Country Music Festivals

2016 Upcoming Country Music Festivals

It’s obvious that your favorite place to see country music concerts is at the Grizzly Rose, but you shouldn’t limit yourself to just one amazing place. A ton of country music festivals will be held all over the nation (and a few outside of it!) this year, and some of them are not to be missed. It would be great to hop on a horse and mosey over like a cowboy, but a good old-fashioned road trip is also a great way to experience some of these. So get your soundtrack ready for the drive, and pick out your next adventure!

Sunfest Festival

July 28-31 – Cowichan Valley, B.C.

Hello from up here! You all are beautiful! #sunfestcountry #party #music #cowichan #victoria #vancouverisland

A photo posted by Sunfest Concerts (@sunfestconcerts) on

This show on Vancouver Island is always a popular one, but this year has a few big names – most notably Carrie Underwood.

Red Ants Pants Festival

July 28-31 – White Sulphur Springs, Montana

#TBT with @turnpiketroubadours – Check them out in @rollingstone this month along with @corblund!

A photo posted by Red Ants Pants Music Festival (@redantspantsmusicfestival) on

Don’t be afraid of the red ants, because you’re sure to dance your pants off at this popular festival in Montana. The bands are slightly less known, but there are 16 acts that will keep you having fun!

Oregon Jamboree

July 29-31 – Sweet Home, Oregon

18 days until the Jamboree!! Y'all ready?! #oregonjamboree

A photo posted by Oregon Jamboree (@oregonjamboree) on

This festival is popular for the beauty of the area as well as the performers, but this year it’s being headlined by Carrie Underwood and Toby Keith.

Mountain Home Country Music Festival

July 29-31 – Mountain Home, Idaho

We put a night club in the middle of nowhere! DJKO keeping the party going after Blake Shelton. #mhcmf2015 #countrymusic #idaho

A photo posted by Mountain Home Country Music (@mhcmf) on

Have you ever been to Idaho? Have you ever seen performances by Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean, and Brantley Gilbert? Well, this is your chance to do both!

Watershed Music Festival

July 29-31 – George, Washington

Are we really doing not one but TWO weekends of Watershed? Is this real life!? #Shedders ??

A photo posted by Watershed Festival (@watershedfestival) on

If the name of this town isn’t enough to make you want to go, how about the chance to see Keith Urban, Jason Aldean, and Eric Church at an outdoor amphitheater overlooking the Columbia River?

Country on the River

August 4-6 – Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin

Wisconsin adds another big festival to the list, and this one next to the mighty Mississippi River gives you the chance to see Kid Rock, Lee Brice, Billy Currington, and others.

Boots and Hearts Music Festival

August 4-7 – Oro-Medonte, Ontario

Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw, Dierks Bentley, and many others will be performing at one of the biggest camping and country music festivals in Canada.

WE Fest

August 4-6 – Detroit Lakes, Minnesota

#fbf. Can't wait for 2016!

A photo posted by WE Fest Country Music Festival (@wefestmn) on

The 34th annual summer of this festival in Minnesota gives you another chance to hear the tunes of Tim McGraw and Kid Rock.

Flood City Festival

August 4-7 – Johnstown, Pennsylvania

This festival is held in Pennsylvania every August, and the aim is to hold a celebration of American roots music.

Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam

September 2-4 – Panama City Beach, Florida

2015 was great! Here's to an even better 2016! #gulfcoastjam #countrymusic #festival

A photo posted by Gulf Coast Jam (@gulfcoastjam) on

This major beach party held every Labor Day is a great one to attend, and this year you’ll get to see Lynyrd Skynyrd, Brad Paisley, and many others.

Did We Miss Any?

It’s tough to put together a list of all the best country music festivals that 2016 has to offer, but this covers quite a few of them.  Which one will you be heading to?

Denver Best Beer City

Denver’s Rank For Best Beer City

Recently the Thrillist rated the 16 Best Beer Cities in America by factoring in influence, breweries, history, impact, culture, and a little personal bias they added.

Speaking of personal bias, when checking out the list we figured Denver should be topping the charts as the #1 Best Beer Drinking city; however, that spot was filled by Portland Oregon along with bold claims that they are the city with the biggest volume of beer.

Denver was not far down the list though – coming in at #3! Considering there is almost 20,000 incorporated cities in the US I guess I shouldn’t be complaining too much about Denver taking bronze on the podium.

What do you think of Denver’s ranking?

Don’t forget! Tuesdays are all you can drink $1 draft beers!

Molly Brown House

Old West Museums in Denver

It’s well known that Denver has a wild history in the Old West. But, a lot of city slickers think that the modern vibe has taken away any feelings of wandering the prairie like the good old days. Fortunately, that’s not the case!

Grizzly Rose isn’t the only place where you’ll fit in with boots and a cowboy hat, so why not check out these Old West experiences spread all over Denver?

