background img

Colorado family travel: Breckenridge’s best kid-friendly resort

Breckenridge. Land of Colorado’s 14,000-foot rooftop, world-class skiing and its authentic Victorian storefronts that dot Main Street, a nod to its gold mining camp days. This bustling Colorado mountain town has long been a family favorite and we have stayed in a variety of properties that included a beautiful mountain home, B&Bs and condos. However, it wasn’t until I walked on the property of the Grand Colorado on Peak 8  that I felt like I had finally arrived. “Why have we never stayed here before?” I lamented.

We planned our back-to-school Breckenridge staycation to showcase the best of Colorado to our Swiss exchange student, Maelle and The Grand delivered. This Breckenridge property is one of the most family-friendly in all of Colorado (a bold claim, indeed) with pools, a fun center, an escape room and even movie theaters. Housed at the base of Peak 8  where, literally outside of your doorstep is Epic Discovery, a bevy of Breckenridge Mountain Resort’s activities that include the Gold Runner Coaster, Alpine Slide, an interpretive hiking loop and so much more.  Scroll down for all the fun!The Grand Colorado Breckenridge

The Grand Colorado on Peak 8

 If I’m being honest, we spent a few hours on Breckenridge’s lively Main Street and then did not leave our resort again. And why would we? The Grand Colorado on Peak 8 is the ultimate family-friendly resort in Breckenridge! Not only is The Grand’s location at the base of Peak 8 ideal, but kids love the Family Fun Center and arcade, 5 private movie theaters, 2 aquatics areas including 2 indoor/outdoor pools, 7 indoor/outdoor hot tubs and 2 kids pool/play features, the gold-mine-themed Gr8 Escape Room, summer Sport Court with life-size checkers and chess, cornhole, and other fun games and outdoor grilling spaces to hang out with family and grill up some dinner.Shuffleboard Colorado

We stayed in a gorgeous lock-off residence that gave all five of us our own space to decompress (except my husband; he was stuck with me but unsurprisingly didn’t launch any complaints in our glorious master suite). Lodging choices range from suites that sleep 4 to four-bedroom residences that sleep 16. All residences are lock-offs, so they are perfect for big or multi-generational families. Their four bedrooms have a huge living room, dining seating for 16, and 3 suite lock-offs giving everyone a private space. Parent privacy + staying connected are a win-win at Grand Colorado. 

When we visited Main Street, we simply jumped on the free shuttle at The Grand that took us anywhere in Breckenridge. Another option would have been the BreckConnect gondola which runs free of charge from the center of town to the base of Peak 8 in summer and winter.  We have visited many resorts over the years and there have been a variety of ways to access the activities but we had a first at The Grand: innovative watch-like wristbands that gave my teens free access to roam the property at their leisure! And roam they did. My son Bode dominated in cornhole, foosball and the life-sized chess and checkers while Maelle won at shuffleboard (the rest of the losers are still plotting our revenge; spoiler alert it happened sooner than later). 

Normally, we would have reserved one of the five FREE private movie theaters, each equipped with state-of-the-art video technology for up to 15 guests with over 150 movie options for all ages. And though those upscale recliners and oversized beanbags were tempting, we knew our language barrier with Maelle would be an issue. Note to self: See if they have silent movies during our next visit. 

One afternoon, we had an impromptu pool party on the deck at Building 3 (considerably less chaotic than the more family-friendly children’s pools with play features and a small water slide in Building 1). We grilled brisket on the BBQ grills. Lounged by the pool soaking in the mountain views. Introduced Maelle to iconic games like “What Time is it, Mr. Shark.” Had underwater swimming competitions when Bode ran headfirst into the wall (one word: payback). Sometimes our best memories are those that just unfold naturally and, in our family, sometimes involve blood.The Grand Colorado Patio

Epic Discovery at Breckenridge Mountain Resort

Gemstone Panning BreckenridgePeak 8, just steps outside of The Grand, is the launching pad for some of Breckenridge’s most epic adventures at Epic Discovery. Mountain Biking. Bungee Trampolines. Gold Summit Climbing Wall. Mini Golf. Gemstone Panning. Alpineer Challenge Course & Alpine Camp. And for the little littles: The Lil’ Climber Ropes Course, Lil’ Flyer Zipline and Lil’ Nugget Tubing.

