Week 6: Visitors Centers

Travel is fun and full of adventure, but it can also be tiring, expensive, and rife with assorted inconveniences. After a day in the car—which more often than not includes bored and hungry boys, GPS-defying detours, the spilling of at least one sticky beverage, and fifty miles of one-lane cone zones—I appreciate seeing a friendly face. Having never been a tourist in Fort Collins, I wondered: in what way are travelers welcomed here?

The Colorado Welcome Center at Fort Collins is located just west of the Prospect Road/I-25 interchange. I had assumed that a Monday morning would be fairly slow, but when I got there around eleven, the guest book had already been signed by visitors from Virginia, North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, Germany, Kentucky, Washington, Iowa, South Dakota, Michigan, Texas, Florida, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. Pretty impressive.

Anyone unfamiliar with Colorado’s diversity would surely appreciate that the large state map on the wall is divided into regions, with the corresponding information easily accessible on a nearby rack. The rest of the visitor’s center is pretty standard: information desk, free coffee, a small retail area with books and touristy treasures. And brochures. Tons of brochures for dining, bicycling, hiking, fishing, history, shopping, maps, coupons, breweries. Outside, the welcome center also provides a fantastic view of the Front Range, a shady picnic area, and is adjacent to the Running Deer Natural Area—a great place for a stroll after a day of traveling.

The next day, I dropped in at the Downtown Visitors Information Center at 19 Old Town Square. It’s a much smaller space, shared with the Fort Collins Convention & Visitors Bureau. The vintage sporting equipment and Brewfest posters on the walls give it a great old town feel, as do the flowers and the fountain just a few steps away from the door. Unlike the Colorado Welcome Center, this is run by the city, not the state, and the brochures focus on the Fort Collins/Estes Park area. But there are plenty, and it’s also the place to purchase Downtown Fort Collins Gift Cards. (Because the next gift you give should be more fun than a bottle of wine, right?)

So, this week I discovered two hometown tourist centers—one on the edge of town, one at its heart. Both are staffed by friendly, knowledgeable folks (often volunteers) who happen to think we have a pretty amazing quality of life in Fort Collins. I concur. If I were a visitor, I would feel very welcomed in either place--especially after cleaning up a puddle of chocolate milk off the floor of my car. Stop by sometime when you’re looking for something to do, and tell your out-of-towners to do the same. Talk to the staffers, browse the brochures, and I guarantee you’ll be inspired.


Luana Krause said…
Great post. I live in Cheyenne but travel to Fort Collins quite often. Great shopping and restaurants. Love the Old Town area. It's one of my favorite cities.
Jenny said…
Thanks, Luana! If you have a chance to stop by the visitors centers, I hope you make some fun new discoveries.
What a good idea. I'll bet lots of folks don't think of dropping by the visitors centers in our own towns.


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