#4. Fort Collins, CO
Nestled against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in northern Colorado, Fort Collins is home to incredible outdoor recreation opportunities, Colorado State University, and a great quality of life for families. It’s no surprise this gorgeous city makes frequent appearances on our Top 100 Best Places to Live list. Fort Collins gets an average of 300 days of sunshine each year, so parents, kids and pets have plenty of chances to explore the city’s 600 acres of parks, 20 miles of hiking and biking trails and 40,000 acres(!) of nature areas.
During the summer months, kids can also take advantage of weekly comedy, music and cultural activities at The Lincoln Center, Fort Collins’ main performing arts venue. Plus, there are always fascinating science and history exhibits and programs at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. The city is also super bike-friendly and has a robust public transportation system.
Best Way to Keep Everyone Entertained on a Saturday Afternoon: Visit Fossil Creek Park, a 100-acre park where kids can romp around the hilly terrain, watch ducks in the ponds, play on the playground and climb a 6-foot woolly mammoth.
Kid-Friendly Restaurant: The Silver Grill Cafe, a downtown Fort Collins classic that serves amazingly huge cinnamon rolls your kids will love. And for parents, there’s free coffee while you wait for your table.
Best Date Night Spot (for frazzled parents): The Cache at Ginger and Baker, a top-notch restaurant in a renovated 1905 grain mill on the National Register of Historic Places. After dinner, be sure to grab a slice of pie (or several — their impressively long list of flavors changes daily).
Where to Score the Sweet Stuff: Fort Collins Candy Store Emporium, where you’ll meet owner Tony Vallejos (known as “the Candy Man”) and find lots of throwback sweet treats like Necco wafers and pop rocks.
Coolest Indoor Playground: Fort Fun, where kids can play laser tag, drive bumper cars and check out the arcade. Plus, if the weather is nice, there’s also outdoor mini golf, go-karts, bumper boats and more.
Dog-Friendly Hangout Spot (because they’re part of the family too!): Odell Brewing Co., where your pup can chill on the huge patio while you sip craft beer and eat from the rotating food truck offerings.