American Museum of Western Art

Bronco BusterThe Anschutz Collection at the American Museum of Western Art shows off art from the Old West. However, the artwork includes anything on the subject of the time period, not just art that was produced back in the 1800s. There are hundreds of paintings by quite a few different artists, and they have a wide range of topics depicting the various aspects of life before the industrialization of the country.

This museum is worth a visit, even if you’re not interested in the collection, because the building itself is a historical treasure. The Navarre Building was opened in 1880 across from the Brown Palace, and it started its life as a school for women. Ironically, it later turned into a sort of bordello where men could dine with prostitutes and take part in a bit of gambling. It’s really an ideal setting for art about the Wild West.

Black American West Museum and Cultural Center

This museum grew out of the childhood experiences of founder Paul M. Stewart. When playing “Cowboys and Indians” with his friends, he was always forced to join the second group because his friends claimed there were never any “black cowboys.” As he grew up, he learned that roughly one third of cowboys were actually black, and he created this museum that focuses on their lives, as well as the various jobs they did.

Buffalo Bill Grave and Museum

Buffalo Bill CodyThis museum in Golden is technically outside of Denver, but it has a view looking down on the city, so it’s close enough. William F. Cody was one of the most famous men of the period, and he solidified this reputation with his traveling Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows.

If you’re concerned that it’s nothing more than a fancy gravestone, then stop your worrying. There’s also a nice museum with exhibits about Buffalo Bill’s life and other various issues of the era. It’s not quite the same as seeing one of his old performances, but the peaceful feelings on the mountainside make it worth it.

Denver Art Museum

If you think about it logically, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Denver Art Museum would have a major section dedicated to art from the Old West. The collection is made up of pieces by quite a few well-known artists, and there are works by contemporary artists as well as those from the time period.

Four Mile Historic Park

Have you ever seen the oldest standing structure in Denver? If you haven’t, it’s time to head to Four Mile Historic Park. This house was built on the banks of Cherry Creek in 1859, and it had a series of owners in the first few years. When visiting, you can also check out animals and other exhibits on the 12 acres of this old farm.

History Colorado Center

History Colorado is a historical society that’s done an amazing job of adapting to the modern times.  They try to preserve the past and educate the public about it, and this interactive museum is a really fun way to immerse yourself in the history of the state of Colorado.

Molly Brown House Museum

Molly Brown HouseThis was the home of Molly Brown, a woman most famous for surviving the sinking of the Titanic. She was living in the mining town Leadville with her husband, a mining engineer, and he managed to find a gold discovery that put them into some great wealth. Visiting this museum can give you a good idea of how the rich classes lived in the Old West, and it’s an interesting change compared to the dusty lives of cowboys and gunslingers.

The Brown Palace Hotel

This one is more of a living museum, but it’ll give you another chance to see the kind of luxury brought around for the rich folk back in the day.  A lot of people became extremely wealthy in the Old West because of mining, railroads, and other major industry booms, and they needed a place to stay when they shuffled around the country.  This hotel was built in 1892 to serve that purpose, and it’s seen its fair share of rich and famous visitors over the years.

Time to Go Exploring!

That covers a lot of the major Old West museums in Denver, but there are plenty of smaller experiences and events that you can visit to take a trip back in time.  So, what are you waiting for?  Saddle up your horse and ride off into the sunset!

Top Western Movies

Country music and Western films are connected at the hip.  Not only does the musical style make up the soundtrack of a lot of them, but the popularity of the films actually helped spread the genre when it was much younger.  But, to help choose from so many options, here is our list of 10 movies that need to be on the lists of all cowboys and cowgirls!

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good the Bad the UglyThis 1966 hit starring Clint Eastwood was one of the popular Spaghetti Westerns directed by Sergio Leone.  It was part of a trilogy made by this director, but is often regarded as the best in the series.  The story followed three rough guys searching for hidden gold in the middle of the Civil War, so there was plenty of chances for them to show their tough sides.  It really stood out for the strong tension, tasteful violence, and quality gunfights.

There were hundreds of Westerns made in Europe between the 60s and the 80s, and Italy was really a hotspot for them.  Interestingly enough, they often used multilingual casts, and they did all of the sound in post-production.  This made it easy for them to release each film in multiple languages at nearly the same time.

The Wild Bunch

This film made in 1969 followed an outlaw gang on the border of Texas and Mexico.  The major problem they faced was that it took place in 1913, and the Old West was becoming a thing of the past.  The filmmakers received a whole slew of awards for the movie, and it was filmed in a revolutionary way for the time.  Fast cuts in the edits gave way to multiple angles, and it came to life with a mixture of normal and slow motion images.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Butch Cassidy and Sundance KidPaul Newman and Robert Redford inspired many duos to daydream of living the bandit life with this 1969 movie.  It’s made even more exciting when you know that it was based loosely off of real life, and the gang even made their way to Bolivia while running from the law.

