Fort Collins is consistently ranked on lists of the best places to raise a family, including The Best U.S. Cities to Raise a Family by MarketWatch. In addition to safety ratings, affordability, local schools and healthcare, major factors that land our hometown on these lists are our year-round, family-friendly attractions, entertainment and community events.
During the summer, that long list of kid-friendly fun gets even better with seasonal openings of outdoor pools, outdoor movie theaters, and kick-offs to outdoor event series. In this guide, we highlighted some of our favorites, from year-round attractions that get even better under the summer sun to special summer events you don’t want to miss. Enjoy!
Photo courtesy of Harry Warter via Old Town Churn
The Exchange is one of the newest additions to Downtown Fort Collins. The year-round, open-air market is home to kid-friendly businesses like FoCo DoCo, Old Town Churn and Old Town Putt, alongside adult-friendly businesses like Infinite Monkey Theorem, Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project and CopperMuse. Made even better by the summer sun, everyone can also enjoy lawn games, outdoor seating, and a lively community atmosphere.
Fort Fun boasts more than 10 attractions, 70 games and an on-site restaurant so guests can play all day long! During the summer, the fun gets even better with bumper boats and paddle boats on Blue Heron Lake, alongside other outdoor attractions like mini-golf, go-karts and the iconic giant slide.
Photo courtesy of Holiday Twin Drive-in
Holiday Twin Drive-in was originally built in the late 1960s and is one of Colorado’s last remaining drive-in movie theaters. From mid-spring through the first weekend in September, everyone is invited to watch new movies in old-school style. Their team operates two screens and each one plays two movies; after Memorial Day weekend, you can even catch those movies every night of the week! To see what’s playing, click here.
Maintained by the City of Fort Collins and located on the grounds of one of our largest community parks, The Farm at Lee Martinez Park is a hands-on family experience. And it has been since 1985! While the farm itself has become a part of Fort Collins history, it also provides insight into our agricultural history. Guests can interact with animals, play games, attend events and more. For more information, click here.
Located next to Sheldon Lake, City Park Pool is one of Fort Collins’ favorite summer attractions. The outdoor pool also boasts a 30-foot water slide, a second curly slide, a lazy river, a large play structure and a picnic area for refueling. Admission is just $6 and $7 for children and adults, respectively, with discounted rates later in the day, and multi-day passes are available, too! For all the details, click here.
Photo courtesy of Green Events
The Fort Collins Human Race is one of the city’s favorite traditions. The event offers a half marathon, a 10K, a 5K and a one-mile kids run. Participants in the 5K get the opportunity to race Birney Car 21 up and down Mountain Avenue, and non-racers can even ride the trolley for a unique view of the action. The post-race party with Snooze and Horse & Dragon Brewing Company completes the event for a wonderful day in Downtown Fort Collins. For more details and registration information, click here.
This free, family-friendly event is scheduled each Tuesday evening with about five dates in July and August. Beginning around 8 p.m., you can enjoy a movie on a blow-up screen on the Old Town Square Stage alongside free popcorn and, of course, all the local businesses of Old Town are just steps away! For exact dates and movie start times, follow Downtown Fort Collins on Facebook here.
This intimate, lunchtime concert series features small-scale music performances perfectly suited for an afternoon picnic or a lunch break. Free and open to the public, the events take place in Oak Street Plaza and are complete with live music and local vendors from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. These events begin on the first Tuesday in June and continue on consecutive Tuesdays through the last week of July. To get updates, follow Downtown Fort Collins on Facebook here, and be sure to cool down at the Oak Street Plaza splash pad.
Horsetooth Reservoir and Horsetooth Mountain Open Space offer some of the best Colorado recreation just minutes from the heart of Fort Collins. On the reservoir, you can fish, swim at the public beach, and boat with your own or a rented craft through Inlet Bay Marina. The surrounding lands also offer bouldering, hiking, biking and even overnight camping.
The largest community park in Fort Collins, Spring Canyon Park encompasses a whopping 100 acres just east of Pineridge Natural Area in West Fort Collins. Lined with walking trails and open lawns, guests can also enjoy Inspiration Playground with kids, Spring Canyon Dog Park with dogs, and Veterans Plaza, which is the headquarters for Veterans Day services every year. This summer, don’t miss the splash pad at Inspiration Playground; it offers the perfect opportunity to cool off under the Colorado sun!
The Lyric is a local, independent movie theater that also boasts a full bar and restaurant, Geeks Who Drink trivia nights, weekend cartoons, special events, and a seasonal, bike-in, outdoor screen on the big back lawn. To see all the upcoming outdoor movies playing at The Lyric, click here.
Photo courtesy of Bohemian Nights
Since 1989, NewWestFest has been rocking Fort Collins every summer—and when it joined forces with Bohemian Nights in 2005, it got bigger and better than ever! The three-day festival is a free, family-friendly music event in downtown Fort Collins featuring over 50 artists on five stages. Included in the lineup is a Kids’ Music Adventure Stage so your children can sing and dance along as well. For information on this year’s event, click here.
Birney Car 21 is Fort Collins’ historic trolley, and it turned 100 years old in 2019. Today, you can visit Birney Car 21 on summer weekends and holidays for a three-mile round trip between City Park and Howes Street in Downtown Fort Collins. It’s a great way to enjoy local history and take a unique tour of our city center.
Maintained by Colorado Parks & Wildlife, Lory State Park is one of the best outdoor destinations in Northern Colorado, and it’s located just minutes from Downtown Fort Collins. With more than 2,000 acres and 26 miles of trails, the day-use park offers mountain biking, hiking, picnicking and horseback riding amongst some of our best foothills scenery.
Set to open this summer, Poudre River Whitewater Park is a brand new attraction in Fort Collins that takes advantage of our natural landscape and the wild and scenic Cache la Poudre. Located just north of Old Town in the River District, the developed area invites kayakers, tubers and kids of all ages to enjoy our river and all it has to offer in a safer environment. For project updates, click here.
If you and your kids have a favorite summer activity in Fort Collins, tell us about it in the comments below!