A Colorado COVID-friendly summer guide

by Amanda Push

The year 2020 was a bad time for everybody because [ insert a million reasons why 2020 sucked ]. In fact, can we just agree not to speak of 2020 again? That would be great, thanks. Let’s move onto bigger and better things, like 2021! In particular, let’s talk about all the events we look forward to this summer in light of COVID-19 vaccinations becoming more and more common.

Yes, many of the events we were looking forward to this summer were either canceled or pushed back, but there are still plenty of options for you to choose from and still keep yourself safe in the era of COVID-19. The great thing about summer is that we can host events outside where we can give each other enough space to social distance and still enjoy a show or a few beers in public. Still, we highly encourage everyone to be safe: wash your hands, social distance, and for the love of Zuul, wear your masks in public.

Now that we got that covered, let’s get down to it. From beer fests and river parties to music and horror shows, here are the events to look forward to in Colorado’s summer of 2021.

May 1ABQ Bike and Taco TourAlbuquerque, New Mexico; $95Venture on down to Albuquerque for the weekend and work up an appetite for the ABQ Bike and Taco Tour. The beauty of this event is it isn’t limited to a single date – that’s right, every Saturday this summer you can join in the taco-eating festivities and bike in between. Come hungry for this guided tour because you’ll be spending the next three and a half hours exploring the foods and craft beers Albuquerque has to offer.

May 1Breaking Bad RV ToursAlbuquerque, New Mexico; $75Looking to relive some of your favorite shows by the names of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul”? Look no further than the Breaking Bad RV Tours which take place every Saturday. This tour, which takes place via RV (much like the one in the show) will show off the various film locations across Albuquerque including Jesse’s house, Chucky’s, Tucco’s, Combo’s corner, the rail yard, the RV Junkyard, Los Pollos Hermanos, Owl Cafe, Jane’s, Walt’s house, the car wash, the superlab, and more. Get cozy because this tour is three hours long. To make sure your tour is safe and comfortable, however, Breaking Bad RV Tours is sure to offer contactless check-ins, staggered seating, social distancing, and hand sanitizer. Each RV is cleaned and disinfected after each tour.

May 7Elder GrownDurango, ColoradoCatch Elder Grown, a band that combines funk, rock, pop, and hip hop into their own unique blend of music, at Durango’s own Animas City Theatre. Hop on down to downtown where you can snag a few adult beverages while enjoying these Durango musicians. Jump on this event quickly and keep an eye on Animas City Theatre as they start to roll out their list of summer events.

May 22Music at the DistilleryDurango, Colorado; $5+One of the biggest bummers of 2020 was the lack of live music shows. There’s just something about spending your summer getting outside and drinking a few alcoholic beverages while listening to bands play on a stage across the patio. Durango Craft Spirits has just the remedy for you. Activist band Niceness and J-Calvin, a Durango funk band, will be performing there this summer in a split concert. Day goers can attend from 3:30-6 p.m. while late show attendees can hang out from 7-9 p.m.

June 3-6Animas River DaysDurango, ColoradoWere you as disappointed as we were that Snowdown 2021 was canceled? Well, we have good news: Animas River Days is on for 2021 AND there’s a costumed river parade so you can still wear that ridiculous Snowdown costume you got. Aside from the costumed river parade, you can also kayak, river surf, raft, and more. Or perhaps you just want to sit and relax from the shoreline, listen to the DJ, and help yourself to some local food vendors. Basically, there’s no lack of activities to choose from at Animas River Days. Visit the Animas River Days website for more information.

June 11-13, 17-20Telluride Bluegrass FestivalTelluride, ColoradoThe Telluride Bluegrass Festival is reducing its crowd sizes this year, but one of the most prestigious bluegrass festivals in the country is back on, y’all! The festival lineup has yet to be announced, but, in the past, the Colorado festival has drawn acts like Punch Brothers, Kacey Musgraves, and Brandi Carlile.

This year, the festival will be split up into two weekends. Only 2,500 people will be allowed at the festival per day. Festival-goers will be placed in self-assigned corrals of 10 people. Camping in town is limited and, unfortunately, there will not be vendors to shop from this year in order to limit any possibilities of COVID-19.