True Grit

No list of Western films would be complete without an appearance by the Duke, so why not choose the one where he won the Academy Award for Best Actor?  The film is based off a novel written in 1968, and John Wayne plays a U.S. Marshal who has what it takes to track a bad guy across some unforgiving territory.

Unforgiven

This was another film in the long career of Clint Eastwood, and this time he plays an outlaw who comes out of a peaceful farming retirement to go back to the rough life of his youth.  The 1992 film had a much darker theme than most Westerns, and it tried to step away from the standard style of romanticizing the violence of the Old West.  Eastwood even declared it would be his last Western because he feared any more would require him to repeat a role he had already played.

The Magnificent 7 Western FilmThe Magnificent Seven

This film from 1960 made sure to put an all-star cast, like Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, and Charles Bronson into their cowboy boots.  It was about a band of gunslingers who had to protect a Mexican village from outlaws, and it was based off of a similar Japanese movie called Seven Samurai.  A sequel to this film will come out later this year, do you think it’s going to be as good?

High Noon

This one is a bit older as it dates back to 1952.  The plot basically follows a lawman who wants to retire to an easy life, but some recently free bandits decide they have other plans for him.  With no one to help, he falls into the lone gunslinger role, and, well, you can guess the rest.

Once Upon a Time in The West

Another older flick that dates back to 1968, the genre of this film is described as an ‘epic spaghetti western film.’ While the movie does move a bit slow, it’s very stylish and artsy which is not common among many top western movies. This was also directed by the infamous Sergio Leone. This movie is about blood, revenge, and the American frontier.

Top Western Movies3:10 to Yuma

Who says a Western has to be decades old to be a classic?  This 2007 hit stars Christian Bale battling Russel Crowe, and they did a good enough job that most critics overlooked the fact that the film was a remake.

Dances With Wolves

If you ever had any doubts that a Western made mostly with subtitles wouldn’t work, this one proved you wrong.  As a matter of fact, Kevin Costner and company impressed so many people with this 1990 film that it’s often credited as giving a second chance to the fading genre of Western movies.

What’s Your Favorite?

We can’t possibly narrow the best western films down to just ten.  We tried, but there are far too many…

What’s your favorite Western?

Leave a comment to let us know what we missed!

Best Live Performing Country Artist

Best Rising Country Artist
Vote on who you think is the best live performing country artist!

Best Live Performing Country Artist
  • 0.43% - ( 20 votes )
  • 0.19% - ( 9 votes )
  • 0.21% - ( 10 votes )
  • 0.11% - ( 5 votes )
  • 0.09% - ( 4 votes )
  • 0.66% - ( 31 votes )
  • 0.09% - ( 4 votes )
  • 0.53% - ( 25 votes )
  • 0.19% - ( 9 votes )
  • 0.34% - ( 16 votes )
  • 0.15% - ( 7 votes )
  • 0.58% - ( 27 votes )
  • 0.09% - ( 4 votes )
  • 0.04% - ( 2 votes )
  • 0.09% - ( 4 votes )
  • 0.32% - ( 15 votes )
  • 0.04% - ( 2 votes )
  • 0.09% - ( 4 votes )
  • 0.87% - ( 41 votes )
  • 10.16% - ( 477 votes )
  • 0.11% - ( 5 votes )
  • 0.32% - ( 15 votes )
  • 0.02% - ( 1 vote )
  • 0.13% - ( 6 votes )
  • 0.19% - ( 9 votes )
  • 0.02% - ( 1 vote )
  • 0.06% - ( 3 votes )
  • 0.11% - ( 5 votes )
  • 0.13% - ( 6 votes )
  • 0.02% - ( 1 vote )
  • 0.11% - ( 5 votes )
  • 0.02% - ( 1 vote )
  • 0.09% - ( 4 votes )
  • 0.34% - ( 16 votes )
  • 0.17% - ( 8 votes )
  • 0.43% - ( 20 votes )
  • 0.23% - ( 11 votes )
  • 0.02% - ( 1 vote )
  • 0.02% - ( 1 vote )
  • 0.06% - ( 3 votes )
  • 1.15% - ( 54 votes )
  • 0.02% - ( 1 vote )
  • 0.11% - ( 5 votes )
  • 0.51% - ( 24 votes )
  • 0.02% - ( 1 vote )
  • 0.02% - ( 1 vote )
  • 0.21% - ( 10 votes )
  • 0.04% - ( 2 votes )
  • 0.02% - ( 1 vote )
  • 0.23% - ( 11 votes )
  • 0.09% - ( 4 votes )
  • 0.26% - ( 12 votes )
  • 0.4% - ( 19 votes )
  • 16.1% - ( 756 votes )
  • 1.11% - ( 52 votes )
  • 0.11% - ( 5 votes )
  • 0.17% - ( 8 votes )
  • 0.23% - ( 11 votes )
  • 0.11% - ( 5 votes )
  • 0.06% - ( 3 votes )
  • 1.96% - ( 92 votes )
  • 0.09% - ( 4 votes )
  • 0.13% - ( 6 votes )
  • 0.06% - ( 3 votes )
  • 0.11% - ( 5 votes )
  • 0.66% - ( 31 votes )
  • 0.38% - ( 18 votes )
  • 0.11% - ( 5 votes )
  • 0.06% - ( 3 votes )
  • 0.13% - ( 6 votes )
  • 0.02% - ( 1 vote )
  • 0.43% - ( 20 votes )
  • 1.85% - ( 87 votes )
  • 0.3% - ( 14 votes )
  • 1.21% - ( 57 votes )
  • 1.06% - ( 50 votes )
  • 1.34% - ( 63 votes )
  • 0.62% - ( 29 votes )
  • 0.23% - ( 11 votes )
  • 0.09% - ( 4 votes )
  • 0.43% - ( 20 votes )
  • 0.09% - ( 4 votes )
  • 0.68% - ( 32 votes )
  • 0.09% - ( 4 votes )
  • 0.06% - ( 3 votes )
  • 31.44% - ( 1476 votes )
  • 0.28% - ( 13 votes )
  • 0.06% - ( 3 votes )
  • 0.58% - ( 27 votes )
  • 0.02% - ( 1 vote )
  • 0.04% - ( 2 votes )
  • 0.04% - ( 2 votes )
  • 0.02% - ( 1 vote )
  • 0.32% - ( 15 votes )
  • 0.02% - ( 1 vote )
  • 0.6% - ( 28 votes )
  • 0.3% - ( 14 votes )
  • 0.02% - ( 1 vote )
  • 0.15% - ( 7 votes )
  • 0.02% - ( 1 vote )
  • 0.19% - ( 9 votes )
  • 3.77% - ( 177 votes )
  • 0.04% - ( 2 votes )
  • 0.06% - ( 3 votes )
  • 0.02% - ( 1 vote )
  • 0.28% - ( 13 votes )
  • 0.32% - ( 15 votes )
  • 0.13% - ( 6 votes )
  • 0.43% - ( 20 votes )
  • 0.13% - ( 6 votes )
  • 5.81% - ( 273 votes )
  • 0.04% - ( 2 votes )
  • 0.15% - ( 7 votes )
  • 0.36% - ( 17 votes )
  • 0.21% - ( 10 votes )
  • 0.13% - ( 6 votes )
  • 0.02% - ( 1 vote )
  • 2.17% - ( 102 votes )
  • 0.19% - ( 9 votes )
  • 0.62% - ( 29 votes )

