July is truly the heart of summer. It’s hot, sunny, and there ain’t a care in the air. July falls perfectly behind all of the hustle of finishing school in the spring with still enough time to relax before it starts back up in the fall again (this goes for students and parents!). If you’re looking for summer fun, July is the perfect time to knock some items off your summer bucket list. You don’t have one of those? Well, you’re about to!
With the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us (hallelujah!) we can get back to normal summer activities, events, and more. Let’s start with the local city of love…
Boyd Lake is a summer essential that sits in the heart of Loveland. Boyd allows all types of water activities like swimming, fishing, boating, jet skiing, and paddleboarding. The lake also has a variety of camping spaces, walking/biking trails, and secluded spots for picnics! A day pass for Boyd Lake is relatively cheap and it’s sure to bring a day packed with fun.
If you’re looking for more of a hike, there are lots of easy to moderate trails on the Loveland foothills. These trails are well-maintained and often kid-friendly! I suggest taking a look at the free AllTrails app to see what kind of hikes are in your search criteria (distance, difficulty, elevation, etc.). The best part? A lot of these trailheads are only a short drive away!
For a nice summer walk and picnic, Loveland is home to several sculpture gardens. In the city there’s the Sculpture in the Park exhibit as well as the Benson Sculpture Garden, but I also recommend checking out the Chapungu Sculpture Park just down the road in Centerra!
The best way to meet new people this summer is to get out there and try something new. There are events happening around Loveland every day of the week if you know where to look. For example, Fairgrounds Park hosts the Loveland Farmers Market every Sunday from 9am to 1pm and a weekly food truck rally every Wednesday evening. You can also check out this website to explore free fitness classes, art classes, and other special events!
A close neighbor to us is Fort Collins. Since this city is such a hot spot, there’s plenty to do around here.
Horsetooth lake is a FoCo essential. Did you know that the reservoir is a significant part of the Big Thompson Water Project? Horsetooth supplies millions of people with their water for homes and businesses - and most of the water is actually diverted from the western slope. Water needs aside, Horsetooth lake is a great spot for water activities. There are several swim beaches and well-maintained boat docks. Choose your water activity, and you can do it here. The lake also has many campsites at South Bay and Inlet Bay.
There are walking and biking trails that lace all over the city of Fort Collins, but there’s also a huge variety of hikes to explore! One of my favorite easy “hikes” (it’s more of a pleasant walk) is around Dixon Reservoir. For a longer hike, the trails up to Horsetooth Falls and Horsetooth rock are well-maintained and frequented by many. Gazing across the Colorado plains from the west side of the lake is truly something to behold. The AllTrails app also has a bunch of hikes and trails listed for Fort Collins (and many other places).
Another fun FoCo fact for you: did you know that portions of Disneyland’s Main Street was inspired by old town Fort Collins? It’s true! Old town is the heart of the city where you can discover something new every time you’re there. Park in one of the garages and you can walk to restaurants, bars, boutiques, concert venues, art shows, and so much more. Parking is relatively cheap and the area is easily walkable. Old town is also home to several historical sites and multi-generational family businesses. If you haven’t taken the time to really check out old town FoCo, this is your sign to get down there!
An extra special Fort Collins event returns this year after being put on hold during the pandemic: Taste of Fort Collins. This music, food, and cultural event is a favorite for locals. Weekend passes are sold out, but you may be able to snag some last minute tickets through radio contests or local business giveaways. If not, you can still wander the streets of old town on July 24th and 25th and listen to the bands from a distance. If you can’t make it this year, keep it on your radar for next year!
And, of course, the city of Fort Collins also has many events to choose from - at least one every day! Just like Loveland, FoCo has weekly farmers markets and food truck rallys. And don’t forget the art classes, fitness classes, trivia nights, and local concerts! Check out this site to see what’s coming up soon!
The only thing I’m not crazy about when it comes to summer adventures is long travel. Sure, Steamboat Springs or Palisade have amazing summer activities and events (check them out if you can!), but they also require more time and money (gas, food, lodging, activities, etc.). If you look a little closer to home, you’re sure to find plenty to do that doesn’t break the bank and keeps you in charge of your time. Denver can seem unassuming, but if you know what to look for, you’re in for a great day trip!
For some fun for the whole family, Denver is home to two main amusement parks. Elitch Gardens is a theme and water park that has been in business for more than 100 years and spanning three centuries! In 1995, the “new” Elitch’s that we know today was built. The park contains a multitude of thrilling roller coasters, water rides, games, and more. For some cooler fun, Waterworld is a water park with dozens of pools, water slides, and rides. There are calmer sections for younger families as well as high-thrill pools and attractions for the adventurers out there!
Possibly my favorite thing to do in Denver: the aquarium! The Downtown Aquarium is perfect to visit on a hot, hot day. All of the attractions are indoors, and it’s educational fun for everyone. You’ll see some cool animals here, and there’s even a stingray touch pool. If you’re looking to spend some time in the sun, the Denver Zoo houses hundreds of animals from around the world. The zoo is also celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, so keep a lookout for special events!
Denver is also home to a multitude of museums, concert venues, national sports teams, and performing/visual arts centers. And just like Loveland and Fort Collins, Denver has events around the city nearly every day. There’s almost too much to choose from!
If you’re a little tight on spending money this summer, don’t fret! There are so many amazing things you can do in and around your own home that still bring summer fun.
I love tending to my outdoor garden every day. It’s the one thing that has been consistent in my routine in the past few years. Even if you don’t have a yard, container gardening is actually my preferred method. Check out the March blog from earlier this year to get a good feel for what you need. You could also try your hand at caring for indoor houseplants. This is something new that I’m doing this year and it’s been so fun! I’m almost worried I’ll end up with too many plants in my house!
After over a year of COVID-19 restrictions, masks, and distancing, take some time to reconnect with friends and family you haven’t seen in awhile. Hosting a potluck takes a significant load off of you for food preparation, and you can even get creative with it. You could give each person attending a “theme” for their food to abide by, or get silly and try an “anything but a cup” party.
Northern Colorado is truly a spectacular place to enjoy these hot summer months. You can always find something new behind every corner, so don’t let your search for summer fun end here! If you are looking to get a little further from home, there are some beautiful gems in the state where nonstop fun awaits. Here are just a few of my personal recommendations from my own experience:
Manitou Springs lies just outside of Colorado Springs with gorgeous views of the foothills. This little city is a popular spot for everyone, especially families. You can take a tram to the top of Pikes Peak and check out the retro penny arcade. From Loveland, it’s just about a two hour drive, so you could make a day trip of it if necessary!
For some more thrill, Canon City sits right along the Arkansas River, where you can visit the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, ride a train along the river, or raft right down the center of the gorge! This area has a variety of camping areas to choose from, and many businesses host zipline tours, ropes course adventures, and unique attractions. I highly recommend checking this area out; it’s about a three hour drive and well worth a several night stay.
Keep in mind that some of these places and activities may still have COVID-19 restrictions in place, so do your research before you go. Don’t forget that SPF, and have a great summer here in NoCO!