June 15Last Podcast on the Left live at Red Rocks AmphitheaterMorrison, Colorado; $45+Yearning for some horror because a worldwide pandemic isn’t doing it for you anymore? Catch one of the most popular podcasts in the world, Last Podcast on the Left, live at Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheater. The three hosts, Marcus Parks, Ben Kissel, and Henry Zebrowski cover horror topics both real and imagined, but with a comedic twist. You can expect to hear theories on extraterrestrials, cryptids that haunt the woods, and the creepiest killers known to mankind, all the while chuckling at the most inappropriate moments. After all, laughter is the best medicine, especially when things are at their most frightening.

At Red Rocks, the auditorium has been modified so visitors can social distance during the show, and masks are required inside restrooms, Trading Post, Visitor Center, as well as any indoor areas.

June 18Music at the NuggetDurango, Colorado; $10If you’re a fan of the blues, you won’t want to miss this evening of music with Miller & The Other Sinners and Sean Farley at The Nugget Mountain Bar. These guys are a little bit soul, a little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, and a whole lot of soul. Tickets are cheap for this iAM MUSIC Fest hosted event and you don’t want to miss this one. Trust.

June 19iAM MUSIC Fest!Durango, ColoradoSince COVID-19 was particularly hard on musicians and artists, iAM MUSIC Fest organizers wanted to help support local, independent musicians while simultaneously providing you with ear candy. While tickets won’t be available for this event until a month before, there’s still plenty to look forward to at iAM MUSIC Fest!, like Baracutanga, Hello Dollface, and The Secret Circus Society. Hosted at Buckley Park, iAM MUSIC Fest will still adhere to COVID-19 health and safety guidelines via social distancing.

June 26Music at the SpringsPagosa Springs, Colorado; $5iAM MUSIC Fest isn’t just popping up in Durango. Should you travel on over to see our friends in Pagosa Springs this summer, you can also catch Music at the Springs. For $5, you can relax at The Springs Resort and enjoy music from Elder Grown, a band that makes “funk meets rock, pop meets hip hop,” and, in case you missed him in Durango, Sean Farley, an artist who like to mix blues, soul, and Americana.

July 8-11Rocky Mountain Uke FestDurango, Colorado; freeWho doesn’t love the sweet, sweet sound of a ukulele? Nobody, that’s who. And you can check out a cacophony of ukes at the July 8-11 at Fort Lewis College as well as venues across Durango, which will feature the Rocky Mountain UkeFest All-Star Band pluckin’ those uke strings in tandem. That alone was good enough to sell us on this show, but as a bonus, it’s free.

July 9-11Gem and Mineral ShowDurango, Colorado; $3Do you like shiny things like the glitter-loving crab from “Moana”? Well, then you’re in luck, because the Gem and Mineral Show at La Plata County Fairgrounds features all things shiny, from rocks and gems to pearls, minerals, and beads. Come dig for (slightly buried) treasure at the vendor booths, join mini-workshops in lapidary, metalsmith, and keum boo, and pan for gold. Your glittery wrists will thank you.

July 15-August 1Music in the MountainsPagosa Springs, Durango, Bayfield, and Ignacio, ColoradoMusic in the Mountains is a massive summer music festival featuring top-notch musicians that not only entertain, but educate and interact, making this festival a true learning experience. You can catch acts like TAKE3, a trio of musicians who play classics like “What a Wonderful World” to original soundtrack music from “Game of Thrones, or Bach and Burritos event where you can not only listen to the lulling sounds of classical music, but enjoy delicious burritos and margaritas from Nini’s Taqueria as well. And, to top off those burritos and sweet tunes, you can even indulge in a variety of artisan desserts – chocolate-based desserts, no less – at the Chocolate Indulgence tent. Where do we sign up?

July 17iAM Music Fest!Durango, ColoradoIt’s iAM MUSIC Fest! part two! This time, festival attendees at Buckley Park can catch Elder Grown, Grahm Good, and The Secret Circus Society while still being able to social distance at a public event. Like with the previously mentioned iAM MUSIC Fest, you’ll have to wait a month before the event to purchase your tickets.

July 24Music at the SpringsPagosa Springs, Colorado; $5iAM MUSIC will be back for more of Pagosa Springs at their second summer Music at the Springs event featuring High Country Hustle and Pete Muller and Friends. Buckle up for a night of bluegrass and a performance by Pete Muller who, aside from being a pioneer in quant investing, spent much of his time in New York City playing music in the subway for busy commuters.

