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The natural mountain landscape of Western Colorado provides a multitude of opportunities to get the family outdoors and into nature. From downtown Grand Junction to the grapevines of Palisade to the western landscape of Colorado National Monument, visitors will find a variety of things to do in Grand Junction.
Many travelers think of Denver and the mountain ski resorts as the best Colorado travel destinations. But Grand Junction also has much to offer visitors. Western Colorado is a hub for both outdoor activities and dramatic landscapes. And, it can even be affordable with its many free family activities.
At an altitude of 4,597 feet, Grand Junction sees more than 275 days of sunshine a year. Spectacular landscapes and outdoor activities are abundant. It is one of our favorite Colorado mountain towns.
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Free things to do include seeing art sculptures and discovering dinosaur bones, and taking a scenic drive. Ultimately, a family vacation to this area of western Colorado can be affordable, educational and fun. So, read on for 9 free things to do in Grand Junction.
Read More: 12 Things to Know Before Visiting Colorado
1. Wine Tasting at Grand Junction Area Wineries
The Grand Valley is home to more than 20 wineries with tasting rooms. As such, many of these are open year round. And, some even offer free tastings.
Pick up a map at the Grand Junction Visitor Center to discover the wineries offering tastings. Then experience the joy of discovering Colorado’s Wine Country.
2. Art on the Corner
Stroll along Main Street. View more than 100 sculptures created by both local and national artists. This unique outdoor sculpture exhibit features a variety of works. Enjoy artistic approaches varying from bronze casting to junk-yard miracles.
3. Scenic Byways in the Grand Junction Area
Three scenic byways near Grand Junction boast spectacular scenery. These include Grand Mesa Scenic & Historic Byway; and Unaweep/ Tabeguache Scenic & Historic Byway. Another is Dinosaur Diamond Scenic & Historic Byway.
4. Riverfront Trails
The local trail system along the Colorado River is beautiful and easily accessible. Several miles of paved trails meander along the river. The trail has various access points. As such, the river trails pass through cottonwood groves, wetlands, cattail marshes, and ponds. Here you should also be able to spot plenty of small wildlife.
TravelingMom Tip: One of our favorite things to do when taking a vacation is to hire a photographer for family photos. This is a special gift and souvenir that we cherish. We use Flytographer to book a local photographer located in the area that we're traveling to. Use this link and you will get $25 off your photo session.
5. View Wild Horses at Little Bookcliffs Wild Horses Range
Wild horses have lived for more than a century in the rugged maze of canyons of the Little Book Cliffs. Use the Bureau of Land Management’s map for a self-guided tour of the Little Bookcliffs Wild Horses Range. The Indian Park entrance may be the best place to catch a glimpse. For more information, call 970-244-3000.
6. View Dinosaur Bones
See dinosaur bones at Riggs Hill Trail and “Trail Through Time.” This is the place to see actual dinosaur bone fossils in their natural state. Riggs Hill Trail is an easy historical hike. The “Trail Through Time” is a slightly longer self-guided interpretive trail. Got a budding paleontologist who needs a more robust dinosaur journey? Check out the Museums of Western Colorado Dinosaur Journey.
7. Mountain Biking
The Grand Valley is home to some of the best mountain biking trails in the United States. The 142-mile Tabeguache Trail winds through mesas, canyons, and highlands. This stretches from Grand Junction south to Montrose.
Another 142-mile trail, the Kokopelli, is a network of single track and jeep roads. It begins near Fruita and ends in Moab, UT. Between Loma and Rabbit Valley Drive, there are also several trails and loops.
The adobe ridges of the Bookcliffs are often featured in mountain biking videos. These offer challenging single track trails in a desert environment.
8. Concerts in Grand Junction, Colorado
Each year the Colorado Riverfront Foundation and the Grand Valley Music Festival present a series of free concerts. For more information on these concerts call 970-683-4333. In addition, several of the local wineries and Botanical Gardens also offer concerts. Those are available for a reasonable price.
Finally, Grand Junction offers hiking trails for every skill level. Enjoy a walk or bike ride on these paved Riverfront sidewalk trails. Or, enjoy an invigorating hike on the rugged backcountry treks through the Bookcliffs or Grand Mesa.
TravelingMom Tip: Check out this advice on how to get kids hiking and out into nature.
Other Things to Do in Grand Junction
There are many, many other things to do in Grand Junction that aren’t free. But they are well worth the minimal cost.
Colorado National Monument
Grand Junction offers proximity to Colorado National Parks and Monuments. As such, the area is also popular for camping, mountain biking and hiking.
Colorado National Monument, boasts a spectacular, vast plateau and canyon panorama. Taking Rim Rock drive is a great way to take in the views and spot wildlife.
This is our #1 pick of things to do with your family in Grand Junction. But it is only free for families through the Every Kid in a Park program, or on select free national park days. Free national park days in 2020 are January 20, April 18, August 25, September 26 and November 11.
Visit a Museum
The Museum of the West is fun and interesting. An old airplane, fire truck, phone booth and model post office and school room are fun to see and experience. The area has a history of Ute Indians and the exhibits of Chief Ouray, Chipetta are important. It was well worth a stop for a dose of Colorado history.
Make a stop at the Museums of Western Colorado’s Cross Orchards Historic Site to see the historic buildings, railroad cars and agricultural heritage.
Eureka! Math and Science Center in Grand Junction is a really cool science museum that will enthrall both kids and adults. It recently opened a new facility and the exhibits are outstanding, from a glass bee hive to mind-bending puzzles.
Visit the Botanical Gardens
The Western Colorado Botanical Gardens boasts several peaceful and colorful gardens: the Cactus Garden, Antique Rose Garden, Children’s Secret Garden, the Western Heritage Garden, Celebration Plaza and Japanese garden. The tropical rainforest and butterfly house showcase tropical plants and orchids as well as koi fish, turtles, tortoises, and butterflies. See the butterflies come out of the chrysalis, take a scavenger hunt or play in the children’s area.
Eat Palisade Peaches
In addition, Palisade Peaches can be found affordably at roadside fruit stands. This area outside of Grand Junction is known for its delicious, juicy peaches. Visitors won’t want to miss stopping at an orchard or roadside stand. A hardcore Bulldog fan tells me that Palisade peaches actually top Georgia peaches.
Not only does Grand Junction offer many things to do for free. But there are even more kid-friendly activities throughout this area of western Colorado. There are also many fun things to do in Glenwood Springs, just a short drive from Grand Junction.
What are your favorite things to do in Grand Junction? Tell us in the comments below!