The Centennial State
Located in the western United States, Colorado is associated with the Rocky Mountains but it’s also home to high, dry plains to the east and 300 days of sunshine a year, which means outdoor activities are a favorite pastime for visitors and residents year-round. The history of Colorado is tied to its original inhabitants, Native American tribes like the Pueblo people and Ute nation, and later Spanish settlers, pioneers and gold miners that rushed to the state during the expansion of the United States. Many historic and cultural sites can now be found throughout the state, including ancient Pueblan cliff dwellings, historical mining towns and cultural museums in one of Colorado’s major cities.
Aspen, Breckenridge and Vail are some of the top skiing areas in the country. There are 22 ski resorts and some smaller ski areas in Colorado, providing opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts on a budget. In Denver, the “Mile-High City” and capital of Colorado, visitors will find art museums, performance art venues and professional sports teams. With so much to offer, international visitors in Colorado will find no shortage of cultural learning activities to keep them busy – no matter what the season. Find out more below or visit www.colorado.com.
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Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park. Photo by Ken Lund.
Mesa Verde National Park, once home to the Ancestral Pueblo people from A.D. 550 to 1300, is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The park protects 600 cliff dwellings, prehistoric villages and thousands of archeological sites. Mesa Verde is open daily year-round but some areas are closed in the winter months. Check the Mesa Verde National Park website for information on park hours, seasonal information and any current alerts like road closures.
Dinosaur National Monument, located in northwest Colorado near the Utah border, is home to the Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry where almost 1,500 dinosaur bones can be seen in a cliff wall. In warmer months, visitors can also take rafting, camping, biking and hiking trips through the canyon, while winter visitors can enjoy snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or snowmobiling in certain areas of the park.
Ute Mountain Tribal Park offers visitors a full-day or half-day tour of the ruins of the ancestral Pueblo people led by a knowledgeable guide from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. The park is home to Ancient Pueblo petroglyphs, artifacts, cliff dwellings and Ute rock art preserved on the site. Tours are available between April and October.
History of the Old West
In Craig, CO, the Museum of Northwest Colorado houses a large collection of western Americana, including cowboy gear and artifacts, exhibits on infamous American outlaw Butch Cassidy, and information about mining, ranching and pioneers. Admission, free.
First designed to transport gold and silver ore, the Durango-Silverton Railroad soon began carrying passengers through the surrounding canyons, mountains and the San Juan National Forest. The steam locomotives date back to 1923-25 and have been maintained in their original condition. The trains run year-round with an altered itinerary in winter months.
Frisco Historic Park & Museum shares the history and heritage of the town of Frisco, located near Vail and Edwards. The park and museum include a re-created town center with restored mining cabins, ranch homes, a jail and the original schoolhouse, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Entry is free and visitors can enjoy self-guided tours as well as regular lectures, guided hikes and other events.
The History Colorado Center shares the state’s history since the museum opened in April 2012 and includes some more colorful exhibits about Colorado’s past, such as an exhibition on Mike the Headless Chicken and the Colorado-Texas Tomato Wars, along with historical stories about the Ute Indians and Justina Ford, the first female African-American licensed as a doctor in Colorado who delivered over 7,000 babies in her fifty-year career.
Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum & Hall of Fame in Vail looks back on the history of snow sports in Colorado. The museum looks at moments in history like the Winter Olympics, the 10th Mountain Division ski troopers of World War II and the roots of Colorado snowboarding.
Colorado Tour Companies
Tour companies operate throughout Colorado and offer various types of tours and packages, including half-day, full-day and multi-day adventures.
Adventures Out West, based in Colorado Springs, offers hot air balloon flights, Jeep tours with cowboy guides, Segway tours, zipline tours and hikes.
Colorado Sightseer gives tours of Denver and the surrounding area, including Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, Pikes Peak, Clear Creek Canyon, Breckenridge, the Buffalo Bill Museum, Echo Lake and Genesee Mountain Park.
Wilderness Aware Rafting operates on five rivers in Colorado and Arizona with beginner, intermediate and advanced tours, including half and full-day tours and multi-day rafting/camping trips. Rafting trips are available throughout the state near Denver, Colorado Springs, Breckenridge, Buena Vista, Kremmling, Delta and Durango.
Grand Adventures has snowmobiling tours near Denver in Winter Park, Grand Lakeo or Fraser Valley.
Colorado Tourism Websites
Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Photo by Simpsora.
The United States offers a wide variety of cultural learning opportunities through the arts. Dance, music, theater, opera, art museums and festivals are just some of the options available to international visitors who wish to learn more about the U.S. and its culture.
