May 30  |  Local Events, Our Communities

The Ultimate Guide to Spending a Summer in Northern Colorado

Summer in Northern Colorado is magic. There’s no other way to describe it (trust us, we tried). Fueled by Colorado sun and long, summer days, our communities celebrate the season with all our favorite things: annual events, outdoor recreation, craft beer and local food.

Whether you’re a longtime resident or a first-time visitor, we rounded up all the essentials this summer so you don’t miss a thing. From the can’t-miss events and farmers’ markets to the 5ks and even the best rock climbing destinations — this is your guide to an unforgettable summer in NoCo.


Attend festivals and events

Downtown Sessions Concert Series Fort Collins Colorado Summer

Photo courtesy of Richard Haro Photography via Downtown Fort Collins Business Association

While you can enjoy craft beer, recreation and even farmers markets year-round in Northern Colorado, it’s the annual summer events that really set this season apart. Come summer, our little region celebrates every single week with concert series, outdoor movies, annual music festivals, downtown events and more.

Our blog post The 16 Essential Summer Festivals in Northern Colorado highlights some of the biggest annual happenings in the region, including Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest, Taste of Fort Collins, Greeley Blues Jam and the Colorado Brewers’ Festival.

We also rounded up the region’s summer concert and movie series! Our guide, 12 Northern Colorado Summer Concert + Movie Series to Attend This Year, highlights weekly movies and concerts in Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley, Berthoud, Windsor and Estes Park.

But that’s not even everything you can do in NoCo this summer! In Downtown Fort Collins, you’ll want to swing by the Old Town Car Show on June 2nd, the first inaugural WeldWerks Invitational Festival is happening on June 23rd in Greeley, and the free Cherry Pie Celebration hosted by Loveland Museum is set for July 7th. Mark your calendars!


Opt outside

Outdoor rock climbing Fort Collins Colorado Northern Colorado NoCo

With the longer days and the sunny weather comes a whole new set of outdoor activities to enjoy in NoCo. Just minutes from Fort Collins, you’ll find Horsetooth Reservoir; minutes from Greeley, you’ll find Pawnee National Grassland; Loveland is home to Boyd Lake State Park, and Estes Park is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park!

We’ve compiled quite a few guides that can help you kickstart your summer recreation adventures. The best starting point is 9 Things to Do in Northern Colorado For Outdoor Enthusiasts. If you’re looking for more specifics, we recommend The Best Outdoor and Indoor Places to Go Rock Climbing in Northern Colorado, The Ultimate Guide to Kayaking in Northern Colorado, A Beginner’s Guide to Backpacking in Northern Colorado and The 10 Best Hiking Trails Near Estes Park, Colorado.


Drink craft beer  

Memorial Day event in Fort Collins Loveland Estes Park Colorado

If you’ve heard anything about Northern Colorado, you’ve probably heard about our craft beer. Just a few years ago, Fort Collins was the craft brewery destination, but places like WeldWerks Brewing Company and Grimm Brothers Brewhouse have made Greeley and Loveland must-visit craft beer stops as well!

Build your own summer bucket list with The Ultimate Guide to 20 Craft Breweries from Greeley to Loveland, Colorado and The Ultimate Guide to Fort Collins Craft Breweries.

Then, you can explore even further with 5 Places to Find Delicious Craft Cider in Fort Collins and Loveland and Meet the Team Behind Grimm Brothers Brewhouse in Loveland, Colorado!

And if you’re hoping to combine philanthropy with your local beer, check out the Fort Collins Ale Trail. With the free app, you’ll be able to use the interactive map, get extra information on participating breweries and see their hours, and you can learn more about the nonprofits. If you decide to purchase the $20 Trail Pass, you’ll be eligible for discounts at each participating brewery, you’ll get prizes as you check in at each destination, and all proceeds go to the organization of your choice!


Explore Old Town

CooperSmith's Pub and Grill Fort Collins Colorado patio restaurant with a view

Photo courtesy of Lisa O’Dwyer Photography via CooperSmith’s Pub & Brewing

The favorite neighborhood of many Northern Colorado residents, Old Town Fort Collins is home to some of the region’s best patios, local restaurants, shops, music venues and annual events. It’s where you can experience Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest, Taste of Fort Collins, Bohemian Nights Presents Thursday Night Live, Downtown Sessions Concert Series, Noontime Notes Concert Series and Outdoor Movie Night in Old Town Square.

This downtown neighborhood also claims the best walk score and the best bike score in Fort Collins — so there’s no need to drive! You can get more details on The Neighborhoods in Fort Collins With The Best Walk Scores and The 10 Neighborhoods in Fort Collins with the Highest Bike Scores.

If you’re looking for a good starting place, we recommend CooperSmith’s Pub & Brewing where you can choose one of two patios that overlook Old Town Square! Other central hotspots include Social, Illegal Pete’s which has a rooftop patio, and Prost Brewing Company.


