Summer Bucket List

Yeah, so, this blog.  I doubt anyone follows it but it comes up in searches occasionally so I thought I’d write something. A few local blogs are doing Summer Bucket Lists and my family has already come up with our list of things we want to do this summer with the boys, who are 6 and going on 10.  In addition to CSU sports camps, Cub Scout camps and vacation (38 days to Disney!), the boys are doing CARA Track, so our days are already pretty full.  And while they love to play with neighborhood friends during those unscheduled days, there are also a few family days we’d like to get in.

1. Swim at a local watering hole we’ve never visited. Boyd Lake, Lake Loveland and Winona Pool all fit the bill perfectly.

2. Catch a movie. Holiday Twin Drive-In would be ideal but not always realistic. Cinemark, Carmike and Metrolux are all doing summer movie series on different days of the week, plus The Promenade Shops at Centerra does a free Friday night movie.

3.  There are lots of opportunities for free summer entertainment, whether it’s a show at Lincoln Center, Fun & Sun at the Plaza at the Promenade Shops at Centerra, or the many free concert series in both Fort Collins and Loveland.

4. The Kids Bowl Free program at Chipper’s is always a great deal, and my kids love to hurl that ball down the lane and munch on some fries.

5. Ice cream during the summer is always a must, and I really want to check out Chill Colorado Creamery, which just opened in Loveland. What’s more fun (or tasty) than ice cream flash frozen with liquid nitrogen?

6. Take in a ball game.  The Fort Collins Foxes games are an inexpensive and fun way to spend an evening, and if your kids are tenacious, can even grab a home run or foul ball.

7. Go on a hike.  I’m not sure my 6 year old can handle Horsetooth Rock just yet, but there are plenty of other natural areas to check out. Coyote Ridge is one we’ve been wanting to try.

8. Visit some parts of Colorado other than the Fort Collins/Loveland area. The aforementioned track meets will force this, as we travel to some Denver-area towns we’ve heard of but have never ventured to. But I’d also love a day trip to Colorado Springs, or take a drive over Trail Ridge Rd. to Grand Lake. Fires permitting, of course.

9. Head up the Poudre Canyon for something other than the drive to Steamboat. Maybe do some fishing, have lunch at the Mish, or just find a trail and go for a hike.

Some more links to check out:

Growing Up Fort Collins’ Summer Bucket List
10 Things to Do With Your Kids This Summer

Posted in Events, Loveland, Outdoors | 1 Comment

Duncan Hines Decadent Cakes and Glazes

The holiday season is in full swing and the holidays mean shopping, decorating and of course, baking.  Add in my usual schedule of working, PTO and Cub Scouts, and things get pushed aside.  The baking is usually the first to go in our house so when Family Review Network and Duncan Hines offered the chance to try out some of their new cake mixes and dessert toppings, I knew this was the opportunity for us.

Duncan Hines launched their new Decadent Cake Line with two new incredibly indulgent offerings – Duncan Hines Decadent Triple Chocolate Cake with real chocolate chunks and rich fudge and Duncan Hines Decadent Apple Caramel cake with real apples and rich caramel.  They simultaneously launched Decadent Glazes, available in chocolate and vanilla.

Decadent is definitely a good word to describe these desserts and glazes.  And while that also may bring forth visions of pots and pans everywhere and a disaster of a kitchen, the opposite is true.  The cakes couldn’t be easier to make.  Each comes with 2 pouches; one containing the cake mix and one containing a topping.  The cake mix is mixed with eggs, water and oil, and the topping just water, and then baked.  So even I can do it, and I’m generally baking challenged.

I made the Apple Caramel cake for Thanksgiving dessert, and topped it with the vanilla glaze.  The glaze was unbelievably smooth and creamy, you’d never know it’s from a bottle.  The cake was moist and delicious. All of us scarfed down our slice and went back for seconds.

I decided to make cupcakes with the Triple Chocolate Cake to bring to a Cub Scout event.  Like the Apple Caramel, the cake was very easy to make.  The cake mix is combined with eggs, water and oil and then poured into the cupcake liners, and then the topping, which contains chocolate chips, is spooned on top, not mixed in.  After baking the topping soaks into the middle of the cupcake, forming a sort of lava filling.  I found that the cupcakes that had a smaller amount of topping added absorbed the filling better, those that had more of a heaping teaspoon ended up with an indent in the top.

