Called the “Heart of the Rockies,” this high-energy town in central Colorado’s sunny, dry Banana Belt is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. Come for a weekend and you might want to stay for the rest of your life.

EAT  | Ask ten different people where to eat in Salida, and they’ll all say The Fritz (thefritzsalida.com), a bustling “gastro pub” where you can nosh on shared plates that draw on Spanish, Asian and American cuisine. Snag a seat on the street-side patio, which opens in May, and dig into some truffle (aka “crack”) fries—just try not to OD. Everyone also raves about the bacon mac and cheese, a melt-in-your-mouth concoction that bubbles with provolone, parmesan and gruyere. Need a nightcap? Amble over to Wood’s High Mountain Distillery (woodsdistillery.com) to sip handcrafted whiskey, gin or elderflower liqueur in funky lounge bedecked with couches and old church pews.

SLEEP | For downtown digs, the Palace Hotel (salidapalacehotel.com) is the spot, a 1909 charmer that reopened in 2012 after Fred and Vicki Klein lovingly restored the building. Think Victorian elegance with an edge. The place woos with heartfelt touches including sage and lemongrass soap, sheets so soft you may not want to get out of bed and coffee, muffins and yogurt parfait delivered to your suite each morning. Make your plans now, since summer weekends fill fast. If you have a four-legged friend in tow, nab a cozy cottage or room at the Mountain Motel (mountainmotel.net), a pet-friendly spot with Western flair.

PLAY  | Since it is both nestled alongside the Arkansas River and also sits in the shadows of 14,000-foot peaks, this small town at 7,000 feet delivers big adventure. Right in town you can cast a line in Gold Medal trout waters or paddle in the play holes and surf waves of the whitewater park. If peak bagging is your thing, wake in the wee hours and head up 14,197-foot Mount Princeton (14ers.com), then stop for a soak in Mount Princeton Hot Springs (mtprinceton.com). Fat tire fans can tackle the epic Monarch Crest Trail, which (mostly) descends 35 miles from Monarch Pass to Poncha Springs. If it’s snowed in, hit the Rainbow or Methodist Mountain trails instead. Pop into Absolute Bikes (absolutebikes.com) for advice, shuttle info and maps. When your legs wear out, poke around the galleries and studios of downtown, a Certified Creative District (salidacreates.com). Festivals also abound, including June’s FIBArk (fibark.com), America’s oldest whitewater festival. For all happenings, go to colorfulcolorado.com.
—Avery Stonich