Situated in the counties of Adams and Weld, about 20 minutes Northeast of downtown Denver is the vibrant city of Brighton. In fact, this small city of about 35,000 is officially a suburb of Denver, which means visitors get a taste of laid-back suburban life while still having easy access to all the services and amenities of a large urban center.
Brighton’s location on the banks of the South Platte River with striking views of the mountains as a backdrop provides ample opportunity to take part in a wide variety of outdoor activities.
However, despite being a suburb, Brighton is home to a number of cultural and historical attractions, and the lovely downtown area is a fun place to explore. There are also plenty of places to shop without large crowds, including Prairie Shopping Center, Brighton Pavilions, and Village Square Shopping Center.
The event that Brighton is most known for is its yearly Adams County Fair, which features a tomato-throwing contest.
Below are 15 of the best things to do in and around Brighton, Colorado.
1. Adams County Historical Museum
A great way to learn more about Brighton and Adams County as a whole is with a visit to the Adams County Historical Museum. This historical journey starts as soon as you walk through the doors of the stately Victorian-era house.
The main goal of the museum is to preserve the history of the area for generations to come, and to educate locals and visitors alike about how the area evolved over the years. A number of artifacts are on display, including antique cars and a fire engine.
2. Buffalo Run Golf Course
Golfers have a choice of several nearby courses, but Buffalo Run Golf Course in Commerce City, which was designed by Keith Foster, is quite popular due to its spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains and various challenges. The course is operational all year round, and expert staff are available to provide lessons. A golf shop and full-service restaurant are also on-site.
3. The Wild Animal Sanctuary
Nearby Keenesburg is home to a unique wildlife experience that serves two purposes: caring for rescued wild animals and educating the public about a crisis many people are unaware of. The Wild Animal Sanctuary is a beautiful 789-acre refuge for hundreds of animals who have been rescued from illegal captivity, where they were exploited and poorly-treated.
Unlike a zoo, the animals in this sanctuary live in wide-open spaces with other animals, in habitats much like their own. While strolling along the raised walkway, you have the opportunity to see tigers, lions, leopards, mountain lions, wolves, a variety of birds, and much more. The on-site education center features video presentations of amazing rescues and information about the animals and the sanctuary.
4. Barr Lake State Park
Barr Lake State Park in Brighton combines the best of both worlds for outdoor lovers: a body of water and beautiful nature trails. Barr Lake is a popular fishing spot where anglers can cast their lines into the water with hopes of reeling in a variety of fish, including trout, catfish, bass, muskie, and walleye.
The lake is open to boaters too. If hiking is more your thing, there are 12 miles of trails in the park, including an 8.8-mile trail that goes around the lake. The trails are also open to cyclists and horseback riders. Along the way, you can stop at various wildlife viewing stations or relax in the lakeside gazebo and look out for deer, fox, and hundreds of species of birds, including bald eagles.
The on-site Nature Center has interesting exhibits that provide more information about the birds and mammals who make the park their home.
5. Pinocchio’s Italian Eatery
When it comes to high-quality Italian cuisine in Brighton, diners have been trusting Pinocchio’s Italian Eatery to create top-notch, expertly-prepared meals made with the best ingredients available.
The mood in the restaurant is comfortable, the service is friendly, and you have a wide array of choices on the lunch and dinner menu, including Chicken Picatta, Seafood Ravioli, Pinocchio Linguini, Fettucini Alfredo, and Tortellini Alfredo. There are also several gluten-free options, and appetizers and desserts are available too.
6. Brighton Oasis Family Aquatic Park
Visitors wanting to cool off on a hot day should look no further than Brighton Oasis Family Aquatic Park. This outdoor water park features modern amusements, including two large waterslides, a swimming pool with a water basketball area, and a lazy river with two-foot-high waves created with a wave generator.
Also on-site are a concession stand, climbing wall, and lockers.
7. Colorado Clays Shooting Park
Both hobby and competitive shooters of all ages can enjoy a day of shooting experiences at Colorado Clays Shooting Range in Brighton. Skeet, sporting, and trap clays are available, and both a handgun range and long rifle range are on-site.
Enjoy spectacular views of the snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance while you enjoy a fun-filled day. Shotguns are available for rent.
8. Big Choice Brewing and Pizza
Take a trip back to the mid-90s at Big Choice Brewing and Pizza. With craft beer, pizza, good music, and an upbeat atmosphere reminiscent of that era, you are bound to have a night of fun, good food, and good memories.
9. Brighton Recreation Center
Visitors can keep fit and have fun when they head to the Brighton Recreation Center, which is home to a wide variety of modern facilities. The water sports area features an Olympic-size pool, a smaller leisure pool with a water slide, and a hot tub.
The gym area has weights, fitness machines, and cardio equipment available. The aerobic and dance area has a sound system and dance bars. Basketballs courts, volleyball courts, and racquetball courts are also on-site, along with a mile-long indoor walking track.
10. The Berry Patch Farms
Visitors looking for some delicious, fresh produce for healthy meals and snacks during their stay in Brighton can pick their own fruits and vegetables at The Berry Patch Farms. This farm lies on 40 acres of fields filled with certified organic, ready-to-pick strawberries, cucumbers, cherries, raspberries, and much more.
If you have kids traveling with you, they will appreciate the wide-open spaces they can run through while they learn about various fruits and vegetables and see what goes into their production. A range of items is also available at the on-site Barn Store.
11. Go on an Unforgettable Adventure with Fair Winds
Visitors seeking a unique and thrilling way to spend a day can take a flight in a hot air balloon with Fair Winds in nearby Lafayette. Before you take off, you’ll enjoy a complimentary breakfast while trained staff get the balloon ready.
Once onboard, relax and enjoy a glass of champagne while you soar high above sprawling plains and beautiful Rocky Mountain ranges, spotting wildlife roaming freely below.
After your flight, take home a free Fair Winds T-shirt, a flight certificate with your photo on it, and a pin as souvenirs of your memorable adventure.
12. Main Street Gallery
To get a taste of local art and learn more about some of the artists living in the Brighton area, visitors get two-for-one at the Main Street Gallery. Situated in a beautiful, historically-important building, you can view an impressive collection of local art exhibits, including paintings, sculptures, feather art, and pottery.
There’s a mix of art by nationally-recognized artists as well. With the primary goal of promoting the importance of art in communities, visitors get a taste of the culture, history, and people of the region.
13. Adams County Regional Park & Fairgrounds
At the Adams County Regional Park & Fairgrounds in Brighton, you can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including fishing at the on-site lake, hiking the trails, or playing volleyball at the courts, which are also located in the park. A playground for children is on site.
14. La Estrellita Restaurant
When hunger strikes, locals and visitors alike love to take to the lively La Estrellita Restaurant in Brighton to enjoy first-rate Mexican food. Breakfast is served all day long, and for dinner, you can choose from a variety of classic favorites, including tacos, burritos, and enchiladas.
Also served is a selection of house-made salsas and the award-winning pork green chile. For the best value, you can try a little bit of everything at the buffet.
In nice weather, meals can be enjoyed on the outdoor patio. A wide assortment of unique Margaritas are served for those who wish to stick around for a little while after their meal.