Visiting Colorado

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Outdoorsy Multi-family Vacation in Colorado

Jan 2014

My in-laws want us to meet them and my husband's brother's family in Colorado this summer. They are dithering about whether to rent one giant house or go to a more full service place, and since I generally wind up being the one cooking and cleaning, I would much prefer a (more) full-service place. My guess is that if I could present some reasonable options, they would jump at them, but I'm overwhelmed when I just Google 'places in Colorado for a family vacation.'

We will be 6 adults and 5 boys, ages 4-10. My in-laws are very fit and are happy both doing active things (hiking, tennis, swimming) or just hanging out with a bottle or two of wine. I think within a couple hours of Denver is ideal so we won't have to drive far once we get there. There should be stuff for the kids to do, though the youngest can't yet swim so it can't be completely based around the water. Three of the kids aren't that excited about hiking. Having a creek run through the property or nearby so they can wade, throw in rocks, make dams will appeal to all the kids, but it would be fun to have other things too. (Horseback riding? Archery? Biking?) No one is that crafty.

It shouldn't be outrageously expensive, but it can be kind of expensive since my in-laws like nice things/places. Any suggestions of where to go? Anon

Colorado ex-pat here. You might want to check out the Stanley Hotel, aka The Overlook, aka the hotel from The Shining in Estes Park. It's a stunning National park with a lot to offer (streams and a lake, many trails) plus the hotel has a spa attached. I'm not sure about the price, but everyone who has been there loves it, plus it's an hour outside of Denver. If that's too much, try Idaho Springs. Rent bikes, play in the hot springs, take an easy hike around nearby Echo Lake and end the day with pizza and micro brews. Not sure about lodging there, but I know there are many hotels and B and B type places. Vail is also beautiful in the summer. It's a mountain resort town with lots of restaurants/shopping and a pretty walking path through the valley. I'm sure there are plenty of hotels with pools there, but it's more of a condo living area. It's about 3 hours outside of Denver, too. You might also want to check out the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, which is a short drive south of Denver along the front range. You can check out the fun stuff in the mountains, Garden of the Gods which is stunning and easy to walk with kids. Anyway those are a few ideas. Whatever you do, keep altitude sickness/ elevation in mind! And enjoy the beautiful mountains! Sara

I know a good option for your family! Snow Mountain Ranch. It's operated by the YMCA. You can stay in a lodge (like a hotel) or rent different size cabins. The cabins are beautiful, have fully outfitted kitchens, linens, games, TVs, outdoor fire pits, etc. They have a cafeteria on site or you can cook. Lots of activities for the hole family - basketball, rollerskating, rock climbing, crafts, and library. About 2 hours from Denver, depending on weather and traffic, gorgeous area with lakes, hiking, etc. You can drive another half an hour up the road to get to Rocky Mountain National Park and Grand Lake. They have one outside Estes Park too, which is another beautiful area, but I haven't personally been to that one. It's one of our favorite places, can you tell?

I don't have a specific suggestion of a place, but when I was a child we got together with Colorado family at a dude ranch, and it was just the best! Horses, swimming, hiking, game room etc for the kids plus a kid-wrangler, and all of the above plus fireplace chats, hot tub, wine, someone else cooking for adults. Everyone had fun. I know there are luxury versions, and more spare dude ranch options. Something to think about... lazy h rancher

I have 2 sisters who live in the Denver area, their advice:

My go-to place for summer vacations in Colorado is Breckenridge. There are tons of rentals on but watch the location - a house a couple of miles out of town can be a 20-30 minute drive - lots of dirt mountain roads. If they want a swimming pool I would look at the condo complexes in town - most have pools (several complexes share an outdoor pool) and then you can walk into town. There's gold panning a maybe a mile outside of town that's fun. If they want more adventure there are several white water rafting places within an hour. There's all kinds of hiking, biking, and fishing in town and the ski lift is open certain times during the summer - it's fun to ride up the lift to the top of the mountain and ride back down. There's an adventure park with an alpine coaster - the park is expensive but alpine coasters are a blast!

If you want a little cheaper than Breckenridge you can look at Dillon, CO - you drive through it on the way to Breckenridge and there's a dam with a man-made lake. Breckenridge and Dillon are connected by a bike path and it's a fun ride but be acclimated to the altitude first (or have a pick-up driver on standby).

Another great family vacation spot is Snow Mountain Ranch ( - it's a YMCA camp with cabins or hotel rooms. The food on-site is OK, usually we drive into Winter Park for meals. If you have a cabin you can hit the grocery stores in Winter Park (yeah) and cook yourself. Most activities are included in the rental and others are pretty reasonable (I think it was $4 per kid for archery the last time we were up there). There's no shopping except at the teeny-tiny gift shop - if you want to get away from it all it's your place.