 

Colorado Whiskey Brands

Everyone knows that whiskey and country music go together like peanut butter and jelly, but did you know how great the distillery scene is in Colorado?  There are experts all around the state cooking up some liquids that would make any Wild West gunslinger proud. Here’s a list of some of our favorite Colorado whiskey brands.

Stranahan’s

Stranahan’s distillery is extremely proud of the fact that they’re the makers of the first Colorado-born whiskey.  The distillery is located in Denver, so it’s an easy one for locals to get to.  If you go take part in one of their tours, you’ll learn how the whole thing started from a burning barn, and you’ll get to taste some of their delicious concoctions.

Colorado Whiskey Brands

Laws Whiskey House

This is another local Denver distillery, and they are obsessed with making a small amount of high quality whiskey.  They aren’t interested in making simple drinks that will appeal to the masses, and they just want to create whiskey the way it should be.  You can take a tour of their distillery, and they’ll make sure you leave fully educated about the distilling process.


Leopold Bros.

Another fine distillery in Denver, but this one doesn’t totally limit itself to whiskey.  They make a whole assortment including whiskey, gin, vodka, liqueurs, fernet, absinthe, and more.  But the diverse selection doesn’t lead to any sacrifice in quality – they just like to have a lot of options.  Not only do they offer tours of the distillery, but they also have cocktail workshops.


Boulder Distillery

If you head up the road to Boulder, you can find another great distillery.  They started making vodka from an old family recipe that immigrated with the founder’s grandfather, but they quickly realized their life wasn’t complete without making whiskey, too.  They’re currently moving to a new location, but tours should start again soon.


Downslope

Downslope is down the road in Centennial, and it’s another one that has a few different types of spirits on the menu.  Some of their drinks are even pre-mixed into cocktails, so they make life easy for you.  If you want to feel a little more challenged, then you can take a step up from the standard tour and enroll in a distilling course and workshop.

Colorado Whiskey Distillers
Breckenridge Distillery

It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out where this distillery is located, and their whiskey starts its life as snow.  They get the ingredients for their different spirits from local sources whenever possible, but they’re not afraid to import a few barrels from Kentucky.  Tours are offered in the distillery, but you can also pop into the tasting room downtown for a faster experience.


Peach Street Distillers

When you’re ready to head west, don’t forget to stop into Peach Street Distillers in Palisade.  The ingredients that go into their spirits are unique because of the Colorado desert valley in which they grow, and you taste it in the drinks.  They’re proud of the fact that they embrace the small-town life, and they’ll welcome you in their tasting room like family.


