PUEBLO, Colo. —
Look, there’s a reason why Interstate 70 is such a hot mess from Friday afternoon to Sunday night: it leads to the mountain getaways that people from all over the country come to Colorado to visit.
But there’s more to the Centennial State than the mountain towns, and if you’re looking for an escape this weekend, why not consider heading south instead of west (all the construction on I-25 notwithstanding)?
It’s green chile season -- a magical time of year in this part of Colorado, and one that (if you have any loyalty to our home state whatsoever), you definitely don’t need to go all the way to New Mexico to celebrate.
Thousands of people will come to Pueblo for the 25th annual Chile and Frijoles Festival, a three-day event that features everything from live music to a jalapeno eating contest to a Chihuahua parade (something that’s worth a two-hour drive from Denver alone, IMO).
Pueblo is more than the state fair, and here’s an itinerary that will prove why it’s worth the adventure.
This story is part of our weekly 9Neighborhoods series. Join us on the 9NEWS Instagram starting at noon on Friday for a photo tour of Pueblo (and a guessing game on our Instagram story but … you know it’s about Pueblo so don’t tell anyone). Is there a community we should check out next? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Burn some calories (before you eat your weight in green chile)
So there's this meme that went semi-viral implying that Pueblo is a tropical paradise (the caption: OMG #Travel Goals).
Obviously, this is tongue-in-cheek, but with that being said, Pueblo does have a pretty good place to kayak/participate in other water sports just 15 minutes away from downtown (there aren't coral reefs, though).
Lake Pueblo State Park has 60 miles of shoreline, and is known as a "fishing hot spot". It also has some of the highest-rated hiking and mountain biking trails in the region, which come with stunning views of the reservoir.
The Rock Canyon and Stonehenge Loop Trail is one of the top-rated on AllTrails.com, and is known for its views of cool rock formations and canyons.
Of course, if you'd prefer walking in an urban area rather than wearing your hiking boots, let us introduce you to the Pueblo Riverwalk.
The San Antonio River Walk is a huge tourist attraction in the Texas city, and the one in Pueblo has a similar vibe, with restaurants, a brewery and numerous local shops.
The Pueblo Riverwalk opened in 2000 after more than a decade of planning. It involved returning the Arkansas River to downtown Pueblo after it was diverted in the 1920s due to a devastating flood.
The walk along the Pueblo Riverwalk is around a mile, and it's a good home base to explore other parts of the city.
Explore some local farms (you earned it by hiking)
Palisade has its fruit and wine byway, but Pueblo has a green chile byway and that's pretty comparable.
Take a drive east of town on the US 50 business loop. This basically connects Pueblo and Avondale, and is home to numerous local farms with stands that sell fresh (and roasted, if you're into that!) green chiles.
Even if you aren't a fan of green chile, the local farms still have something to enjoy, from fresh watermelon to homemade jam. One place sold saltwater taffy which was honestly kind of embarrassing to buy in a place known for selling healthy stuff like vegetables, but hey, I'm a big believer in you do you, you know?
Walk Union Avenue
Last week 9Neighborhoods went to Boulder's Pearl Street Mall, which honestly everyone in Colorado at the very least knows about (and has probably taken out-of-state guests too).
Union Avenue in Pueblo has a similar energy, with numerous local cafes, unique street art, and cool late-1800s architecture.
While I was walking it, I couldn't help but legitimately think about what it would take to move to Pueblo, which is ranked one of the most affordable Colorado cities.
Learn some history
Pueblo has a long agricultural history, but it's also known as one of the biggest steel producers in the west.
The Steelworks Museum is housed in what used to be the medical facility for CF&I, which was for a while the biggest private landowner and employer in the state of Colorado.
It had mines throughout the state, and was responsible for much of the growth of Pueblo.
Learn more about how to visit the museum here: http://bit.ly/2m33XIQ
Check out the neon lights
When darkness falls, Pueblo's Neon Alley really gets lit.
That was a bad pun, but our daytime photos of this alley near Union Depot full of what one person called the "greatest assembly of neon art west of Times Square and east of the Las Vegas strip" really don't do it justice.
Here it is in daylight:
And here it is as night. Seriously: it's home to a bunch of super cool neon signs, hence its name.
Eat a slopper
One of Pueblo's claims to fame is the slopper, which is basically a cheeseburger topped with green chile. You have permission to eat it with a fork.
There are two famous places in town to try a slopper: Gray's Coors Tavern and the Sunset Inn. The two restaurants actually duked it on the Travel Channel a few years back to see who does the slopper better.
Don't feel guilty about trying one of these: it's part of the reason why we made you hike at the beginning of your Pueblo getaway.
The Chile and Frijoles Festival goes until midnight on Friday and Saturday, and then 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Admission is $5, and comes with fireworks on Friday and Saturday night, as well as music on multiple stages.
Find more information here: http://bit.ly/2kqtBqJ
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