Fort Collins, Colorado: Hip With a Green Twist

Written by on March 2, 2010 in CO Cities, Dining, Lodging - Comments Off on Fort Collins, Colorado: Hip With a Green Twist

Consistently hailed as a top place to live green and score a fresh microbrew, Fort Collins, Colorado plays host to a wide variety of dining, attractions, and outdoor adventures. Home to almost 150,000 residents, it has a perfect mix of big-city entertainment and small-town hospitality, featuring an up-and-coming arts scene and a true eco-conscious attitude.

First settled as a military post in 1862, “Camp Collins” was named for the Lt. Col. William O. Collins, the popular commander of the Ohio Cavalry troops who took up residence there. Ten years later, the abandoned military ground was occupied by farms and ranches, and the now “Fort” Collins became an official town of approximately 1,200 people. In 1879, the Colorado Agricultural College (now Colorado State University) was founded, and even today the heritage is honored in the annual painting of the giant white “A” (for “Aggies”) on a nearby hillside. Today, CSU is a thriving university with 25,000 students and annual research expenditures of over $150 million.

Nestled between a vast river and lake system and the Rocky Mountain foothills, Fort Collins offers a bounty of outdoor activities for every season. One of the first things you notice in this laid-back college town is that almost every street has a bike lane. Cycling is more of a passion than a past time for residents; this is the home of over a dozen bike shops, a vast urban and mountain trail system, and more than three dozen annual cycling-centered events! If you’re looking to get back to nature, the Cache la Poudre (cash lah poo-duhr) river, nestled in a canyon just north of town, offers superb white water rafting, kayaking, fishing, and breathtaking views.

On the western lip of Fort Collins lies Horsetooth Reservoir, a popular destination for water sports and camping during the summer months. Surrounding the vast blue water is the network of multi-use trails that connect Horsetooth Mountain Open Space and Lory State Park, offering fast single track as well as wide trails for snowshoeing and hiking. This popular recreation area gets its name from the tooth-shaped granite rock that dominates the skyline, accessible on foot via Horsetooth Rock hiking trail.

After you’ve explored the sunny outdoors, make your way into “Old Town” for scrumptious dining and an eclectic array of local shops. This lively hub of the city is home to several art museums, galleries, music venues, and is the location for several annual festivals. Fort Collins residents are proud of their microbrew beer fame, with New Belgium Brewing Co. and Odell Brewing Co. being the local headliners and the main sponsors of such events as New West Fest and Tour de Fat. While you’re in Old Town, have a gander in popular shops such as The Cupboard, Perennial Gardener, and Clothes Pony, or catch an indie flick at the funky Lyric Cinema Café. Whatever your style or flavor, there are places aplenty to make you feel right at home in this lively town centre.

One thing you will notice when visiting Old Town is the abundance of visual art, whether it be stocking the shop shelves or displayed out and about, purely for your viewing pleasure. In 1995, Fort Collins implemented a program called Art in Public Places and it has been slowly filling the entire town with a wide variety of sculptures and paintings, as well as requiring an artistic element be incorporated into all new public buildings and landscapes. Local shops and galleries such as Trimble Court Artisans, Indigo Gallery, and the Poudre River Arts Center play host to the popular First Friday Art Walks, providing music, refreshments and new artistic creations for the monthly festivity.

There is also no shortage of performing arts in this lively young town; a variety of concerts, plays, and dance performances take place every weekend. The Lincoln Center is a popular venue for big-ticket visiting shows like Ladysmith Black Mambazo, as well as local performances from Opera Fort Collins and the Fort Collins Symphony. The other hub for talent is the Arts program of Colorado State University. There are reasonably priced events nearly every week including everything from modern dance and student music recitals to fashion shows.

While visiting Fort Collins, you may want to keep your carbon footprint to a minimum, and the residents certainly know a thing or two about green living. Stop by the Fort Collins Bike Library (spring/summer only) and rent some wheels for free, then cruise down to Mugs Coffee Lounge for all organic, vegan, and homegrown grub. Pedal up to the local food co-op for some fair-trade items and check out the community garden at Spring Creek for some sustainable-growing chit-chat. Being the home of the annual Rocky Mountain Sustainable Living Fair, Fort Collins is a very dynamic and green place to be!

There is no lack of reasons why this town has an impressive list of accolades. Great weather, a booming arts scene, and an outdoor adventure for every day of the year make this place a hot spot no matter what you’re in to. College students, growing families, farmers, and young professionals alike are consistently flocking to set down their roots here. Whether you are here for a weekend or a lifetime, you’ll be welcomed with genuine enthusiasm and a bounty of things to explore.

Fort Collins Fast Facts:

  • Residents enjoy 300 days of sunshine every year
  • The city maintains over 600 acres of parks and 5,000 acres of natural/open space
  • Named #1 place to live in 2006, and #2 in 2008 by Money Magazine
  • Ranked 10th best educated city in America by Forbes Magazine, 2008
  • Over 60,000 Canada geese winter in Fort Collins every year (They also have an unspoken right-of-way on roads!)
  • Awarded 3rd Greenest Medium Sized City, 2009- National Resources Defense Council

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