Courtesy of Longhopes Donkey Shelter

10 Unique Things to Do in Colorado This Summer

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You’ve mastered your summer-in-Boulder bucket list: Visiting the farmers market, watching street performers on Pearl Street, hiking in Chautauqua Park and enjoying happy hour snacks at Corrida (perhaps with a gin and tonic from the roving cart?). All of these Boulder traditions are worthy of a repeat this year. But what other adventures should you embark upon this summer?

 

From soaking in a hot spring that will transport you to Iceland to spending the night at a drive-in movie theater and visiting a throwback media museum, here are 10 unique things to do in Colorado this summer.

Sandboard the Great Sand Dunes

 

The chairlifts have stopped running for the season, but you can still go boarding. Rent a sandboard (or a sand sled) from an outdoor retailer near Great Sand Dunes National Park and shred down the golden slopes of this massive sandbox. Pro tip: Go early, otherwise the sand can scorch your feet. Located near Alamosa, the sand dunes are so out of this world that NASA scientists have tested rovers on the undulating hills. Up the quirk on this trip by taking a slight detour to the UFO Watchtower just north of Hooper (follow the little aliens on Highway 17). One of the best times to go to the Sand Dunes is late May through early June, when the surge flow in Medano Creek creates a beach in our landlocked state. nps.gov/grsa

Visit the Media Archaeology Lab

 

Courtesy of Media Archaeology Lab

 

If you spent your summer breaks playing Frogger and listening to George Michael’s “Faith” on your new Walkman, or you were a reigning “Duck Hunt” champ, relive the halcyon days of your youth at the University of Colorado’s Media Archaeology Lab. The lab is stocked with fully functioning media devices of yesteryear, from vintage cassette tapes and TVs to a stereoscope and old video gaming systems, magic lanterns and typewriters. The lab could very well be the largest of its kind in the world and is unique because it’s open and accessible for anyone to come and perform hands-on experiments. The lab’s motto is “the past must be lived so that the present can be seen.” mediaarchaeologylab.com

Spend the Night at a Drive-In Movie Theater

 

One of Colorado’s most unique overnight stays is at the new  Frontier Drive-Inn, a restored mid-century drive-in movie theater that opened last summer in the San Luis Valley. For an epic movie night, book a room at one of the on-site Steelmaster sheds or glamping yurts. The property shows films on a restored movie screen, and the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo mountain ranges in the backdrop provide extra drama. The theater originally opened in May 1955, and it was one of the few places where people could see Spanish-language films in the 1960s and ‘70s. Beyond the Hollywood stars on the screen, you can also spot stars (of the celestial variety) from open-air adobe observatories. frontierdriveinn.com

Soak In an ‘International’ Hot Spring

 

When describing Colorado’s hot spring scene, superlatives rule. We’re home to the deepest spring (Pagosa Springs) and the largest hot spring pool (Glenwood Hot Springs Resort). Now, add “otherworldly” to our soaking lexicon. Overlooking the Colorado River, Iron Mountain Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs’ soaking pools vary by size and temperature. The popular “Experience Pool” is a standout because of a rotating formula of minerals that mimic other famous hot springs around the world, like the Blue Lagoon in Iceland and Kinosaki, Japan. The hot spring plans to open a 21 and up section, with more pools with even more mineral blends from around the world. ironmountainhotsprings.com

Dine Al Fresco on a Boulder County Farm

 

Courtesy of Farow

 

The hottest Boulder County dinner reservation this summer is … on an idyllic farm. Farow, a restaurant in Niwot that sources 90 percent of ingredients from within a 10-mile radius, will host monthly farm dinners from June to October. The evening starts with a farm tour, then segues into a welcome cocktail and seating at a communal table for a hyperlocal four-course dinner with wine pairings that highlight Boulder County’s bounty. So far, host farms include Buckner Ranch, Speedwell and Modern Farmsteads. farowrestaurant.com

Hunt for Sasquatch

 

The number of Bigfoot believers is on the rise, with 13 percent of Americans thinking he (or she) is a real creature. Learn all about Bigfoot research and sightings in Colorado at the Sasquatch Outpost in Bailey, which has a museum and retail shop dedicated to the larger-than-life creature. The outpost also hosts events so people can swap stories of Bigfoot encounters. After a visit to this museum southwest of Denver, you’ll never look at tree breaks the same. sasquatchoutpost.com

Sip Cocktails and Shop for Plants

 

One of the latest trends taking root: Bars that double as plant shops. At The Broken Cage in Denver, you can enjoy summer cocktails like a watermelon basil margarita while shopping for monsteras and pothos plants to take home. The Marigold, located in the heart of Five Points, is Denver’s newest plant-shop-and-bar combo with gin flights and cocktails with clever names, like the bubbly and citrus-forward “Mind Your Elderflowers” drink. thebrokencage.com and marigolddenver.com

See the Crimson Arches in Rattlesnake Canyon

 

Avoid the crowds at Arches National Park in neighboring Utah and, instead, discover a collection of nearly three dozen natural arches in Rattlesnake Canyon near Grand Junction. The scenic area within Colorado’s Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness has the second-highest concentration of arches in the world. Adrenaline Driven Adventures offers Jeep and RZR tours to the arches, and Grand Junction Adventures has guided day trips that include a 13-mile off-road drive and guided hike. The New York Times put Grand Junction on its list of “52 places to go in 2023,” so we’re not sure how much longer the Grand Valley will fly under the radar. blm.gov/visit/rattlesnakemee-canyons

Visit a Donkey Shelter

 

Longhopes is a donkey rescue in Bennett that’s been “saving burro buddies” for more than 20 years. In addition to having adoptable donkeys, the shelter offers hour-long tours a few times a week. The tours take guests through the barns and paddocks, and offers a glimpse of the training obstacle course. You’ll also get a chance to meet, pet and hug the friendly animals, as well as learn their stories. Make sure to book your tour in advance. longhopes.org

Hike to a Ghost Town

 

Photo by Josie Sexton

 

Twin Lakes is a small mountain community about 15 minutes outside of Leadville. As the name suggests, the main attractions here are the two glacial lakes, which are the largest in Colorado. You can rent a kayak or paddleboard from a local outfitter (or bring your own) and paddle about on the sparkling waters. But this area is also worth exploring on foot: A 4.6-mile out-and-back trail that traces the lake leads to the abandoned Interlaken Historic Resort, a hotel complex that’s frozen in time. Hikers can even wander about in Dexter Cabin, which was once a miner’s vacation home. One of the best views of the lake is from the cabin’s cupola. Visittwinlakes.com

 

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