Many movies have been filmed in Colorado, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, True Grit, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Thelma and Louise. Colorado is also the home to several film festivals.
Aspen Film Academy Screenings are a favorite tradition in Aspen and run from late December to early January. The screenings show some of the latest movies to the voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and to the general public.
The Boulder International Film Festival in February is a celebration of independent movies, documentaries, short films and other productions. Filmmaker Q&A sessions, forums and film-related events are also held over the four-day festival.
Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival, held in November in Colorado Springs, focuses on women in the film industry. Beginning in 1998, RMWFF is the longest continuously running women’s film festival in North America.
Aspen Art Museum showcases international contemporary art through exhibitions, events, educational programs, film series and lectures. Admission is free.
Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art is a small art museum presenting regional and international artists. Performance, dance, poetry and events are also held at the museum. During the Boulder County Farmers’ Market on Wednesday and Saturday, the museum is free to enter.
Denver Art Museum displays a wide range of collections, including art from Africa, Asia, Europe, America and Oceania, pre-Columbian and Native American art, textiles, architecture and design, photography and sculpture. Exhibitions are just as diverse and change throughout the year.
For a full list of museums in Colorado, visit the Colorado Tourism Bureau website.
Hear live jazz music at JAS Café downstairs at The Little Nell in Aspen from December to March. The JAS Café offers food, drinks and an intimate space for just over 100 people. Learn more about Jazz Aspen Snowmass at www.jazzaspensnowmass.org.
Planet Bluegrass produces many bluegrass events in Colorado, including the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, RockyGrass, Rocky Mountain Folks Festival and concerts in the Wildflower Pavilion in Lyons, CO.
Other music venues in Colorado include:
- Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra
- Colorado Symphony Orchestra
- Performer Hall of Fame at Red Rocks Amphitheatre
CU Presents from the College of Music at University of Colorado, Boulder includes Artist Series (featuring jazz, classical, world music, and dance performances), the CU Opera, the Takács Quartet Chamber and Encore Series and Holiday Festival. Pre-concert conversations are held 45 minutes before each Artist Series performance in Mackay Room 102 at no cost.
Visit the Vilar Performing Arts Center in the Beaver Creek Resort for a winter series of classical music, opera, and dance performances. Broadway performances, concerts, comedy and family shows are also featured at the performing arts center.
Other performing arts venues include:
- Opera Colorado, Denver
- Colorado Ballet, Denver
- Central City Opera, Central City
- Aurora Fox Arts Centre, Aurora
- Storm Mountain Folk Dancers, Fort Collins
- Wonderbound, Denver
Browse a full list of performing arts venues and programs throughout the state at the Colorado.com website.
The Telluride Comedy Festival is held in February and brings famous and lesser-known comedians from around the world for four nights of stand-up and sketch comedy shows.
Visit Comedyworks in Denver for comedy shows from local and up-and-coming comics and famous comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock.
Many Americans are passionate about sports – and not just baseball and football! Get a glimpse into this part of American culture by watching or participating in a favorite U.S. sport or recreational activity in your local area.
The Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs is one of three training facilities created by the United States Olympic Committee. The center hosts free tours to allow visitors to learn about Olympic history and the training behind the Olympic athletes.
Colorado Winter Sports
Some of the country’s biggest and most popular ski resorts are located in Colorado. Skiing and snowboarding dominate the winter sports scene, but there are many options for visitors of all skill levels.
Colorado has 26 ski and snowboard resorts for families and individuals of all skill levels. Many resorts offer ski/snowboard lessons for beginners, or other fun activities like cross-country skiing, dogsledding, snowshoeing and more. Vail and Aspen are two of the more well-known ski areas. Breckenridge, Telluride and Keystone are also popular.
The San Juan Hut System consists of five backcountry huts connected by trails between Telluride, Ridgway and Ouray. Intermediate to advanced skiers and riders can access a hut or travel between huts and stay overnight. Reservations are required.
Colorado Sports Teams
Colorado is home to a number of professional and college sports teams, including:
- Denver Broncos (NFL): August (pre-season), September – December (regular season), Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver
- Denver Nuggets (NBA): October – April, Pepsi Center in Denver
- Colorado Avalanche (NHL): October – March (regular season), Pepsi Center in Denver
- Colorado Rockies (MLB): March (Pre-season), April to October (Regular season), Coors Field in Denver
- Colorado Rapids (soccer): March to October, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park field in Commerce City, to the northeast of Denver
- The University of Colorado is home to many athletic teams, known as the Buffaloes or Buffs, including basketball, football and soccer.