No matter where you stay try to find an adventure park with an alpine slide - very mountain-y thing to do - kids love it.

I usually recommend Estes Park as well but the floods took out the main road to town and the state will be rebuilding the road this summer so it will be a nightmare travelling in and out.

Colorado Springs is fun - all kinds of places to visit - Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (you can feed the giraffes) and the Air Force Academy (if the kids are into fighter jets). Normally I would recommend looking for a place in Manitou Springs but they were pretty damaged by last year's floods so I don't know where to recommend to stay. Lots of hotels but I don't know of any vacation-y rental condo/homes.

All these places have horse-back riding available. If you're into Groupon start looking for coupons - usually there are ½ price horse-back rides available.

If you end up in Breckenridge or Dillon take a drive to Vail - it's not far and it's much more high-end. You can stay there but I think all the condo's and vacation homes are across the expressway so you are taking the shuttle bus or driving all the time. If you time it up, the ski lift used to be free after a certain time of day and there was a wine bar at the top. It's been a few years since we rode the ski lift so I don't know what's still up there.

I know several people who rent condo's and vacation homes thru - we haven't tried it because it sounds like a little more hassle - usually you have to meet the owner somewhere to pick up and drop off the keys. vacation fun in CO

Road trip to Colorado and New Mexico

Sept 2009

We're about to embark on a 2 week road trip starting in Denver and hitting Glenwood Springs, Canyonlands, and Albequerque. We'll be doing camping but staying at motels too with our 4 year old. Any place you know of that we should check out? We like quirky!


This sounds like a great trip! A friend and I drove from Denver to No. New Mexico a few years ago and loved is beautiful country. In So. Colorado, check out: Great Sand Dunes. New Mexico has neverending places to visit: city of Taos, the Taos Pueblo, Acoma Pueblo, the Turquoise Trail (a beautiful drive somewhere b/t ABQ & Taos), and if you like quirky, check out the Old Pink School House - a quirky, funky old pink schoolhouse converted to an art gallery & run by an equally quirky man...also has a neat sculpture garden in it's surrounding garden. In ABQ, check out the Rio Grande trail that you can bike/hike along and access the botanical garden. Also, check out the tram up the Sandia Mountains and see the views down below. And, lastly, don't miss the sunsets in NM....they're stunning and better than the postcards! Oh, how I love NM!!! Enjoy!! anon

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Forest is Awesome....I was there many years ago in winter. AMAZING. I'm pretty sure it's in sw Colorado. Escalante, Utah is a gorgeous area...I think it's national forest. It's much less travelled and known then places like Bryce or Zion. We rented a house in Escalante for 3 days a few years ago and explored.We did a 1/2 day horse trip in the area. I think the place we rented from was Hundoo??? They were really friendly and wonderful. Have fun. Sounds like a great trip. happy traveler

Denver with a toddler

Feb 2009

Hi - I will be traveling in May to Denver with my two year old for a few days. We will be staying at the Hyatt downtown on Welton Street. Does anyone have recommendations for toddler friendly activities that are either within walking distance or accessible by public transportation? I read about the Children's Museum but it seems one would need a car to get there. Thanks so much. travelling mama

The Denver Museum of Natural History is AMAZING and accessible by public transportation. We went to see their visiting dino exhibit (they also have a great permanent one) this past christmas and our 2.5 year old is STILL talking about it. At the end of the exhibit they had TOOOONS of toddler activities, including getting to dig for fossils yourself (in ground up rubber that looked like sand & pebbles but was clean). The botanical gardens are awesome, but I haven't tried them with a toddler. sarah

I didn't see the original post, but I am relocating to the Bay Area from Denver with a toddler so I have a ton of recommendations. The Zoo is great--easily accessible, usually most animals are out and awake, there are many scheduled feeding times you can watch, seal shows, and on the weekends, more free shows (with admission) and it is right in the middle of a large park too. Also, the you could probably spend many hours at the Children's Museum. It is fantastic with activities for all ages, a good cafe, an outdoor playground by the parking lot and right next to the aquarium. The Aquarium is expensive and might be too much for a toddler though. Email me directly if I can help you more. jules

Colorado Ski Vacation

Sept 2008

My family is hoping to rent a house (at least 3bed/3bath) in/near a Colorado ski resort over the upcoming Xmas holiday. I would appreciate any recommendations on websites, travel agents, or individuals that have these resources. I want something that is not too far from Denver (within 3 hour drive) and please not too expensive (which probably rules out Vail or Aspen?). anon

