18 Things You Must Do Your First Year Living in Colorado
Recently relocated to the gorgeous state of Colorado? Great choice. Here's your first-year bucket list.
Colorado added 91,000 new residents in 2016 and 77,000 new residents in 2017 — and it doesn’t look like the state's popularity is going to slow down anytime soon. If you're one of Colorado's new residents, welcome! You were probably drawn here, at least in part, because of the endless amount of fun things to do in every corner of the state. These bucket list experiences make Colorado a great place to live, but how do you navigate a place with a bucket list experience around every stunning turn?
To help you navigate your first year, here's a Colorado native's take on the 18 things you simply must do in your first year living in our colorful state.
1. See a show at Red Rocks.
You may not be able to get a look at the wall back stage where every performer signs their name, but this natural rock amphitheater has hosted everyone from Jimi Hendrix to The Grateful Dead. One of the most recognized concert venues in the world, a concert at Red Rocks makes for an unforgettable memory. Bonus: the park is also home to hiking trails, a film series, and fitness and yoga sessions (get there at sunrise if you really want to be wowed).
2. Hike the Manitou Incline.
Feel the burn as you hike 2,744 steps and gain 2,000 feet of elevation on this extreme hike. The mile-long trail is made up of railroad ties that make steps ascending to a spectacular view of nearby Colorado Springs. Use the challenging climb to work up an appetite, then chow down on Colorado-style Mexican food at Crystal Park Cantina. Don’t forget to get a sip of the mineral-enhanced waters Manitou Springs is known for from the fountains that dot town.
3. See the Great Sand Dunes.
You can literally snowboard down the largest sand dunes in North America. Need we say more?
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4. Have a Martini at The Cruise Room.
Inside of the Oxford Hotel is Denver’s first post-Prohibition bar, which opened the day after it was repealed in 1933. Modeled after the bar on the ship the Queen Mary, the wine-bottle shaped bar features 10 art deco panels, each saying cheers in a different language, swathed in a pink glow. Rumor has it there used to be a pro-Hitler panel behind the bar, but a group of Marines tore it down and destroyed it.
5. Have High Tea at The Brown Palace.
A classic Denver tradition, high tea accompanied by piano music is served in the lobby of Denver’s most historic hotel, which turns 125 this year. History buffs will love a guided tour of hotel highlights from the concierge.
6. Ride the Durango-Silverton Railroad.
Starting in Durango, a former mining town, the Durango-Silverton steam train winds three hours through some of Colorado’s most scenic mountain views on an unforgettable journey. You’ll stop in Silverton, where you’ll take a step back in time and visit a real old-west mountain mining village.
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7. Go to the Buckhorn Exchange.
The Buckhorn Exchange is Denver’s oldest restaurant, opened in 1893 by “Shorty Scout” Heitz, who rode with Buffalo Bill Cody. Today, it’s basically a museum, filled with relics and artifacts of the old west, including 575 pieces of taxidermy. While you can sample any number of exotic meats, if you want to really have a Colorado experience, order the Rocky Mountain Oysters.
8. Strawberry Park Hot Springs.
Steamboat Springs is worth a trip, if only to soak your cares away in this clothing-optional-after-dark hideaway in the mountains.
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10. Visit Rocky Mountain National Park in the Fall.
Summer is a classic time to visit the park and camp, but mid-September to mid-October is rutting season. Bull elks bugle their hearts out to win the affections of cow elks, and our famously beautiful aspen trees turn gold and rustle in the wind. You can also horseback ride in nearby Estes Park and visit the infamous Stanley Hotel, Stephen King’s inspiration for The Shining.
11. Get a Burger from My Brother’s Bar.
Denver is changing and growing so fast it’s hard to keep up, but My Brother’s Bar has been a LoDo staple since 1873. When the 80-something-year-old owner of the bar, Jim Karagas, decided to retire in 2017 he declined a $3 million offer by a major developer, opting instead to sell it to the family of the general manager, who has been there for more than 30 years. The sale solidified a piece of Denver history. Order the bison burger — you can thank us later.
13. Do a Brewery Tour and a Distillery Tour
Colorado has 348 breweries and 90 distilleries, offering plenty of tasty options from one end of the state to the other. Take your pick of breweries and enjoy free samples and insights about the state's status as a beer-lover's paradise.
14. Visit Union Station.
Union Station’s facelift has revitalized the area surrounding it, and it’s the perfect place to while away a Saturday. Start with the Farmers Market (Rocky Ford melon, Olathe Sweet Corn, Green Chile and Palisade Peaches are all classics) then enjoy a meal at one of the patios surrounding the station or hang inside where you can play shuffleboard and people watch.
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15. Visit the National Western Stock Show.
January’s main event brings in cowboys from around the world, but it’s about much more than bronco bustin’. Yes, there is plenty of rodeo, but there’s also a fiddling competition, sheep shearing contest, an elegant charro equestrian performance and a western art show. There’s something for everyone and it’s a huge part of Colorado culture.
16. Hit Ski Country.
Duh. But in all seriousness, each ski town has its own unique charm, from Aspen to Breckenridge and you’ll surely find your favorites. In Aspen, don’t miss a stop Jimmy’s; in Vail, have dinner at Beano’s Cabin; in Breckenridge, apres at T-Bar. And on your way, stop in Idaho Springs for Colorado pizza at Beau Jo’s; or Silver Plume to enjoy a craft cocktail at Bread Bar; or get a breakfast burrito at Eagle Diner in Eagle.
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17. Buy A Shirt at Rockmount.
“Papa” Jack Weil was the inventor of the snap button Western shirt. Known for their flashy floral embroidery, Rockmount shirts have been worn by everyone from the Beatles to Lady Gaga. Weil’s passion for western wear kept him kicking until he was 107 — and he retired at age 104.