Ticketing websites for Colorado sports include:
- Ticketexchangebyticketmaster.com to buy or sell tickets from season ticket holders and fans.
- StubHub.com for tickets and last-minute deals.
River rafting in Colorado. Photo by Wesley Fryer.
The United States is home to a variety of landscapes and climates to suit all types of outdoor activities. The courageous traveler can find extreme sports and outdoor adventure tours, while others may want to keep both feet on the ground in a national park or forest. Whatever your interests, take advantage of the many outdoor activities available during your time in the United States. In Colorado, outdoor activities are a popular pastime in all four seasons thanks to 300 days of sunshine.
Hiking, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, dog sled rides, sledding and sleigh rides are popular winter activities. Skiing and snowboarding are well-known sports in Colorado.
Hot springs can be a luxurious (but sometimes expensive) treat, especially after an active day outside. There are many pricey options, but try Ouray Hot Springs Pool for a cheaper choice between Grand Junction and Durango.
Colorado National Parks
The Rocky Mountain National Park near Boulder, CO offers hiking, camping, fishing, scenic drives, horseback riding and wildlife. In winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, sledding, snowmobiling and winter hikes are popular outdoor activities. Ranger-led tours are available for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a second national park in Colorado, located near Montrose in the western part of the state. The canyon attracts visitors for hiking, camping, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, scenic drives and advanced rock climbing on the steep, narrow canyon walls. The north rim is closed in winter, but the south rim and Visitor Center are open throughout the year.
For a list of 13 national parks and other historic sites in Colorado, visit the National Park Service website.
Avalanches, unusual weather, and dangerous snow conditions can occur in winter. Before participating in any outdoor activities, check in with a visitor center, call the Information Office/Backcountry office or visit the National Park Service website for alerts like road closures, safety warnings and other safety tips before participating in any outdoor activities in a national park.
One of the best ways to experience cultural exchange is through food and cooking. Visitors will enjoy exploring the regional specialties and local cuisine during their time in the United States.
Colorado cuisine finds inspiration from a mix of Midwestern flavors, Southwestern and “Tex-Mex” influences and a hearty cowboy diet. Regional specialties often include wild game meats like buffalo or bison, elk and wild boar, unusual animals like rattlesnake and the infamous Rocky Mountain oysters. Restaurants like The Fort in Morrison and Buckhorn Exchange in Denver are good spots to find these types of Colorado specialties when eating out.
If you would rather not eat like a cowboy, local ingredients like fresh fruits and vegetables are also popular choices at the farmers’ markets held throughout the state in all seasons. Click here to find a market near you.
Food, wine and beer festivals can be found throughout the state on almost any weekend in the summer, including Taste of Colorado in Denver, Telluride Wine Festival in Telluride and the Great American Beer Festival in Denver (and remember, you must be 21 years old to drink in the United States!).
Other Great Spots for Food and Drink:
- Big Wrap in Aspen
- Boogies Diner in Aspen
- Golden Brewery Tour in Golden, CO
- The West End in Boulder
- The Med in Boulder Restaurant
- The Boulder Sun
For a unique and local perspective on American culture, be sure to check out festivals and events near your cultural exchange program location. These events are a fun and interesting way to interact with locals and to learn more about American culture by experiencing it firsthand.
Over Christmas and leading up to New Years, the 12 Days of Aspen bring a “winter wonderland of holiday cheer” to downtown Aspen with family-friendly events like free ice skating, tastes of s’mores and hot cocoa, visits with Santa, and carolers. Adults will also enjoy the fireworks on New Years Eve, film screenings, live music, and restaurant and bar specials. Details are available on the Aspen Chamber of Commerce website.
The ESPN Winter X Games showcase winter action sports like snowboarding, skiing and snowmobiling and are traditionally held in Aspen. The event has also expanded overseas and now includes global competitions in South America and Europe. Find information on the Aspen event including competition schedules, participating athletes, video coverage and results on the ESPN X Games website.
Get into the holiday spirit at the Parade of Lights in Downtown Denver. This free parade is held at the end of November/beginning of December. You can also purchase a Grandstand seat at the beginning of the parade route. Visit the Downtown Denver website for details.
The Georgetown Christmas Market is held over the first two weekends in December and brings a traditional Christmas feel to the town of Georgetown, located half-way between Denver and Vail. Horse-drawn wagons, carolers, roasted chestnuts, entertainment and an outdoor market are some of the fun events and activities at the Georgetown Christmas Market.
