Fort Collins vs. Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs has Old Colorado City, while Fort Collins has Old Town Fort Collins. So, if you’re into charming neighborhoods with plenty to see and do, both cities won’t disappoint. But if you’d rather spend more time hiking, Colorado Springs has the upper hand. Needless to say, Fort Collins’ craft beer scene is arguably more diverse. Before packing your bags, read this guide to get the most out of your vacation.
Fort Collins vs. Colorado Springs

Table of Contents

Having vacationed in both cities, either Fort Collins or Colorado Springs are great choices. But depending on your travel personality, Fort Collins might call to you more if you want a lot of naturistic getaways.

Colorado Springs, on the other hand, has a mix of both beautiful landscapes and outdoor adventures. This isn’t to say Fort Collins doesn’t have any outdoor adventure, though.

But for an adventurous soul, Colorado Springs feels like home. And for a nature lover, Fort Collins feels like paradise.

Fort Collins

Compared to Colorado Springs, Fort Collins is much smaller, so it has a close-knitted community feel. At the same time, this also means getting around Fort Collins is incredibly easy.

When Fort Collins comes to mind, don’t expect a vibrant nightlife or loud city. Rather, the charming city feels more rural and it’s a lot more spread out.

This is why Fort Collins is perfect for vacationers that prefer a laid-back city. With plenty of outdoor spaces, visiting Fort Collins is all about having more downtime and taking all the sights in. Or put simply, you come to Fort Collins mostly to relax and have a take-it-easy kind of vacation.

In addition, Fort Collins, or FoCo for short, is a fantastic place for families to spend their vacation in. In fact, FoCo ranked as one of the 14 Best Places to Travel in 2019. And family-friendly is just one of the great reasons why it was hailed as one of the best.

If you’re wondering what is there to do in Fort Collins, the next sections go into more detail about that.

What Makes Fort Collins Unique?

Old Town Fort Collins

You can’t visit Fort Collins and miss out on Old Town. For any traveler, exploring Old Town Fort Collins is a must-do.

Imagine European-style walkways, Tivoli lights, and potted flowers and shrubs. There’s no doubt Old Town Fort Collins is one of the best places to be in the city. It’s perfectly safe to walk around at night whether you’re alone or with kids.

The quaint neighborhood also has all the vacation essentials you need. Think shopping, coffee break, dining, nightlife, art centers, historical landmarks, and more.

When it comes to dining options, there are over 80 restaurants to choose from. You can go from pizza to Asian cuisine, food trucks to fine dining, and cafes to craft breweries.

You can also ride the trolley car if you want to get a quick glance and general overview of what’s around town.

What’s more, Old Town Fort Collins is situated along the Cache la Poudre River, a popular city attraction. So, if you’re looking for a good place to read a book and spend your mornings in peace, Old Town is it.

But if you’re looking for the town’s party side, that’s not a problem too. There are several places to grab a cold margarita, tequila shot for a good buzz, or craft beer to keep you pinned to your seat.

Not in the mood for alcohol? Don’t worry, Old Town also showcases live entertainment, theater shows, and art galleries.

Head to OpenStage, Lincoln Center, or Bas Bleu if you’re after theater performances. The Creative District is where you’ll find the town’s hub of art and creativity scene.

As for live entertainment, you’ll have to check online for any festivals or concerts coming up. A few of the most raved-about festivals that happen in Old Town include the following:

  • FoCoMX
  • Tour de Fat
  • Colorado Brewers’ Festival
  • Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest

There’s also the Foodie Walk and Gallery Walk, which happens every month. All in all, Old Town is one of the best reasons to visit Fort Collins. You could visit day after day and find something new to experience and explore.

Cache la Poudre River

If reconnecting with nature is at the top of your travel itinerary, the Poudre River is the best place to start. The Cache la Poudre River offers vacationers more than just a glance.

You can explore the entire area in several ways: biking, hiking, and whitewater rafting. There are also biking and walking tours if you’re traveling as a group. For history buffs, there are numerous historical sites around the area.

And last but not least, there’s also the Poudre River Trail if you prefer a quiet hike or leisurely walk. Near the Cache la Poudre River is also the Cache la Poudre River Canyon.

There, you’ll find a host of recreational activities, with whitewater rafting being the most popular. Other activities in the area include kayaking, fishing, hiking, biking, and camping.

In the winter, the Cache la Poudre River Canyon offers travelers to do the following activities:

  • Snowshoeing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Cross-country skiing

Now, there’s one more attraction that’s also worth mentioning: the Cache la Poudre Scenic Byway. This scenic route passes along the Cache la Poudre River. It’s also one of the state’s most beautiful scenic highways.

