Botanical Gardens (Montrose)

What: Montrose Botanical GardensMontrose Botanical Gardens 1
Where: Montrose
When: Daylight hours (just open the gate if it’s closed — the gardens are never open to deer)


Lovely flowers, intriguing cacti and succulents, rare and native plants, lovely trees and shrubs, winding paths, and dramatic views of the San Juan mountains — Montrose Botanical Gardens has it all. Winter, spring, summer, or fall, you’ll find peace and natural beauty as you stroll around this small, but spectacular, garden located just south of the Montrose Pavilion / Events Center.

Be sure to spend some time in Gretchen’s Garden, created in memory of Gretchen Van Reyper, a local botanist who was known for her expertise in rare and native plants of western Colorado and eastern Utah. Relax on the flagstone patio surrounded by native flowers and shrubs and enjoy some of the best views of Mt. Sneffels and surrounding peaks you’ll hope to find.

Montrose Botanical Gardens shelterLocation:
Montrose Botanic Gardens
1800 Pavilion Dr
Montrose, CO 81401

(970) 249-2539

Additional directions:
From US 550 (Townsend), turn East on Niagara Road and continue 0.8 miles to Pavilion Drive. Turn right and park in the Pavilion parking lot. The entry gate to the Gardens faces north (toward the Pavilion building). 


Ray’s Good Stuff (Montrose / Ouray)

What: Ray’s Good Stuff (Premium Jerky)Jerky 006a
Where: Just South of Montrose AND Main Street in Ouray
When: varies – closed January, February, March

The “Good Stuff” can definitely be found at the well-named Ray’s Good Stuff store on US 550 about 5 minutes south of Montrose. Look for the numerous “Jerky” signs, and perhaps an air-filled giant “man” waving about to catch your eye as you drive along the highway.

Inside the shop, you’ll discover not only Ray’s home-made beef jerky in numerous flavors such as mild, teriyaki, jalapeño, and black pepper, but also other types of jerky made from elk, buffalo, and turkey. Can’t make up your mind? They’ll gladly snip off a free taste of each flavor that you find enticing. Be warned, however, that you’ll likely end up deciding to buy a flavor or two (or three, or…need we go on?)

This is a fun little store to browse, as well. Ray’s carries jellies and jams, unique snack foods, maple syrup, and other goodies. The shop has a relaxed and rustic feel to it — enjoy it as you munch on those yummy jerky samples.

For more information, contact:
Ray’s Good Stuff
19385 Hwy 550
Montrose, CO  81403

710 Main St.
Ouray, CO  81427

877-626-3720 toll free

Harmony Park (Montrose)

What: Harmony ParkHarmony Park (Montrose CO)
Where: Montrose
When: School Days:  After 3:15 PM (after school)
Summer, Weekends & Holidays:  Daylight hours

Here’s a great idea: a music-oriented playground for kids!

Cottonwood Elementary school recently added a new section to their playground, and you’re welcome to come play the various xylophone-like instruments, tuned drums, and contra-bass chimes whenever school is not in session.

Even the neighbors like this musical park, since all the instruments produce mellow, somewhat ethereal sounds.

PVC Pipes, colorfully painted to look like an audience, surround the music area. Benches provide a place for a live audience to enjoy the impromptu performances as well.

Cottonwood Elementary School
3500 Woodgate Rd
Montrose, CO 81401

(970) 249-2539

Additional directions:
From US 550 (Townsend), turn East at the traffic light onto O’Delle (by City Market). Drive east 1 block to the “T” intersection, and turn right (Southeast) onto Woodgate. Drive 0.7 miles along Woodgate.

Cottonwood Elementary School will be on your left. Harmony Park is located on the southeast side of the school.

Crane Festival (Monte Vista)

What: Monte Vista Crane FestivalSandhill Cranes
Where: Monte Vista
When: Weekend in March

In the spring, the San Luis Valley is noted for the arrival of tens of thousands of Greater Sandhill Cranes (and a few thousand Lesser Sandhill Cranes, as well). Celebrate the migration of these wonderful birds with thousands of other bird aficionados at the annual Crane Festival weekend, held in early to mid-March and centered at the Monte Vista Refuge.

You can ride a bus to the Refuge with a guide to locate some of the best viewing areas. The morning “fly-out” and late afternoon “fly-in” tours are free, but a donation is requested. Or, drive your own vehicle out to the Refuge, and park in one of several wildlife viewing areas. Don’t forget your binoculars and camera with zoom lens! The setting is spectacular, with the Sangre de Cristo mountains on one end of the valley, and the San Juan mountains on the other.

Sandhill Crane coming in for a landing - Blanca Peak in backgroundThese amazing birds may fly at elevations as high as 30,000 feet (along with commercial jets), and average 45 miles per hour. When thousands take off from the wetlands in the early morning, the sight and sound is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. As writer Aldo Leopold so eloquently described in A Sand County Almanac:

“High horns, low horns, silence, and finally a pandemonium of trumpets, rattles, croaks, and cries that almost shakes the bog with its nearness, but without yet disclosing whence it comes. At last a glint of sun reveals the approach of a great echelon of birds. On motionless wing they emerge from the lifting mists, sweep a final arc of sky, and settle in clangorous descending spirals to their feeding grounds. A new day has begun on the crane marsh.”

