If you’ve been a Colorado resident all your life, you may be familiar with the various summer mountain festivals that happen all over the state every year. Just like people who live in big cities like Boston and Philadelphia often neglect to visit popular historic sites, Coloradoans often forget to return to their favorite summer festivals as adults.
Even if you didn’t plan a big family vacation this summer, it’s never too late to make lasting memories for your kids by taking a day or weekend trip to different parts of the state. Summer is also a wonderful time to take in views on mountain passes that are closed off during the winter months.
Colorado Renaissance Festival –
One of my family’s all-time favorite festivals is the Colorado Renaissance Festival, a spectacular way to spend a summer weekend without the long drive and lodging expense. Only about a half-hour north on I-25, the festival is held in Larkspur and offers a unique experience every day. Depending on your schedule and your personal tastes, there is something for everyone at the Colorado Renaissance Festival, but if you plan to attend with kids, check out one of these “themed weekends.”
Children’s Weekend (June 30 and July 1) is one of those rare occasions where you can make use of your kids’ old princess and pirate Halloween costumes. Special activities include a costume contest and performances by Puke & Snot on a pirate ship stage. Kids will also enjoy the Royal Quest, Knighting Ceremonies by King Henry and a free Children’s Realm and Petting Zoo. But the best part about this weekend is that children 12 & under can attend the festival free with a paying adult.
The Music and Dance Festival weekend (July 21 & 22) is a celebration of music and dance featuring Celtic musicians, belly dancers and Irish dancers, plus the festival’s featured Celtic Legacy band, “Scots on the Rocks.” Children and adults alike will enjoy a lively schedule of entertainment all weekend long.
Other popular theme weekends include “Romancing the Throne” (July 14 and 15) where couples are invited to renew their vows, and the “Fare Thee Well & Mardi Gras Style Carnivale” (July 28 & 29) where everyone is invited to join King Henry in celebration of his 522nd birthday.
The festival runs from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm daily, rain or shine. Parking is free and admission is $18.95 for adults and $8.00 for children 5-12. Children under 5 are admitted free.
Cherry Creek Arts Festival –
On the weekend following the Fourth of July (7/6 – 7/9/2012), Denver’s Cherry Creek North comes alive with the city’s signature cultural event. Since 1991, this world-class festival has presented award-winning visual, performing and culinary arts to an audience of about 350,000. Families enjoy interactive fun on the festival’s “Artivity Avenue,” and enjoy cooking demonstrations, art exhibits and shows all weekend long.
Cattleman’s Days –
It may be more than three hours away from the ‘Springs, but who can resist a 10-day event that is included among the “Top 101 Western Events” in the country? American Cowboy Magazine has given Cattlemen’s Days in Gunnison this well-earned stamp of approval, and for good reason. This year’s event will take place between July 6 and July 15th and will include popular rodeos, 4-H Swine, Goat and Cattle shows, Livestock auctions, dances at the Elk’s Lodge, an evening carnival on the rodeo grounds.
Hot Air Balloon Rodeo –
If you’re headed northwest toward Steamboat Springs on July 7th or 8th, don’t miss the 32nd Annual Hot Air Balloon Rodeo. Earlier in the week the town will also play host to Cowboy’s Roundup Days, but I’m partial to the colorful artistry of hot air balloons dipping and rising over the horizon. Why is it called a “rodeo,” you may ask? The balloon pilots can get pretty creative and often participate in contests such as dipping into Bald Eagle Lake. Get there early enough and you can watch them inflate the balloons on the launch grounds or become a part of the crew. Visitors enjoy a variety of delicious foots from vendors who line up to witness the balloons dot the Yampa Valley sky. If you’re traveling with children, don’t miss the interactive art area at Art in the Park.
No matter where you go in Colorado this summer, try to plan it around a few of the mountain festivals with a day’s drive of Colorado Springs.