July 30-August 1Durango Carve Wars FestDurango, Colorado; freeIn a galaxy not too far away, just down the road from Durango in fact, a war of the stars, er, chainsaws will take place. Welcome to Carve Wars where artists will face off in chainsaw carving competitions in front of the audiences who, by the way, won’t have to pay a dime to watch. You’ll get to watch artists put on what can only be described as the loudest performances in the galaxy without ever having to leave the planet.

July 30-August 1Party in the ParkDurango, Colorado; Pagosa Springs, ColoradoParty? Now there’s a term we haven’t heard in a while. But here it is! KSUT is bringing live music back to the Four Corners. Party in the Park is coming to Durango’s Buckley Park on July 30, and to Pagosa Springs on August 1 at Town Park. In order to prevent any spread of COVID-19, KSUT has adjusted its crowd capacity and put in place safety rules and protocols. Visit the KSUT website for more information on upcoming events.

August 4, 25Mesa Verde National Park Entrance Fee-Free DayMesa Verde National Park; freeNow that it’s summer, it’s time to hit the road. As COVID-19 is still an ongoing concern, we highly suggest you stick with outdoor activities where there is plenty of space to social distance, like Mesa Verde National Park. The park has even made it easy for you by making two days in August fee-free days in honor of the anniversary of the American Outdoors Act, Aug. 4, and the National Park Service’s birthday, Aug. 25. At Mesa Verde National Park, not only will you get beautiful views of the desert landscape and plethora of canyons, but you’ll also get to see the cliff dwellings where, for 700 years, the Ancestral Pueblo people built their homes and communities.

August 13-15Telluride Jazz FestivalTelluride, ColoradoGet your lawn chairs ready. The Telluride Jazz Festival is back and it’s bringing a whole lotta smooth music with it. While a good chunk of the 2021 lineup hasn’t been announced, some of this year’s performers include The Crescent Super Band, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Catherine Russell, and Christian Sands. In years past, bands like Lettuce, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Muddy Waters, Dizzy Gillespie, and Mavis Staples. Tickets will not go on sale for this festival until the event organizers are sure they can make it a safe experience for everyone in attendance.

August 18-22Telluride Mushroom FestivalTelluride, ColoradoMushroom nerds, get your eating utensils ready because the Telluride Mushroom Festival is on! This festival puts the fun back into fungal. OK, that was a terrible dad joke, but for real, if you’re a fan of the ‘shrooms, consider checking out this festival dedicated to “all things mycological.” Attendees of this 40-year-old event will learn about culinary and medicinal uses of mushrooms, new advancements in science when it comes to mushrooms, the chemistry behind psychedelic mushrooms and how they can be used clinically, and even take part in a good ol’ fashioned mushroom cook-off. If you’re new to the mushroom world, welcome! This festival has plenty of activities to set you up with mushroom basics.

August 28San Juan BrewfestDurango, ColoradoHow we’ve missed you, San Juan Brewfest! Let’s get back to wrapping up the summers with a festival celebrating Durango’s love of beer at Buckley Park. Attendees will get tasting glasses and unlimited samples from the dozens of breweries and distilleries there to quench your thirst, which should be pretty substantial considering San Juan Brewfest was a no-go last year. The 2021 brewery lineup will be announced in May and revelers can also expect live musical performances. Tickets will go on sale on June 1. As we like to say here in the Southwest, cheers!

August 28Thirsty 13 Half MarathonHesperus to Durango, Colorado; $70If you’re looking to work up an appetite before going to the brewing festival, Thirsty 13 Half Marathon has got you covered. Starting at Hesperus Church, you’ll run all the way out to Ska Brewing. Once you finish, you’ll be rewarded with food from Nini’s Taqueria and can head on down to Buckley Park where you can wrap up your day with some delicious beers at the San Juan Brewfest.

August 28-29Manitou Springs Wine FestivalManitou Springs, Colorado; $30-35Summers are just for the beer lovers, at least not in Manitou Springs. At the Manitou Springs Wine Festival, you can get your wine on at their 18th annual Wine Festival at Memorial Park. About 21 wineries are signed up to be serving drinks at the festival, though those numbers could change. Aside from some fine wine guzzling you’ll be doing, there will also be live music performances, though the lineup has not yet been announced. Tickets go on sale May 1 and are available for individual sessions. There will be two sessions a day.

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