Fox and crow

French Days in Fort Collins

One of my favorite things to do is have pretend vacations. During some tough years, we enjoyed creating staycations. It was fun and we realized we could be on a budget, be creative, and have lots of fun.

Many of our visitors may not be as active. Some enjoy being active all day long and we can certainly accommodate that. But others may want a slower day, so we want to make sure there is something for everyone!

One particular day theme is related to everything “French.” No doubt we have a wonderful cafe culture here. As soon as the sun comes out, our wind dies down (our own mistral which is currently blowing at 35 mph) and the temperature gets above 50, everyone is out and about and hopefully at an outdoor patio. On a beautiful, clear day when the lavender is blooming, you can close your eyes and pretend you are somewhere in France. OK, so a few things are missing but we can certainly fill in a few things with places to go and things to do in the Front Range area.

A friend and I started foraging in 2017 and thought it would be fun to have a “French Day” that started with foraging, moved to eating lunch and culminated with a little shopping.  It was a terrific day and I have no doubt we will be repeating this again as soon as the mushroom season begins!

Forage for Mushrooms

I was so excited to discover mushroom foraging! Starting in April through September, foragers are out all over Colorado searching for mushrooms. Half the fun is just being out in the beautiful mountains! The other half is exploring and looking down for morels or chanterelles instead of the magnificent views, or keeping an eye for a mountain lion or bear. I’m sure we could do all three when you come for a visit!

 

 

Enjoy Some Wineries

Growing grapes is a bit of challenge here on the Front Range but there are some varietals that are doing well. The best Colorado grapes are grown on the Western Slope around Palisades. The area is beautiful and reminiscent of some of the viticulture areas in California and Western Europe. Best known for their peaches, the area has some outstanding wineries and produces a number of red and wine varietals including cab franc, which does very, very well in the climate.

We can certainly enjoy some good wines at the following wineries, and with a few wineries, we also get a beautiful view of the Rockies or massive geological formations that I wish I knew the name of. 🙂

Sweetheart Winery in Loveland, about 15 miles away

Blue Mountain Winery – Berthoud, about 35 miles away

Ten Bears Winery – best tasting for the money

Click here to read more places we can wine about!

 

 

Shop

When I need a mini-mini vacation, I love to go browse at EsScentuals in downtown Fort Collins. This charming shop has a very French vibe and also hosts one of the few underground shop areas functioning in downtown. The shop is tastefully decorated and the faux murals on the floors and wall are truly works of art. The shop offers a selection of locally-crafted, domestic & imported bath, body & home fragrance lines, perfume & essential oils, wrapping paper & cards, jewelry, and unique vintage & contemporary decor, beautiful linens and soft bath attire. 

 

 

photos courtesy of EsScentuals Facebook page

Eat and Drink

Who doesn’t love to eat and drink? I have my favorites when I want to feel a little French!

La Creperie – LC has the best gallettes. It’s a bit challenging to eat outside as the cafe faces College Avenue. It can get a bit noisy but I suppose if you close your eyes you can pretend you are on the Champs-Élysées and that’s just a bit of noisy Paris traffic. The restaurant is a cafe and bakery offering baked goods including bread, and macarons. I love to pick up croustades here for appetizers. They are the best in town.

 

 

Fox and Crow – If we wanted to really feel French (or just get some exercise), the FC is about a mile from the house. We could walk or bike. You choose.They have a wonderful outside patio that is quiet and a lovely. The presentation of their menu items is lovely down to the crema on the tomato basil soup. In addition, it is a wonderful cheese and charcuterie shop so perhaps we bring some deli items back to the house and have a light dinner on the patio with wine, some cheese and pâté?

 

 

Social – The awesome underground bar with a soft industrial with a hint of Belle Epoch offers hand-crafted period cocktails and small bites. We particularly love this bar as it is seating only. No standing thus no crowding. Many times we have started here and ended up at….

Ace Gillett’s for jazz and Belgium beers. Ace has a mid-century dive feel but they have the best live jazz ensembles in the area. The small plates change seasonally but I particularly enjoy duck confit over polenta and Mike, of course, loves the best selection of Belgian beers in the area.

Daytrip to Longmont Cheese Importers –  This is a fascinating cheese store and bistro. On the outside it looks like an old brick building – nothing special at all. When you walk inside, you are immediately transported to an intimate cafe and bar in a French arrondissement and multiple levels of quaint shopping areas and more eating spaces. The walk-in cooler cheese shop is the size of a small house with cheeses and accompaniments from all over the world. We have not eaten at bistro yet but there is a patio with a view of the mountains!

 

 

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Cycling –

There are few places we cannot cycle to! We can enjoy a coffee, wine or handcrafted chocolate at Nuance chocolate! 

Farmers Markets

One of the best things about summer is the farmer’s markets. We can enjoy several market options mid-week and on Saturday. It is so enjoyable to buy produce and come to the house and cook up a super meal with the freshest ingredients. Around August, we can also go to local pick your own farms and pick strawberries and raspberries. There is truly nothing better than a strawberry right off the vine.

