Colorado welcomed 90 million visitors in 2022, according to Colorado.com, but fewer than 10% took the time to explore the state’s thriving cultural mecca in Northern Colorado. The region’s two biggest cities, Fort Collins and Loveland, offer a surprising array of activities, history, craft restaurants, nightlife, and family fun, all nestled in the idyllic beauty of the Rocky Mountain foothills.
As a patron of the arts who has traveled the world in search of humanity’s greatest masterpieces, I was delighted to accept Visit Colorado’s invitation to explore the cultural paradise of Northern Colorado. After seeing it, I was shocked that this massive celebration of the arts wasn’t swarming with tourists.
Exploring Northern Colorado
Tourists looking for a cultural experience often consider places like New York or Paris while ignoring the bustling small towns where living, breathing art thrives. The Northern Colorado region is one of the most impressive and undiscovered art regions in the United States. Most travelers to Colorado skip this spectacular region, but here’s why they’re missing out.
Arts in Loveland
Loveland boasts a public art library worth over $12 million. It has three sculpture parks featuring over 250 combined works. Benson Sculpture Garden, the most well-known, is home to 172 of these sculptures and in August, hosts the most prominent outdoor juried sculpture show in the U.S. each year.
The town also features a robust art museum with a rotating main gallery that showcases traveling exhibits from famed artists across the globe. The Loveland Museum recently highlighted Ansel Adam’s World War II photographs portfolio, and past exhibits featured artists including Georgia O’Keefe and Pablo Picasso. The permanent exhibit features an array of objects highlighting the city’s history and local arts.
Visitors will also find hundreds of other public art displays scattered around town, including epic murals, decorated transformer boxes, and Loveland Heart sculptures.
One of Loveland’s biggest artistic draws is the massive Love Lock sculpture outside the visitor’s center. Travelers can purchase and engrave their lock at the center, then lock in their love at the largest Love Lock display in the country. Those wanting a more romantic view can head to Loveland Lake, where a gorgeous heart statue awaits them, along with an idyllic view of the Rocky Mountains.
Arts in Fort Collins
Fort Collins, just 20 minutes north of Loveland, also features abundant arts and culture. It was the first city in the U.S. to initiate a transformer box painting program in what began as a graffiti abatement initiative. The successful program morphed into a celebration of local art, with the city recently celebrating its 400th painted box.
Public art also abounds in Fort Collins. You’ll see massive murals, impressive sculptures, painted transformer boxes, and decorated pianos everywhere. Each city’s region boasts a public art tour, from the sculptures sprinkled around Old Town to the massive Gravity Course display at the Dragonfly’s Lair.
The city also celebrates the arts with galleries, museums, and festivals. There are 15 art galleries in the downtown area, each offering a different perspective, from still life to contemporary. Some feature local artists, while others showcase indigenous and folk arts from the region. On the first Friday of each month, Fort Collins hosts an art walk, where local businesses open their doors to community artists and showcase impressive works to the public.
Fort Collins is also home to Colorado State University, a campus with artistic flair. Many campus galleries are open to the public, offering unique exhibits you won’t see anywhere else. Head to the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising for displays of textiles and a look into the history of apparel, and then pop in next door to the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art for a wide range of artistic works from African folk art to Italian Renaissance paintings.
Northern Colorado Offers Far More Than Art
There’s more to explore outside the arts in Northern Colorado. Both towns act as gateways to your favorite mountain adventures. Loveland offers the closest trusted name-brand hotels to Rocky Mountain National Park, making it the perfect base camp for mountain adventures. Fort Collins is minutes away from some of the best white-water rafting in the state.
Both cities also offer exquisite culinary experiences, nightlife, and activities you can’t find anywhere else.
The Best of Loveland
Loveland has Northern Colorado’s first cat café, ax throwing, and a pinball arcade featuring a robust menu of craft cocktails. The town has numerous craft breweries highlighting the best locally sourced wines, beers, and even meads. Try a flight of homemade mead at Meadkrieger, where the local Mazers love sharing their knowledge of the craft, or head to Verboten Brewing for a sample of locally crafted barrel-aged brews.
The local restaurants boast fine dining with fresh ingredients and bargain prices far superior to any chain. Sample the homemade biscuits at Doug’s Dinner for breakfast, enjoy the fresh street tacos at AKA Kitchen for dinner, and share tapas at Door 222 for a fine dining experience without the cost.
After dinner, head to the Rialto theater to catch a show in the performing arts center, which features a variety of acts from live music to comedy, or peruse the vast array of local shops, from specialty boutiques to art galleries to antique stores.
Where Fort Collins Shines
Fort Collins has an even more extensive selection of unique experiences created by people who are incredibly passionate about their craft. Reserve a place at Colorado Shoe School‘s one-day class to design and decorate your sneakers, or take a tour of the Vortic Watch Company to see how this one-of-a-kind establishment transforms antique pocket watches into modern working wristwatches. Visit the Museum of Discovery to try your hand at a wide array of musical instruments and play a jam with their garage band, and then head to Nuance Chocolate to grab a sample of locally made, passionately crafted chocolate that will make you swear off the big brands forever.
Dining in Fort Collins is out of this world. The Welsh Rabbit, a cozy bistro downtown, allows patrons to design their charcuterie boards sushi style. Choose from 15 kinds of cheese, eight types of meat, and various accompaniments like jams, olives, and nuts. Ginger and Baker offers a comfort food menu filled with southern-style favorites including savory chicken pot pie and meatloaf that is definitely better than your mother’s.
The town also boasts numerous local pubs, breweries, cideries, and taverns, showing off the region’s unique flavor. Locust Cider offers a wide selection of ciders for patrons to enjoy while playing their favorite retro games on a big-screen television. Pour Bros Community Tavern hosts events like game nights, trivia, and service industry happy hours to welcome and support the local community. Fort Collins’s oldest bar, The Town Pump, offers a cozy atmosphere and welcoming vibe, opting to show educational programming like Bob Ross and National Geographic on their televisions rather than sports.
Everything about Fort Collins celebrates passionate people making the most of their lives. It’s a glorious experience.
How To Visit Northern Colorado
Loveland is less than 50 miles from Denver International Airport and only 20 minutes from Ft. Collins. Despite their proximity to each other and the hub, fewer than 10% of Colorado’s 90 million visitors made the trip to Loveland.
Don’t make the same mistake. Add a stop to Colorado’s booming northern cities to your Rocky Mountain itinerary for an unforgettable adventure.
This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.