Colorado is a state with centuries of history, from the beautiful Capitol Building in Denver to the ancient cliff dwellings in Manitou Springs. But sometimes it’s not history that makes a building fascinating, it’s the strange circumstances of its conception, or its standout appearance. Here are ten Colorado buildings that will make you want to get out of the car and find out more.

1. Cano’s Castle

Cano's Castle. Photo Credit: Michael Rael (FlickR)
Cano’s Castle. Photo Credit: Michael Rael (FlickR)

In Antonito, Cano’s Castle dominates the sight of an otherwise perfectly normal neighborhood. This huge building, made of scrap metal, hubcaps, screen doors, and other salvaged materials, and sided with flattened aluminum beer cans, was created by a man named Cano who claims that God built the castle and Jesus now resides in it.

2. Casa Bonita

Okay, so it’s located in a strip mall, and sure, it used to be a department store. But no list of “interesting” buildings would be complete without this Colorado classic, even if the food is mediocre at best. From the pink, Spanish mission-style facade outside to the indoor experience of watching dancing gorillas, cliff divers, and cowboy shootouts while you eat, a visit to Casa Bonita is pretty much guaranteed to be a memorable experience.

3. Estes Ark

This building in Estes Park is one hundred feet long by fifty feet wide, and it is shaped like Noah’s Ark. You might not be surprised to find out that the ark is filled with animals, as it is actually a toy shop which features over 10,000 different stuffed animals, from cuddly teddy bears to lifelike plush bighorn sheep.

4. Bishop Castle

Jim Bishop has been building this incredible structure in Rye, Colorado for almost 60 years now, and the result of this one man project features tall turreted towers with views for over a hundred miles as well as wrought iron bridges and even a fire breathing dragon.

5. The Tuff Shed Cryogenic Mausoleum

Tuff Shed - 4Neus - OutThere Colorado
The shed that houses the frozen dead guy. Photo Credit: 4Neus.

Grandpa Bredo died in 1989, and his body was put on ice in an aluminum shed, where it has been “cryogenically suspended” ever since. Laws have since been passed in Nederland against freezing your dead relatives, but Grandpa Bredo is the only exception, and the town of Nederland even holds an annual festival for him — Frozen Dead Guy Days — every March.

6. Will Rogers’ Shrine of the Sun

Shrine of the Sun - Matt Wright - OutThere Colorado
Photo Credit: Matt Wright.

The tall stone tower that overlooks Colorado Springs and Pike’s Peak looks like part of a medieval castle, but it’s actually a monument to Will Rogers, a man who died in a plane crash in 1935. Access to the shrine — and it’s amazing views — is included with entry to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

7. The Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel - Lesley G/ CORunner - flickr
The Stanley Hotel. Photo credit: Lesley G/ CORunner (flickr)

This massive and ornate hotel is located in Estes Park, where it overlooks the lake and the jagged peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park. First opened in 1909, The Stanley Hotel is widely rumored to be haunted, perhaps partially due to the fact that it was the filming location for Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of The Shining, by Stephen King.

8. Spaceship House

This house in Genesee, just west of Denver, is pretty recognizable to anyone who has ever driven on I-70. Officially called The Sculptured House, this UFO-like house looks a lot like something out of a sci-fi movie, and in fact it was featured in the Woody Allen sci-fi film Sleeper. The flat, rounded building with its wall of teeth-like windows sits perched high in the mountains overlooking the surrounding area, and can be seen for miles.

9. Petrified Wood Gas Station

This building in Lamar claims to be the oldest building in the world, and it actually might have a claim to that title, since it’s built entirely from fossilized wood that is millions of years old.

10. UFO Watchtower

UFO Watchtower - Larry Lamsa - flickr
UFO Watchtower. Photo credit: Larry Lamsa (flickr)

Strange sighting and events have always been rumored in the San Luis Valley, so in 2000, Judy Messoline opened a campground, built a round, stucco dome, and opened a UFO watchtower that is now known amongst paranormal enthusiasts as one of the best destinations in the world for spotting UFOs.

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