ARCHIVED  March 1, 1997

Wondering what to do with guests for the weekend?

Explore the wonders of Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming

If you live in Northern Colorado or Southern Wyoming and want to entertain visiting friends or family, you’re in luck.
That’s because this area is filthy rich with great attractions and rollicking things to do, even for the most discriminating or the proverbial couch potato.
Best of all, most activities are within two hours of home.
A great place to start would be Laramie and Cheyenne, two cities rich in Western history, lore and culture.
The University of Wyoming in Laramie has two outstanding museums, open year-round, which detail the history and define the character of the area.
The Anthropology Museum keeps its finger on the pulse of the cultural history of Wyoming and Native Americans. To trace those stories, the museum uses fascinating archeological, faunal and ethnological exhibits.
How Nature shaped the land is traced through rocks and ancient fossil exhibits at the Geology Museum. The museum is also home to a mounted skeleton of the dinosaur most people think of as a Brontosaurus. It’s one of only five skeletons exhibited worldwide.
The Laramie Plains museum recreates the hard, often harsh, lives of plains settlers in its collections of saddles, textiles, carved furniture and cowboy paraphernalia. A haunting collection of old photographs says thousands of words about the settlers’ struggles.
Old West facts and myths are treated with equal zeal at the Wyoming Territorial Park in Laramie.
The Park’s U.S. Marshals Museum preserves the first 200 colorful years of the nation’s oldest law-enforcement agency. Ironically, the historic Wyoming Territorial Prison sits nearby.
Now restored to its 1890s condition, the prison once housed many infamous residents, including Butch Cassidy.
Living history characters cavort about the park, including Calamity Jane, said to be portrayed by a direct descendant. In the evening, a dinner theater serves a hearty frontier meal in the loft of a restored, century-old horse barn followed by a musical revue on the ground level.
The biggest Western tourist event in Wyoming is Cheyenne Frontier Days, held 11 days each July. Billed as “a premier western family celebration,” the festival has parades, carnival rides, top-name entertainment and professional cowboys who court disaster again and again at the rodeo hailed as “The Daddy of ‘Em All.”
Sampling the great Western outdoors is simply a matter of heading west toward the awesome Rocky Mountains or east toward the solitude of the high plains. Either selection is worth expending time and film.
Going east on Highway 14, the Pawnee National Grassland appears about half an hour outside Greeley. So vast is this silent, shortgrass prairie that its boundaries are impossible to find, even with the most powerful binoculars.
While it appears dull and monotonous at first glance, this prairie teems with life. It is renowned for bird and raptor watching, and there’s always a good chance of seeing pronghorn antelope, prairie dogs or coyotes.
An easy trail leads to the twin knobs of Pawnee Buttes, or there’s a 36-mile self-guided driving tour.
To taste the Rocky Mountains, turn around and head west on Colorado Highway 14. After you leave Fort Collins behind, you’re on the Cache la Poudre-North Park drive, one of Colorado’s 21 Scenic and Historic Byways.
The 101-mile drive follows the wild Cache la Poudre River, once a transit corridor for Native Americans and, later, white explorers.
Today, the corridor is hog’s heaven for white-water boaters, anglers, hikers, campers and nature lovers. After crossing the Continental Divide, the Byway continues to North Park, a quiet, bowl-shaped valley heavily populated with deer, antelope, elk, moose, beaver, coyote and migrating waterfowl.
Other places in the area to hike, fish and picnic include Lory State Park; Grayrock Mountain in Poudre Canyon; Horsetooth Mountain Park; Boyd Lake; Jackson Lake; Barr Lake and Barbour Pond.
Nourishment for art-hungry souls is haute cuisine in Loveland, where every nook and cranny harbors something arty.
Reputedly, Loveland owns art valued at more than $2 million. It’s a certain fact that the city collects a “1 percent for the arts” sales tax that helps quench the city’s thirst for the arts.
Loveland is home to 17 galleries and studios, two bronze foundries that offer public tours, the nationally accredited, 7,000-square-foot Loveland Gallery and Museum and 16 public places to view sculpture, a particular favorite of the city.
In August each year, Loveland hosts the largest outdoor sculpture show and sale in the country at the Benson Sculpture Garden, a public park that regularly displays more than 40 outdoor sculptures on seven acres of ponds and meandering paths.
Or, if your guests’ tastes extend to a more physically active variety, you can take them to the Crystal Rapids Waterpark on U.S. Highway 34 in Loveland, where a number of water-oriented amusements should quench their thirst for activity.
These and many other area attractions are described in free pamphlets and brochures found at local convention & visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce, visitor centers along the interstates and in hotel lobbies.
But there are other places and activities that will never be found in brochures. These are the memorable serendipitous discoveries found only by the unrushed traveler who peers expectantly around every corner.
Like a small winery. Did you know there are two in Larimer County? Both are listed in the Yellow Pages, one near Loveland, the other near Fort Collins.
Or a zany, whimsical roadside stop like the Swetsville Zoo, which is really a rusting graveyard of discarded farm implements welded together by a local dairy farmer with an artistic flair and a delightful sense of humor.
The result is an outrageous collection of dinosaurs, animals and whatnots. The artist charges no fee to view his work, located a quarter-mile east of Interstate 25 on Harmony Road.
Or those small-town festivals that celebrate everything from eagles to potatoes. Generally held on weekends, spring through fall, they are never crowded, display incredibly creative handicrafts made from unlikely sources such as cat fuzz, and entertain with talent shows and mutt parades. Best of all, they serve delicious, fattening food.
A good example is Milliken’s Beef ‘n’ Bean Day to celebrate pinto beans. The tiny Weld County town near the junction of Colorado Highways 60 and 257 stages the festival every second Saturday in August.ÿ

Explore the wonders of Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming

If you live in Northern Colorado or Southern Wyoming and want to entertain visiting friends or family, you’re in luck.
That’s because this area is filthy rich with great attractions and rollicking things to do, even for the most discriminating or the proverbial couch potato.
Best of all, most activities are within two hours of home.
A great place to start would be Laramie and Cheyenne, two cities rich in Western history, lore and culture.
The University of Wyoming in Laramie has two outstanding museums, open year-round, which detail the history and…

Related Content