People travel from all over the world to visit Colorado. With almost 30 peaks that reach over 14,000 feet, four national parks, and millions of acres of national forest land, it is no wonder our home state is such a popular destination. The urban hub of Denver, which provides visitors opportunities to experience a unique cityscape and culture, further enhances such tourism.
Those of us who are lucky enough to live in Colorado can take advantage of the stunning nature of the Rockies whenever we have a free day. There are seemingly endless new areas to explore and new forms of outdoor recreation to try. The population of Colorado is the fittest in the country, and chances are you and your friends have at least one outdoor activity that you are a little obsessed with.
Colorado is more than its outdoor recreation, though; this state has a deep cultural heritage that includes traditional western customs like the rodeo and bluegrass music. There is also a growing population of young people who are bringing new industries and a fun, modern vibe to the state.
Throughout the second half of summer, a plethora of events, festivals, and fairs make accessing both outdoor and cultural adventure in Colorado easy. Here are our top eight choices for new and exciting ways to explore the best of this state during the warmest months of the year.
Telluride, June 21-24
The unique sounds of Colorado Bluegrass are celebrated in this four-day annual concert. Held on the weekend closest to the summer solstice, long days and a picturesque setting make an incredible backdrop to the world-class music. Festival-goers, who are referred to as “festivarians,” typically camp at one of six campgrounds, which are either walking distance or serviced by a free shuttle. Although it is also possible to stay in one of the many lodges located in the historic town of Telluride or in nearby Mountain Village, camping is part of the experience of the festival. It’s a great place to enjoy acoustic music and make new friends.
Gunnison, July 6-16
This celebration of ranching life has been going on for 118 years, and was voted one of “The Top 101 Western Events” in American Cowboy Magazine, so visitors are certain to get an authentic experience of the West. The event involves many different livestock and produce competitions, as well as bull riding, barrel racing, and a contest for the best cowboy and cowgirl. If you can only make it out for a few days, try for July 12, 13, and 14, when the biggest rodeos will be held.
Denver County Fair
Denver, July 13-15
At the Denver County Fair it is possible to find all the attractions of a typical fair, just a stone’s throw from the largest metro area in Colorado. A carnival area with more than 20 games, rides, and competitions for the best animals, food, produce, and art harken back to traditional county fairs, while roller derby, wrestling, goat yoga, and a LARPing event give it a modern twist. On Sunday, July 15 there is also a beer and wine fest that anyone over 21 should be sure to check out.
Colorado Scottish Festival and Rocky Mountain Highland Games
Denver, August 4-5
This celebration of strength and Scottish tradition has been going on since the 1980s. Each year people gather at these games to compete in sports like the 28 and 56 pound throw.
Breckenridge International Festival of Arts
Breckenridge, August 10-19
Each summer, artists from around the world gather in Breckenridge to showcase their work. Representing every discipline, they bring this small mountain town alive with art shows and installations, musical performances, circus performances, dances, movies, workshops, and talks. While many of the specific events require a purchased ticket, there are still plenty of free events. Each day of the festival there is an outdoor, community yoga class that is accompanied by acoustic music. Also, be sure to catch one of the daily trail mixes, where musicians position themselves along easy hiking trails, so walkers can enjoy nature, along with beautiful, live tunes.
Telluride Mushroom Festival
Telluride, August 15-19
This strange festival is all about celebrating fungi. Through forays into the woods surrounding Telluride, participants can get hands-on experience in identifying edible mushrooms. A large lineup of lectures also covers topics on everything from using mushrooms to process toxic waste to how the study of mushrooms can be applied to social issues. There are also some fun events like a mushroom cook-off, a costume contest, and the showing of mushroom-related movies.