Recreation & Destinations

Loveland, Colorado: ‘Gateway to the Rockies’

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The newest flight out of Chicago Rockford International Airport puts travelers in an ideal location to enjoy the scenic Rocky Mountains.

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If you’ve been thinking about jetting off to the Rocky Mountains, this is a great time to do it. Elite Airways offers twice weekly flights between Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport (FNL) and Chicago-Rockford International Airport (RFD). You can park the car (for free) at RFD, hop on your plane and land in Rocky Mountain foothills 2 hours and 15 minutes later.

Loveland, Colo., is an ideally located “base camp” for excursions north, south, east and west, and it also has a lot to offer visitors from within its own borders.

“For a town our size, we have a lot going on,” says Nicole Yost, of VisitLovelandCO.com. The city of 72,000 people offers ample lodging, dining and shopping amenities plus a charming downtown and lively arts scene.

“Loveland hotels don’t require minimum-night stays, as the mountain resorts often do, especially during busy seasons,” Yost explains. Bum around Loveland for a day or two as you adjust to the elevation of just under 5,000 feet. Then head west on US-34 and arrive in gorgeous Estes Park, Colo. in less than an hour; glorious Rocky Mountain National Park will be at your disposal, as will quaint mountain towns with elevations of 7,000 to 8,000 feet.

Don’t like mountain driving? Shuttle services can whisk you between Loveland and your mountain destination.

Or, head south on I-25 from Loveland and find yourself in Denver (pop. 650,000) an hour later. This state capital offers all the metropolitan sophistication, pro sports team action and jazzed-up nightlife you would expect. Top attractions include the Denver Zoo, Denver Botanic Gardens and Denver Art Museum. Take in a Rockies ballgame at Coors Stadium or get tickets for a Broncos football game.

Or, head north from Loveland, on I-25, and roll into another state capital. The pace is a bit slower in Cheyenne, Wyo., which is 10 times smaller than Denver, but its Old West roots are on full display. Cheyenne is situated on a rolling landscape between the North and South Platte rivers. Rodeos, trains, outdoor adventure and Native American traditions are all part of the culture.

Head east from Loveland toward Greeley, Colo., and you’ll notice an agri-tourism trail along the way. Visitors to Greeley’s Colorado Model Railroad Museum give it an “Excellent” rating on TripAdvisor.com and the Antique Washing Machine Museum offers good, clean fun to those who enjoy quirky attractions.

If you hanker to ride a horse in wide-open spaces, plenty of reputable dude ranches surround Loveland. One is Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, less than 10 miles away, nestled near the Roosevelt National Forest. Saddle up your horse, gather around an open fire or do some trout fly-fishing in the Big Thompson River Valley.

The number of breweries, distilleries, wineries and “cideries” in the Loveland area may surprise you. Many offer tours. Along with a pretty downtown shopping district, Loveland offers The Promenade Shops, with more than 75 brand favorites like Banana Republic, White House Black Market and Build-a-Bear Workshop. Nearby there’s a MetroLux 14 Theatre, a seasonal skating rink and walking paths to the one-of-a-kind Chapungu Sculpture Park, featuring Zimbabwe stone sculptures. Loveland’s 10-acre Benson Sculpture Garden showcases 148 sculptures and is considered a “must-see” in the world of contemporary U.S. art sites.

Outdoor movies and plenty of special events play out in Loveland beneath skies that are clear 300 days per year.
Wintertime is just as lively in Colorado, of course, with world-class ski resorts dotting the state map. Be sure to book flights and ski resorts well in advance.

Flights to FNL depart Rockford at 8 a.m. on Mondays and Fridays; FNL flights to Rockford depart at 4 p.m. Mondays and Fridays. Tickets are on sale now. Learn more at flyrfd.com.

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