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A Local’s Guide to Gunnison’s Magical Summers Part II

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Just tuning in? Don’t miss Part I of Gunnison resident and mom of two Eryn’s guide to Gunnison–from mountain and road biking to hiking to water fun. 

Winters in the Valley can be cold- really cold. So when summer comes, you will find most of us outside, all day every day. When the days stretch into evenings, you will find the Gunny locals hanging out at the Sundays at 6 free concert series at Legion Park or at the I Bar, sending their kids on hay rides while they enjoy a beer and dance to bluegrass.

Bring your picnic dinner and blanket and spread out on the grass for the Sundays at 6 concerts. Your kids can play on the extra tall slides and playground at the park while you hang out with friends and watch the sun set. Tuesdays at the I Bar are general admission and food and drinks are for sale, as well as s’mores kits for the requisite campfire when the sun goes down. Hay rides are frequently available. Some locals have even been married prior to a Tuesday concert and then spent the rest of the evening partying it up to the sounds of bluegrass. Thursdays are headliner acts. While kids are not discouraged from Thursdays, the cost is higher. My recommendation? Bring the kids on Tuesday, hire a babysitter on Thursday. But that’s just how I roll.

Other Family Activities

But wait. There’s more!

pioneermuseum

(History Museum)

Gunnison is probably one of the most family friendly towns I have lived in. Not only do we have an abundance of outdoor recreation within 5 minutes of downtown, we also have a history museum which encompasses several acres of land and buildings on the east end of town. My kids have their own favorite attractions at the Gunnison Pioneer Museum. For my 7-year-old daughter, it’s the re-created schoolhouse with its desks and books. For my 3-year-old son, it’s the huge car barn with its antique cars and trucks and the railroad exhibit that allows him to climb in the caboose. We buy a season pass every summer because it’s worth it. Hours and hours and hours of entertainment on a rainy day or even a sunny day.

Gunnison’s Recreation Center offers two pools with water slides, a rope swing and a diving board. It also has a zero-entry toddler area and slide, perfect for my 3-year-old. Not only does it have the aquatics, it offers a kid-friendly climbing wall, a game room, a basketball court and gymnastics room that, if not hosting classes, allows kids to literally bounce off the walls.

Feel the need to teach your kids to fish? Pac Man Pond at Jorgensen Park allows any child 14 or younger to fish for free in the fully-stocked pond. Behind Jorgensen, you can find the dirt BMX park and the skate park. And all of this is next door to the Pioneer Museum and across the street from the uber tall slides and bouldering rock of Legion Park. It’s tough to live in Gunny.

One of my favorite summer activities involves dinner on the patio at Blue Table (see below), followed by a drive up to Signal Peak. Cars can drive to within about ⅛ of a mile of the peak (ask a local for directions). Hike to the top (doable by even small children) and watch the sun set and the moon rise. Then exhale. That’s summer living in Gunny.

Signal Peak

Signal Peak

Summer events include Gunnison River Festival, the week-long Cattlemen’s Days Rodeo and Car Show weekend.

Other activities

There are a gazillion other activities in Gunnison in the summer- horseback riding, shooting, fly fishing, sailing, water skiing, rock climbing, moto sports, arts, even shopping- and I did not even come close to mentioning them all. If you have a question or an idea or just need inspiration, feel free to contact me. If I don’t know, I will find out. If you need a guide, I will be happy to help or to recommend someone. It’s the Gunny way.

Now on to really important matters, like eating and drinking.

Eats

rodeoFor kid-friendly Italian, hit up Mario’s in town. For post river trip, patio Italian, make a visit to Garlic Mike’s (the drinks there are equally fabulous. I highly recommend). I know I will break some hearts with this one but my favorite Mexican food in Gunnison is found at Agave, in the shopping center next to City Market. Agave also has a patio (and margaritas), something I appreciate on summer nights with kids. The best lunches can be found at Firebrand and The Local Market, both on Main Street. Both places offer a selection of sandwiches with a side note of local lore. Firebrand also serves delicious breakfasts and The Local Market sells local produce and meats, along with hosting performances by local artists. Both are also kid-friendly.

For more eating options, see the drinking options below.

Drinks

High Alpine Brewing Company serves up locally brewed beers as well as brick oven pizzas and appetizers. Its second floor deck is already a popular gathering spot and it hosts bands many nights of the week. Blue Table, a mile east of town, make delicious mixed drinks and offers a great selection of wines. Its food isn’t bad either and even includes sushi. Dinner and drinks on the patio while watching the sunset is not a bad way to pass a summer evening. The bar at Twisted Fork makes some of my favorite cocktails in town. After I have one (or two), I inevitably end up ordering off their “Asian Fusion” menu. Thus far, I have never been disappointed. They also have outdoor seating.

Best place for Happy Hour margaritas and snacks with your friends? The patio at El Paraiso. The margaritas are large and arrive at your table on fire (no joke). I have spent hours on El Paraiso’s patio, only to realize it was getting dark and my bike was lacking any form of lights for the journey home. Oops. Lastly, I can’t end leave this paragraph without mentioning Blackstock Bistro for both drinks and food. Creative cocktails, creative food, all of it delicious. Its one downfall in the summer is the lack of a patio, but that makes it perfect for rainy summer evenings.

I would be remiss if I did not mention coffee. As a Portland transplant, I am serious about my coffee. For the best nectar in town, stop at Double Shot Cyclery on Main Street. Not only can you get your fix, you can get your bike repaired and and acquire any necessary trail beta you need for your adventures in Gunnison.

I may be biased, but a truly ideal family vacation in Colorado would be one week in Gunnison with maybe a day trip or two to Crested Butte 30 minutes away (it is also a pretty amazing place). There is plenty of dirt for everyone in Gunny and it’s all affordable. I live here and I still can’t do everything I want to do in the summer. When winter arrives, I am always amazed to find my summer checklist incomplete. Of course, then it’s time to compile my winter checklist, which is an entirely different article.

Eryn Barker lives, works and plays in the Gunnison Valley. You can read her writing on her blog, Gunny Girl, or find her on Twitter,Instagram or Facebook.

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