Visit Rocky Mountain National Park

Bear Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most popular outdoor attractions in the state of Colorado. It brings thousands of people to Estes Park and NoCo year-round — and it’s right in our backyard! Encompassing 415 square miles the park offers over 300 miles of hiking trails, spectacular wildflowers throughout June and July, and year-round wildlife viewing. Elevation ranges from 8,000 feet in the valleys to the towering 14,259-foot Longs Peak so you can experience green forests and tundra landscape.

Admission options include one day passes, seven day passes, annual and even lifetime passes! For pricing and additional information, click here. And you can even purchase your one and seven day passes online!

To get a jump start on planning, check out The 10 Best Hiking Trails Near Estes Park which includes eight Rocky Mountain National Park adventures! To make a vacation out of it, we also recommend 15 Stunning Lodge and Cabin Vacation Rentals Near Estes Park.


Eat local food

The Emporium Kitchen and Wine Market The Elizabeth Hotel Fort Collins Colorado

Photo courtesy of Jimena Peck via The Emporium Kitchen and Wine Market

Summer in Northern Colorado means new seasonal menus, sunny patios and great mountain views. Fort Collins’ newest foodie additions showcase all of these so if you’re looking for a place right now, we recommend Ginger and Baker, Union Bar and Soda Fountain or any of the eateries and lounges inside The Elizabeth Hotel, including The Emporium Kitchen and Wine Market.

For more summery options, check out The Best Seasonal Menus From Fort Collins Restaurants, The 22 Best Outdoor Patios in Fort Collins to Enjoy this Summer, 10 Must-try Northern Colorado Restaurants with a View and, of course, The Ultimate Guide to Brunch in Fort Collins.


Run races + 5Ks

You won’t struggle to find a running event any time of year in Northern Colorado, but summer brings some of the region’s largest and most exciting races! The lineup starts out with the Fort Collins Father’s Day 5k and the Estes Park Marathon on June 17th. Then, you can participate in the FireKracker 5k in Fort Collins on July 4th; the Colorado Brewery Running Series is swinging through Odell Brewing Co. on July 21st, and the Fort Collins Human Race returns on July 28th complete with breakfast from Snooze and a Horse & Dragon Brewing Company beer garden!  

For more summer races, check out Rocky Mountain Half Marathon & 5K, Peach Festival 5k, FORTitude 10k, Never Summer 100k and the Black Squirrel Half.


Track down food trucks

Fort Collins Food Truck Rally City Park summer 2018

Image courtesy of Kind Design via Fort Collins Food Truck Rally

You won’t really have to track down food trucks this summer. More likely, you’ll run into a local favorite everytime you go out. But if you want to experience the best of FoCo food trucks, we recommend stopping by the Fort Collins Food Truck Rally every Tuesday, May 15 – September 25 in Fort Collins’ City Park. This rally brings together live music, dozens of local businesses and some of NoCo’s best street foods for a total of 19 events this season!

You’ll also find food trucks weekly at the Lagoon Summer Concert Series and several farmers’ markets throughout the region.


Shop at farmers markets

Farmers Markets in Fort Collins Loveland Windsor Wellington Estes Park Colorado

Many of our Northern Colorado communities developed around agriculture. Today, that history comes alive at local farmers’ markets all over the region. Not only do these events give you the opportunity to shop locally, they also provide a community hub for celebration, gathering and even local music! Our blog post, The Ultimate Guide to Northern Colorado Farmers Markets, has details for nine different markets happening weekly in various communities four days a week. Happy shopping!


Go biking

Biking Clubs in Fort Collins

It wouldn’t be a Fort Collins summer without a little pedaling, right? As one of the country’s most bike-friendly cities, our community is home to the Pitkin Bikeway, a thriving cycling community and the Fort Collins Bike Share so you don’t even need a bike of your own!

In our blog post, The 10 Neighborhoods in Fort Collins with the Highest Bike Scores, we found that the most bike-friendly ‘hoods are centered around Downtown and the CSU campus which puts you in the heart of the community’s cultural headquarters. But even if you’re not cycling in one of the top ten, 25 Fort Collins neighborhoods have bike scores between 90 and 100 and the overall city score is 80!

If you’re looking for a fun community of cyclists, we recommend checking out an event with Bike Fort Collins. Throughout the summer, they host casual RAT Rides and a summer Bike to Work Day in June.

Also this summer, Intersect Brewing and Rally King Brewing are teaming up to present East Meets West and BOGO beers! Between May 1st and August 31st, you can begin at one of these two breweries, order a beer, then bike 4.6 miles of the Spring Creek Trail to the other brewery and get a free beer there. Remember to bike responsibly!



However you decide to celebrate the summer in Northern Colorado, we hope you have a safe, happy and memorable season.

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