Old Town Fort Collins is known for its nostalgic, pedestrian shopping where you just might hear sounds of live music drift down the street. Fort Collins is “nationally recognized as a premier destination for business and culture,” and it’s lined with shops to suit every taste, from nature to tourist, cooking to retail and novelty, and a good selection of confectionery shops. It boasts a wide variety of restaurants, and it’s the only place west of the Mississippi where you can ride an original trolley car.
If you like live music, the Visit Fort Collins site explains that “decades of event tradition in Old Town have brought in huge concerts while showcasing a vibrant Colorado music scene and an internationally recognized brewing industry.”
The Visit Fort Collins website describes Old Town as “rich in energy and it shows through an entrepreneurial spirit that is welcoming, exciting, and infectious. You can encounter a diverse array of experiences all within the same block of historic buildings. Renovated 1800s storefronts both showcase a romantic honoring of the west’s history while within they are embracing new technologies, innovative shops, and lifelong passions all focused on a high quality of life ….”
As the seasons change, so do activities and events in Old Town. During the holiday season, they even reward local shoppers with a chance to win $5,000 in prizes—they call it the Old Town Spree. And from May to October, you can experience Pianos About Town, a project that “combines art and music for the enjoyment of the community.” The public is invited to watch artists from May through October as they paint the pianos in Old Town Square. The pianos are then rotated to various locations throughout Fort Collins where you can admire them and even play them.
A Rich History in Old Town Fort Collins
It began as Fort Collins Military Reservation, a 19th century outpost of the United States Army, constructed to protect the people crossing through the territory.
Originally located on the Poudre River, a flood forced the fort to move to the area we know today as Old Town Fort Collins.
The fort didn’t function for long after the move however. Because the local tribes were civil there was no need for protection, so the fort shutdown, but settlers remained and others soon joined them.
Today there are remnants of these long-ago days, including more than twenty restored historical buildings, part of both national and local historic districts.
You can still feel the charm and a sense of intrigue as you stroll through the pedestrian mall, along with a sense of magic, nostalgia, and entrepreneurial spirit.
Old Town: Inspiration for the Magical Kingdom
This New York Times post explains the inspiration of one of the most famous streets in the U.S., Disneyland’s Main Street. To give a brief history, two of the creators of Disneyland brought their hometowns with them as they designed the park.
Walt Disney brought influences of Marceline where he spent the first years of his life; and Harper Goff, an art director from Fort Collins, modeled his early renderings for Disneyland after his birthplace.
The old town influences can easily be seen in Disneyland through “the mansard roofs, the jig-jag rhythm of irregular shop facades, lacy Victorian ironwork and the distinctive fish-bone street plan, where side streets feed into a main artery. Disneyland’s City Hall is clearly drawn at three-quarters scale from the courthouse in Fort Collins, with its exuberant up-thrust tower. The red brick fire station is more than just an echo,” states Julie V. Iovine in an article published in the New York Times.
Entertainment in Old Town Fort Collins
Old Town Fort Collins offers exceptional dining in more than 80 restaurants, and entertainment year-round.
A pedestrian-friendly shopping district, it features boutique shops, theaters, public parks, museums, art galleries, and performance venues. It also sits blocks away from hiking and biking trails.
According to the Downtown Creative District, it’s the “hub of entertainment and dining in the city as well as home to many markets, events, and festivals including New Belgium Brewing’s Tour de Fat and Bohemian Nights (Thursday Night Live concert series).
You can also experience Fort Collins and Northern Colorado’s music culture at FoCoMX with more than 360 Colorado bands during a two-day music festival each spring.
That being said, Old Town is a great place to meet up with family or friends for a foodie walk, art walk, dining, live music, or shopping. It makes an ideal location to take a date, offers abundant activities for families—and with nearly 300 days of sunshine each year, it hosts activities that can be enjoyed by everyone all year round. Just check out the upcoming events, mark your calendar, and ask that special someone to join you—or just stop on a whim just to absorb the entrepreneurial energy, or the nostalgia that make Old Town a favorite destination among locals and visitors alike.
About Old Town, Events & Things To Do
“Downtown Fort Collins is nationally recognized as a premier destination and regional center for business and culture. With bustling plazas, award-winning special events, landscaped patios, world-renowned breweries and dozens of restaurants and independent retailers just minutes away, get ready to explore the heart of Fort Collins!”
The Downtown Fort Collins website provides everything you need to know about Old Town happenings, including: news spotlights, upcoming events, a directory, and parking information.
“So many things to do from shopping, to theater and live performance shows, dining out, art galleries, or just meeting up with friends, Downtown is the ultimate Fort Collins experience.”
This website features a page focused on Old Town, and provides a brief history of the area, a live stream of Old Town, parking information, and links to items of interest in the surrounding area.
Downtown Creative District Fort Collins
“Downtown Fort Collins is a pedestrian-friendly historic area filled with hundreds of boutique shops, restaurants, theatres, public parks, and breweries. It is home to the majority of the city’s museums, art galleries, live music shows, performance venues, arts related non-profits, the music district, and many artists.”
This website is specific to the creative district, but provides a great walk-through so you know what you can expect when you visit the area, along with photos, and maps that feature:
- Tours and walks
- Events and festivals
- Venues and centers
“Situated north of Denver and tucked between the plains and the mountains, Fort Collins is the last city on Interstate 25 north before you hit the Wyoming border. It’s also a gateway city to northern Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park and Roosevelt National Forest.”
Get a quick glimpse of the attractions, sports, dining, and events of Old Town, and the surrounding Fort Collins area, with links to nearby towns so you can plan your weekend, or extended getaway.
Former Lives of 8 Favorite Old Town Spots
“Peeking back into the pages of local history, here are the stories of eight of your favorite Fort Collins spots, from the late 19th century and beyond, when they housed roller rinks, boxing rings, basement shooting galleries and bowling alleys.”
You know them as concert venues, cafes, bookstores and fishing shops, but many of Old Town’s most notable buildings have past lives that add to the nostalgic feel of the town, and this site has captured their history beautifully.
Interested in Vacationing Here?
One of the best ways to experience this area of the country is to stay at an all amenities provided campsite in the mountains outside of Fort Collins. This way you can enjoy the mountain scenery of Colorado, be close to and visit Old Town Fort Collins and spend a day in Estes Park too. The perfect getaway.
Wednesday 7th of December 2022
Would love to visit art galleries and go camping! I'm planning to go next year with my family.