Going to live concerts, eating delicious meals, and sipping beer at a brewery — there is endless fun to be had in Northern Colorado. But sometimes, you may be looking for a bit of a break from…breaking the bank.
Don’t worry! There are plenty of things to do in Northern Colorado that don’t cost a single thing. So if you’re on a tight budget, you’re saving for something big (a new house, perhaps?), or you’re simply sick of spending, check out these free things to do in Fort Collins and surrounding communities, including Loveland, Greeley and even Estes Park! We’ve got a mix of everything, from museums and art events to cartoons and jazz shows.
Photo Courtesy of the Loveland Museum
Founded in 1937, the Loveland Museum is an accredited art and history museum that has grown to offer various art and history exhibits dating back to 1919, family events, adult and youth classes, readings, lectures and more. General admission to the museum is free and includes access to the following galleries: Green Room, Dunning, Foote, Mezzanine, 12 Ft of Wall, and Permanent History, and admission to the Main Gallery art exhibit is just $7 per person for ages 13 and up.
We always look forward to Downtown Fort Collins’ First Friday Art Walk, a self-guided walking tour featuring wonderful works of art in local art galleries on the first Friday of every month from 6–9 p.m. From fine to funky, the Art Walk showcases a wide range of artistic styles to appeal to all ages, interests and backgrounds. This is a great way to get immersed in our vibrant and active local arts community — all for a whopping $0.
Sometimes locals are the last to do that thing every visitor does — like taking a tour at New Belgium. While there are a few paid options, they also offer a free “Tour Teaser,” which includes a 45-minute tour of their brewhouses and free beer sampling along the way. Tickets for these tours are only available day of on a first-come, first-served basis and no reservations are required. These tours are only offered Monday–Friday at 2 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays at 2 and 4 p.m., so show up early to secure your spot!
Photo Courtesy of Downtown Fort Collins
On the third Friday of each month, go on a culinary adventure with the Fort Collins Foodie Walk, a self-guided tour exploring the thriving food scene in downtown Fort Collins. Downtown’s finest culinary shops stay open late to showcase seasonal flavors, provide interactive demonstrations, and offer fun tasting opportunities. Make sure to come hungry — there is plenty of food to go around!
While you’re likely to buy something while you’re there, a visit to the farmers’ market is completely free! And we have plenty of farmers’ markets worth visiting throughout Northern Colorado, including the Fort Collins Farmers’ Market, the Greeley Farmers’ Market, the Larimer County Farmers’ Market, and the Farmers’ Market at Fairgrounds Park in Loveland. Most markets open for the season in May or June!
During the summer on Friday nights, Friday Fest is the place to be for Greeley residents and those living elsewhere throughout Northern Colorado. Enjoy live music from about 6:30–9:30 p.m. every evening at the 9th Street Plaza, plus additional family fun along 8th Street. This event has remained free every summer thanks to a number of generous sponsors. Click here for more details about this much-anticipated annual event.
The library can often be a forgotten resource — but it definitely shouldn’t be overlooked! Fort Collins has an excellent library system in the Poudre River Public Library, with locations throughout the city. Aside from boasting shelves upon shelves of books for you to check out, the library also hosts a variety of free events, including classes, workshops and author readings for your enjoyment. The classes range from practical topics, like how to properly use Google Drive, to fun discussions about your favorite classic novel.
The Lyric is a favorite spot for locals looking to see the latest movies (cocktail in hand), but on Saturdays and Sunday mornings, the theater hosts free cartoons from 10 a.m. to noon. Bring the whole family for the show, which could be anything from Looney Tunes to Thundercats. Hungry? Kids and adults alike will love the all-you-can-eat cereal bar, and adults have the option to purchase a mimosa or Bloody Mary if they wish.
Below the bar at the Armstrong Hotel, you’ll find a swanky jazz lounge that is buzzing almost every night of the week. The lounge welcomes local and national acts to perform ‘40s swing, ‘50s blues and hits from the ‘60s — and most of the shows are free! Simply stop in to tap along to the music for a few minutes, or grab a cocktail from the bar and stay awhile. Take $2 off everything on the menu during happy hour, which is offered every day from 5–6 p.m. in the lounge (and 4–6 p.m. at Ace Café!).
Along the Front Range, we are perfectly positioned to experience some incredible stargazing. Plus, we have plenty of resources to learn more about the night skies, including Front Range Community College’s Sunlight Peak Observatory. The observatory is open throughout the week for students, but they host community nights open to the public on select days. The Sunlight Peak Observatory is open to the public on the first Friday of every month from 7–9 p.m. and their Stargazer Observatory location is open on the third Saturday of every month from 7–9 p.m. After daylight savings, these times may change, and if weather does not offer clear skies, the community nights may be canceled. Keep up with the latest on the Sunlight Peak Observatory Facebook page!
Situated along the Poudre River in Fort Collins, the Swetsville Zoo is a whimsical, unique destination that has been attracting visitors for decades. In 1985, Bill Swets created his first zoo animal: a bird with a bicycle as the body and a shovel as the beak. And the rest is history! Today, the property contains about 180 metal sculptures all welded by Swets. Meander along the pathways to encounter dinosaurs, two-headed dragons, space creatures, and much more! The “zoo” does not charge admission but donations are appreciated.
Get the best of both worlds — artwork and stunning natural scenery — at Benson Sculpture Garden, a scenic 10-acre park featuring 170 sculptures from world-renowned artists. This park in Loveland was created with proceeds from the annual Sculpture in the Park festival, one of the finest outdoor juried exhibitions of three-dimensional artwork in the United States. Alongside its local fame, the sculpture park has also been recognized as one of the most important modern and contemporary art sites around the world. It’s open year-round and there is no admission fee — so stop by on the next sunny day for a nice walk or picnic on the grounds.
Photo Courtesy of the Department of Horticulture and LA at Colorado State University
Make sure you take time to stop and smell the roses — literally! Just outside CSU’s University Center for the Arts, you’ll find a beautiful garden with more than 1,000 different cultivated varieties of annuals blooming May through October. The gardens were established “to allow students, researchers, industry representatives, homeowners and extension personnel to learn, teach and evaluate through horticultural research and demonstration projects conducted in the unique environmental conditions of the Rocky Mountain/High Plains region.” While most gardens require an admission fee, the Annual Flower Trial Gardens is completely free and open daily!
During your next trip to Estes Park, make sure to carve out time for the Estes Park Museum, a local museum that covers the history of the area over the decades, leading up to the present day. Explore the impressive collection of more than 25,000 objects, dating back to the history of trappers and hunting, the story of the town’s incorporation, and much more. The museum is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and — you guessed it — admission is free!