So if you’re after a change of pace, be sure to add the Cache la Poudre Scenic Byway to your list of adventures. The route boasts adventure, relaxation, and reconnecting with nature all in one trip.

Plus, you’ll even get to see wildlife along the way, like Bighorn Sheep.

Outdoor Paradises

There’s no mistaking that Fort Collins is a haven for outdoor paradises. Grey Rock, Horsetooth Reservoir, City Park, and Arthur’s Rock are just some of the many nature getaways in the city.

Among all, Horsetooth Reservoir ranks as the most stunning. And it’s only a few minutes away from Old Town Fort Collins too.

But that’s not even the best part of visiting Horsetooth Reservoir. Its natural beauty is also perfect for a wide variety of recreational activities. Hiking, mountain biking, SUP paddleboarding, water skiing, and horseback riding are activities you can do.

Not to mention, Horsetooth Reservoir is arguably one of the best spots for bouldering in Colorado.

Just as breathtaking of an experience is also the Cache la Poudre River Canyon. And if you prefer an outdoor paradise that’s closer to the city, there’s always City Park.

The park is home to the beautiful Sheldon Lake and offers a few recreational water activities to do. In the winter, you can go skating at the lake as well. Or, do the self-guided tree tour which is available year-round and boasts 220+ tree varieties.

Up for a good hike and panoramic views? There are a lot of trails to choose from:

  • Arthur’s Rock
  • Pineridge Trail
  • Meadows Trail
  • Greyrock Summit Trail
  • Soapstone Prairie Natural Area

Finally, a worthy special mention is the Mishawaka Amphitheatre. Now, it might be perfect for concerts and live events, but it’s also located on the banks of the Cache la Poudre River.

Apart from enjoying a good live performance at Mishawaka, you can also go hiking here. Even better, feel free to explore the area as you take in the amazing landscapes and stunning backdrop.

And if ever you start to feel parched or hungry, there’s a restaurant and bar located in the same area.

The Craft Beer Capital of Colorado

At the heart of this beer mountain town sits a craft brew scene that draws in hundreds of thousands. New Belgium Brewery, responsible for FoCo’s craft beer explosion, is a craft brew powerhouse.

It’s definitely a must-visit. The brewery’s wide assortment of IPAs and sour beers are worth a sip.

Countless breweries have also entered the scene and produced unique brews that leave an explosion of an impression.

For one of the best chocolate stouts in the state, Snowbank is the perfect spot. If you want high-quality homebrewed beer, Odell Brewing Company won’t disappoint. The brewery has been a strong contender in the craft beer industry for more than three decades. And its top-selling brews are always worth a buy: Peach Stand Rambler and Mountain Standard IPA.

Prefer a darker brew? You’ll find the tastiest at Horse & Dragon. For a great blend of munchies and beer, Maxline Brewing offers a food truck experience and their Peach Mango Pale Ale.

Similar to Maxline Brewing, Obstacle Brewing, and Grill is also worth checking out. You can grab their Italian nachos or meat and cheese boards which go well with any of their beers.

Don’t miss out on the new craft brewery in town either, Stodgy Brewing. This brewery might be younger compared to its craft brewery siblings, but that’s not going to stop Stodgy from making great beer.

You’ll find a vast assortment of beers at Stodgy, along with classic choices like their American Lager and Imperial Stout. The brewery’s Juicy Pale Ale, Hoppy Farmhouse, Mexican Lager, and Scottish Ale are also great buys.

Last but not least, Equinox Brewing is the perfect place for beer drinking and mingling with the locals. They serve more than a dozen beers on tap, along with unique blends you can’t resist not trying at least once:

  • Space Ghost IPA
  • Pedal Power IPA
  • Sunrise Golden Ale

It’s worth mentioning that Equinox Brewing also snagged a Silver Award at the Great American Beer Festival.

For more award-winning brews, check out Funkwerks. The brewery didn’t just garner awards at the Great American Beer Festival. It also produced top-notch craft beers during the World Beer Cup and Festival of Wood and Aged-Barrel Beer.

And just when you think you’ve seen it all, take note that Fort Collins has even more breweries to visit. Mythmaker Brewing, Gilded Goat Brewing, and SweetWater Brewing Company are just as impressive.

Colorado Springs

Like Fort Collins, Colorado Springs is a city that offers adventure and dozens of places to unwind. Colorado Springs might be bigger, but it also has that close-knitted community feeling.

That said, you have more outdoor opportunities overall. And it’s not limited to adrenaline seekers too. Families, kids, and honeymooners can all easily find an outdoor activity to do.

When it comes to sightseeing, Colorado Springs is rich with attractions to see. Museums, mining towns, cultural landmarks, and the ever-famous Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods.

There’s also the Broadmoor Cog Railway Train, offering families and even solo travelers a beatific scenic escape.

