Things to Do in Durango, Colorado: Durango's Attractions & Places to Go

Things to Do in Durango

Durango, Colorado, is known for many things: majestic mountain ranges, world-class skiing, proximity to the Four Corners and Mesa Verde National Park, and its history as an old mining and railroad town. The Southwestern Colorado city was founded in 1880 by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Company and is situated on the renowned Million Dollar Highway—one of the top scenic drives near Durango—and surrounded by the spectacular San Juan Mountains.

However, there's much more to Durango than its looks and history. The entertainment and dining scenes are diverse and extensive; there's plenty of shopping, resorts, and hotels in Durango; and there are numerous ways to participate in the arts. Get ready to plan an exciting, fun-filled, and highly customizable itinerary for your Durango vacation or staycation.

Durango Outdoor Adventures

For a smaller-sized city, the bounty of outdoor recreation in Durango is impressive. Every outdoor pursuit imaginable is found in Durango, from fly-fishing, hiking, and skiing to mountain biking, birdwatching, and white water rafting—and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Skiing, snowboarding, and other winter activities are popular in the area, but it's worth noting that Durango isn't primarily a ski town. That being said, some of the best ski resorts in Southwestern Colorado are in the area, including:

  • Purgatory Resort, located less than 30 miles north of Downtown Durango
  • Hesperus Ski Area, located approximately 15 miles west of Durango
  • Wolf Creek Resort in the Pagosa Springs community, which is about 60 miles east of Durango
  • Chapman Hill Ski Area, a small municipal ski area right in Durango featuring two rope tows and 500 vertical feet of terrain 

No matter your passions or interests, an outdoor adventure awaits you in Durango.

Parks in Durango

Despite being just 6.8 square miles in size, there are over 40 parks in Durango. Santa Rita Park is a local favorite, as it's situated along the Animas River and has a large playground. It also has lighted basketball courts, soccer fields, volleyball courts, and horseshoe pits. Rotary Park is another favorite among locals and visitors. It's also located on the Animas, just north of Historic Downtown Durango, and provides direct access to the Animas River Trail. The Durango Fish Hatchery and Wildlife Museum and Animas Brewery are both an easy walk away. Those with dogs shouldn't miss the Durango Off-Leash Dog Park, which provides access to more than five miles of riverfront paths and trails.

Durango Water Recreation

Durango's beautiful lakes and rivers are world-class for fishing, rafting, and more, and they make it easy for people to get out on the water throughout most of the year. Whether you want to experience the thrill of whitewater rafting down the Animas River or enjoy a leisurely kayak trip around one of the area lakes, options abound.

You can try your luck angling for salmon and rainbow trout at Lemon Reservoir, spend a day at Lake Nighthorse paddling and swimming, or check out one of the largest bodies of water in the state: Vallecito Lake.

Hiking & Biking in Durango

The San Juan Mountains are just as rugged as they are beautiful, and that's a winning combination for hiking and biking enthusiasts. With several trails located within Durango and just outside the city—some of which rank among the best hikes in Colorado—there's one for every skill and experience level. Start with Purgatory Trail, which sounds far scarier than it really is. The trail is just 2.5 miles and has sweeping views of the Animas River canyon and Lime Creek. Hermosa Creek Trail and Animas River Trail are both extremely popular with cyclists and hikers alike, and both have several access points.

The reputation of Southern Colorado in general—and Durango in particular—as an outdoor lover's paradise is well-earned. Not only is it spectacularly beautiful, but the city also enjoys year-round mild weather and direct access to rivers, lakes, mountains, a ski resort, and the state's largest wilderness area, Weminuche Wilderness.

Experience Mesa Verde National Park

Visiting Mesa Verde National Park is an awe-inspiring bucket list experience, and there's no better way to do it than by making the short 35-mile drive from Durango. This UNESCO World Heritage Site in Southwest Colorado offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the Ancestral Puebloans.

There are enough things to do in Mesa Verde National Park to warrant spending several days here, so the park's campsites are popular options for visitors. The park features over 600 cliff dwellings, including the famous Cliff Palace and Balcony House. Guided tours provide in-depth historical insights, while self-guided trails let you explore at your own pace. The Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum offers exhibits and artifacts that enrich your understanding of this ancient culture. With stunning scenery and rich history, Mesa Verde National Park is an unforgettable destination for history buffs and nature lovers alike.

