NOCO Living: It’s Still Great!

Blue Angels perform in NOCO (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

Tim Van Schmidt


It didn’t hit me until I was editing some photos from the recent Great Colorado Air Show at the Northern Colorado Regional Airport.

Some of the Blue Angels photos I had taken showed these super fast, super precise aircraft zooming through the air with the Front Range foothills clearly in the background.

Great Colorado Air Show 2021 (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

I thought to myself, “I live in a pretty great place” — to have both tremendous spectacles like a Blue Angels performance and the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains so nearby.

The Blue Angels 2021 (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve appreciated living in northern Colorado. But let’s just say that this whole CO-VID thing has cramped my style.

Added to this, Fort Collins is no longer the small city I moved to in 1980. Now it’s much bigger and much busier. I mean, we actually have some heavy rush hours throughout the region.

It’s kind of easy to get a little grouchy about wearing a mask or driving anywhere along Harmony Road during the business day.

But a recent spate of area activities — including seeing The Blue Angels — has reminded me just how great we have it here.

I’ll go back to seeing creative jazz genius Herbie Hancock at Gardens on Spring Creek — an excellent end-of-summer live music treat featuring an innovative music legend.

Then there was a very pleasant lunch on the patio at longtime Fort Collins restaurant The Rainbow, sitting right next to its own fresh herb garden. The Rainbow has been one of my favorites for decades but is only one of scores of great places to eat in NOCO.

CSU Trial Gardens (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

After lunch, a stop at the CSU Trial Gardens revealed that, at least at that time, a gorgeous array of flowers was still blooming away with a pleasing riot of colors. This is just one of the gifts Fort Collins has received for having CSU right in the heart of town.

Another one of those gifts is the University Center for the Arts, the building adjacent to the Gardens, which features a world-class concert hall, an art gallery, and more.

The Catcalls at Mash Lab Brewing in Windsor (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

Next, I got to see an impressive regional band during a visit to Mash Lab in Windsor — and had some excellent NOCO beer besides. My choice of drink was Mash Lab’s Peanut Butter Milk Stout and raging on stage on the patio was The Catcalls, churning out a feisty and gritty rock.

But let’s also add some recent family activities to the list. First, there was a morning visit to Sugar Beet Park. Not only is there a cool new sculpture in this park, but also a top-notch, creatively designed playground as well.

This was followed up with a visit to the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, mixing hands-on experiences with historical displays. The live specimen room especially afforded the opportunity to get up close to various bugs, snakes, rats, and frogs.

Farm Heritage Museum at The Farm (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

On top of this, an excursion to The Farm yielded the opportunity to get up close to a wide variety of farm animals — turkeys, horses, cows, chickens, pigs, goats — and to learn. On this visit, I tuned in to the Rotary Club Farm History Museum which is full of artifacts and informational displays.

For example, one such display explained that a dairy cow drinks 50 gallons of water, eats 100 pounds of food, and produces 65 pounds of compost a day — and yields 7 gallons of milk. 

Finally, there was the air show. Besides getting up close to some aircraft on the ground, aerial acrobatics entertained from the skies. I was plenty impressed with what I saw throughout the day. But then came The Blue Angels.

Their precision was breathtaking as they carried out big view maneuvers.

To me, all of the above just adds up to good living. That’s no brag, just fact. We have a wide diversity of opportunities here when we want to listen, eat, look, play, do, learn, and positively engage with life. 

So even with the continued pandemic situation and just general busy traffic, I’ll keep my eyes open to just how good of a place NOCO is.

Tim Van Schmidt is a photographer and writer based in Fort Collins. See his slideshow from the Great Colorado Air Show at “Time Capsules by Tim Van Schmidt.”


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