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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Wine Your Way Through NoCo

Although Northern Colorado is considered the Napa Valley of beers, when it comes to the vine, Colorado is holding its own. The best growing area is on the Western Slope near Palisades but there is an increasing number of vineyards on the northeast side of Colorado. The Western Slope has many traditional varieties such as Cab Sav and Merlot, and the Cab Francs are outstanding.  This is a must do trip if you love wine.

For NoCo, the varietals in our area tend to be cold hardy varieties such as Marquette and Marechal Foch, but the local vintners are making very respectable wines from Western slope grapes.

If you love wine,  we can accommodate your passion. If you come and visit here are several options for you:

Spero Winery – Ig you are driving through Denver at some point in your travels, you definitely want to make a stop at Spero Winery. About 75% of their wines use Western Slope grapes with the remaining coming from California. The owners are Sicilian and expert winemakers. All the wines are aged to some degree before selling. They offer at least 15 different wines. Our favorites were the Cab Franc and Sangiovese – both using Colorado grapes. The wine is also reasonably priced!

Ten Bears Winery – This is a nice gem of a winery on the northern side of Fort Collins on Hwy 287. The winery has several acres of grapes used for their Estate blend but the 90% of their wine uses Colorado grapes.  Take some cheese and crackers, enjoy the reasonably priced tasting and the view of the foothills in the distance!

10 bears lisa

10 bears tasting.jpg

Blue Mountain Winery –  This is a super little winery in Berthoud, about 30 miles south of Fort Collins. It makes a wonderful afternoon activity. There are eight wines in the tasting which includes a stroll through the beautiful gardens that have a view of the mountains. Reservations are required as there are limited scheduled group tastings on the weekend. The vintner uses primarily high-quality California grapes with a few from the Western Slope. A microbiologist by trade, he has a gift and a nose for making excellent wines.

blue mountain winery mountain view

Front Range Wine Fest – If you come for a visit in August, be prepared to go to the Front Range Wine Fest!  It’s the third Saturday in August! There are over 30 Colorado wineries represented from both sides of the slopes. As with most wines, some are marginal and some are outstanding. This is where we discovered Spero Winery!

If you enjoy wine with meals, there are several options to pair a wonderful dinner with a satisfying wine.

Origins Pizza – This Neopolitan style pizzeria is owned by two sommeliers, so you know your wines are going to be outstanding. There are usually four casked wines – two whites and two reds and a great representation of other varietals and blends by the glass or bottle. The food is outstanding as well.

Mary’s Lake Lodge – If you are planning a day in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, we highly recommend a late lunch/early dinner at Tavern 1929 at Mary’s Lake Lodge. The building erected in 1913 has earned its place on the State Register of Historic Properties for its unique character. While you dine, you will have a fantastic view of the mountains and can enjoy not only house brews but house wines as well. They have a short but excellent wine list but it is the pours that make it unique. We call them the Mary’s Lake Pour.

Mary Lake pour.jpg

 

 

 

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!

 

Holiday Twin Drive In Movie Theater

If you are wanting a little retro activity in your vacation plans, the Holiday Twin Drive-In Theater is just up your alley. If you are bringing your family, this will soon be a family favorite.

The Holiday Twin sits on Overland Trail across from Horsetooth Range. From a scene a little reminiscent of Field of Dreams, cars line up on this country road to gain access to the theater. Many moviegoers come in their cars but the best viewing is from the back of a pickup. It’s not uncommon for people to bring their blow up mattresses, blankets and pillows for a four-hour movie adventure.

Fort Collins offers perfect weather for old-time drive-in movie watching. Never humid, sometimes a bit cool, but almost always a clear night with a beautiful sunset to the West. Then a starry, starry night.