Up until around 2002, in the midst of the thousands of Sandhill Cranes, it was possible to spot a larger crane, standing nearly 5 feet tall, with snow-white feathers, black wing tips, and red and black head. This was the rare Whooping Crane, brought back from the edge of extinction. Efforts to increase the wild populations of this majestic bird with a wingspan of 7 ½ feet have been very creative. Whooping Crane eggs were transferred to Sandhill Crane nests so the adoptive birds would learn to migrate with the large Sandhill flocks. The Whooping Cranes adjusted to their new families a bit too well. Instead of wanting to mate with other Whooping Cranes (and increase their population), they were attracted to Sandhills instead. Oops.

The next effort was to teach Whooping Crane chicks to follow an ultra-light aircraft and learn their migration pattern from the little plane. Birders sometimes refer to these birds as “ultra-Cranes”. The ultra-light imprinting method seems to be succeeding in flocks that spend summers in Wisconsin and then winter in Florida. The good news is that the cranes aren’t trying to mate with ultra-light planes or hang-gliders. To follow the progress of this project, go to the website

The last of the Whooping Cranes known to migrate through the San Luis Valley was declared dead by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2002. He (she?) was 19 years old. Maybe we can borrow an ultra-light and a few Whooping Cranes from another part of the country.

When you’re not out bird watching, visit the crafts booths set up at the Ski Hi community complex, view rescued raptors up close and personal, or attend a workshop on birding, local ecology, and other interesting topics. Most workshops and lectures are free to the public, and require no advance registration.

For more information, contact:
Monte Vista Crane Festival
P.O. Box 585
Monte Vista, CO 81144

Listings by Region

Where in Colorado would you like to go & enjoy free stuff?

Click a region of Colorado below to see listings of free things to see and do in that area of the state.

Alma, Aspen, Breckenridge, Fairplay,
Glenwood Springs, Kremmling, Leadville,
New Castle, Winter Park
Front Range North
Boulder, Denver,
Fort Collins, Greeley, Lafayette, Longmont, Loveland, Lyons, Niwot
Limon, Sterling
Alamosa, Buena Vista, Crested Butte, Durango, Mancos, Monte Vista, Montrose, Ouray, Pagosa Springs, Salida, Silver Cliff, Silverton, Telluride, Westcliffe
Front Range South
Cañon City, Colorado Springs,
La Veta, Pueblo
La Junta, Lamar,
Rocky Ford, Springfield
Northwest Front Range North Northeast Southwest Southwest Front Range South Front Range South Southeast Front Range South Southeast


Colorado Map Regions


(includes Montrose, Colona, Gunnison, Salida, Ouray, Durango, Pagosa Springs,
Silverton, Crested Butte, Alamosa, Crestone, Telluride)

Map of this Area     Colorado-for-Free Region Map

Alamosa / Monte Vista Area

Crane Festival – festival, nature
Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve – free admission days; free entrance via Mosca, Music, Medano passes
Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic & Historic Byway – 129 miles of “The Ancient Roads” – Information link

Buena Vista

Gold Rush Days – festival, music, Burro races – Festival link

Crested Butte

Crested Butte Festival of the Arts – festival – Festival link
Crested Butte Wildflower Festival – festival – Festival link (only a few activities are free)


Energy and Sustainable Energy Fair – guest lectures; strawbale, abobe floor and plaster demonstrations; solar, biodiesel, alternative energy demonstrations, live music – Festival link

Durango Area

Discovery Museum at the Powerhouse – museum in the making – free tours 1st & 3rd Friday of each month – Museum link
Iron Horse Bicycle Classic – bicycle vs. Narrow Gauge train race – Event link
San Juan Skyway drive – 236 miles of some of the most beautiful scenery in the world – Map & Info
San Juan Mountains Assoc. – guided hikes, llama treks, ski & snowshoe tours – Programs link
SnowDown – festival
Vallecito Lake Tour of Carvings – art / self-guided tour

Grand Junction

Free Wine Tasting – 2 to 7 PM on Fridays and Saturdays at Crossroads Wine & Spirit – business link


Curecanti National Recreation Area – free admission, but there is a boat fee to go out on Blue Mesa Reservoir. Camp at Gateway at the extreme south end of the Lake Form Arm of Blue Mesa, and you won’t spend a cent either! Enjoy some hiking or even a dip in the cold waters (look for designated wake-free areas, and be careful not to get hypothermic!) Birds and wildlife are plentiful, so bring a camera and binoculars. – National Park link


Mancos Old Time Fiddlers’ Contest – information link

Montrose / Colona

Botanical Gardens – flowers, shrubs, cacti, trees, and great views of the mountains
Harmony Park
– music playground
Ray’s Good Stuff – free jerky samples (varieties of beef, turkey, buffalo, elk, and other jerky)
Russell Stover Candies Factory Outlet – free candy samples


Ouray Ice Park & Ouray Ice Festival – ice climbing; competition
Ray’s Good Stuff – free jerky samples (varieties of beef, turkey, buffalo, elk, and other jerky)
Rotary Park Ice Skating Rink – bring your own skates –
Ice Rink link

Pagosa Springs

Colorfest Wine & Cheese Tasting, Balloon Rally, & Community Picnic – Event link


FIBArk Whitewater Festival – recreation (spectator) – Event link
Salida Art Walk – art – Event link

Silverton Area

Kendall Mountain Recreation Area – free ice skating, XC ski trails, snowshoeing, sledding


Telluride Free Box – free stuff in a box
Telluride Gondola – free scenic ride –
Gondola link 1, Gondola link 2