Durango Shopping

Although Durango's scenery and weather encourage people to spend most of their time outdoors, there's also plenty to do inside. One option that's great for all ages and interests is shopping. Whether you're in the market for decor for your La Plata County home, some new outdoor gear, antiques, a Durango souvenir, books, or even an entirely new wardrobe, you can find it here.

Durango has hundreds of stores, and the vast majority of them are locally owned. Shopping in Durango is primarily done at local shops, but there's also the Durango Mall and a few big box stores.

Durango Restaurants

A vibrant foodie scene may not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering a small mountain town like Durango. However, food is a serious business here. In fact, the number of restaurants per capita in Durango rivals San Francisco's!

So, what kind of food is Durango known for? A little bit of everything. Southwestern and Mexican cuisines are perennial favorites, emphasizing Hatch green chilis from New Mexico. Burgers are also wildly popular, as are steakhouses, but there are plenty of Asian fusion and Mediterranean restaurants in Durango. Additionally, craft breweries are a big deal in Durango, with five locations plus a distillery. Many Durango restaurants are even pet-friendly!

Arts & Culture in Durango

Like many other Colorado communities, Durango's arts and culture scene is vibrant and diverse. Something about the crisp mountain air, all the trees, and the abundance of sunshine seem to perpetually attract and inspire creatives. The area's rich history certainly helps as well.

Museums

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Durango has several wonderful museums that satisfy a wide range of interests. An excellent starting point is the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum, a massive museum situated on the rail yard grounds that celebrates Durango's important railroad history. Visitors will find extensive train memorabilia, including an 800-square-foot model, covered wagons, and antique coaches. In addition to visiting the free museum, consider riding the historic steam train: there are many different ride options and excursion packages, with tickets starting at around $39.

Keeping with the history theme, the restored classroom from 1905 at the Animas Museum is not to be missed. Art lovers should check out the dozen or so Durango art galleries or visit the Museum of Impressionism. Science fans will enjoy the interactive exhibits at the Powerhouse Science Center. Favorites include life-sized dinosaur displays, DIY classes in the MakerLab, and weekly trivia nights. The center is also housed in a converted steam-powered, coal-fired power plant on the Animas River—that alone makes it worth the visit!

Dance & Theater

For those who want to spend some time indoors and experience the performing arts scene, Durango has them covered. The Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College showcases a wide range of primarily college performances, with a commitment to keeping costs low. It can also be rented as a venue for private performances or even receptions. The non-profit Durango Arts Center is a hub for art education and performing and visual arts.

These Durango events include live dance and theater performances, art installations, artist lecture series, various classes and workshops, and the Annual Durango Autumn Arts Festival, an event held for 30 years. The Animas City Theatre screens movies and puts on musicals and other types of performances like stand-up comedy shows and open-mic nights.

Whether people are artists or creators themselves, or they simply appreciate the arts, Durango is a wonderful city with a diverse range of offerings. The city's galleries, museums, and performing arts venues provide an excellent way to spend the afternoon, as well as opportunities for education and enrichment.

Durango Nightlife

Durango's entertainment and nightlife scene is vibrant, with something for everyone to enjoy. People can spend a night playing pool or darts, sipping local craft beers, sampling a variety of happy-hour offerings on Main Street, gathering some friends for a few rounds of trivia, or dancing the night away. The classic Old West-style saloon Diamond Belle is an absolute must in Durango, while Joel's Bar is known as the premier spot for dancing, with multiple DJs and dance floors. The Billy Goat Saloon just outside of Durango is a long-time favorite. It opened in 1982 and is widely considered one of the best places to catch live sporting events.

Explore Durango Today

While this southern Colorado city unquestionably lends itself to outdoor recreation and an active lifestyle, there are far more Durango attractions to discover. From shopping and dining to catching a live local performance or taking in one of the many annual festivals, there's always something for everyone to discover and enjoy here. Visit Durango today!

If Durango sounds like the perfect place for you, contact Colorado Property Group of RE/MAX with Durango Homes for Sale at (970) 946-0601 to get in touch with a Durango real estate agent and get ready to call this beautiful mountain town home.

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