Screenings are from mid-April through September. Concession stands available on site.

holiday twin

 

Farmer’s Markets

Driving across the Front Range from Denver to Fort Collins, one can see many, many old farm houses. Some are dilapidated and vacant. Some are still occupied. Still others are transformed into working farms, businesses or incorporated into a new subdivision as a club or activity house. Our own subdivision, Nelson Farm, was a successful dairy farm.  As a transplant, I have this grandiose vision of how beautiful it must have been in the early 20th century for a farmer with a view of the Rocky Mountains. Although many farms are now gone or gobbled up by subdivisions, the spirit of “farm to plate” is still strong and the entrepreneurial spirit of handmade and homegrown goods from goat’s milk soaps to farm-raised tilapia under hydroponic greens brings a new century of farming to the area.

Outdoor Farmer’s Markets are available from June through at least September. 2015 was particularly mild so the markets were open through October. In the summer, there are three to choose from but the most popular is the Saturday market downtown. We tend to shop at the Sunday market that is about a mile from our house. In the winter, the market is in the Opera House. Some vendors are there only in the winter. Some sell at both.

I was pleasantly surprised with the winter market – winter vegetables, mushrooms, cheese galore, a Greek olive oil vendor, several bakers and an assortment of crafters. The winter Saturday market has a variety of vendors, from the Blue Mountain Winery in Berthoud to fresh mushrooms, pastas, breads sauces, along with the usual produce. One of my favorites was Turned Silks. The crafter repurposes sweaters into cool wearable art. An intriguing finds at the winter market was Quatrix which offers beautiful lettuce and herbs and tilapia grown in an aquaponic environment.

If you visit between June and October, summer’s bounty will be at its peak!

More information in case you were curious:

John Nelson, one of the region’s first and most successful dairy farmers, immigrated with his wife in 1871 from Ayrshire, Scotland, to the Fort Collins area. He purchased 240 acres just 3 1/2 miles southeast of town, near the present intersection of Lemay and Swallow, and built a house and planted wheat and oats. There was only prairie stretching in all directions. Some believe the grasshopper plague of 1874-1876 persuaded Nelson to switch to dairying. He brought the first herd of registered Jersey cows into Larimer County. This was the county’s first dairy business, and some historians say it was the first in the state. Building on Nelson’s success, other farmers began dairying operations as well. In the 20th century, a number of local dairies operated profitably, as milk production has remained an important industry. In addition to his dairy operation, Nelson also raised Clydesdale horses for a time. Around 1880, he built a sandstone milk house which has been preserved and is all that remains of the farm.

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.

Taprooms and Pubs

mayor taps

Here is a condensed listing of the tap rooms and pubs in the Fort Collins area.

More details on each, including hours, beers, wine, cocktails, food menus, and their websites can be found at: http://fortcollinsbreweryguide.com/taprooms.aspx

Fort Collins

The Forge Publick House

The Forge is a really cozy tap room that is located in downtown Fort Collins with a quality selection of beer. Bring cash because this place doesn’t take plastic, but they do have an ATM so you can get cash. This place is somewhat hard to find and is located down the Firehouse Alley. They don’t open until 4:00 and they’ve recently expanded where there are two separate bars to sit at, and the back bar is only open on weekends.

The Moot House

The Moot House has been a mainstay in Fort Collins since the 1970s. Right off of College Avenue in south Fort Collins, this place started serving Odell “Golden Ale” back in 1988, which was the first beer that Doug Odell of Odell Brewing made. After recently finishing a remodel of their bar, beer has become more of a focus here. A great selection of 30 different craft beer taps with a new menu, and still has the great English pub look. The patio here is a great spot to enjoy your favorite craft beer!

Choice City Butcher and Deli

Choice City has really great food paired with great beer in a casual atmosphere with a really cool beer tap handle collection. This spot is usually hoppin’ for breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. On Wednesday nights starting at 4pm, go in and enjoy their sliders and beer special. Ranked by ratebeer.com as among the top ten places worldwide for beer selection, Choice City offers microbrews from around the United States and the world. We particularly enjoyed their Reuben sandwiches on one of our earlier trips to the area.