I topped the cupcakes with both the chocolate and vanilla glaze and biting into a cupcake, with the chocolate filling and creamy glaze, was like biting into a little bit of heaven.   To be honest chocolate isn’t usually my first choice for desserts, I’ll usually take a slice of apple pie or cheesecake over chocolate cake.  But the Triple Chocolate Cake has risen to the top of my list of favorite desserts.

This post was written for Family Review Network & Duncan Hines who provided the complimentary product for review in exchange for my honest opinions.

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Barbara’s Bakery

Barbara’s products make a great fit for moms and their families because every item in the entire product line is made free of harmful ingredients such as hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors, preservatives and additives and high fructose corn syrup.  As more families are choosing healthy lifestyles, they can turn to Barbara’s for all-natural products that they can both trust and the whole family will love.  In fact, in honor of its 40th birthday, Barbara’s Bakery is making a stand and saying NO to the bad stuff, and YES to natural foods, and would like to encourage others to do the same!

You may have noticed at your local grocery store that Barbara’s Bakery, a leader in natural foods for 40 years, recently got a makeover with new products and a new look.  With its new packaging, Barbara’s hopes to make their products more identifiable on grocery store shelves and, as a result, empower shoppers to say NO to unnatural foods.

Barbara’s says NO to:

  • Hydrogenated Oils
  • Artificial Flavors
  • Artificial Preservatives
  • Refined Sugar
  • Trans Fats
  • Artificial Additives
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup

As part of its campaign, Barbara’s Bakery sent me Snackimals cookies, White Cheddar Baked Cheese Puffs, High Fiber cereal and gluten-free Multigrain Puffins.

The reviews in our house were mixed.  The 3 year old, who is usually the pickiest of us all, liked everything we got.  He ate almost the whole bag of Snackimals – I had to set aside some for his brother to try, and he liked them as well.  I thought they were good, but my husband, who claims to be discerning rather than picky, wasn’t overly fond of them.

The Cheese Puffs were also highly enjoyed by both boys.  Both my husband and I detected an odd aftertaste that we couldn’t put our finger on.  Of course we still finished off the bag at a mid-day soccer game.

The boys and I both liked the Puffins, though my husband did not.  The box lasted maybe 2 days as my cereal-scarfing boys took no time at all in devouring them.  I found the Puffins actually tasted better sans milk.  While grocery shopping on Friday my husband picked up a box of cinnamon Puffins, which I had high hopes for, but found I actually liked the Multigrain Puffins better.

The least popular was the High Fiber cereal, although it’s the one my husband liked the best.  The 7 year old took one bite and pronounced his displeasure, and I had to agree with him.  The 3 year old did like them, however it should be noted this is the only product still in the house over a week later.

While looking around on the Barbara’s website I saw a few other products I’d be interested to try.  There’s a coupon for $1 off any Barbara’s product so I look forward to trying the shredded cereal or the multigrain cereal bars.

This post was written for Family Review Network & Barbara’s Bakery who provided the complimentary product for review in exchange for my honest review.

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Something From the Farm

Last weekend we headed to Something From the Farm.  Located on Greenstone Trail, near the intersections of Carpenter and Timberline, it’s a quick drive from our house in southwest Fort Collins. My husband found a coupon in one of those coupon packs that come in the mail, for buy 2 get 1 free, and $2 off.  The 3 year old was free.

We first headed to the medium-sized corn maze, which was at first just a corn trail, but it did start splitting off and there were some forks that were tricky.  Next the 3 year old wanted to go on the hay ride, and on the way there we got to watch the trebuchet throw a pumpkin.  It went a lot farther than I expected it and the kids were amazed.  While we were on the hay ride, the 7 year old was in the hayground.  We attempted the large maze, but it’s only open at night for the haunted maze, which was disappointing.  We went back to go through the small maze and then called it a day.  Since we already had pumpkins we didn’t need to visit the patch, though the hay ride looped around it and we saw people picking out their future jack-o-lanterns.  They also had smaller gourds, hay bales and corn stalks for sale.  I had hoped for some apple cider but the snack truck did not have any.

