The Fort Collins motto is bikes, beers and bands so it should come as no surprise that our beloved city is home to some of Colorado’s most lively venues and more than a few famous artists. If you’re looking for a few examples, check out The 20 Northern Colorado Bands You Should Be Listening To.
During the summer, it’s easy to track down FoCo’s music-centric culture. Downtown Fort Collins hosts the Downtown Sessions Concert Series and Noontime Notes Concert Series, Bohemian Nights hosts Thursday Night Live, and Mantooth Marketing Company produces The Lagoon Summer Concert Series — all of which are free! We also look forward to the city’s annual festivals like Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest and FORToberfest in the fall.
But the music doesn’t shut down when the cold weather settles in. To help you track down Fort Collins’ best year-round live music destinations, we rounded up the city’s most popular. Find out how to get there, who’s playing, and what to expect when you step inside. Get ready to jam!
With a 300-person capacity, Hodi’s is by no means a small venue. With two full bars and a raised stage throughout three connected spaces, a lot of people can squeeze in. But with local art hanging on the walls, a stage that comes to about waist height, an audience of locals and a lineup of neighborhood favorites, every show feels intimate.
There is very limited seating inside so be ready to stand — and dance the night away.
The Aggie has brought huge names to Fort Collins, such as Atmosphere, Matisyahu, Josh Hoyer & The Soul Colossal, Zion I and New Found Glory alongside locally famous groups like Head for the Hills, Project 432 and Trout Steak Revival. Aside from being an impressively diverse lineup, this list is the reason The Aggie is a favorite amongst locals and has been for over 100 years. They merge local and national artists in a setting that makes every show feel larger than life.
At 650 audience capacity, it’s not the largest venue in the city, but the wide open standing room space makes it feel so. The all-ages venue also offers limited seating on a first come first served basis and a full bar.
With a 200 audience capacity and a sit-down environment, The Armory is everything we want in an intimate music venue. By pairing a local artist with a nationally known artist for nearly every show, they’ve created an opportunity both for artists and the audience to expand their experiences. And because they bring in acts like Langhorne Slim & The Law, Joe Pug and Gregory Alan Isakov, the folksy atmosphere is practically built in.
The Downtown Artery is the home of artistic expression and creativity in Downtown Fort Collins. As such, they serve as a music, theater and comedy venue, cafe and bar, retail store, gallery, lounge, and an overnight Airbnb spot. When it comes to live music, you may have to dig through the event calendar, but while you’re at it, you’ll find events like dance workshops, gallery openings, galas and burlesque balls, as well as shows from local bands like In the Whale and big names like LA-based MAGIC GIANT.
Offering a bar and several places to sit, it’s a cozy place with a quirky atmosphere you’ll just have to experience for yourself!
Part of the brand new Elizabeth Hotel in Downtown Fort Collins, Magic Rat Live Music is as eclectic as it is refined, as unexpected as it is comfortable. The lineup includes weekly big-name artists and local late-night jam sessions so everyone can find something on the calendar to enjoy.
And the atmosphere is derived from an interesting mix of art deco and modern: handcrafted furniture and velvet couches line the walls to offer lounge spaces, garage doors open during warm months to show off the indoor-outdoor bar, and The Emporium Kitchen and Wine Market offers a unique menu of small items just for Magic Rat.
Washington’s is the newest kid on the block, but it was born from one of FoCo’s oldest, most beloved restaurants. Named for the old favorite Washington’s Sports Bar and Grill which opened its doors in 1978, this spot pays homage to the restaurant and the history that came before it inside the Akin Building.
Now, the 900 capacity, general admission venue is bringing a brilliant mix of national acts like Trombone Shorty, DeVotchKa, The Oh Hellos and Blitzen Trapper with a few local favorites sprinkled in for good measure. The space is primarily standing room only with a few seating options available, two full-service bars outside the main room, a tiered balcony level and some of the best sound in town.
You haven’t been in Fort Collins long if you haven’t heard of Avo’s. Serving up famous housemade Tempeh alongside pizzas, sandwiches and Fish and Chips, this spot is ideal for families during the day, brunch every day of the week, and a live show nearly every single night — sometimes two! With a healthy mix of cover-free, open mic, ticketed shows and even a popular Open Bluegrass Jam, Avo’s is the locals’ choice for live music.
During the summer you can even catch a show on the back patio! But whether you’re inside or outside, there are always plenty of places to sit down, eat your meal and take in the sounds.
Surfside 7 is all about eating good food, drinking with friends and rocking all night long. If you’re not stopping in during free karaoke or for the occasional cover-free show, admission prices don’t often exceed $10 and most can be purchased at the door. That makes this one of the best options for catching a live show from a local band at the last minute. You can always check the event calendar to find out who’s playing and when.
Food is served until closing at 2 a.m. and includes everything from pizza by the slice to a delicious Falafel Burger. You’ll also find plenty of space around the bar, tables to sit and standing room to enjoy the evening’s music selection.
Photo courtesy of Ace Gillett’s Lounge
Located in the basement of The Armstrong Hotel, Ace Gillett’s is the place to be for jazz fans. Often scheduled five nights a week, you can stop in to hear the house band, Ace Gillett’s Subterranean Jazz Trio, or any number of special guests. In the past, the lineup has included The Ben Markley Trio, Mark Sloniker, Ryan Fourt and more!
Set up in jazz lounge style, this cool spot has plenty of seating and serves some of Fort Collins’ best cocktails as well, as an entire menu of hot and cold tapas, flatbreads, house specialties and desserts.
This Irish restaurant and pub is the live music headquarters of Old Town Square. With the hospitable charm of Dublin and the food to go along with it, we recommend stopping by any day of the week. And you’ll find music nearly every day, Wednesday through Monday. Celtic Jam and Acoustic Open Mic are two of our favorite weekly happenings — scheduled Wednesday and Monday evenings, respectively.
Because this is a restaurant, you’ll find plenty of places to sit down, plenty of food to eat, and even plenty of room to dance!
The Mish could be listed as the best amphitheater, the best sound, the best setting — but we went with location because that ties in all three. With both indoor and outdoor stages, the venue offers shows year-round, but it’s the summer stage that lands The Mish on everyone’s round-up of bucket list venues. (After all, it made ours).
Nestled against the Cache la Poudre River 30 minutes outside of the city, the sounds of the river and the sounds of the music reverberate in the canyon to produce some of the best live shows in the region. They also offer a restaurant, plenty of parking and spaces to sit.
If you’re looking for more resources as an artist or as a fan, check out The Music District, a music-centric gathering place located in Downtown Fort Collins. They serve to cultivate talents, support professional development and encourage connections amongst musicians, businesses, nonprofits, fans, and anyone who appreciates music.
And don’t forget to share your favorite FoCo venues in the comments below!