Golden Moon Distillery

Golden Moon is located in Golden, and they call their brown stuff “Gun Fighter Bourbon Whiskey.”  One of the biggest points of pride in this distillery is that the owner has a world-class research library of books about distilling.  He can prove that he has access to pretty much all of the knowledge there is, and you can taste the history.


Spirit Hound Distillers

This distillery in Lyons built their equipment around the goal of making the most pure and flavorful whiskey they could.  Their location in the foothills inspire them to follow the boldness of the west, so it’s worth the trip to any whiskey fan.

Colorado WhiskeyDancing Pines Distillery

If you head up to this distillery in Loveland, be prepared to fall into their relaxed way of enjoying life.  They named their company after the way they saw pine trees dancing in a snowstorm, and the experience helped them realize that there’s always peace in our scary world.  However, they go all out on their craftsmanship, so they produce some mighty fine whiskey.


Woody Creek Distillers

This mountain distillery is located in Basalt, and they really live off the land with their ingredients. If your quest was for vodka instead of whiskey, you’d be drinking something from potatoes they grew themselves.  But, they put hard work into all their drinks, and that’s the same attitude that grew the Wild West.


Woods High Mountain Distillery

Two brothers founded this distillery, and they were motivated by their love of outdoor adventures in the mountains of Colorado.  If you make a trip to their distillery, you can set your eyes on beautiful “Ashley.”  That’s the name that they gave to the antique German pot still that’s still going strong even after working since the 1880s.  With that kind of equipment, you just know the whiskey is great.

History of Country Music

You obviously love the hootin’ and a hollerin’ good times that come out of listening to country music, but how much do you know about where it all started?  The square dancing and concerts you attend are pretty far removed from the first musicians who picked up an instrument and started singing away.  So pull on your boots and let’s stroll down memory lane to learn about the history of country music!

The True Beginning

There isn’t one exact time and place when country music was suddenly created, but it really seemed to pluck its way into life during the 1920s.  It started popping up in the Appalachian Mountains, especially in the southern regions, and it slowly started to spread around.

 Birthplace of Country Music

Rural Folk Music

In the early 1900s, the Appalachian Mountains were remote.  Not only did very few people live there, but most Americans didn’t even have the opportunity to visit.  Many of the settlers were European immigrants who were quite poor, and they were already used to living quite a tough life.

One thing they had, though, was their musical traditions.  They kept their music alive, and it started to evolve with the times.

America Needed Something New

This time-period saw a lot of changes and quite a few challenges, so Americans were looking for something that would help simplify their feelings in life and bring them back to their roots.  Country music became just that.  Slowly people started recording and broadcasting this “cowboy” music, and it became quite the hit.

The First Artists

There had been a few cases of people publishing the music from these remote regions, but 1922 saw a fiddler from Texas named Eck Robertson be one of the first to actually record some of his tunes.  Even though he was beat out by another fiddler from Georgia named John Carson, Robertson is often given the title as the first country singer.  He recorded two southern rural songs in 1923, and this event is the most widely recognized birth of country music.

John Carson Country Music

Atlanta Started it All

John Carson was one of many who had moved to Atlanta looking for work in the cotton mills.  It became the unofficial capital of country music because it gave a lot of opportunities to record the music and broadcast it on the radio.  However, it only stayed this way through the 1930s, and then Atlanta grew too fancy and the music moved on to Nashville.

The Evolution by Generation

The Atlanta crowd became known as the first generation of country singers, and the best way to track country music from that point on is by following each generation.

Second Generation

Roy Rodgers Country MusicThis second era took place in the 1930s and 1940s, and it started during the Great Depression.  The rough economy meant less records were selling, but the radio surged in popularity.  This spurred the beginning of some long lasting shows, including the Grand Ole Opry, the famous performance in Nashville that’s still going strong.  Also, western films started getting made in Hollywood, and they featured a lot of “cowboy songs” which helped the sounds travel around the country.

In these early stages, drums were heavily resisted and even hidden off the stage for many years.  A lot of new styles started popping up and gaining in popularity, some of these were honky tonk, bluegrass, and hillbilly boogie.

Third Generation

It was during this period in the 1950s and 1960s that a new bit of tension came up because country and folk had to start distancing themselves.  Even though the musical styles were pretty similar, the followers had different backgrounds and didn’t want to associate with each other.

Johnny Cash Country MusicThis was also the generation that saw the beginning of rockabilly, and the mix of rock-and-roll and hillbilly music became popular with some of the big stars like Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.  At the same time, cowboy songs were losing their popularity.  This is the reason you hear record companies advertise country and western music.

Fourth Generation

By the 1970s and 1980s, the musical genre had evolved enough to create a few different major styles.  The sounds were going to much wider audiences with the start of country pop, but the more rebellious groups started kicking away with what was known as outlaw country.  This was even the point where people started to embrace country rock, and the likes of Bob Dylan managed to take off.