Last year we went to the Northern Colorado Corn Maze over on county road 5 and while it was a bitter cold, miserable day, I remember the maze being much better than the one at Something From the Farm.  The corn was thicker and taller – harder to cut through and see over – and we took several wrong turns trying to find our way out.  They also had a bounce house and petting zoo.

Something From the Farm was good for what it was – a fun place to spend an hour or so close to home.  But if you’re looking for a really good corn maze I recommend the NoCo Corn Maze.  NoCo Corn Maze is also open Sunday morning, which SFTF is not (probably due to the church that stands right next to it). Both websites offer coupons to help cut costs.

Maybe next year we’ll head up to Harvest Farm in Wellington.

Posted in Outdoors | 2 Comments

SmartPants Gummy Vitamins – Review

We’re big on vitamins in our house.  My husband has an arsenal he takes every morning, and I have my own bottles I crack open each day.  So giving the kids vitamins has been a no-brainer.  They do eat well-balanced diets with lots of veggies but there are always areas that aren’t covered.  Plus, since we’ve been giving them vitamins with DHA and Omega-3s, we’ve noticed improvements in their behavior and if we skip a day, it’s noticeable.

One thing that bugs me though is difficulty in finding one vitamin with everything – we have one that’s got all the vitamins and nutrients, and another for the Omega-3s.  So when Family Review Network offered the chance to review SmartyPants Gummy Vitamins, I knew I wanted to give them a try.

SmartyPants Gummy Vitamins are a new all-in-one pediatrician-approved multivitamin with DHA Omega-3’s, Choline and 100% of the daily required dose of Vitamin D.  They are sweetened with a touch of cane sugar, eco-friendly, and through their “Get Health, Give Health” campaign, which gives nutrients to malnourished children for every bottle sold.

The vitamins are in the form of a gum drop, complete with the sugary coating, but since the sugar is cane sugar, there’s only 5g in one serving.  A serving is 4 gum drops, and they come in red, orange and yellow.

The kids in my house were split 50/50 on the SmartyPants vitamins.  The 3 year old loved them and is very excited to get his gum drops every morning.  The 7 year old, however, is not thrilled with the taste, preferring the Nemo (omega-3) and Cars (multi) vitamins we have been buying.

I did a comparison of the Cars and Nemo gummies together, compared to the SmartyPants.  SmartyPants do have slightly less sugar, and are gluten- and dairy-free.  They also have choline, which the others don’t.  However, the Nemo gummies have more total fish oil, the same amount of inositol, and most important, they are far less expensive.  Even buying both Cars and Nemo costs less than the SmartyPants – a total of 18 cents per gummy for Cars and Nemo together, and 21 cents for SmartyPants.  Of course buying in bulk will save you money, and does end up cheaper than the Cars and Nemos.

If both of my children liked the SmartyPants vitamins, I could see buying the 6-month supply.  However with Alex refusing to even try them again, we’ll stick with Cars and Nemo.

This post was written for Family Review Network & SmartyPants who provided the complimentary product for review in exchange for my honest review.

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Review and Giveaway – Ziploc

This giveaway is now closed.  Thanks for your interest.

I’ve been a big fan of Ziploc products for a long time, and with school back in session I’m using them all of the time for snacks and sandwiches.  With the cooler weather we also like to take picnics up to Horsetooth, and Ziploc bags are perfect for storing our lunches.  So when Family Review Network and Ziploc offered me the chance to review some of their products, it was a no-brainer.

I received Ziploc sandwich bags, Ziploc Freezer slider bags in quart size, Ziploc Storage slider bags in quart size and Ziploc Brand Smart Snap™ medium square containers with lids.  The only product that was new to me was the square containers, and I love them.  They’re large enough to store quite a bit of leftovers, I put a good 4 cups of cooked spaghetti in one and the seal was nice and tight, yet easy to open. I love that they can go from the fridge to the microwave, and then into the dishwasher.

I love the sliders on the freezer and storage bags, even my 3 year old can open and close them and there’s no struggling with sealing the zip.  The sandwich bags are the perfect size for the slices of zucchini bread my 2nd grader likes to take as a snack and I don’t have to worry that the bag will break.

Ziploc is generously providing the same 4 products I received to one lucky winner.  Leave a comment below and tell me what else you use Ziplocs before, besides storing food.  The winner will be selected September 29.

