Old Town Fort Collins is known for its nostalgic, pedestrian shopping where you just might hear sounds of live music drift through the street. It’s “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 that are 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.
The Inspiration for the Magical Kingdom
Old Town Fort Collins even inspired the most famous street 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 the city’s birthday celebration Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest, the largest music to feature Colorado music.” As if that’s not enough, you can 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.
“The Downtown Business Association (DBA) invites you to shop, dine, and discover your way through historic Old Town’s locally owned-shops, unique retailers, exciting eateries, and bustling public plazas. Since 1982, the DBA has supported downtown’s vibrancy and vitality through the annual production of 75+ days of free programming, festivals, promotions, and business advocacy efforts. Visit downtown and experience the best of Fort Collins!”
Stay up-to-date with all things Old Town in this Facebook community. See upcoming events, photos, give-aways, and engage with others through the comments.
“Old Town Square is a public space owned and managed by the DDA in the heart of downtown Fort Collins. It is surrounded by historic buildings, shops, galleries and restaurants. Following a major renovation project in 2015, the Square is more popular than ever as a gathering space and cultural center. The stage is host to many performances and events throughout the year.”
Experience Old Town through engaging photographs, videos, and upcoming events through this Facebook community, and engage with others through the comments.
“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.
“The official visitor information source of Fort Collins, CO, the Craft Beer Capital of Colorado. We are your one stop shop for all info about Fort Collins.”
Dozens of photos show you what you can expect the next time you visit Old Town Fort Collins, including images of historic buildings, the flowers of spring and summer, winter snows and festive lights, shops, events, and everyday life.
“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.
This is a definitive guide to everything that’s incredible about Fort Collins, Colorado (and it’s right here on our website).
“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.