Wellington, Colorado, is a town of about 8,500 residents that’s located in the state’s north-central region between Fort Collins to the south and the border with Wyoming to the north.
The town was founded in 1905 and offers visitors a nice mix of activities, including lots of outdoor recreation options as well as historical, natural, and cultural attractions.
World-renowned ski resorts and national parks are in abundance to the west, and to the east are massive tracts of preserved grasslands that stretch all the way to the borders with Kansas and Nebraska.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Wellington that rank highly on many visitors’ itineraries.
1. Owl Canyon Coffee
Located on Cleveland Avenue, Owl Canyon Coffee was founded in 2014 and is the quaint town’s sole independent coffee shop.
Owl Canyon is located inside a building that’s more than 100 years old. Though it’s historic, it’s also bright, contemporary and inviting, and features works of art by local artists.
They’re most well-known for their craft-style coffees, but they also serve a variety of teas, smoothies, and juices.
For those in need of solid food to go with their drinks, they offer fresh baked goods, tasty bagels, and hearty breakfast burritos that tend to keep stomachs full until lunchtime rolls around.
2. Soul Squared Brewing Company
Perhaps there’s something to the old adage, “there’s something in the water,” because, on a per capita basis, Colorado may have more local brewing companies than any other state in the country.
Soul Squared Brewing Company is located just outside Wellington and specializes in using fresh, local ingredients to create truly memorable beer.
The facility is part farm and part brewery, and their products come in a variety of options that vary seasonally, including some rather rare flavor enhancers like lavender and butternut squash.
Food trucks usually crowd their lot during peak times, so consider eating while on-site as well.
3. The Cakery
Cupcakes and fresh baked goods are always big crowd-pleasers, and for those who find themselves in Wellington in need of a sweet treat, The Cakery is a must-visit attraction.
The Cakery is located in an old building on Cleveland Avenue that’s brimming with character, and nearly all of what’s on-hand is made fresh, daily, on-site.
They often organize fun events with other local businesses, like tastings that match their products with the beers of local breweries.
Previous customers have described their cakes and cupcakes as among the best they’ve ever had.
For special orders like birthday cakes, call them a few days in advance.
4. Mountain Vista Golf Course
During the spring and summer months, golf is a favorite outdoor pastime for locals and vacationers alike.
Though it only features nine holes, Mountain Vista Golf Course in nearby Fort Collins is considered by savvy players to be one of the area’s best overall values. Unlike its 18 hole counterparts, it won’t take four or five hours to squeeze in a round.
The course’s amenities include a driving range and putting, chipping, and sand hazard practice areas. With a variety of tee box options, it’s appropriate for those of most ages and skill levels.
There’s also a restaurant and bar on-site that’s a popular post-round gathering place.
5. Papa’s Table
Though steaks, barbecue, and Mexican food are at the top of many visitor’s dining wish lists, Colorado has plenty of internationally influenced eateries as well.
Papa’s Table is located on Cleveland Avenue in downtown Wellington and is the area’s premier Italian restaurant.
Featuring tons of traditional classics like chicken and eggplant parmesan, calamari, and spaghetti marinara, there’s probably something on their menu to tempt most taste buds.
They also have fresh soups and salads, great appetizers, and lots of dishes with fresh seafood as well.
In addition to their excellent food, the restaurant offers a slightly upmarket but comfortable and inviting ambiance, and their prices are reasonable.
6. Fort Collins Museum of Discovery
The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery is located on Mason Court and was founded nearly three decades ago.
The museum’s collection includes tens of thousands of individual artifacts and items of memorabilia that pertain to the history and culture of the people who’ve lived in the Cache La Poudre River Valley for the last few centuries.
There’s also a collection of Native American items that many visitors find to be the most interesting, and the museum’s grounds include multiple historical buildings like cabins and a one-room schoolhouse.
In addition to its permanent exhibits, the museum hosts temporary ones, so check online to see what’ll be showing when you’ll be in the area.
7. Horsetooth Mountain Open Space
For its sheer vastness, convenient location, and abundance of outdoor activity options, Horsetooth Mountain Open Space is in a league of its own.
The park is comprised of nearly 2,800 acres and features about 30 miles of multi-use trails that are open to bikers, hikers, and horse riders.
Many of the trails include dramatic changes in elevation and offer incredible vistas of majestic rock formations, distant forests, mountains, and waterfalls.