This post was written for Family Review Network & SC Johnson who provided the complimentary product for review and giveaway in exchange for my honest opinions.

Posted in giveaways, Product reviews | 8 Comments

Corn Mazes and Pumpkin Patches

Looking for a place get your pumpkins?  Or maybe for a good scare in a corn maze?  Googling doesn’t really pull up a lot of useful information so I’ve done the work for you.  Here are some places in the Fort Collins area to check out this fall.

Osborn Farm
1230 S Boise Ave
Loveland, CO 80537
970.669.1513
osbornfarm1861@gmail.com
Open 10am – 6pm seven days a week, weather permitting, starting with Market Days October 2-3.  For the past 12 years Osborn Farm has kicked off October with everything from music, craft vendors and of course pumpkins. Check out the photo gallery to see what it’s all about. Then come by Saturday October 2nd, 9am-5pm and Sunday the 3rd, 11am-4pm.  Admission is free.

School tours are available the first two weeks of October. $2 gets each child 5 gourds and a small pumpkin to take home. Reservations needed.

Something From the Farm
7755 Greenstone Trail
Fort Collins
970-221-FARM
somethingfromthefarm@gmail.com

SFtF is open now, Thurs-Sun, and daily starting October 7.  Check the website for hours and prices.  Coupons are also available so make sure to click on the Admissions link.

Corn mazes – small, medium and haunted on 16 acres of corn.  The haunted maze opens Oct. 1. You-pick pumpkins, monster catapult, corn cannon, hayrides, hay playground.  Cold drinks and snacks can be purchases at the Snack shack and the bonfire behind the tent provides s’mores and hot cocoa.

CSU Day is October 9 – they will be giving away CSU football and basketball tickets, CSU gear and Cam the Ram will make an appearance.  Be aware that the CSU student body will be visiting the maze that night, so you may want to arrange your plans accordingly.

Harvest Farm Fall Festival
4240 East County Road 66
Wellington, CO 80549
(Exit 278 from I-25)
970.568.9803
rlynn@denrescue.org

Harvest Farm is open Fri-Sun, hours vary so check the website under Schedule. Groups of 15 or more can visit on Wed-Thurs, though not all activities are open.  Adult admission is $15, kids 4-12 and seniors 60+ are $10 and kids 3 and under are free.

10-acre corn maze, petting zoo, pumpkin patch, corn cannons, hay ride, children’s playground, pumpkin smash, hay bale maze/jump, corn box wagons, roping steers, barrel train, evening campfire, full service concession areas.

Straw Maze at Johnson’s Corner
3418 SE 25 Frontage Rd
Johnstown, CO 80537
Open through October 30
Monday-Thursday: 5pm-10pm
Friday: 5pm-12am
Saturday: 3pm-12am
$10 for ages 12+, $6 for ages 5-11, 4 and under are free.  Haunted maze begins after dark on Friday and Saturday and is $13 for 12+ and $8 for 5-11.  Get a coupon by signing up on the website.

This is a straw maze made of hay bales, covering 1 acre of land.  The website claims it takes around 45 minutes to navigate the maze.

The Bartels Farm
3424 E. Douglas Rd. (CR54)
Fort Collins
970-493-3853

The Pumpkin Patch at Bartels Farm is open now through October 31, 10-6.  Admission is free, corn maze is $8 for adults and $6 for kids, kids under 6 are free.  Hay rides are $1 per person.  Also available are punkin chunkin, farm animals, kids’ mini straw maze, and kids’ western town (coming soon).  Seasonal decorations are also available for purchase, along with pumpkins.

Bartels also hosts birthday parties, school field trips and groups.

Northern Colorado Corn Maze
2318 S. County Road 5 (Main St)
Fort Collins, CO
970-308-5843
countrysidefarms2318@yahoo.com

The NoCo Corn Maze runs October 1-31.  Hours vary, check the website for details.  During the day, adults are $8 and kids 4-11 are $6, kids under 3 are free.  General admission at night is $14, children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.  The haunted maze begins at dusk, ~7pm.  Group rates are available.  Check the website for a coupon.

Corn maze (haunted at night), pumpkin patch, seasonal decorations, inflatable jumping air castle, petting zoo, pumpkin & corn chuckers, pedal car race, trick or treat – day or night, mini maze, giant catapult, covered picnic / dining area.

