Colorado is so well-known as a winter destination that many visitors miss out on some of the best the state has to offer. The mountains are laced with prime hiking trails and the microbrew industry ensures that evenings in town are an event even when the band isn’t playing. Make the most of this year’s summer holiday and enjoy one of Colorado’s excellent festivals along with that pint of craft brew.
Crested Butte Wildflower Festival
Date: July 13-19
Location: Crested Butte, CO
This week long annual festival celebrates wildflowers and their preservation in Crested Butte. The festival takes place in July when the flowers are in full bloom with some events being carried on through August and September. Festival-goers can enjoy narrated hikes (easy, moderate or difficult) that are both scenic and educational. These guided walks identify various flower types, discuss plant families, anatomy and flower reproduction/survival. Back down in Crested Butte, artists offer art classes - batik, flower pressing, watercolour painting and wildflower flags - just to name a few. Mixologists help visitors enjoy botanical happy hour walking tours. Photographers lead workshops dedicated to techniques from capturing sunrises to moving water landscapes, to creative i-phone shots. Come out and take in Colorado's already spectacular sweeping vistas while they are carpeted with colourful wildflowers.
Pikes Peak Marathon
Date: August 15-16
Location: Manitou Springs, CO
The race was first held in 1956 when a local physician challenged smokers and non-smokers to race to the top of the peak and back down. The 42 km trail includes a 2,382 meter gain in elevation and is fraught with roots, rocks and other tricks Mother Nature has designed to send the unwary to the back of the pack with a twisted ankle. That is if participants even make it past the 5 km of steep grade that begins the race. Despite being held in August the weather varies markedly from year to year and has included both hot, dry conditions and snow at the peak.
There are two events – Pikes Peak Ascent half marathon and the round trip marathon to the top and back. The full course usually takes around four hours to complete but can be drastically slower depending on the weather and trail conditions. Come and cheer these grinding athletes on.
USA Pro Cycling Challenge
Date: August 17-23
Location: Various. Starts in Steamboat Springs and finishes in Denver
This year's race will see seven stages stretching across 16 communities. Now in its fourth year the bicycle stage race is only one of two current '2.HC' cycling races in the U.S., and it is considered one of the most important pro-cycling events in America. Each year the legs are redetermined, typically designed to encompass several elevation changes and mountain passes. The 2015 course includes the cities of Steamboat Springs, Aspen, Breckenridge, Fort Collins, Vail and Denver. This year’s competitors will once again face the challenging Horsetooth Reservoir route with a somewhat terrifying descent into Rist Canyon.
World class athletes compete in the multi-day event and spectators can view the race from any of the cities along the course. Each locale has festivities planned to keep visitors entertained while waiting for participants to ride through.
Labor Day Lift Off
Date: Labour day long weekend
Location: Colorado Springs
Since 1977 balloons have floated in the skies over Memorial Park in Colorado Springs. It’s the longest running balloon festival in the state although it was abruptly cancelled last year. The city called for proposals for a Labor Day event to replace the balloon festival and finally accepted .... another balloon festival. Residents are thrilled that the tradition continues and additional entertainment is planned around the event.
There are a number of balloon festivals across the state with many taking place in the fall. Steamboat Springs, Mesa Verde, Pagosa Springs, Snowmass and many others hold festivals and of course hot air balloon rides can be taken almost any time of year.
First Friday Art Walks
Date: the first Friday of each month, various months (see specific community links)
Location: multiple towns, see below
On the evening of the first Friday of each month, creative communities across Colorado come alive. Galleries throw open their doors (most stay open late) to welcome visitors taking part in self-guided art walks. From fine art to folk art, take in exhibitions, gallery openings, performances, artist studios, museums and more. Make it a date night by pairing your walking tour with dinner. The following communities host art walks: Denver, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. Alternatively, Telluride hosts First Thursday art walks while Salida and Breckenridge hold Second Saturdays.
Colorado Mountain Winefest – late September
Date: September 17-20, 2015
Location: Grand Valley/Colorados Wine
The Festival in the Park is the oldest and largest of its kind in Colorado and includes dozens of wineries, live music, demonstrations and seminars. Hands-on workshops teach participants about the rigors of making wine or the fun of pairing wine with food. Tour the wineries, stomp some grapes, and enjoy fine wine and dining experiences. For wine lovers this is the perfect place to sample offerings from across the state and experience the variety of flavours and styles produced by the different regions. No one under 21 is allowed and they will store your wine purchases for you as you sample and shop for more.
Great American Beer Festival
Photo © Brewers Association
Date: September 24-26, 2015
Location: Colorado Convention Center, Denver
Three days, 3,500 beers – how could it get any better? This is the largest collection of U.S. beer ever served in a public event and has entries from around 500 brewers. In addition to the tasting events there is a competition judged by professionals. The panel is gathered from around the world and conducts a blind taste-test of beers in several categories. After more than 15 hours of judging that takes place over the three day festival, the top three beers in each category receive the most coveted awards in the industry – gold, silver or bronze medals. The criteria are so rigorous that medals may not be awarded if there is no brew that meets the standards.
The above are just a sampling of the fun and adventure that Colorado has to offer visitors in the warm weather months. With more than 300 days of sunshine a year (and 230 breweries), Colorado really is an excellent destination any time of year.
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