Black Bottle Brewery

This is a great little, hidden gem that made both our brewery and tap room lists because they brew their own beer and serve other beers as well. Not too far from Waterford Inn, and near the Spring Creek trail, it’s an easy bike ride. Black Bottle Brewery brews their own beer, out of sight in the basement, just below where you sit.  BBB has 40 taps, a full-service bar with wine and liquor and an excellent menu. Along with rotating selections of their own beer, they feature guest taps from other breweries in Colorado and from around the world.

Tap N Handle

The Tap N Handle is a great pub (just across the street from Choice City Butcher & Deli) in downtown Fort Collins where beer is truly the focus. They are one of two Fort Collins own named to America’s 100 best beer bars, 2015 by Draft Magazine; no brewpubs, no breweries, just 100 fantastic bars that do craft beer better than anywhere else.  If you’re eclectic in your beer choices, the Tap N Handle offers you local, national and international flavors! A really sweet little food menu with tasty food at reasonable prices. The Honey Sriracha wings are a really good pairing with beer. Head to the back and downstairs for Pinball, a foosball table, darts and video games.

The Mayor of Old Town

The Mayor of Old Town is a fantastic place for beer lovers, where they have 100 taps flowing! Yes, that’s right…100 TAPS of awesome choices! Once you walk in the front entrance you’re taken aback by a huge digital menu with all the beers they have on tap. They are one of two Fort Collins own named to America’s 100 best beer bars, 2015 by Draft Magazine; no brewpubs, no breweries, just 100 fantastic bars that do craft beer better than anywhere else.  Upscale bar food is available. This beer oasis is very close to Colorado State University campus and is in downtown Fort Collins area.

Ace Gillett’s

Downtown, in the basement of a boutique hotel, this is a throwback treasure.  A classic cocktail lounge setting, they have the best selection of Belgian beers in town.  With delightful dishes and classy cocktails, Ace Gillett’s offers delicious food and drinks that are sure to satisfy!  We had the most amazing duck confit with polenta and pork cheeks with orecchiette. Be sure to check out the bar manager’s videos!

William Oliver’s Publick House

The nearest taproom to the Waterford Inn, William Oliver’s began as Fort Collins first dedicated whiskey bar and quickly transformed into a beloved neighborhood pub.  They feature plenty of local beers, darts, and a kitchen where their menu is dominated by bacon and pork dishes. They have the largest selection of whiskey in the area and offer varying sizes of whiskey flights.

Otto Pint

Otto Pint is the next closest tap room and eatery to us. It is less than a mile and we can bike to it. The pizza is very thin crust and my favorite is the Schezuan spicy chicken honey pizza. Otto Pint donates 100% of its charitable contributions to www.mantherapy.org. 

Blind Pig

Fort Collins Brewery – Gravity 1020

We have eaten at Gravity twice and both times it was excellent. Situated within the Fort Collins Brewery site, it offers a full menu and of course, FCB beer. This is a super place to go as brewery destination followed by an excellent meal.

Scrumpys

This cidery took the place of our favorite haunt – Crankensteins. We loved Cranks – a bike shop turned coffee shop, pub, hangout for the young hip/cool. Ah well. With that said, our friends who love cider will love this place. Great cider and sandwiches! Live music on the weekend!

Coopersmiths

Social

I loved Social! It’s a super cocktail bar with a fabulous cocktail and wine list. Their claim to fame are throwback drinks, sommelier-selected wines and a charcuterie serving innovative cheese and meat boards. On a first trip, four of us split the Marble Rye. The salmon pate was outstanding as well as the empanadas. Situated in underground Fort Collins, it has a great ambience of Parisien art nouveau meets 21st century industrial. Cozy. A bit loud but a cool place for visitors to see what is happening under the streets of downtown.

Loveland

Pourhouse

In downtown Loveland, featuring 70 beers on tap, large menu with recipes from around the world, a full bar, and of course live music four nights a week without ever having a cover charge.