What Colorado Springs has over Fort Collins is undoubtedly its landscape beauty. Popular for being home to America’s Mountain, Colorado Springs is full of beautiful scenery.

And overall, this city will surely please your vacation cravings. Whether you’re an outdoor junkie, nature lover, or solitude seeker.

What Makes Colorado Springs Unique?

Diverse Food Scene

Foodie or not, Colorado Springs has everything to satisfy anyone’s palate. You can hop from budget eats to hole-in-the-wall diners to gourmet restaurants.

Where to start your food journey in Colorado Springs?

For a hearty breakfast without breaking the bank, the Mountain Shadows Restaurant is an unrivaled pick. Go for their Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs if you want to dig into local favorites. Or, you can never go wrong with an All-American breakfast classic: the French Toast Combo.

There’s also the Garden of the Gods Market Café if you prefer to dine with a view. For late risers, Denver Biscuit Co serves delicious plates perfect for brunch.

Now if you prefer to dive straight into lunch, your options are endless, really. Four by Brother Luck serves an excellent truffle mac and cheese. Their New York Strip is a favorite for meat lovers too.

Looking for seafood? One of the best you’ll find in the city is Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar. Alternatively, Kohnami Sushi is a fantastic option. There’s also Bird Dog BBQ, hailed as the “Best BBQ in Colorado Springs.”

Don’t miss Pizzeria Rustica either. Their homemade pizza sauce is something else. For date nights and special occasions, Pepper Tree Restaurant is a go-to if you want steak and seafood. But if you don’t mind the splurge, these are all fine high-quality restaurants you can choose from:

  • Summit
  • Carlos’ Bistro
  • The Warehouse
  • The Margarita at Pine Creek
  • The Steakhouse at Flying Horse

Lastly, Colorado Springs is also home to a wide array of diverse cuisines. Ambli Global Cuisine is a Turkish restaurant famous for its dynamic flavors and spices.

Marigold Café & Bakery is a beloved local gem if you’re craving French cuisine. Their Beef Bourguignon is an absolute delight you won’t regret.

Missing Mexican cuisine? There’s Milagro’s Cocina Mexicana for traditional Mexican entrees. Whereas PigLatin Cocina is a food truck establishment that serves bold Caribbean and Latin taco flavors.

Overall, you have countless food options in Colorado Springs. And if you’re not spending the day hiking or strolling around town, exploring the city’s food scene will always leave you satisfied.

Enchanting Places to Escape To

There’s a reason why Colorado Springs is home to America’s Mountain. And there are several reasons why the city is also hailed as one of the most beautiful places in America.

From majestic castles to spectacular landscapes, Colorado Springs is rich with scenic wonder.

Start your scenic escape at either of the two most popular attractions:

  • Pikes Peak
  • Garden of the Gods

Both landscapes are popular for their recreational activities. But there’s more to do in the area than simply hiking and biking along the trails.

There are jeep and segway tours for the whole family. What’s more, you’ll also find a ton of hotspots for photography, picnicking, or simply admiring the entire landscape in awe.

If you want more breathtaking views, be sure to visit the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park. You can ride an aerial gondola if you prefer a quiet, breathtaking escape with nature all around. Alternatively, there’s also zip-lining for thrill seekers.

Then, venture into the wilderness along the Gold Belt Scenic Byway. Here, you’ll get up and close with several mining towns and learn a lot about Colorado Springs’ history.

From there, escape to more quiet excursions like the Glen Eyrie Castle and Miramont Castle Museum. After, take a calming break in the restorative waters found only in the Mineral Springs at Manitou Springs.

Finally, end your scenic journey via the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway train. The journey lasts for 3 hours, but it certainly feels a lot shorter.

Throughout the entire train ride, take in all the views and landscape beauty until reaching the summit. Once there, you’ll find there’s no other enchanting place to be.

Safe to say, Colorado Springs’ scenic beauty is unrivaled if you’re after stunning rock formations. With plenty of outdoor spaces to relax in, tourists can embark on a scenic adventure and enjoy a completely restful vacation.

Thrill-Seeking Adventures and Picturesque Hikes

Colorado Springs is an outdoor wonderland. Think massive theme park in the open wilderness surrounded by towering mountains and rock formations.

Hiking and biking trails are spread all throughout Colorado Springs. If you want a challenging hike from the get-go, the Barr Trail will test your endurance limits. The hike is so challenging that even veteran runners consider the trail a worthy foe.

Don’t worry, there’s always room for easier and more laid-back hikes. And sitting at the top of that list is the Broadmoor Seven Falls. The entire trail features picturesque corners and scenery from beginning to end.