Vail Snow Daze kicks off the winter season with a music festival and movie screening in mid-December. Get tickets, passes, and accommodation early for this fun and festive event by visiting the Snow Daze website.
Vail Holidaze includes a number of holiday festivities around Vail, including a Tree Lighting before Christmas, and a Torchlight Parade with fireworks on New Year's Eve.
Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championship in Breckenridge. Held in January, 5-person teams from around the world make artistic masterpieces out of 20-ton blocks of snow measuring 10 feet wide (about 3 meters), 10 feet long and 12 feet high (about 3.6 meters).
Elk Fest is a celebration of the annual rutting (breeding) season when groups of elk gather near Rocky Mountain National Park at the end of September. Elk-viewing bus tours, contents, seminars and Native American storytelling and music are featured over the two-day event.
Telluride Film Festival in late August/early September is a long-running festival that celebrates film with free seminars and programs, first screenings and other events over four days.
The Blues and Brews Festival in September has musical performances from blues musicians, food vendors, late night shows and a "Grand Tasting" of microbreweries, which are small, local breweries.
International visitors can also find more events in Telluride throughout the year at the Telluride.net website.
The Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival has been celebrating winter since 1914, making it the oldest winter carnival in Colorado. Events at the carnival celebrate the western heritage of Steamboat Springs and include ski jumping competitions, snowboarding, tubing, races and fireworks.
Employers may be able to assist with housing during your time in the United States, but this is not always possible for all participants. When looking for housing during your cultural exchange program, consider the cost of the accommodation, the distance to your work place and the amount of time you will be in the United States.
It's also important to avoid fraudulent housing. It is highly recommended that you secure short-term housing upon arrival (e.g. in a hostel) and conduct your housing search once you are in the U.S. Never give your financial information to a stranger over the Internet. Browse the Housing Information guides for InterExchange participants below for more tips and advice.
General Housing Information
- Housing information for Work and Travel USA participants
- Housing information for Career Training USA interns and trainees
Colorado Housing Resources
Some examples of housing and accommodation resources for Colorado participants include:
- Craigslist - Colorado
- American Homestay Agency
- Hostelling International
- Denver Craigslist
- Boulder Craigslist
- Colorado Housing Search
- ApartmentList - Denver
Public transportation options can be hit or miss, depending on your location in the United States. Buses are a common transportation option for short and long-term travel in the U.S., while some areas will also have trains, subways and other options. Visit the American Public Transportation Association website for a complete list of public transportation options in your local community.
Vail offers free buses using the NextBus system.
Aspen runs eight free bus routes, a free bus between Aspen and Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, and free bus services between Aspen and Snowmass Village. Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) provides bus services between Aspen and Rifle and connects to Snowmass Village. In Snowmass Village and Glenwood Springs, free buses are also provided.
Denver has an extensive public transport network that includes bus service, light rail and SkyRide, an airport transfer service. Visit www.RTD-Denver.com for more information on schedules, locations and how to use public transportation in Denver.
Colorado Transportation - Statewide
If driving in Colorado, watch out for alerts and road closures during the winter months in Colorado. Check in with the Colorado Department of Transportation online, with email or text alerts or on Twitter @ColoradoDOT.
More Transportation Resources
- Colorado Regional Busses
- Denver Train Station
- Boulder Yellow Cab Company
- Bicycle Village
- Boulder Cycle Sport
Participants in Colorado can use the following resources in case of an emergency or extreme weather event in their area:
Emergency Management Agencies
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): www.fema.gov and www.ready.gov
- Colorado FEMA updates on Twitter @femaregion8
- National Weather Service
- Weather - Denver/Boulder
- Weather - Grand Junction and Western Colorado
- Weather - Pueblo and Southeastern Colorado
Interact with others and expand your skill set by volunteering in your local community. Volunteer organizations are often looking for short-term volunteers or for individuals to help with a single event, making it a great option for InterExchange participants who wish to add to their cultural exchange experience during their time in the United States.
The Colorado branch of Volunteers of America has multiple opportunities for a one-time assignment or on an ongoing basis for participants interested in helping the local community.
Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado works throughout the state and needs volunteers for hands-on outdoor activities – no experience necessary!
Participants can help the Colorado Parks and Wildlife department protect Colorado’s natural resources by visiting the department website and applying as a volunteer.
Check out Habitat for Humanity and find a local affiliate in Colorado. Volunteers can help build houses for those in need without any previous experience. Both individuals and groups are welcome.