Know of any others not listed here?  Please mention them in the comments.

Posted in Events, Farms, festivals, Loveland | 1 Comment

Summer Fun in the Fort: festivals

As the cooler weather moves in and summer comes to an end – although after the 90 degree weather today, I wonder when that will happen – I looked back on all we did this summer.  And I didn’t write about most of it.  So here’s a rundown on the events in Fort Collins and Loveland that we attended during the last few months.

Cinco de Mayo in Civic Center Park – the Cinco de Mayo celebration, honoring Mexico’s independence from Spain, took place on Mother’s Day.  We ate some snacks; my husband and I had burritos but we couldn’t convince the kids to eat anything other than hot dogs, even though both of them love tacos.  We listened to some Mexican music, the kids bounced in the bounce houses, and we walked through the vendors.

Taste of Fort Collins – the Taste brings back memories for my husband and me as it was going on the weekend we were here looking at houses, just over a year ago.  One of the biggest complaints about this event is the lack of local restaurants and I wholeheartedly agree with this.  Not that this will stop us from going again next year.

4th of July in Loveland – I wrote about our day over on Enjoy Fort Collins.

New West Fest – this also brings back memories, as we were living here for about 2 weeks last year and it was our first festival, and possibly our first foray to Old Town as residents.  We didn’t know much about the festival and I remember spending most of the day in the kids area by the Children’s Museum.  Unfortunately this year we went after the kids area closed but we still enjoyed the music, food and vendors.  It was a lot bigger this year than I remember from last year but again that could have been our newness to the whole thing.  Next year I’ll pay better attention to some of the musical acts and make a more concerted effort to actually see some of the bands, rather than listening as we walk by.  The kids did get to see the magician in Old Town Square as we were headed to the car.

Corn Roast Festival in Loveland – we rode in the parade with the Cub Scouts (one of many Scout floats), then wandered around the festival itself.  We someone missed actually eating any of the corn, and I’m not quite sure how that happened.  We walked through the vendor tents, ate some festival food, the kids played on the playground.  They were disappointed in the lack of rides but it was fine with me, less money down the drain.  Next year, we will eat some corn.

Grant Family Farms Harvestival – this is our first year in the CSA with Grant and I’ve been wanting to get up there, so this was the perfect opportunity.  After pounding the pavement with my Cub Scout, selling popcorn, we drove up to the Lyric and waited for the bus.  Unfortunately we had poor timing as we got there at 4:25 and the bus didn’t arrive until 5.  If we’d driven, we would have been there already.  Good to know for next year.  Of course my kids loved riding in the “beautiful” painted and bumpy bus.  We ate some Grant Farms grill food, listened to Judy Collins and the kids played in what was left of the kids area.  We were grateful for the free tickets thanks to being CSA members and definitely plan to get to the farm earlier next year.

I know there are other festivals coming up, I’m hoping to get to some of them but we’ll see.

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Searching for Pizza

As a New Jersey native (unlike most of the cast of Jersey Shore), I’m a snob.  A pizza snob, that is.  Jersey pizza isn’t exactly the same as the legendary NYC pizza, but it’s pretty damn close.  They say the secret in the pizza I grew up on is twofold – the Hudson River water and the ovens.  There’s something in the chemical makeup of the water that results in the perfect dough that cooks up just right.  As for the ovens, they’re in use for decades, if not longer, and contribute to the pizza baking to perfection.

Colorado water, which may brew good beer, just doesn’t make the same dough.  And Colorado just doesn’t have the history if Italians who’ve been living here for generations.  Those with successful pizzerias in the northeast find their pizza just isn’t the same here, even if made the exact same way.  The pizza I want is thin crust, with a sauce that’s not too sweet or too chunky, the right proportion of mozzarella (this is gated by the amount of grease on the slice), a good sprinkling of oregano.  The pizza bakes to a nice golden brown without burning the bottom.  Perfection.

I’ve been on a mission to find good pizza.  I’m not expecting the pizza I can get back east, but something close enough.  Cozzolla’s isn’t bad.  It’s not Jersey pizza, but it’s not bad.  Same for Mama Roni’s.  We eat it, we don’t complain too much.  When we tried Positano’s, I had high hopes.  Online reviews said things like “just like Jersey pizza!”  And sadly, they were right.  Unfortunately it was not what I’d call good Jersey pizza.