Depending on the ages and levels of athleticism of those you’re traveling with, trail excursions can range from less than an hour to full-day affairs that cover dozens of miles.
8. Gardens on Spring Creek
Despite its harsh climate and short growing season, Colorado is home to an amazing diversity of flowers, trees, and plants that are well suited to their environment.
Gardens on Spring Creek is a community botanical garden set on nearly 20 acres of land in the Front Range area that leads to the Rocky Mountains to the west.
The facility is located on Centre Avenue in Fort Collins and features several distinct cultivated areas, most of which highlight local species.
The scenic grounds are the perfect place for a morning or afternoon stroll, and they’re particularly beautiful in spring when most of the items are in full bloom.
9. Global Village Museum of Arts and Cultures
It’s been said that good things often come in small packages, and that’s certainly the case with Global Village Museum of Arts and Cultures on West Mountain Avenue in Fort Collins.
The facility includes multiple galleries that touch on unique art from far-flung corners of the globe, like South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
Items on display include contemporary photographs, paintings, tribal art, and things used around the world in daily life like baskets, blankets, and pottery.
Special events like storytime for children and multi-gallery guided art walks are offered regularly, as are tours for large groups if they’re booked in advance.
10. Fort Collins Municipal Railway
Whether you’re traveling on foot, by bike, or by car, getting around in Fort Collins is pretty straightforward. But for those looking to tour the historic city in a unique way, the Fort Collins Municipal Railway is just the ticket.
The original city streetcars ran for more than three decades in the early part of the 20th century; though they were officially retired ages ago, since 1984, they’ve been operating on a limited basis in a tourism rather than strictly transportation roll.
The 30-minute tours embark from the old terminal on West Mountain Avenue and run on weekends only between May and September.
11. Lory State Park
Lory State Park is operated by Larimer County’s parks department; though it offers an impressive array of activities, it’s most popular with mountain bikers.
The park’s dirt track and trails have areas ranging from difficult and exhilarating to relatively flat and easy for youngsters and those without much experience. There’s easy access to adjacent trail networks that are open to walkers and horseback riders as well.
The drive into Lory State Park has impressive views of the mountains and nearby Horsetooth Reservoir, and there are a number of prominent hikes as well, one of the most popular of which is to Arthur’s Rock.
12. Fort Collins Farmers Market
In recent years, all across the country, there have been big pushes to bring local farmers and consumers together in an attempt to break the current model of product distribution that’s characterized by long trips, big trucks, tons of pollution, and distributors who cut deeply into the producer’s profit margins.
The Fort Collins Farmers Market was founded as a cooperative in 1984 and is held on Sundays and Wednesdays from the beginning of May until the middle of November every year.
Fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables are the stars of the show, but the market’s vendors also offer baked goods, prepared food items, health and body products, and arts and crafts.
13. Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar
Though Colorado couldn’t be farther away from either the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans if it tried, it just so happens to be home to one of the west’s most recognized seafood restaurants.
Jax was established in 2011, and though it’s part of a national restaurant group, its food and ambiance are miles ahead of most of its competitors.
Jax specializes in combining local-sourced produce with the freshest seafood available, and previous guests have described the scene at the oyster bar as something more akin to what you’d find in New Orleans or Key West than Colorado.
They offer steaks, salads, tons of local beer, and craft cocktails as well.
14. Tour de Fat
Perhaps more than any other month, the September weather in Colorado is usually perfect for nature lovers and outdoorsy types.
Tour de Fat is a much-anticipated annual festival that combines beer, bikes, costumes, great food, and live entertainment into one unique event that’s often one of the most memorable experiences of many visitor’s vacations.
Anything can happen when alcohol and costumes are involved, so this is typically the kind of event that’s best left to those who aren’t traveling with little ones. It’s often likened to an odd mixture of Mardi Gras and an out of control Star Trek convention.
Fort Collins hosts many annual festivals, fairs, and events that range from food and wine to beer and art.
Fortoberfest takes place in mid-September and is one of the region’s premier fall events, and it’s free to attend.
The event is an all-day affair held at the city’s Old Town Square. It includes great food, a vast selection of Colorado’s finest beers, traditional German dancing, and contemporary live music.
The cost of admission is good for the entire 10-hour day, and there are a ton of family-friendly activity options that make it a good fit even for those on the road with their kids.