4PMm Sunday 10AM – 4PM (Closed on all University holidays). The CU Museum of Natural History is located at CU’s Henderson Building, 15th and Broadway, Boulder, CO 80309.

#6 Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience, Cañon City, Colorado

Dinosaurs in Colorado

Photo Courtesy Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience

Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience is a family-friendly interactive museum featuring full-scale dinosaur fossil casts, science-focused interactive displays, animatronic dinosaur exhibits, as well as hands-on exhibits with real dinosaur fossils. Kids will enjoy the kids’ dig area, multimedia exhibits, games and outdoor recreational-focused activities including a multi-story ropes course.

General Admission: $12/Adults, $8 Children 3-12, Children Under 3 are FREE. For ropes course and other add-ons, see pricing here. The Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience is open Thursday – Sunday 10AM – 5PM and is located at 44895 W U.S. 50, Cañon City, CO 81212.

#7 Ft.Collins Museum of Discovery – Ft. Collins, Colorado

ft collins museum of discovery

Photo by All Things Boulder

The Ft. Collins Museum of Discovery features Wildlands & Wildlife, exploring the creatures and lands that existed in Ft. Collins millions of years ago! Prehistoric beasts and flora are accompanied by a complimentary exhibit showing the plants and animals that inhabit Ft. Collins today. Kids will love the fossil wall, as well as the many other exciting STEAM exhibits including: the music and sound lab, the tornado chamber, tot spot and more!

The Ft. Collins Museum of Discovery is located at 408 Mason Ct, Fort Collins, CO 80524. The Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10AM – 5PM, Thursday open late until 8PM. Closed Mondays. General Admission prices are $9.50/Adults, $7/Seniors, $7/Students, $6/Kids Ages 3-12, Children 2 & Under are FREE.

#8 Morrison Natural History Museum – Morrison, Colorado

dinosaurs in Colorado

Photo Courtesy Morrison Natural History Museum 2

Morrison Natural History Museum focuses on the prehistoric days of Morrison, Colorado, featuring rare and unique Jurassic period fossils, dinosaur tracks, and more. Visitors are encouraged to get the most out of the museum by taking a museum tour, offered every hour and included with admission. In addition to Jurassic treasures, the museum houses fossils and casts from the Cretaceous period as well as the Ice Age.

Ticket prices: $9/General Admission (12+), $7/Youth (3-11), Kids under 2 are FREE. Morrison Natural History Museum is open every day, 10AM – 5PM and is located at 501 CO-8, Morrison, CO 80465. With the Morrison Dino Pass, gain admission to Morrison Natural History Museum as well as Dinosaur Ridge exhibits for a discounted price: $17/Adults, $13/Youth.

#9 Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument – Florissant, Colorado

dinosaurs in Colorado

Photo Courtesy Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is home to one of the richest and most diverse fossil deposits in the world. The name “Florissant” comes from a French word meaning “flowering” or “blooming”, a fitting name for the wildflower-filled, grassy Florissant valley. Amongst the wildflowers, visitors will be wowed by massive petrified redwood stumps up to 14 feet wide. The Visitors Center features thousands of detailed fossils of insects and plants reveal the story of a very different, prehistoric Colorado.

Ticket prices: $7/Adults 16+, Children are FREE. Annual passes (good for cardholder plus 3 adults) are $30 and good for one year. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is open daily from 9AM – 5PM (open until 6PM during the summer) and is located at 15807 County Road 1, Florissant, CO 80816.

#10 Garden Park Fossil Area, Cañon City, Colorado

dinosaurs in Colorado

Photo Courtesy Garden Park Fossil Area

Garden Park Fossil Area is known as one of the country’s most prolific and historically important dinosaur excavation sites. These fossils are on view in museums all over the country, and include complete and nearly complete skeletons of various dinosaurs like the Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Camarasaurus and Diplodocus. Although this site has been (and continues to be) home to fossil quarries, there are no dinosaur fossils on view. Visitors, however, enjoy hiking and exploring the area for its historical and scientific importance. The area features extensive historical markers as well as an EarthCache so you can take a self-guided tour to learn more about this amazing site. Or, you can take a virtual tour of the quarries here.

Visiting Garden Park Fossil Area is FREE. Garden Park Fossil Area is located at 3501-3767 Garden Park Rd, Cañon City, CO 81212. For more information on visiting the area, click here.

Colorado's Best Spots

Colorado’s National Parks and Monuments – Free Day!

August 24, 2017
colorado national parks free day

This Friday, August 25, 2017 marks the 101st birthday of the National Park Service! Celebrate by visiting one of America’s most unique and significant sites. To honor its founding, the National Parks Service is granting free admission to ALL National Parks and Monuments on August 25. To help you decide which park to visit, I’ve put together a guide of all seven of Colorado’s amazing and diverse national parks and monuments.

Colorado’s National Parks

#1 Rocky Mountain National Park

Nymph Lake, Photo Courtesy of Rocky Mountain National Park

Nymph Lake, Photo Courtesy of Rocky Mountain National Park

A Colorado favorite, Rocky Mountain National Park is a great escape into nature. The park encompasses 415 square miles of natural settings including some of Colorado’s highest mountains, lush evergreen forests and fascinating wildlife. Stop by the Alpine Visitor Center to pick up information on the park. RMNP offers many hiking trails for people of all ages and abilities. A favorite, accessible trail for people of all ages is Bear Lake – the trail loops around beautiful Bear Lake, with gorgeous views of Hallet Peak. More adventurous hikers will enjoy trails like Alberta Falls and Nymph Lake. RMNP offers great camping options, but these sites are extremely popular – be sure to book in advance! During the summer season (after Memorial weekend), Trail Ridge Road opens to drivers, a famed scenic byway at the top of the continental divide. The drive is not for the faint of heart with its steep inclines and hairpin turns.