Of course, we can hike, cycle, paddleboard, kayak, white water raft, and fish. But for a subtler, slower day, enjoying a bit of the French front range can fit in easily with your days in Northern Colorado.

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White Water Rafting

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If you are planning on visiting Fort Collins in June and July, put white water rafting on your itinerary! The Poudre River not only provides some of the greatest fishing in Colorado but also the finest in rafting experience!

We are fortunate to have four companies that service rafting in the area. Depending on the month, you may experience up to a continuous Class IV rafting event. We rafted the third week in June of 2016. The river had been closed due to spring melt off, high water and loads of “strainers” on the river.

Most companies offer a variety of rafting experiences, from beginner and family to advanced. We chose the “Blast” experience for experienced rafters. We elected to wear wet suits and were glad we did. The Blast offered almost continuous Class IV rapids with plenty of action – and plenty of water!

Come join us for a fun-filled afternoon!

 

Baseball

Summer Baseball

Going to Coors Field may be on your itinerary, but if not, you can enjoy up close and personal baseball in Fort Collins during the summer!

The Fort Collins Foxes  are a member club of the Centennial State League, a wooden bat summer collegiate baseball league based in Northern Colorado.  The Foxes feature top collegiate baseball players from around the country, and just like Minor League Baseball, provide fun family entertainment.  A tremendous entertainment value with free parking, $6 admission, $5 Culver’s Butter Burgers (chips included), and $1 drinks or peanuts.

The summer evenings are cool and dry, the sunsets are spectacular, and you may see an eagle fly overhead! We did!

mike and butter burger
Mike won a cinnamon roll!
FCFoxes
Evening at the Foxes

Ice Skating, Tennis, Swimming, Horseshoes

Yes, we are three hours from Breckenridge and Steamboat for skiing. But when not skiing, what else is there to do on the Front Range! Ice skate, play tennis and swim! Along with our neighborhood pool and very nice tennis courts within a very easy walking distance, Fort Collin’s offers the following venues for skating, tennis, swimming,  and horseshoes!

Edora Park

Just about one mile north of Waterford Inn along the Power Trail, Edora Park features a wide variety of activities.

Tennis – six lighted courts plus six 12’ high cinderblock backboards to beat balls against.

Disc Golfhttp://www.dgcoursereview.com/course.php?id=6608 or http://www.pdga.com/course-directory/course/edora-park A well manicured 18 hole, 5848 foot course that is moderately hilly and lightly wooded with multiple pin placements. The creek comes into play on 5 holes.

Horseshoes – A huge facility with 32 lighted pits, Edora Park hosts organized league play plus local and state tournaments.

Edora Park Pool and Ice Center (EPIC) http://www.fcgov.com/recreation/epic.php  EPIC is the region’s premier ice and aquatics facility.  EPIC is home to the CSU Hockey and Water Polo Teams as well as the Fort Collins Area Swim Team and Fort Collins Figure Skating Club.  It features an indoor 50-meter x 25-yard pool, two 3-meter and two 1-meter diving boards, separate warm water pool and wading pool, and two indoor 200′ x 85′ ice surfaces.

EPIC skating center.jpg

Skate Park – this 17,500-square-foot concrete facility boasts snake runs, bowls, ramps and rails. The integrated design allows for a seamless flow between park structures, while also catering to varying expertise levels.

Pond Skating – I didn’t think it would get cold enough here for pond skating but there are several ponds available for winter skating. City Park and Prospect Ponds have sections of the ponds that are scraped and prepped for outdoor hockey or casual skating.

outdoor skating pond

Golfing

Collindale  

Location. Location. Location. This course’s clubhouse and practice facility is literally walking distance from Waterford Inn.  At best, it is 1/4 of a mile from our house and is Mike’s primary course. The course features a championship length, 18-hole golf course. It is the home of local U.S. Open Qualifying and a perennial favorite for many State amateur events.

The clubhouse also is how to C.B. and Potts Restaurant and Brewery. It was our custom when visiting the area to have our last vacation dinner on the patio, watch the golfers come in, and enjoy the sunset against Horsetooth mountain. We hope you can come and enjoy it as well!

 

SouthRidge  

This 18-hole municipal course is about 2.5 miles straight south of Waterford Inn (along the Power Trail) and has the best scenic vistas of the Front Range! SouthRidge has a great mix of terrain and almost every type of feature to make a fun and challenging course.

City Park Nine  

Family fun! City Park Nine is a regulation length 9 hole municipal golf course that offers enjoyment and challenges for players of all ages and abilities. Built in 1940 and located next to historic City Park and Grandview Cemetery, the course features tight fairways, small greens, and mature trees. It is consistently recognized as the “Best Nine Hole Golf Course” in Colorado.

For those bringing families, City Park Nine is adjacent to City Park Pool and Sheldon Lake. The pool complex which has a large outdoor pool, lazy river, multiple slides, shallow water areas and geysers. Sheldon Lake has shaded picnic areas, trout fishing, and paddleboats for rent. And of course, outdoor ice skating in the winter! The golf course, lake and pool remind me of the old Landa Park in New Braunfels, Texas.  Much family fun!

