Located in the west-central portion of Colorado along the shores of the Colorado River, Grand Junction is a city of about 60,000 residents and is the seat of Mesa County.
Grand Junction is just a short drive away from the neighboring state of Utah to the west. Its location on the western slopes of the Rockies makes it a natural fit for those who prefer small cities to big ones, and outdoor attractions and natural beauty to hustle and bustle and upscale shopping.
Below are 14 things to do in and around Grand Junction, Colorado, that warrant a look for first-time visitors to the area.
1. Colorado National Monument
Featuring majestic natural formations of stratified rock in vibrant reds, bronzes, and oranges that tower over the ground below, the Colorado National Monument is an iconic Colorado attraction that’s one of the most visited and photographed sites in the western part of the state.
It’s located just a short drive from Grand Junction on Rim Rock Drive in the town of Fruita, and for lovers of the natural world in all its splendor, it’s a must-visit attraction.
Consider picking up a free map and watching an introduction video at the monument’s visitor’s center before heading out on the trails for self-guided exploration.
2. Avalon Theater
For many travelers intent on visiting more commercial attractions, local theaters are often overlooked, but for lovers of live entertainment and classic movies on the big screen, they’re great resources that shouldn’t be missed.
Grand Junction’s Avalon Theater is located on Main Street near the downtown area and was originally built in the early ‘20s.
Though it fell into disuse for much of its existence, it has undergone a number of renovations over the years and now offers a variety of entertainment options, including independent, foreign, and classic films, as well as dramatic theater, concerts, and dance recitals.
3. Grand Junction Motor Speedway
Despite its stunning natural beauty and abundance of historical attractions, if they were being honest, many travelers would tell you that after a few days, they find themselves longing for more exhilarating activities.
If that sounds like you and your travel companions, consider devoting a few hours to motorized mayhem at Grand Junction Motor Speedway.
It’s a family-centered attraction that features go-karts for those of most ages, and some scheduled races, including Supercross motorcycles and drag racing in the mud.
Food and drinks are available on-site, and visitors should plan on going home tired, fulfilled, and smelling like exhaust fumes and burnt rubber.
4. The Museums of Western Colorado
The Museums of Western Colorado is a complex comprised of several museums and historic attractions, making it the largest facility of its kind in the vast expanse of wild country between Denver to the east and Salt Lake City to the west.
Boasting one-of-a-kind collections featuring everything from ancient Native American pottery and settler-era weapons to local art and first-hand accounts of those who participated in the taming of the west, it’s the kind of place that lovers of history and western lore usually end-up spending hours.
The museums have been around for decades, and many visitors choose to join a regularly scheduled docent tour.
The Museum of Western Colorado – Dinosaur Journey in Fruita gives visitors a unique look into the past that they won’t find elsewhere.
5. Cross Orchards Historic Site
With a history that dates back to the days just before the turn of the 20th century, the Cross Orchards Historic Site gives visitors a unique insight into the lives of those who eked their livings from western Colorado’s harsh environment in a time when it was full dangerous animals, hostile natives, and an unforgiving climate.
By some estimations, in their heyday, the orchard was home to more than 20,000 individual fruit trees. These days, the site is populated by actors dressed in period garb who go about their days much like the original inhabitants did more than a century ago.
The site includes historic buildings, informative signs, and a renovated train station as well.
6. Main Street Bagels
Featuring fast Wi-Fi, comfy seats, delectable coffee, and a variety of baked goods made on-site from scratch daily, there’s really nothing not to like about Main Street Bagels.
The shop is located near the downtown area and has been in business since 1995.
Of course, bagels are the stars of the show, but their menu includes tons of other options, like artisan bread, sandwiches, juices, smoothies, and salads. According to loyal customers, their coffee is hard to beat.
Main Street Bagels is located inside a historic building and features an inviting mix of traditional and contemporary styling that’s got loads more character than its national chain competitors.
7. James M. Robb Colorado River State Park
In many ways, the Colorado River is the thread that connects many of the western states, and it’s a natural wonder that really should be experienced.
The James M. Robb Colorado River State Park is made up of five areas that include portions of river, lake, islands, and wildlife preservation land.