Rocky Mountain National Park is just over an hour’s drive from Boulder. Estes Park, located just east of RMNP, offers plenty of shopping, lodging and dining for park visitors. Entrance Fee to Rocky Mountain National Park is usually $20/car per day, $30/car for a 7-day pass. Annual Passes are $60. On August 25, admission is FREE.

#2 Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

National Park Week

Photo Courtesy Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

The Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is home to the tallest dunes in North America. The park offers endless opportunities for fun and adventure through hiking, sand sledding, splashing in Medano Creek, wildlife watching, and more! Enjoy the views of Colorado’s beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains from this exquisite and unique Colorado ecosystem. Favorite hikes include the dunes themselves, Mosca Pass Trail and Zapata Falls. The Park offers campgrounds from $20/per night. Reservations can be made here.

The Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is just over a four hour drive from Boulder. Entrance Fee is usually $15/car. On August 25, admission is FREE.

#3 Mesa Verde National Park

National Park Week

Cliff Palace, Photo Courtesy Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park offers a remarkable glimpse into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people of Southwestern Colorado, who made Mesa Verde their home for over 700 years (AD 550 to 1300). Mesa Verde National Park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. Many of these beautifully preserved dwellings are available only for observation during the spring season. There are many hikes and scenic drives to enjoy these fascinating views. Stop by the Mesa Verde Visitor Center to inquire about seasonal openings, purchase tickets and learn more about the history of Mesa Verde.

The park also houses the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, featuring dioramas, exhibits of prehistoric artifacts and more. If you are interested in taking a tour through a dwelling, the Balcony House is open during the spring. A ticket purchase is required (available at the Colorado Welcome Center in Cortez or at the park’s Visitor Center) and tours begin every hour between the hours of 10am – 4pm. Tickets are $5/person. The Balcony House involves a climb up at 32-foot ladder, as well as descending a 100-foot staircase. As it can be strenuous, it is not recommended for those with heart or respiratory problems.

Mesa Verde is a seven hour drive from Boulder. Camping and lodging options available. Entrance Fee is usually $15/car. On August 25, admission is FREE.

#4 Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

National Park Week

Photo Courtesy Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Described as a vertical wilderness, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is an expansive space featuring steep cliffs, craggy spices and breathtaking formations. Adventurers can enjoy the Black Canyon’s stunning wilderness in so many ways – scenic driving, hiking the inner canyon, kayaking, fishing, rock climbing and more!  Stay in one of the park’s campgrounds or in nearby Crested Butte or Montrose. Some of the roads are open seasonally as weather permits, be sure to check in at the South Rim Visitor Center for more information.

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is just over a 5 hour drive from Boulder. Entrance Fee is usually $15/car. Annual Pass is $30. On August 25, admission is FREE.

Colorado’s National Monuments

#1 Colorado National Monument

colorado national parks free day

Photo Courtesy Visit Grand Junction

Colorado National Monument preserves one of the grand landscapes of the American West. Much more than a monument, witness towering monoliths existing within a vast plateau and canyon panorama. Experience sheer-walled, red rock canyons along the twists and turns of Rim Rock Drive, where majestic bighorn sheep and soaring eagles call home. Stay in one of Colorado National Monument’s 80 campsites or stay in nearby Grand Junction.

Colorado National Monument is just over a 4.5 hour drive from Boulder. Entrance fee is usually $15/car. Annual Pass is $40. On August 25, admission is FREE. 

#2 Dinosaur National Monument

colorado national parks free day

Photo Courtesy National Park Service

Dinosaurs once roamed in Northwest Colorado at Dinosaur National Monument. Check out their incredible remains, still visible embedded in the rocks. Today, the mountains, desert and untamed rivers flowing in deep canyons, support an array of life. Petroglyphs hint at earlier cultures. Later, homesteaders and outlaws found refuge here. Whether your passion is science, adventure, history or scenery, Dinosaur offers much to explore. Stay in one of Dinosaur National Monument’s tent or RV camping sites, or find lodging in nearby Dinosaur, CO, Craig, CO or Rangely, CO.

Dinosaur National Monument is a 5 hour drive from Boulder. Entrance fee is usually $20/car. Annual Pass is $40. On August 25, admission is FREE. 

#3 Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Beneath a grassy mountain valley in central Colorado lies one of the richest and most diverse fossil deposits in the world. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument features petrified redwood stumps up to 14 feet wide and thousands of detailed fossils of insects and plants reveal the story of a very different, prehistoric Colorado. The fossils, rocks, hills, and valleys that make up Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument reveal an ancient story of redwood forests, volcanic eruptions, and a climate much different than today. In addition to a rich ancient history, the Florissant valley also contains the stories of prehistoric hunting and gathering Paleo-Indians, the Ute and Jicarilla Apache peoples, the travels of a pioneer nation, and of early scientists making their way through discovery into a different time. Camping is available in nearby Mueller State ParkPike National Forest, Eleven Mile State Park, Eleven Mile Canyon, Round Mountain, and Happy Meadows Campgrounds. Lodging is available in nearby Woodland Park, Cripple Creek & Colorado Springs.

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is a 2.5 hour drive from Boulder. Entrance fee is usually $5/adult, Kids 16 & Under are always FREE. Annual Pass is $20. On August 25, admission is FREE.