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. 

Pueblo Green Chiles
A close-up of green chiles in Pueblo, Colorado.
Allison Sylte, KUSA

RELATED: New Mexico ad takes jab at Colorado's green chile

RELATED: A New Mexican explains why people are riled up by Jared Polis' green chile insult

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 webteam@9news.com!  

Morning 

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). 

RELATED: Hundreds of people have shared a post on Facebook about Pueblo being a tropical paradise

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. 

Lake Pueblo State Park
A view of Lake Pueblo State Park.
Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

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. 

Pueblo Riverwalk
A man takes an early-morning walk on the Pueblo Riverwalk.
Allison Sylte, KUSA

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. 

Pueblo flood
Courtesy Denver Public Library Digital Archive

The walk along the Pueblo Riverwalk is around a mile, and it's a good home base to explore other parts of the city. 

Pueblo Riverwalk
Allison Sylte, KUSA

Midday 

Explore some local farms (you earned it by hiking) 

DiSanti Farms
A view of DiSanti Farm, one of the multiple local farm stands on the US 50 business loop outside Pueblo.
Allison Sylte, KUSA

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?

Green Chiles Growing
Green chiles grow on a farm in Pueblo, Colorado.
Allison Sylte, KUSA

Walk Union Avenue 

Union Avenue Walk
Allison Sylte, KUSA

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. 

Union Avenue buildings
Allison Sylte, KUSA

Learn some history

Pueblo steel
Allison Sylte, KUSA

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

Pueblo Steel Mills
View of Colorado Fuel and Iron Company blast furnace and stoves, Pueblo, Colorado; shows steel manufacturing and industrial area with smokestacks and elevated railroad track, piles of rock and gravel with Colorado and Southern Railway hopper cars on lower track, Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad hopper cars on elevated track supported by steel beams, and distant view of track-operated crane and shovel.
Courtesy Denver Public Library Digital Archives

Evening

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: 

Neon Alley
Allison Sylte, KUSA
Neon Alley 2
Allison Sylte, KUSA

And here it is as night. Seriously: it's home to a bunch of super cool neon signs, hence its name. 

Eat a slopper 

Green Chili Slopper
Getty Images/iStockphoto

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. 

Listen to music and watch fireworks at the Chile and Frijoles Festival 

Chile & Frijoles Festival  Pueblo 2
The annual Chile & Frijoles Festival in Pueblo features chile roasting, music, arts, crafts and more.

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

SUGGESTED VIDEOS | Local stories from 9NEWS