Fifth Generation

The fifth generation took place in the 1990s, and this was the era when FM radio was expanded, and country music took the opportunity to sing to more ears.  It helped that rock music was becoming more “alternative,” so many turned to the more melodic tunes of the country singers.  Also, Garth Brooks blazed a trail for a bunch of performers to expand globally, and the rest of the world became exposed to the musical style.

Sixth Generation

This is the generation where we are now, so there’s no need to go into the details.  Get out there and live it!

Family Friendly Dude Ranches in Colorado

A lot of people have resigned themselves to believing that living in a city means they’ll never live the life of a rancher.  But, that’s not true!  No matter where you live, you still have the opportunity to put on your boots and be a cowboy or cowgirl.

The way to do this, of course, is to head to a dude ranch.  So saddle up for the best family friendly options in Colorado.

What is a Dude Ranch?

A dude ranch is also often referred to as a guest ranch, and it’s a real ranch that allows city folk to come stay and experience the lifestyle.  In other words, they’re basically a Wild West hotel that will truly transport you into the country lifestyle.

These ranches really grew out of the fact that the Old West had finally disappeared, and people still wanted to feel that excitement.  Fortunately, this nostalgia hasn’t worn out, and there are still plenty of dude ranches you can visit in Colorado today.


Elk Mountain Ranch

Elk Mountain Dude RanchThis ranch is located near Buena Vista, Colorado, and that means it has an easy, beautiful drive from both Colorado Springs and Denver.  Elk Mountain Ranch limits the number of guests to 30, so you won’t be overrun by other people while you enjoy your week of play time in the San Isabel National Forest.  You’ll get to take part in horse riding, mountain biking, trap shooting, archery, a ropes course, and more!  Rates vary depending on what part of the summer you’d like to go, but they’re between $985 and $2125 for the all-inclusive, weekly price.


C Lazy U Ranch

C Lacy U RanchThis ranch near Granby is a great place to get the feeling of being a mountain cowboy, and it was voted the #1 resort in Colorado by Condé Nast Traveler.  Because of that, C Lazy U Ranch is an ideal choice for getting spoiled by a little luxury while immersing yourself in the Wild West.  The rates vary significantly depending on which lodging you choose, but you most often book per night (instead of weekly).



Rainbow Trout Ranch

Rainbow Trout RanchThis ranch sits down on the border with New Mexico, but it’s worth the trip south.  Rainbow Trout Ranch lets you mix in plenty of fly fishing and white water rafting with all of the horseback riding.  If that’s not enough, you can take an excursion to the Taos Pueblo adobe dwellings to walk through history. Prices range from $2,000 – $2,500 for a week during the summer.


Home Ranch

The Home Dude RanchHome Ranch sits about 45 minutes north of Steamboat Springs, and it’s a nice escape in both the summer and the winter.  They really embrace the snowy activities in the winter, so you can see how tough it was to be a year-round cowboy.  There are multiple different houses on the ranch, and the rates depend on which you’d most like to kick off your boots inside of every night.



Colorado Cattle Company

Colorado Cattle CompanyThe Colorado Cattle Company won the DudeRanch.com Signature Ranch Award in both 2014 and 2015.  Plus, this ranch in New Raymer, CO allows you to go one step beyond the standard dude ranch activities.  They offer a nightly “cowboy school” to perfect western skills like roping, and it’s a great way to have some extra chances to show off.  The rates go from about $2,200 to $2,500 for six nights with the all-inclusive package.



Drowsy Water Ranch

Drowsy Water Dude RanchDrowsy Water Ranch is another one near Granby, and it has managed to make the top 10 list of all-inclusive resorts by Parents.com and Trip Advisor.  It does a great job of making sure that ranchers of all ages will have plenty to do and enjoy together as a family.  The rates vary depending on the dates you’d like to go, but they are pretty similar to the other ranches around Colorado.



Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch

Sylvan Dude RanchSylvan Dale is in Loveland, so it’s just a short mosey from Denver.  Not only do they offer all the excitement of a guest ranch, but they’re also really starting to focus on sustainable agriculture.  Six-night stays in the summer are about $2,300 for each adult, but there are discounted periods in the spring and fall.


Black Mountain Ranch

Black Mountain Dude RanchBlack Mountain Ranch is in the heart of the Rocky Mountains near McCoy, Colorado.  They have most of the usual dude ranch pastimes, and they even have a few “adults only weeks” so you can live the true cowboy life without upsetting any little ones.  The rates vary depending on which cabin you’d like to call home.


Sundance Trail Guest and Dude Ranch

Sundance Trail Dude RanchThis ranch is near Red Feather Lakes close to the Wyoming border, and it’s the real deal.  They’ve simplified it compared to many other guest ranches, so you won’t have those modern distractions like swimming pools bothering you from the real experience of getting away from the city folk.  Also, they have lower rates than most other ranches, and a six-night stay for an adult only goes above $2,000 during the very peak season.


