Fort Collins Offers Many Ways for Families to Reconnect with Their Loved Ones
Fort Collins predicts traveling to reconnect with extended family and friends will be high on many lists in the coming year, and its an ideal location for a destination reunion. Here is a list of our favorite options that offer something for a variety of ages, interests and generations.
Five fantastic family parks: Fort Collins is home to 7 community parks and 43 neighborhood parks. Here are 5 of our favorites for family fun:
- Spring Canyon Community Park – Why Go: A totally unique ADA play area called Inspiration Playground, allowing all ages AND abilities to play and discover together.
- Twin Silo Park – Why Go: A family favorite honoring the area’s agricultural heritage, featuring a farm-themed playground with two silos framing the tallest slide in Fort Collins.
- Fossil Creek Park– Why Go: Dino-happy littles love this local play place, which boasts giant Wooly Mammoth and shark climbing structures and a climbing wall embedded with “fossils.”
- Lee Martinez Community Park – Why Go: A park with farm animals and a farm store is a slam-dunk for all ages. Learn about life on the farm at this interactive park.
- Sugar Beet Park– Why Go: For the 12-foot-tall wooden sugar beet play structure with climbable slats, rope ladder, slide and more. Oh and the pollinator garden, of course.
Explore a Natural Area:
Fort Collins is home to over 50 protected Natural Areas encompassing more than 36,000 acres and more than 100 miles of trail. Hike, bike, boat, bird watch, fish and more, all for free. Volunteer master naturalists lead eagle watches, skygazing and other events at select Natural Areas (registration required).
For two of the less busy Natural Areas in the network, head to Running Deer Natural Area where you can walk along a flat, easy trail to see the top of a historic fire tower (great for all ages and abilities). This interesting and nearly solitary destination features expansive views of the Front Range. Meanwhile, Fossil Creek Reservoir Natural offers outstanding birding in a peaceful setting.
Check out these Natural Areas for unexpected options: Coyote Ridge Natural Area’s Hidden Clues trail heads out from the on-site cabin (located one mile from the trailhead) and includes interactive interpretive signs designed for little hikers. Cathy Fromme Prairie Natural Area features a raptor observatory, a sod-topped shelter, fun signs and views of the foothills. Soapstone Prairie Natural Area is home to a genetically pure bison herd introduced in 2015. Keep an eye out for the herd, which can be spotted in their fenced pasture, from March to November.
Fort Collins offers exceptional opportunities for bird watching at the 50+ protected Natural Areas — Soapstone Prairie, Pineridge and Bobcat Ridge Natural Areas are identified as among the best for birders. Local birders also frequent City Park/Grandview Cemetery, Lee Martinez Park, Fossil Creek Reservoir Natural Area and Pawnee National Grassland. One of the fastest growing hobbies in the country, birdwatching is a great option for older children and teens, along with parents and grandparents. Birds to spot: Northern goshawk, white-tailed ptarmigan, mountain bluebird, Western tanager, sandhill crane and burrowing owl. For a checklist of local birds visit www.fcgov.com/naturalareas/pdf/birdlist15.pdf. The City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department volunteer Master Naturalists and staff offer a busy schedule of free summer outdoor activities including bird walks and educational presentations: www.fcgov.com/naturalareas.
Make a Splash: Since it debuted in fall 2019, the Poudre River Whitewater Park has been a perfect spot to spend a summer day. Located on the river just north of Old Town in the popular River District, the park beacons with two boating features for kayakers and tubers, a pedestrian bridge, a riverside terrace with seating and a play area for kids; there’s also access for people with disabilities. Check in on the park throughout the year via the live camera, and plan your visit. The area also features the first marker and gateway on the new Heritage Trail. Look for interpretive signs, markers and gateways all along the trail, detailing interesting and ingenious ways humans have interacted with the Poudre River. It’s another excellent option for multi-generations.
Butterflies & Botanicals:
The Gardens on Spring Creek recently completed an extensive renovation and remodel to its oasis-like 12 acres of curated botanical beauty, accessible to all ages and abilities; most paths through the gardens are paved and graded within ADA guidelines, making them wheelchair- and stroller-friendly. And, speaking of kid-appeal…
Kids and adults alike will fall in love with the new Conservatory Butterfly House, a 1,500 square foot glass enclosure that’s the first and only permanent facility of its kind in Northern Colorado. It features up to 400 free-flying North American butterflies.
Who doesn’t love The Children’s Garden, a wonderful space for kids to experience nature up-close, and for adults to take a break in the shade?
The Gardens are helping to develop young minds with the Read and Seed early childhood education program, which includes garden storytime, movement or song, plus a hands-on, nature-inspired activity. The program is specifically designed to connect young learners to their natural world and to promote the development of school readiness skills.
And, don’t miss the Garden Family Programs beginning in April. These two-part sessions, designed for families of all shapes and sizes, bring everyone together to connect and explore. Each seasonally-inspired pair of classes begins with a guided walk through the gardens followed by a family workshop project.
CSU’s Annual Flower Trial Garden: People of all ages love to stroll through Colorado State University’s Annual Flower Trial Garden, a peaceful, colorful utopia. Outdoor display and test areas were established “to allow students, researchers, industry representatives, homeowners and extension personnel to learn, teach and evaluate through horticultural research and demonstration projects conducted in the unique environmental conditions of the Rocky Mountain/High Plains region.” The garden, which is planted with annuals from late May through October, is open daily and free to the public.
