Colorado Art Districts Offer Alternative Summer Entertainment

Crested Butte.jpg

By Gabrielle Olejniczak

Looking for something to do this summer in addition to hiking, biking or fishing? Look no further than some of Colorado’s amazing creative districts that cater to a variety of interests, from foodies to outdoorsmen and art lovers alike. 

Art districts in Paonia, Carbondale, Crested Butte, Ridgway and Salida have treasures that will feed the imaginations of visitors.

  Photo courtesy . Photo by Steve Huntley.

Photo courtesy Photo by Steve Huntley.


Hidden in the North Fork Valley of Colorado is a thriving community of artisans living the dream. With the motto “from our hands to yours,” Paonia is a “thriving confluence of art, craftsmanship and agriculture.”

As a Colorado Certified Creative District, Paonia also is part of the Colorado Creative Corridor. Paonia artists range from glassblowers to potters, with a large variety of craftsmanship woven into the community. The artisans of Paonia are invested in the atmosphere and culture of their community, constantly hosting events such as concerts, classes and artistic workshops for the community to enjoy. Visitors can experience  the creativity at places like the Paradise TheatreBlue Sage Center for the Arts and Glennie Coombe Gallery

Not only is Paonia celebrated as an ever-growing creative district, it is also an excellent location for those who enjoy organic food and the outdoors. Air conditioned by warm air flowing up the valley at night and cool mountain air during the day, Paonia provides an adequate climate for growing cherries, apricots, grapes, peaches, plums, pears, nectarines and apples. The town also is home to back roads and trails that attract hunters, skiers, bicyclists and hikers alike. 


Carbondale combines art and agriculture as part of the town’s foundation. Whether you enjoy eating local, glamping or attending film festivals, it’s home to more than 200 artisans who produce a broad base of creative offerings. Carbondale also has a one-mile section of the Rio Grande Trail that has been turned into an outdoor gallery with a series of public art installations. There is plenty of beer and wine to be tasted, as well as events to attend. Look for the Mountain Fair, where artisans sell their crafts, live music rings out, and food vendors are out in full force. 

Crested Butte

Crested Butte goes by many names: the last great Colorado ski town, mountain bike capital of Colorado and wildflower capital of Colorado. The town is nestled in a valley and surrounded by the Gunnison National Forest. The mountain town has panoramic views of dramatic peaks and offers a perfect location for a mountain bike ride or hike. The town is home to galleries, pottery workshops, numerous festivals throughout the year and Romp Skis, where one can pick out a pair of custom skis. Crested Butte also offers plenty of opportunities to catch a film or musical and grab a beverage. 


Surrounded by the rugged peaks of the San Juan Mountains sits the historic town of Ridgway. The town that got its start as an 1800’s railroad hub is now a blooming creative district full of artisans. With more than 20 percent of the town’s nearly 1,000 residents working in the arts (artist, galleries, gift shops), it’s easy to find beautiful works.

The town has a little bit of everything, from women-owned shops, authentic Native American crafts and African artwork. There is even a spot for musicians to purchase custom made guitars. Whether at a museum or one of Ridgway’s many cafes and restaurants, there are many ways to spend an afternoon.  

 Beautiful camping awaits near Salida.  Photo Neill Pieper

Beautiful camping awaits near Salida. Photo Neill Pieper


Salida is one of the creative districts that has art with an adventurous side. The town has long served as an entryway for outdoor adventure, making the meaning of its name (salida means exit in Spanish) that much more fitting. Salida is equal parts artsy and adventurous, with galleries, parks and local businesses full of charisma. Perhaps the most charming location is the SteamPlant Event Center. Once a power plant, the building has been repurposed as a venue to host everything one could imagine, from concerts to film screenings to receptions.