Street with flowers in Fort Collins

Welcome to Fort Collins! (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Weekend Like a Local in Fort Collins, Colorado

Nestled into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Fort Collins, Colorado, has all of the verve of a modern city and college town — while still honoring its Old West roots. The heart of the city is a vibrant mix of coffeehouses, craft breweries and even an elegant restaurant or two. All of this is set against a rugged, almost eerily beautiful backdrop of jagged peaks, forests and big, blue skies.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Explore Downtown FoCo

Start your day at Lucile’s, a beloved downtown eatery since 1996. Indulge in a spread of Creole-Cajun breakfast dishes, such as piping-hot New Orleans-style beignets dusted with powdered sugar, pain perdu (aka French toast) or sausage gravy on a buttermilk biscuit. Chicory coffee continues the theme (as does the house specialty, the “Cajun Mary”).

After breakfast, stroll down College Avenue to the Museum of Art (MOA). Housed in an impressive Renaissance Revival structure that has earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, MOA exhibits everything from fine art photography to contemporary sculpture. If you have kids in tow, be sure to stop at the Oak Street Plaza afterward — the fountains are a favorite in the warmer months.

To learn about FoCo’s history, head to the Avery House, situated only a few blocks west from the heart of downtown. The arresting Gothic structure was originally home to Franklin Avery, a town planner who helped design Fort Collins’ streets in 1872, then built his own handsome home in 1879.

You can purchase tickets to tour the home in advance, or simply admire the russet sandstone facade and lush gardens.

Once you’ve had your fill of cultural exploration, head to the Rio Grande Restauranton Mountain Avenue. This local favorite is best known for its refreshing margaritas, lively outdoor patio and, of course, flavorful Mexican fare. Keep it light with tacos or feast on hearty dishes like crab enchiladas and cilantro lime chicken.

Spend the remainder of your afternoon wandering through the historic streets of Old Town — making sure to browse one-of-a-kind shops like Old Firehouse Books, which is located inside an old brick fire station, and Nature’s Own, which carries a range of colorful gemstones, minerals, meteorites and even fossils.

Frothy cocktail in a tasting glass
End the night on a sweet note. (Image: Marriott International)

Whether you’re inclined to end your day with a three-course meal or a rollickingly live band, the Elizabeth Hotel is your spot, providing a restaurant, bar and music venue under one roof.

Dine at the Emporium, the hotel’s brasserie, which serves classic American dishes such as boneless beef short rib and pan-seared salmon. Then visit the top floor’s enclosed Sunset Lounge for sweeping views of the Rocky Mountains and an array of craft cocktails.

Finally, check out the live music on tap at Magic Rat, where both big-name artists and talented locals take to the stage.

Saturday: Hike the Horsetooth

Kayak on the bank of Horsetooth Reservoir
Take out a kayak on Horsetooth Reservoir. (Photo: Getty Images)

If you’ve seen the mountainous skyline that rises to the west of Fort Collins, you’ve likely noticed the distinctive shape of Horsetooth Rock, just 4 miles from downtown. And while there are plenty of scenic trails in the area, the view from atop Horsetooth is arguably one of the best — and most breathtaking.

The 2.5-mile trail cuts through towering boulders, pine forests and grasslands before you reach the summit. If you’re an early bird, get to the trailhead roughly 90 minutes before dawn to watch the sunrise.

After descending the mountain, drive down the winding country roads that encircle Horsetooth Reservoir, where, in warmer months, you’ll glimpse locals swimming, paddleboarding and cliff-jumping into the tranquil waters. Once you’re back on flat land, head to Cups in the City Park neighborhood for a well-deserved bagel sandwich or breakfast burrito.

Then take a relaxing tour of some of Fort Collins’ historic neighborhoods by climbing aboard the nearby Fort Collins Municipal Railway, beginning at City Park. From 1919 to 1951 the Birney streetcars served as the town’s public transportation.

Today, the restored wooden trolley cars run straight down the grassy median of Mountain Avenue, which is dotted with centuries-old oak trees and a blend of Craftsman, Victorian and neoclassical architecture.

Once you’ve disembarked the trolley in Old Town — and when it’s time for dinner — stroll over to Rare Italian for a sumptuous meal. The seasonal menu is packed with options for every craving, from fresh shrimp bruschetta to house-aged steaks to Colorado striped bass branzino. And you’re guaranteed to find a suitable pairing from the 60-plus bottle wine list.

Sunday: Brunch, Bike and Brewpub Hop

Surround yourself with locals at the Silver Grill Café in downtown Fort Collins. This breakfast institution opened back in 1912 and is still famous for its gooey cinnamon rolls, beer-braised corned-beef hash and Bloody Marys. Try to grab a seat by the front window for prime people watching.

Poudre River Trail on a sunny day
Pedal along Poudre River Trail. (Photo: Getty Images)

Once you’ve had your fill of breakfast or brunch, make your way to the Poudre Trail, which has an access point just a few blocks north of downtown. Despite its proximity to some of the most heavily traveled roads around, the 21-mile-long paved path offers visitors a tranquil way to take in mountain, prairie and river views.

Rent a bike at New World Sports near downtown Fort Collins — mountain, hybrids, tandems and kids’ cycles are offered — or simply stroll the sections that appeal to you.

When it’s time to take a break, stop by the Paddler’s Pub to sample some of Fort Collins’ namesake beers. Local craft breweries like New Belgium and Odell got their start here — and are now nationally recognized for their distinctive IPAs, ales and sours. There’s an outdoor sand volleyball court if you’re feeling game. And do grab a small bite from one of the food trucks that park here on most afternoons.

At the end of the day, check out Avogadro’s Number to catch live music on its oak-shaded back patio (there’s an indoor stage as well). The backyard also boasts a treehouse, which makes this place a favorite for families. For dinner, try one of Avogadro’s famed tempeh burgers or a slice of pizza featuring Colorado’s signature pork, green chiles, mushrooms, onions and mozzarella.

Anybody still up for more fun? Avogadro is very close to the Colorado State University campus, where there’s no shortage of bars and pubs, especially along South College Avenue. Travel up the Avenue to Equinox Brewery for seasonal ales, stouts and IPAs, along with a beer garden and live music.

Or try CooperSmith’s Pub & Brewing, which serves its own beers, pub food and — for a very sweet send-off — the delectable “Horsetooth Stout Cake,” which combines chocolate ganache, stout, espresso ice cream and a whole lot of whipped cream.