A Family-Friendly, Family-Owned Drive-In: Did you know Fort Collins is home to the Holiday Twin Drive-In, one of six drive-in movie lots left in Colorado and only one of 348 left in the entire country? Located at 2206 S Overland Trail, the Holiday Twin will bring back COVID-created FoCoMX Drive & Jive, a weekly evening concert series that runs through the summer. Concert attendees can lounge in lawn chairs (bring your own) next to their cars and onsite snacks/beverages can be purchased online through the drive-in website. Click here for the lineup, pricing and other details. Oh, and the Drive-In shows movies, too!
Make Music Together: One of the most beloved forms of public art – and music – in Fort Collins is the Pianos About Town “exhibit.” More than 100 pianos have been painted and placed into rotation at sites throughout Fort Collins. Feel free to seek them out and give them a play. It’s not uncommon to pass by and see amateur piano players making beautiful music across the city.
Movies at The Lyric: The Lyric is an institution in Fort Collins. More than a movie theater, The Lyric is a restaurant, bar, live music venue (on the outdoor patio stage) and features three screens inside plus an outdoor screen on the back lawn for use during warmer months. Outdoor viewing is perfect for all in the family: movies start at around dusk and the line-up features current in-release films and classic titles. Bring an FM Radio (for the best sound quality), a blanket or camping chairs and your tickets (purchase online). The theater sells snacks and drinks – leaded and unleaded. Purchase tickets online.
STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math)-Loving Families
A Hand’s-On Museum:The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery is a beloved stop for children, parents and grandparents (aunts, uncles, cousins…). The museum’s hands-on, interactive exhibits incorporate a mix of science and history. There are activities for all ages, including sensory exhibits, scavenger hunts, a Tornado Tube and the area history display. The Music & Sound Lab explores the physics of sound, the history of the Fort Collins music scene and some of the technology behind everything from Edison wax cylinders to iPods. While the museum is ticketed, there’s a free zone that includes: the Griffin Piano Lounge (featuring a restored grand piano from the 1904 St. Louis Worlds Fair); the observation deck, a 42-foot high deck with great panoramic views of Old Town, the Poudre River and the foothills and mountains; and the Natural Areas Visitor Center, where you can get to know the city’s diverse range of natural areas. Use an interactive map to plan your next adventure and visit the museum’s two resident critters: a pair of black-footed ferrets. The museum’s next traveling exhibit, Life in One Cubic Foot, debuts in June (6/26/2021 – 9/19/2021). Touring from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, Life in One Cubic Foot reveals the incredible diversity of nature from a variety of locations around the world using “biocubes” – one-cubic-foot frames for surveying the animals and plants living in an ecosystem.
Make Your Own Shoes: The maker scene in Fort Collins, Colo. continues to thrive with the latest addition: Colorado Shoe School where you can design and create your very own custom shoes (starting at $190 for a full-day class). Repurposing leather destined for the landfill, and using recycled sole options ranging from bike tires to rubber flooring or rescued conveyer belts, attendees are invited to build something completely unique and custom during a one-day (sneaker), two-day (evening slipper) or five-day (shoe or boot) workshop. Bring your vision to life, as you’re taken through the process step by step with all materials and tools provided, no prior skill necessary. Colorado Shoe School is located in a custom-built studio that feels like a towering treehouse in Bellvue, Colorado, just north of Horsetooth Reservoir and about 15 minutes from downtown Fort Collins. Learn more at coloradoshoeschool.com.
Visit the…landfill??? Calling all kiddos (and guardians) who are obsessed with the garbage truck! Larimer County Landfill’s Garbage Garage Education Center offers fun educational programs and hosts workshops, patio games, storytimes and other activities. Learn how the landfill works, just how much trash you create, what gets made from the stuff we recycle and more. Who knew trash could be such a treasure.
The Cooking Studio: Do you have a budding young chef in your home or know one who wants to expand his or her skills? The Cooking Studio offers a great lineup of cooking classes and summer camps for kids and teens of all ages. Mom, dad, grandma or grandpa can bond with the grandchildren at creative Parent-Child classes, which feature tempting topics, like breakfast pastries, desserts and French classics. Take a spin through the calendar for more options, including kids-only classes, date night options and more.
We all scream:
For ice cream, of course. There are so many incredible independent ice cream options in Fort Collins we suggest a “s’cream around” so you can try them all:
- Old Town Churn, the latest endeavor from Denver-based Little Man Ice Cream;
- Glacier Ice Cream & Gelato serving 32 rotating flavors, including ‘glacier creams (non-dairy and gluten free options);
- Josh & John’s Ice Cream for slow-churned New England-style ice cream;
- City Park Gelato & aMore for a dozen varieties of homemade gelato and fruit-flavored sorbets;
- Walrus Ice Cream for an original Fort Collins frozen treat and a dizzying number of flavor options.
Stay Safe Pledge
We are excited to welcome you to Fort Collins and we want to do so in a way that keeps both you and our local residents safe. As such, we ask that you take the Stay Safe Pledge, a shared commitment to take necessary precautions for all of us to stay safe while following recommended health practices. For more information, visit www.visitftcollins.com/coronavirus.