Think you’ve seen everything there is to see in this college town (home to Colorado State)? Think again. The fourth-happiest city in America, according to National Geographic Explorer, has been busy opening new stores, hotels, restaurants and more. And, nestled against the foothills and alongside the Cache La Poudre River, it’s bursting with parks, trails, breweries and pretty scenery. Here’s how to spend a fun weekend trip just an hour north.
Hang out at a chic home base
For a great time, there’s no need to travel farther than The Elizabeth Hotel, Fort Collins’ first four-star hotel. Opened in December, the downtown luxury space boasts 164 guestrooms (including three signature suites). Look for a wine fridge, private ice freezer, Crosley record player with accompanying tunes and terrace access in yours. All settled? Head downstairs for a self-guided art tour. The hotel has partnered with local artists and Denver’s Nine Dot Arts to curate the hotel’s art collection. There are inviting vignettes (leather couches, velvet chairs) for breaks, too.
If you’re hungry, visit the Emporium Kitchen & Wine Market for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a complimentary wine tasting on Saturdays from 2–4 p.m. (Friends in town? They’re invited to the tasting, too!) We splurged on steak tartar, red pepper bisque, steak and frites, dessert and wine from the unique bottle service program: Instead of showing you a menu, servers escort you to a wine “market” where you hand-select your bottle.
Normally, this is where we’d call it a night. But at The Elizabeth, it’s silly to resist grabbing a post- (or pre-) dinner drink at the rooftop Sunset Lounge, accessed via private elevator, where you can gaze out over the city.
For music, join the after-party at Magic Rat Live Music, the hotel’s live music bar. The acoustics are so good (and the drinks so strong), you’ll feel like you snagged a free concert ticket.
Discover (the new) downtown
New boutiques and snack shops are steps outside the hotel’s front door. Browse items from clothes to candles to furniture at small, local shops in Makers Market, which feels like it’s packed with more than twice as much product as the Park Meadows location. Find a bath bomb (by smelling every scent, of course) at Salus. Get a sweet treat or try a chocolate flight at Nuance Chocolate, which makes chocolate in-house starting with the bean. Accessorize your phone at Otter Shop, the country’s only Otterbox store. And end the afternoon with a meal, cooking class, pie, wine tasting or cute home décor souvenir from Ginger and Baker, housed in the city’s historic Feed Supply Store. If you hang out by the pastry case, you may spot signatures of feed store employees on the building’s original beams.
Go south to shop, sip, brunch and more
For a change of scenery, head to Jessup Farm Artisan Village, a small market set in the farmstead of Fort Collins’ early settlers. While there, grab a great cup of java at Bindle Coffee (if the weather is good, you can sip it outside around a fire pit), get a beard trim, hot lather straight-razor shave and a fresh haircut at Lucky 27 and grab a farm-to-table meal at The Farmhouse (where the daily doughnut special is absolutely worth breaking your diet for). There was no wait for our Saturday morning brunch (try the blue corn pancakes or avocado toast with egg) and, if you ask, the kids can get a tour of the on-property chicken coop. When it’s time to head home, grab a bag of crazy-flavored gourmet popcorn (think Hawaiian pineapple, birthday cake, chai or beer cheese soup with bacon) from Rebel Popcorn for the road.