What better way to enjoy a fulfilling Colorado family vacation than by filling it with things you can see and do for free? Here are 10 ways Grand Junction can show you a great time - and they won't cost you a dime.
1. Music and Festivals
Enjoy a variety of free concerts and festivals throughout the year in Grand Junction, Colorado. Highlights include the Southwest Festival, Oktoberfest, Art & Jazz Festival and the Fruita Fall Festival. Grand Junction's First Fridays Art Hop has musicians and artists displaying their talents along Main Street each month, while the Colorado Riverfront Foundation and Grand Valley Music Festival schedule free concerts yearlong.
Grand Junction's local trail system along the Colorado River is easily accessible and passes through cottonwood groves, wetlands, cattail marshes, across islands and around ponds and lakes. For a glimpse of real dinosaur bones, check out Riggs Hill Trail, Dinosaur Hill or "Trail Through Time," all of which provide self-guided opportunities to see dinosaur bone fossils in their natural state.
3. Skate Parks
Grand Junction boasts approximately 18,000 square feet of concrete parks for rollerblades, BMX bicycles and skateboards at two facilities. The Westlake Skatepark on Orchard Avenue and First Street provides challenging obstacles and equipment, such as rails, walls, ramps, bowls and boxes. Eagle Rim Park in Orchard Mesa has a collection of rails, ramps and steps as well.
Throughout the area, wild horses, bighorn sheep and more than 200 species of birds can be found in their natural Colorado environment for viewing. Use the Bureau of Land Management's map for a self-guided tour of the Little Bookcliffs Wild Horse Range, or visit Black Ridge Wilderness Study Area or Dominguez Canyon (where it joins the Gunnison River) for desert bighorn sheep. And for a wonderful assortment of birds, be sure to check out the Grand Junction Resource Area.
5. Botanical Gardens and Butterfly House
Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month at the Botanical Gardens and Butterfly House, offering 15 acres of outdoor gardens that have been preserved for nature lovers, gardeners and butterfly enthusiasts. The site now includes a children's secret garden with a discovery greenhouse castle, picnic areas, amphitheater and rose garden.
6. Fish, Raft or Float
Wet your line and enjoy the beauty of Colorado's canyons on your own private raft or canoe. No permit is required to raft the section of the Colorado River from Grand Junction to Westwater, Utah, or to boat and fish in the majority of lakes on the Grand Mesa. (You will need a fishing license though.) For a more leisurely day, float your boat on Big Creek Reservoir, Eggleston Lake or Trickel Park Reservoir.
Operating on a first-come, first-serve basis, free campgrounds like Big Dominguez, on the edge of the Dominguez Wilderness Area, offer family and group sites, and the smaller Miracle Rock campground features family sites only. Rabbit Valley Recreation Area is a 24-square-mile spot with three designated campgrounds. The U.S. Forest Service on the Grand Mesa also allows free camping outside of designated campgrounds.
8. Mountain Biking
Test your endurance on a great mountain bike ride through breathtaking Colorado scenery. Standout trails include Kokopelli, a network of roads and single-track that runs for 142 miles, beginning near Fruita and ending in Moab, Utah. Between Loma and Rabbit Valley Drive, there are several trails and loops for the beginner or experienced biker, and the adobe ridges of the Bookcliffs offer challenging trails in a Colorado desert environment.
9. Wine Tasting
Grand Junction is the home of Colorado's Wine Country, and with 18 free tasting rooms open year-round, there's no more relaxing way to spend an afternoon. Pick up a map at the Grand Junction Visitor Center (740 Horizon Drive) and plan your own tasting tour. While the kids may not partake in tastings, of course, they can enjoy the grassy expanses and gardens most wineries offer.
10. Art on the Corner
Stroll along Main Street and view more than 100 sculptures by American artists. This unique outdoor sculpture exhibit hosts a variety of works, from bronze castings to junk-yard miracles. And while you're at it, don't forget about Grand Junction's antiques and collectible shops. With more than 30 antique shops, treasures abound for reminiscent window-shopping in downtown Grand Junction.