At the end of your hike, you’ll see cascading waterfalls – one of the most beautiful scenes in the city.

There’s also the Pikes Peak Highway, which isn’t just hiking but a mix of jeep or bus explorations. There are several tours available for Pikes Peak Highway, along with a mountain bike excursion.

For an adrenaline-pumping experience, do the Wind Walker Challenge Course. You’ll have to climb through steel beams, ladders, and ropes – it’s a 3-story course perfect for outdoor junkies.

And if that’s still not thrill-seeking enough for you, visit Cave of the Winds Mountain Park. There are several courses and tours available here. Some include touring a cave with just candlelight, and others involve crawling through mud in a dark cave.

The main highlight though of Colorado Spring’s outdoor scene is none other than the Manitou Incline. The entire trail runs for just a mile (1.6 km) but demands you to make 2,768 steps.

Not to mention, each step gets heavier because the Manitou Incline is also an elevated hike. The ultimate goal? Apart from breaking through your endurance limits, it’s to reach the summit. Only to find that once you’ve reached it, you’ll have to walk down another 2,768 steps to reach the bottom.

Then again, outdoor enthusiasts can also take the trolley or tram from the summit if they feel too tired. For the serious outdoor junkie, the Manitou Incline is the most heart-racing activity you’ll do.

Finally, don’t miss out on the Cheyenne Mountain State Park. The campgrounds at this state park are perfect for families who love adventure, and you can even stay the night.

Old Colorado City

After all the excursions and outdoor fun, there’s no better place to take a break than in Old Colorado City. The neighborhood is perfect for a recharge, whether that be shopping, nightlife, coffee, or hanging out.

You’ll also find a variety of great eateries here. Paravicini’s Italian Bistro is a local favorite, along with Jorge’s Mexican Restaurant.

Why spend the day in Old Colorado City?

Imagine starting your mornings with a fresh cup of espresso in hand paired with a pain au chocolat. Or, spend the afternoon strolling around and being able to buy unique handmade products. And at the end of the day, you can mingle with the locals or have fun at any of the bars and breweries.

Wandering through Old Colorado City is an itinerary in itself. And its peaceful, laid-back vibes are perfect to spend a quiet morning, lazy afternoon, or fun evening.

In fact, there are dozens of festivals and events that happen yearly. Some of the most famous are the Fall Harvest festival, free art walks, and farmer’s markets.

The farmer’s markets in Old Colorado City typically happen between June to October. Whereas the free art walks are available from April to December. There’s a full list of seasonal festivals you can check online, but here are several worth mentioning as well:

  • Territory Days
  • Cripple Creek Ice Festival
  • Manitou Springs Wine Festival
  • Canon City Music & Blossom Festival
  • Mumbo Jumbo Cook Off & Carnivale Parade

For anyone craving French and European bread, La Baguette and Wimberger’s are award-winning bakeries.

There are also shops to keep kids entertained. Some of these include ABC Candy and Designs and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

Lastly, it’s worth visiting The British Pantry and Tea Room for afternoon tea. You can also check out their gift shop, which offers a wide variety of Irish, Welsh, Scottish, and English goods.

Is Fort Collins Better Than Colorado Springs?

Both Fort Collins and Colorado Springs have much to offer. But at the end of the day, it all depends on what appeals to your vacation needs more.

Both cities don’t have vibrant nightlife. However, Fort Collins is better than Colorado Springs if you’re looking to have more brewery options and cocktail options.

If you’re traveling as a family, Colorado Springs is better if you enjoy daring and thrill-seeking experiences. Fort Collins has a number of adrenaline-pumping adventures, too, but leans more towards outdoor escapes.

In other words, although both cities have plenty of outdoor spaces, Colorado Springs may be better for active travelers. Whereas in Fort Collins, you’re looking at more opportunities to recharge and relax.

The Cache la Poudre River and Horsetooth Reservoir are great examples that make it an outdoor paradise. That said, there are still plenty of hiking, biking, and recreational activities around the city.

Needless to say, Colorado Springs offers more still. Not only is the city home to various places for breaking a sweat, but it also has a lot of scenic beauty.

For solo travelers that want better nightlife, you can’t really go wrong with either. Although in Fort Collins, you’re looking at more craft beer options.

It’s also worth noting that Fort Collins is more evenly spread out. That means you don’t feel crammed into a single place despite the city being much smaller than Colorado Springs.

Compared to Colorado Springs, you’ll see a lot of green spaces in Fort Collins. That might appeal to you more, so it’s worth considering that as a factor too.

All in all, you can’t go wrong with either city. But if you prefer to have a more adventurous vacation, Colorado Springs might be the better fit for you.

In contrast, if you prefer a quiet vacation with some adventure in between and more nature, visit Fort Collins.