Home of historical indian ruins carved into the side of a mountain. There is quite a bit of uphill and downhill walking involved. If you have health concerns you might want to consider that before taking on the hike down to the ruins. There is a wealth of information on the ruins, park and museum on their website, listed below!
Cortez is the closest city to Mesa Verde National Park, which my wife will tell you is her favorite of the National Parks. It is located in Southwestern Colorado, and is fairly isolated from the rest of the state by the Rocky Mountains. Cortez is located about 15 miles from the Park HQ, and about 9 miles from the Park Entrance, so I am sure it is your most logical choice for dining and accommodation when the park is closed.
I would recommend learning more about Mesa Verde National Park on that page directly, or by clicking on this link.
Mesa Verde is definitely one of the National Parks where you can spend a whole day or multiple days, depending on what you want to do, so do not short change yourself or tries to pack too much into a single day and try driving elsewhere. When we were leaving the park around 4pm after getting there very early in the morning, we were surprised to see people just coming into the park. I would feel bad if I missed too much of this park because I did not allocate enough time.
One of the geographically unique things about Southwestern Colorado is that it borders three other states in a single place, the Four Corners. They have signified this landmark by created a little monument to the occasion (the only place in the US where this happens). Interestingly enough, this also exists on an Indian Reservation as well, so the location is not public property. Because this location is not on public property, you are required to pay an entry fee, per person to the location.
There are also plenty of shops for Indian art and craft, and also plenty of food.
We ended up staying about 45 minutes, as we got there early and not all of the shops had opened for the day.
Hovenweep was an interesting situation for us. While we were visiting Mesa Verde, the park ranger mentioned on multiple occasions a few additional archaeological sites in Hovenweep that were worth looking at. On the map, it appeared that Hovenweep would be just a couple miles off the highway where we were staying. So we decided to make a small detour off the main road and see the site since there was still plenty of daylight. When we were speaking with the ranger, I thought she said it was about “4” miles off the highway, but as we started driving, we realized after about 20 miles that she did not mean 4… possibly 40. At this point, we were already committed to the drive, and continued on to the site. It was definitely worth the 40 mile drive, but we likely would not have made it on this trip if not for the miscommunication.
Hovenweep contains a 2.5 mile loop track that contains several preserved archaeological sites, including a few Indian ruins.