Majestic Dude Ranch

Majestic Dude RanchThis ranch takes you to another part of the state because it’s about half an hour from Durango.

There are a lot of great trails that they can take you horseback riding on, or you can go for a mixture of eras and have a paintball fight in an Old West setting.  The rate at Majestic Dude Ranch is generally $1,659 per week for an adult.

St Elmo Colorado Ghost Town

Best Colorado Ghost Towns

Country music was born in the rowdiness of the Wild West, and Colorado held a special place right in the center of that.  However, modern life has done away with most of the craziness of that world, and we’re all forced to live civilized lives.

Do you ever wish you could just take a step back in time?  Well, maybe you can.

You don’t have to be a dusty old miner to experience the Colorado of the 1800s.  All you have to do is hop in the car, or on your horse, and take a trip to the past.  The state is full of ghost towns.  Some of them have just a few remains hinting at what used to be, but others still have people living there and keeping the history alive.


Animas Forks

Animas Forks Colorado Ghost Town

This town near Silverton is nearly 350 miles away from Denver, but it’s worth the trek.  Just make sure you have something tough to drive in, though, because the roads are pretty rough.

People starting building their lives here in 1873, and it was home to almost 500 people at its peak.  It had that standard setup of cabins, a general store, a post office, and a saloon.

Animas Forks is in fairly good shape today because it has been under a protected status, including being on the National Register of Historic Places.  It has a whole selection of rugged cabins, so the only thing that’s missing is the job in the mine.

Plus, it has plenty of intense four wheel drive trails around, so plan on doing some off-roading!


Ashcroft

Ashcroft Colorado Ghost Town

This ghost town is right next to Aspen, but the two couldn’t be any more different.

Some prospectors brought life to Ashcroft in 1880, and they created a Miners’ Protective Society to lure more people.  It worked, and the town eventually blew up to having about 3,500 residents.  This many people, of course, needed 20 saloons, a few hotels, more than one newspaper, and all the other elements of daily life.

Unfortunately, it only made it until 1885 before people started finding better luck elsewhere.  The town slowly dried up, but it saw a revival in the 20th century for those looking for a remote mountain outpost.  It’s been home to soldiers, Olympians, and many other brave explorers.

Today it’s just a few preserved wooden buildings, but it’s a great bit of culture to balance out any visit to high-priced Aspen.


Dearfield

Dearfield Colorado Ghost Town

If mountain roads aren’t your thing, then head up to this neighbor of Greeley for your ghost town experience.

Dearfield was a settlement mostly inhabited by African-American people, and it got its start as recently as the 1920s.  The life of the town was pretty mellow and short, but it’s a great way to experience what life was like on the plains.


Independence

Independence Colorado Ghost Town

This is another ghost town near Aspen, and it was one of many places that attracted people venturing out from Leadville.

Gold was first discovered on the 4th of July, and it started out with a lot of promise as a town.  It started to grow rapidly, and they even built a sawmill to help.  However, a series of setbacks caused many to reconsider moving there, and it was hard to attract new residents because of the high altitude and harsh weather.

The town itself slowly died out, but the remaining cabins are still nestled in a very picturesque spot.


St. Elmo

St Elmo Colorado Ghost Town

St. Elmo is nestled in between the Collegiate Peaks near Buena Vista, and the area is so a beautiful that it would be worth a visit even without this little treasure.

It began its life in 1880, and was home to 2,000 people back in the day.  It remained a popular mining town until the beginning of the 1920s, but then people decided to pack up and move on to greener pastures.

Many call this the most well-preserved ghost town in Colorado (so much that there’s even debate about whether or not it is a ghost town), and it still feels quite alive.  The only thing that makes a walk down the main street feel like the 21st century is the cars and people with cameras.

If you feel like some adrenaline, this is a great starting point to rent ATVs or snowmobiles and explore the surrounding areas.


Tin Cup

Tin Cup Colorado Ghost Town

This ghost town near Gunnison has seen a rebirth in modern times with vacation houses, and a few people even live here year round.

Tin Cup started its life as Virginia City in 1879, but it was eventually confused with a similar town in Nevada.  Since the original gold was panned into a tin cup, it wasn’t too difficult to think of a new name.  

The original townsfolk seemed to split their time between mining and having rowdy gunfights, so you can still feel the thrill of the Wild West in the air.

Some entrepreneurs have started renting out their houses here, so you could seize the opportunity to spend some time living like a 19th-century miner.


Find Your Own Ghosts

All of these ghost towns make great trips throughout the state, but you shouldn’t stop there.  The mountains are littered with remains of old mines and towns, and sometimes the best discoveries are those that you mosey up to unexpectedly.

The Baddest Country Outlaws

Country music has always been connected with cowboys roaming the vast expanses of the Wild West. But it comes as no surprise that plenty of these cowboys were outlaws.