I highly recommend Eldora Mountain Resort. My husband and I used to live in northern CO, and we frequented Eldora often. The resort is way less crowded and more relaxed than the other resorts, and it's only an hour from Denver (30 minutes from Boulder). Oh, it doesn't stop there: the lift passes are significantly less expensive than the bigger resorts, too. Also, lodging will probably be cheaper nearby because Eldora is not along I-70 and the plethora of other resorts, so it's actually sort of a low season during the holidays. The downside: Eldora is a smaller, less-fancy resort, so if you're looking for a posh mountain experience, you might be disappointed. Also, Eldora mountain is smaller and lower than some others, so there may be fewer super-technical runs for you. On the other hand, if you're looking for a good place to learn (or for your kids to learn) how to ski/board, it's pretty sweet. Oh, and another perk - WAY less traffic! Check out their site - it probably has lodging info, too: Good luck and have fun! Brook

How about Park City, Ut...30-minute drive to the airport...three top 20 resorts including number one ranked Deer Valley, number six Park City Mountain Resort and also The Canyons...four more top resorts within a 45-minute drive (Snowbird, Alta, Solitude & Brighton). Less expensive...better hour closer via airplane... Just a thought. jan

Going to Breckenridge for family vacation

June 2003

We are going to Breckenridge, Colorado for a family vacation this summer and it seems like a wonderful place, too good to be true from the vacation brochures. Any recommendations of ''great'' restaurants, activities (horse stables & fishing) and places that must be seen? We will be driving from east bay, so we are stopping at Reno, Dinosaur Nat'l Monument, Canyonlands, and Arches, so I would greatly appreciate any recommendations about those places, also (although our stops will be short). Thanks. Kerri

Sounds like a great trip. My sisters live in Breckenridge and I have visited many times. My brother-in-law owns the Great Adventure sporting goods store which is located in a strip mall on your right as you approach the town from the north. They are always helpful for any kind of outdoor, sporting type activity. (I'm not just promoting his business. Chris Hart is Mr. Breckenridge - always knows what is going on in town, and loves to tell people about it). While you are at his place you should have some soup at Mi Zuppa in the same mall. One of the better and cheaper food places. Restaurants in general are overpriced and not great. Look in the local papers for 2-for-one specials. You can take a gondola up to the top of one of the Copper Mtn peaks (in Dillon) and have a fun fondue meal in a German themed restaurant complete with lederhosened wait staff - expensive but different and great for kids. Supposedly the best restaurant in town is a place called something like the Hearthstone. It is very expensive and I don't necessarily agree with my sister's restaurant taste, but if there is some kid of special in the paper it might be worth it.

Things to do - Rent bikes, ride to Frisco (mostly down hill) and take the bus back if you don't want to ride back up. Country Boy mine - interesting tour of an actual gold mine, you can pan for gold at the end and find a tiny nugget. Hike up to the top of one of the Breck resort peaks - lots of wildflowers

There are several dude ranch/ trail riding places in the area. Don't expect them to let you do any real riding even if you are an experienced rider. Stop in at the little museum on Main Street for some historical photos.

Get day passes at the Recreation Center (on Main street at the north end of town) - it makes the Berkeley Y look like a swing set and a plastic wading pool. Fantastic pool with fountains and a large slide. Great classes. Climbing wall. Adults need a license to fish in CO. Most of the rivers and lakes in the area are regulated as catch and release. The are usually fly fishermen in Silverthorne on the Blue River as it runs along the main road through town. Lake Dillon is extremely low after several drought years and many boats are high and dry at the marina.

Many great hikes in the area - ask at Great Adventure. There are some (relatively) easy 14,000 foot peaks to climb south of Breck (My 70 year old father almost made it to the top) near Place Valley - Mt Lincoln is the one I can remember. The main movie theatre is in Dillon. There is an Alpine Slide at Breckenridge in the summer, but slide with caution. It is very easy to injure yourself - serious road rash, sprains, breaks - if you go too fast. I avoid the thing. We went to Dinosaur last year and had a great time. It is spectacular. I would recommend staying at the campground at the junction of the Green and Yampa rivers if you have a car which can make it down the dirt road. The quarry is very interesting, but there is a lot more to the park. Also, kids can get a workbook at the ranger station about the wildlife and habitats of the park. When they turn it in completed (more or less) they get a DInosaur National Monument Junior Ranger patch that is really cool. My 7 year old sewed it to his backpack as soon as we got home.

Along the road from Dinosaur to Grand Junction there are a lot of petroglyph sites - you can get a map/guide at the park. Also, along route 70 between Grand Junction and Breck there are some interesting/fun things to do. There is a great hike up to a spot called Hanging Lake which is a crystal clear lake that seems to hang on the edge of the mountain. There are fish in it, but you can't fish. Worth stopping for. Hope this helps. Laura Turiano Leah