There are hundreds of lists of things to do in the USA, or individual states like Colorado, but we’ve come up with one thing in every state plus D.C. in 21 different categories. Truly something for everyone, from historic places to foods you have to try, from the downright quirky to amazing museums, and from weird places to stay to fun things to do. Our primary criteria were we have or want to see them, and they are things you can physically visit or try.
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Historic Place: Mesa Verde National Park
Spanish for Green Table, Mesa Verde survived for over 700 years as a home to the Ancestral Pueblo people. Abandoned over 700 years ago, it now offers the opportunity to explore this well preserved cliff dwellings other archaeological sites.
Famous Person: Stephen King
The famous US author of horror, suspense and fantasy found inspiration to write his best-selling book the Shining from the Stanley Hotel. It even featured in the film and mini-series of the book.
Natural Wonder: Grand Mesa
The largest flat-topped mountain in the world, Grand Mesa offers stunning vistas. With the top of the mesa at over 2 miles, you can expect crisp clean air whilst you explore this beautiful part of Colorado.
Food & Drink: Chile Verde and Izze
This Colorado take on a Mexican dish is made with pork rather than beef. Served with tortillas and rice, it makes for a delicious dish stew. Wash it down with Colorado’s own Izze, available in a selection of sparkling flavours.
Factory Tour: United States Mint
Come and see where they literally “make money”. The US Mint in Denver makes circulating coins as well as commemorative coins and collectors coins. See how the money is made from the original design of the coin, through turning raw metal into shiny new pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters.
Man Made: Bishops Castle
Bishop’s Castle was the project of Jim Bishop, who built this amazing three-storey castle single-handedly. Originally intended to be a cottage, it turned into a 40 year project that resulted in the incredible building that now stands just outside Pueblo, Colorado.
Record Breaking: Royal Gorge Bridge and Park
The highest bridge in the world when built, it held the record from 1929 to 2001!. With the main span covering 828 ft (268m) and the drop to the Arkansas river below measuring 955 ft (291m), it might not be the record holder any longer, but it is still mightily impressive.
Quirky Record: World’s Largest Beetle
Map 9080 CO-115, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80926
Nicknamed “Herkimer”, the world’s largest beetle is a scarily huge landmark for the May Natural History Museum. Housing over 7,000 species of insects, though thankfully none anywhere near the size of “Herkimer”, it is the world’s largest private insect collection.
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Activity: Sandboard at Great Sand Dunes National Park
Kind of like snowboarding, but on sand! Just one of the activities you can enjoy at Great Sand Dunes National Park. The park covers 132 sq. miles (343 km2) and has a diverse landscape that includes wetlands, grasslands, conifer forests and lakes, as well as the giant sand dunes.
Atlas Obscura: Coney Island Hot Dog Stand
Map 10 Old Stagecoach Rd POB 973, Bailey, Colorado 80421
Despite not having ever been anywhere near Coney Island, this quirky hot-dog stand has been around since 1966. Originally intended to be a chain of themed restaurants, it has now been called “the best example of roadside architecture in Colorado”.
Most Visited: Rocky Mountain National Park
For over 100 years, Rocky Mountain National Park has preserved this beautiful part of Colorado. The continental divide runs right through the middle of the park, signifying where water runs towards either the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans. In 1976 the park was designated as UNESCO world heritage site as one of the first World Biosphere Reserves.
State/National Park: Garden of the Gods
With incredible rock formations and stunning scenery, it’s no surprise that Rufus Cable decided that this place was fit for God’s to assemble. From hiking to rock climbing, biking to jeep tours, there is plenty to do to keep you occupied in this gorgeous park.
Photo reproduced with kind permission of John McArthur
Event: Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival
Originally started as a way to break-up the deep winter, Steamboat Springs now hosts one of the oldest winter carnivals in the world. Ski racing, jumping and dog-sledding down the main street are just some of the activities you can expect to enjoy.
Different Place to Stay: Indiana Jones Bed & Breakfast
This was Indy’s childhood house in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade but is now an Indy themed bed and breakfast. Just down the street is the Cumbres and Toltec scenic railroad which is also featured in the film.
Different Place to Eat: The Airplane Restaurant
You won’t be going anywhere, and hopefully, the food will be better than that which is normally served on planes! This quirky restaurant is positioned in an old US Air Force KC-97 tanker from 1953.
Have Some Fun: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
This 3 foot, narrow gauge railroad takes passengers from, funnily enough, Durango and Silverton! The 45 mile (72km) ride travels through beautiful scenery as it follows the Animas river almost all the way.
Film Location: Ouray County Courthouse
The courtroom of Ouray Country Courthouse was used in the John Wayne film True Grit. It includes the staircase that Mattie chased Rooster on.
The 13th step of the state capital building in Denver is exactly 1 mile high above sea level.
Something Different: Petrified Wood Gas Station
Map 100-198 Sherman St, Lamar, Colorado 81052
Petrified wood, is wood that has turned to stone. So this gas station isn’t “wooden” in the sense we know it. It’s made from petrified wood that’s over 175 million years old!
Museum: Denver Museum of Nature & Science
With over a million objects in its collections, plan to be here a while if you want to see them all! With permanent exhibitions covering Egypt to gems and minerals and Native American cultures to Space, along with temporary exhibitions covering a range of topics, there should be something for everyone.
Scenic Drive: Pikes Peak
This 19 mile scenic drive to the top of Pikes Peak ascends to 14,000 ft (4,200m), so be prepared for the thinner air at the summit. But it’s worth it to experience the ever improving views as you climb nearer the summit.
Don’t miss Bottomless pit, a seemingly endless drop into an abyss.
We’d love to hear what you think. What did we miss? What do you think we should have chosen instead?
If we love your idea, we might just swap it into the list, if we like it, maybe will give it an honourable mention; either way we’ll be sure to give you credit, and add it to our list of things to see and do when we are in the area.
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