Fort Collins, Colorado, has been called the “cultural capital of Northern Colorado” thanks to its vibrant performing- and fine arts scenes, and the presence of a variety of cultural institutions. And, during our recent trip to this town–a source of design inspiration for the iconic Main Street, U.S.A, areas at Disneyland-style theme parks–we had a chance to explore four interesting cultural attractions your family should visit if you ever travel to Fort Collins.
If you are short on time, consider visiting the Museum of Art Fort Collins (MOA). MOA is located at 201 South College Avenue inside the city’s old post office building, a building that is home to several tenants. So, the space occupied by the museum isn’t as large as one might assume when looking at it from the street and will likely only take 45 minutes to 60 minutes to explore. Nevertheless, MOA contains some interesting pieces of art, including some paintings that my daughters, husband and I enjoyed viewing and studying.
This would also be a good place to visit if you will be traveling with young children since it is home to the ART.EDU.OSITY Creative Space (which stands for art, education and curiosity). This self-directed, but unsupervised, room provides families with a designated space in which they can pause from exploring and take time to create art projects together related to the museum’s exhibits.
MOA’s current main exhibit, which opened after our visit, is “Our Planet: Exploring Our Changing Environment.” It is a collaboration of more than a dozen Colorado artists who created works of art to encourage people to think about climate change and get a better scientific understanding of what’s happening in our environment. If you’d like to see the exhibit, plan on visiting before it closes on September 29. Less than two weeks after “Our Planet” leaves, the traveling exhibit “50 Greatest Photos of National Geographic” will open. Containing some of the magazine’s most remembered and celebrated photos from its nearly 130-year history, I imagine this exhibit will be appreciated by photography-, history- and culture buffs alike. If it sounds like something you’d like to see, you’ll have until January 5th, 2020, to see it MOA.
Another Fort Collins cultural institution that we spotted during our trip is the Global Village Museum of Arts and Cultures. Located at 200 West Mountain Avenue, this hidden gem aims at celebrating international connections between Northern Colorado and various world cultures through folk art, fine art, and artifacts. If you like taking your time and leisurely studying what’s on display at museums, you could easily spend 60 to 80 minutes perusing the collections found within the four galleries at the Global Village Museum. Add on a little more time to your schedule if you want to also check out the museum shop.
In addition to the museum’s collections of textiles, carvings, miniatures, paintings and cultural scenes, its educational programs are also worth noting. For example, a special program covering the birds and protected areas (e.g., national parks and reserves) of Central America will be presented on the evening of August 20 and will cost $5 per person. And, on the morning of September 7, parents can bring kids in for a free Spanish and English story time featuring stories, crafts, puppets and music.
Although there is an admission cost for the above museums, Colorado State University’s (CSU) Gregory Allicar Museum of Art is free every day that it is open to the public. Housed inside of CSU’s University Center of the Arts building, which is located at 1400 Remington Street, the museum contains three permanent galleries that contain drawings, paintings, sculptures, ceramics, textiles and other works of art. And, one of my favorite parts of our family’s visit was being able to see the gallery that contains objects or artifacts from the museum’s permanent African Art collection.
Complementing the permanent collections are several rotating exhibitions, as well as events for art lovers of all ages. Adults and older teens will enjoy attending workshops and lectures on a variety of topics, while children between the ages of five and 12 will appreciate the museum’s Family Day events that include gallery activities and an art project led by CSU art education faculty and students. The next Family Day is scheduled to take place on October 12. So, mark your calendars now for that if you think you might be in town then. And, if your family will be in the area on September 17th, October 15th or November 19th, consider attending the museum’s Music in the Museum concerts, presented in the galleries by faculty from the art and art history department and the School of Music, Theatre and Dance.
Regardless of when you think you may want to visit the Gregory Allicar Museum, call the museum beforehand to confirm that it is open since it’s closed on school holidays, as well as during fall-, winter- and spring breaks and the university’s home football games. (FYI, it’s also closed on Mondays.) And, when planning your visit, try to avoid bringing bags or larger purses with you since will be asked to check them before you’re allowed to explore the museum.
The largest cultural attraction that we visited was the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. Among the topics that are covered in the huge main exhibits area of the museum are local food and farming practices; the native people of that area; concepts related to air and motion; native Fort Collins wildlands and wildlife (in the past and today); and our solar system. There was also an exhibit that encourages visitors to think more about heart health as they climb to the roof of the museum. I must add that some visitors may arrive at the roof, which is 5,020 feet above sea level, feeling as though their heart and legs have had an unexpected workout; I know mine did. But, hopefully, the view of the city from up there will be worth it. It was for me.
Despite the amazing view that we had while up on the roof of the Discovery Museum, the area my girls wanted to spend the most time in was the Music & Sound Lab. In this highly interactive exhibit, they were able to play instruments (e.g., an upright bass, keyboards, guitars); sing together and view the sound waves produced when they sang; play on various pieces of equipment to “arrange” or add percussive sounds to a song, and so much more. We also stepped outside at one point to explore the outdoor area where we found–and my girls proceeded to play–even more instruments.
The various areas at the museum were so inviting and interesting that I even flexed my creative muscles a few times and interacted with a couple…okay, several…exhibits. First, I lifted a piano. (I’d like to thank the installed pulley system for making that possible.) Later, I let loose in a little darkened room featuring music that magically changed in response to our body’s movements. (It’s amazing how easy and freeing it is to dance like nobody’s watching when the only lights in a room are beams of color that swirl around you like the ones used in a dance club!)
In light of how much there is to see and do at the Discovery Museum, I’d recommend that families set aside a minimum of one and a half to two hours for a visit. You’ll need even more time if you hope to catch a show in the museum’s OtterBox Digital Dome Theater, the region’s only 360 degree dome theater, or check out the colorful museum shop.
I’m sure there are many more cultural attractions in Fort Collins that we could’ve visited during our trip, but we’re thrilled we were able to learn about the offerings of the four above-mentioned places. And, we hope you and your loved ones will use this article as a guide if you plan a trip to this unique town in the future.