Due to its vastness and variety of activity options, the park is where many outdoorsy types spend significant amounts of their time when in the area.
During the winter, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing are popular, and in the warmer spring and summer months, kayaking, hiking, and fishing are great ways to spend a day.
8. Rockslide Restaurant and Brewery
For lovers of locally-made craft brews and quaint microbreweries, Colorado is a mecca, and suds aficionados could spend weeks hopping from location to location without seeing them all.
For more than 25 years, Rockslide Restaurant and Brewery has been offering locals and visitors great beer and food and a pleasant atmosphere in which to enjoy them together.
Their beer offerings run the gamut from light and refreshing to dark and brooding, and their menu includes traditional bar classics like mac ‘n cheese, gourmet burgers, and conventional English-style fish and chips.
They’re open daily, and their Sunday brunch is always a big hit.
9. First Fridays
Even small towns in rural parts of the country have jumped on the First Fridays bandwagon. For lovers of art, culture, and socializing, they’re fun and usually free events that shouldn’t be passed up.
Grand Junction’s First Fridays typically begin at six and end at about 9 PM, but for those not ready to call it a night, many revelers choose to meet at nearby bars and restaurants afterward to continue the fun.
The event includes lots of amazing art supplied by local artists and galleries. Though adult beverages are the preferred method of quenching most visitor’s thirsts, it’s a family-friendly event that’s a lot of fun for little ones as well.
10. Enstrom Candies
For nearly six decades, Enstrom Candies has been a favorite spot for those with an insatiable sweet tooth for which homemade confections are the only cure.
Though it was officially founded in 1960, Enstrom’s history dates back much further into the past, when the establishment’s much-loved recipes for things like Butter Brickle ice cream and Almond Toffee were perfected.
All of Enstrom’s candies are made on-site by hand using the highest quality ingredients. Lovers of all things sweet agree that they’re head and shoulders above the competition.
Enstrom Candies is located on Colorado Avenue, and they serve coffee, ice cream, and milkshakes too.
11. Jet Boat Colorado
Though it may not be a good fit for your arthritic grandmother, jet boating is a unique and exhilarating way to experience the Colorado River.
Jet Boat Colorado is located in nearby De Buque, and offers a variety of tour options, many of which are appropriate for those of nearly all ages.
Jet boats are powerful crafts designed to skim over relatively shallow, rocky, and turbulent water that would stop most boats in their tracks. Most guests agree that their hours spent on the river were among the most memorable of their trip.
Their season runs from May until August, and they offer rafting and guided nature tours as well.
12. Chipeta Golf Course
For diehard golfers who want to squeeze in a round without spending half the day on the course, Chipeta Golf Course would be a great fit.
It features 18 scenic holes like most courses, but it’s an executive style facility, which in laymen’s terms means it’s shorter than most of its contemporaries.
The course is known for its open fairways, stunning mountain views, and minimal water hazards, all of which make losing balls hard to do even for the most erratic hackers.
Generally, a round takes about three hours or so, which leaves plenty of sunlight left to accommodate other adventures.
13. Two Rivers Winery
Though many varieties of wine grapes are fragile and intolerant to small changes in climate and soil, others are hearty and do quite well in relatively harsh environments like western Colorado.
Two Rivers Winery is located just west of downtown Grand Junction. Though the area in which it’s located is certainly no Napa Valley, it produces delicious wines that have won coveted awards and are turning heads in the wine world.
In addition to its picturesque location, the winery offers sommelier-led tours and tastings that are fun for seasoned aficionados and wine newbies alike.
Call in advance if you’ll be visiting with a large group.
14. Dominguez Canyon
Due to its remoteness and the distance it lies from the nearest trailhead, Dominguez Canyon is largely the exclusive realm of seasoned and fit hikers.
The canyon is about four miles in from the Bridgeport Trail and features some of the most well-preserved Native American hieroglyphs in the area.
The trail includes only moderate changes in elevation and is clearly marked, so getting lost won’t be a concern. Previous hikers have noted that it’s wise to wear rugged shoes, pack plenty of snacks and water, and take appropriate clothing as the weather can change quickly.
The petroglyphs can be found on numerous rocks that start at about the 3 ½ mile marker.