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Bicycle Trails

Fort Collins has several trails for biking, walking, jogging, or skating. The trails are about 10 feet wide concrete and have very few street level crossings.  They are maintained year round and snow is removed from the trails during the winter months. Trails serve as commuter routes for many students and residents as well. The beautiful scenery that can be enjoyed along the system often makes one forget that they are in urban Fort Collins.  Here is a condensed listing of the trails in the Fort Collins area.

The Power Trail runs north and south and access is less than a quarter mile from the Waterford Inn.  About 1.5 miles to the north is Edora Park and the connection to Spring Creek Trail.  Going south, it follows the west side of the Union Pacific Railroad past two golf courses to Trilby Road.  From there it can connect with Fossil Creek Trail or continue south through a wetlands to Carpenter Road.  Future phases will extend to Loveland’s trail system.  The Power Trail runs about 1.5 miles north from the Waterford, and about 4.0 miles to the south.

The Poudre Trail meanders along the northwest to east side of town following the scenic Poudre River for 10.1 miles. It runs the gamut from prairie, to riverside, to parkland, to woods, to views of downtown and Odell and New Belgium Breweries. Expansion of this trail east toward I-25 is expected over the next several years.

The Spring Creek Trail follows Spring Creek for 6.9 miles. It can be accessed about 1.5 miles north from Waterford and runs east to the Poudre River where it joins the Poudre Trail. To the west, this highly popular trail continues through several parks across central Fort Collins and the Mason Trail to the west side of town where it becomes the north end of Fossil Creek Trail.  A short ride yields Rally King Brewing, but for another mile you can have Black Bottle Brewery.

A special purpose ride can combo Power – Spring Creek – Poudre – Lincoln Avenue to visit Funkwerks, Horse and Dragon Brewing, or Fiesty Spirits Distillery.

The Mason Trail serves as a convenient north-south route in the central core of Fort Collins and is maintained by the Streets Department. While not necessarily scenic, it serves as a useful connection through town and provides easy access to several destinations like Hardihood Brewing, Black Bottle Brewery, 1933 Brewing, or Zwei Brewing.  Adjacent to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad corridor, the trail offers a solution to improve safety and mobility for cyclists and pedestrians traveling north and south in the city and is 3.5 miles long. This trail connects to the other trails located within the city, such as the Spring Creek Trail and the Fossil Creek Trail.

The Foothills Trail is a 6.8 mile earthen trail that travels along the foothills parallel to Horsetooth Reservoir from Dixon Reservoir at Pine Ridge Natural Area to Reservoir Ridge Natural Area and Michand Lane. This trail is on rugged terrain.

The Fossil Creek Trail runs along the south and west sides of town through the Cathy Fromme Prairie Natural Area along Fossil Creek.  A short ride on quiet neighborhood streets connects the trail segments between Shields Street and College Avenue. This segment will open as right-of-ways are established and construction finishes. The Fossil Creek Trail is 5.2 paved miles.

The Poudre River Trail Corridor is just southeast of Ft. Collins and runs for 21 miles from Windsor to Greeley.  Midway it has the Kodak Watchable Wildlife Area Trailhead and the ride can be book-ended with High Hops Brewery in Windsor on the west and WeldWorks Brewing in Greeley on the east.

Fall Foliage

OK, Fall Foliage may not sound exciting as a destination opportunity on the Front Range and foliage trails sound so New-England-y. But we have been pleasantly surprised by the range of colors on Fort Collins this year. It’s not all about Colorado Aspens!

If you are planning a trip in late September and October,  you will be in for a surprise. Of course, you are more than welcome to travel an hour to go to Rocky Mountain National Park with all the other tourists, or you can hang out here and enjoy all the colors. I love RMNP, and we don’t have the bugling elks, but a Mountain Ash against a clear blue sky is quite remarkable to enjoy.

Another nice drive is along the Poudre River Canyon towards Cameron Pass. It is quiet and a bit remote but has camping and picnic spots about every mile so for the 50ish miles you will drive. There are also multiple hiking trails (remote!) as elevation increases from around 4900 to over 10,000 feet. It’s so gradual, you don’t really notice. As you reach the Pass, you realize you are on the back side of Trail Ridge Drive and the aspens start showing up around 9,000 feet.

 

 

Poudre River Trail Corridor

This is a super trail for road biking! The trail runs 21 miles between Greeley and poudre trail lisaWindsor. We rode this trail on my birthday and it was a great trip. The trail is paved and well-maintained and meanders alongside the river. The scenery is quite lovely between the two towns, particularly when leaving Windsor, the rolling hills may remind you of Tuscany. There is wildlife so don’t be surprised if you see a bald eagle. We did!

This is a nice way to spend half a day. You can ride to Greeley, enjoy a brew at one of three breweries in Greeley, enjoy a respite under the cottonwood trees, and prepare for the ride home.

One caveat. You will need to transport bikes to the trailhead in Greeley as the trail is not connected yet to the west side of the Poudre River Trail in Fort Collins.

For more information, visit. http://www.poudretrail.org/