You don’t have to support robbing trains, having shootouts at high noon, or causing a brawl over a hand of cards, but you can still admit that these gunslingers are a fascinating bunch.  Here are some of the most interesting bandits from back in the day.


Billy the Kid (1859 – 1881)

Billy the Kid OutlawUsually a nickname like “the Kid” wouldn’t give someone such a rough reputation, but Billy managed to pull it off.  Born as Henry McCarty, he alternated between fighting in the Lincoln County War in New Mexico, and simply wreaking havoc around the region.  His life was surrounded by rumors, and there have been many exaggerated tales about how many people he killed and when he actually died.


Henry Newton Brown (1857 – 1884)

Harry Newton Brown OutlawNext up is one of Billy’s buddies.  After roaming around with the Kid, Brown eventually retired from a life of crime to become a deputy sheriff.  However, strapping on a badge doesn’t automatically change a man, and he gained a reputation for picking fights with drunks.

It wasn’t long before people turned on him, but it’s hard to tell if the townsfolk didn’t like their lawmen stirring up trouble, or if they thought it wasn’t sporting to pick on those who’d had a few too many whiskeys.  Most likely it had something to do with a bank robbery he was involved in, and his coffin was built after a mob lynched him.


Sam Bass (1851 – 1878)

Sam Bass OutlawThis is another outlaw who tried to start life as a law-abiding citizen, but eventually learned that fate had other things in store for him.  Things mostly went wrong when he and his partner stole the herd of longhorns they were transporting, but it helped give him some money to use at the card tables.  Unfortunately, the rush of gambling eventually led to bigger and more elaborate stagecoach and train robberies.  He even managed to pull of the largest robbery of the Union Pacific Railroad, before catching a bullet.


Felipe Espinosa (1836 – 1863)

This outlaw killed so many people that he’s often thought of as America’s first serial killer.  His life took a bad turn after the Mexican-American War, and he and his brother managed to kill 32 people to try and settle the score.  Eventually a tracker named Tom Tobin hunted them down, but shooting them dead wasn’t enough, and the outlaw’s heads were even cut off.


Belle Starr (1848 – 1889)

Belle StarrIt’s not often that a rich girl abandons her comfortable city life to become an outlaw, but Myra Maybelle Shirley Reed Starr was far from ordinary.  The Civil War disrupted her life, and her talent with a gun helped her get in with some big outlaws of the time.  She eventually became known as the Bandit Queen.


Hoodoo Brown (1856 – ?)

Hoodoo was originally named Hyman G. Neil but this obviously had to change before starting a life of crime.  He didn’t like the lawless state of Las Vegas, New Mexico, so he imported some gunslingers and started the Dodge City Gang to protect the town.  However, these trigger-happy men eventually started defining their own laws, and they simply turned into the biggest band of outlaws around.  There are various versions of how he met his end, so he seems to have been another to ride off into the sunset.


Doc Holiday (1851 – 1887)

Doc HolidayHenry “Doc” Holiday spent more time enforcing the law than he did breaking it, but he had enough questionable events throughout his life to land on this list.  Before he was a gunslinger, he was a dentist in Atlanta, Georgia.  Unfortunately, he was eventually diagnosed with tuberculosis, and he was advised to head west to for the dry climate.  Gambling became a habit, and the Wild West did the rest.


Jim Miller (1866 – 1909)

Jim MillerMost outlaws loved having unhealthy habits, but this one didn’t smoke or drink. He even attended church regularly enough to get the nickname Deacon Jim, however it seems the priest never directly asked if he was a professional assassin.  His hands were fast enough to win about a dozen gunfights, but they weren’t enough to stop an angry mob upset about his assassination of a U.S. Marshall.


Bonnie and Clyde (1910, 1909 – 1934)

Bonnie and ClydeEveryone loves a good love story, but Romeo and Juliet have to step aside for Bonnie and Clyde.  These two were the most recent, and they were roaming around causing trouble during the Great Depression.  Much of their reputation was blown up by the media, but they did spend a fair amount of time robbing banks and gas stations.  Unfortunately, they shot a few too many policemen and civilians to get away with it.


Butch Cassidy (1866 – 1908) and The Sundance Kid (1867 – 1908)

Butch and Sundance OutlawsBefore Paul Newman and Robert Redford snagged these roles, these were real guys by the names of Robert Leroy Parker and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh.  Their home base was the Hole-in-the-Wall Ranch in Wyoming, and they held the American record for the longest streak of bank and train robberies.  They even made their escape to Argentina and Bolivia before the law finally caught up with them.



Jesse James (1847 – 1882)

Jesse James OutlawThis member of the James-Younger Gang was a big part of their successful string of train, stagecoach, and of course, bank robberies.  He’s often looked at as a sort of Robin Hood of the Old West, but there isn’t much proof to that whole concept.  Unfortunately, his success led to a widespread reputation, and he was shot in the back of the head by one of his friends who wanted to collect the reward.