See, I went to college in central NJ.  NJ has a bit of a split personality.  The northern half of the state, from around New Brunswick up, is considered North Jersey.  To us, “the city” means New York City.  We know the difference between upstate NY and the southern part of the state.  The Poconos is a reasonable drive away and Atlantic City is an overnight trip.  We are Mets or Yankees, Giants or Jets fans.  And we have good pizza.  South Jersey is anything south of Cherry Hill or thereabouts.  “The city” is Philly.  They follow the Phillies and the Eagles.  The shore is home to many of them.  And they have crappy pizza.  I’m guessing the difference there is the water, as there’s definitely no shortage of Italians in that part of the state.  But they just must not be on the Hudson River water system.

The point of that little aside is that Positano’s pizza reminded me of what I ate in college.  Inferior sauce, inadequate amounts of cheese, overcooked crust.  It felt like home, but not how I want home to feel.  So imagine my surprise when I tried Pulcinella, owned by the same people that own Positano’s.  We went to the Drake & Shields location after a baseball game, picking the restaurant mainly because of its proximity to the ball field.  The pizza was pretty good!  Still not quite Jersey pizza – it’s that darn water – but still good.  Good sauce, the right amount of cheese, a nice layer of grease.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Now I’ll admit we had the pizza ordered in for a birthday party, and it wasn’t quite as good.  After reading reviews I wonder if our delivery came from the other location, as it appears it has gone downhill since moving.  It could also just be the consequence of delivery.  My only complaint is the cost, it’s a bit pricey compared to other options.

There are other places in town I still need to try.  I’ve been told Uncle’s and Pizza Casbah are both good.  We’ll just have to see about that.

Posted in Dining | 1 Comment

Upcoming Events: 9/11-9/12

Ok I’ve been slack on posting this.  I’ll try to be better about that.  There’s a lot going on this weekend, check it out.

Saturday, September 11 and Sunday, September 12

Grant Family Farms Harvestival
Grant Farms, 1020 WCR 72, Wellington
10am to 7pm
Shuttle Bus available back and forth from the Lyric Cinema Cafe to the Farm from 9:30am to 5 PM. All buses returning starting at 7 PM back to The Lyric Cinema Cafe.
Tickets are $20 ($35 Sunday and $45 for a two-day pass)

Saturday, September 11

Oktoberfest, in conjunction with Nelsen’s Old Town Car Show
Old Town Square, Mountain Avenue & Walnut Street
11am to 6pm
Free admission!

The New Fort Collins Discovery Museum Groundbreaking Ceremony at the new museum’s location, on the corner of Cherry and Mason Streets, from 2 to 5pm.   Children’s activities will be held from 2 to 3:30.  The Official Children’s Groundbreaking will be at 3:30, and the first 1,000 children will receive a commemorative Fort Collins Discovery Museum Groundbreaking Shovel.

Drake Road Farmer’s Market
802 W. Drake Road
10am to 1pm
This week featuring peaches and sweet corn and melons.  Music from Storm Mountain Band.  Garth Englund Blood Center will hold their last Blood Drive. Click the link above to find out what else is going on at the market this week.

Lowe’s Build and Grow Clinic – make a pet leash hanger!
10 to 11am
Lowe’s in Front Range Village

9 AM with a Naturalist: Fire’s Place in Nature
Bobcat Ridge Natural Area
9-11 a.m.
Meet at the picnic shelter. Learn why fire is important and visit the site of the 2000 Bobcat Ridge fire. 2 miles, easy. No registration required.

Sunday, August 15

Larimer County’s Downtown Farmer’s Market
Larimer County Courthouse Parking Lot
200 W. Oak Street, Old Town Fort Collins
8am to 12pm
9:00 am — This week’s Lil’ Sprouts activity (hands-on activity for children 10 and under) will be Scarecrows! Join us for the Scarecrow Parade at 11!

Fort Collins Farmer’s Market
Parking lot on Southwest Corner of Harmony & Lemay
11am to 3pm

A Morning with Thoreau
Soapstone Prairie Natural Area
10 a.m. – Noon
Meet at the north parking lot. See nature through the works of famous naturalist Henry David Thoreau. 2 miles, easy. No registration required.

Know of anything else I missed?  Post it in the comments!

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