Someone recommended we start with the Alpine Slide early in the day before it got too busy (sound advice). We had a blast cruising down the mountain in our summer toboggan but if you prefer speed without the fear of crashing, the Gold Runner Coaster is for you. Our gravity-propelled sleds were sloooowly transported to the top of the track and the downhill is adrenaline-fueled! Each sled is individually controlled so riders can ideally control the speed at which they zoom. However, if you are timid or have a timid child, be considerate of the rider behind you and implore the staffers to leave a little bit of extra space so they can have a full-throttle experience. Be sure to secure any loose items because, according to the tally at the bottom, the staff has found everything from hats to cell phones to an air-fryer. Sounds legit.

We made a brief stop at the Gemstone Panning activity where the water runs through a series of troughs called a sluice. We received a bag of mining rough, dumped it into a screen tray, lowered it into the trough and sifted away. Thirty seconds later, we had a treasure trove of quartz, pyrite, onyx and garnet. We boasted to Maelle THAT is how gem-panning is done in the USA. She later went on to get a hole-in-one at mini-golf, showing us how it’s done in Switzerland. 

We then soared up the Colorado Super Chair for a bird’s eye view of three of Colorado’s famous 14ers. Destination: The Alpineer Challenge Course. Unlike many ropes courses where you are forced in a singular line through the course, this one is in a choose-your-own-adventure format with 15 fun features that include a log walk, rope swings or the Challenge of Death (thus nicknamed by my husband). When we received our security briefing (participants must be between 72-220 pounds and of sound mind), my husband proved to be quite the opposite. As the staffer told us about the one incredibly difficult challenge that stumped most people, Jamie channeled his inner American Ninja Warrior, [barely] fought his way through it and his upper body was sore afterward.  The Challenge of Death is not recommended for middle-aged men trying to relive their glory days. Breckenridge Ropes Course

Breckenridge Activities for Families

  We started with a short walk to Isak Heartstone, a 15-foot tall wooden troll tucked away in the forest near the Stephen C. West Ice Arena. Some other family-favorite hikes in Breckenridge are the Burro Trail, Sawmill Creek or Carter Park, all just a stone’s throw away from Main Street. Breckenridge Troll

We headed down to Main Street and indulged in Sancho Tacos’ unique Southern fried chicken tacos with honey chipotle mayo as well as many classics like barbacoa and pork carnitas. Another family favorite is building our own sweet or savory crêpes at Crêpes à la Cart, a cozy outdoor creperie/food truck that requires huddling around the small firepit in the winter for survival (it’s worth it).

As my children have grown, so have their interests but I still took them to some of their childhood favorites. We shopped Main Street (Magical Scraps Boutique & Studio, a vibrant shop with darling local finds) and for old time’s sake, I dragged them into their second childhood home Peak-A-Boo Toys…and couldn’t drag them out. Some things never change.

One of my favorite Breckenridge traditions is hanging out at Blue River Plaza where lazy summer days found us playing at the mini playground and sandbox. We’d cross the bridge to throw frisbees on Riverwalk Lawn, play in the Blue River while listening to the live music at the Riverwalk Center and leisurely stroll the bike path. I couldn’t convince them to do any of these things but as we passed the plaza, our interest was piqued by a colorful street magician. We lined up front and center for his delightful trickeries with ropes, balls, nails in his nose, card tricks and someone’s $20 that somehow ended up in a kiwi. 

I watched my teens, delighted and awed, and realized that while our traditions may be changing, Breckenridge has so many opportunities to build new memories. 

Colorado Travel: Breckenridge’s Best Winter Activities for Families and My Adventure of a Lifetime!

My husband and I dream of owning a cabin someday and Breckenridge has long been at the top of our list.  Only a 1.5-hour drive from Denver (I-70 traffic snares notwithstanding) this authentic mining town has everything I love: a world-class ski resort, the Blue River (a tributary of the raging Colorado River), an idyllic Main Street, gourmet dining, glittering boutiques, endless hiking possibilities and it is part of an 80-mile network of paved, motorized bike paths that connect other Summit County resorts like Dillon, Keystone, Copper Mountain and Vail.

We have spent long, languid summer and fall days in Breck but here’s my confession: we have never been there once the snow flies. And if you love winter like I do, you know that Breckenridge is one of Colorado’s best family vacations.

When you have young kids, no vacation is perfect but we were fortunate to have a nearly perfect trip with huge winds (the downside), huge snow totals (the upside) and knocking off an activity has been on my bucket list since I was born. Maybe I started dreaming about it in the womb because this trip was what dreams are made of.

If you’re looking for a fantastic getaway in Colorado’s mountains, these are my top recommended activities.

family travel ColoradoIce Castles

Only in Breck for the 2013/14 season, the giant 1-acre Ice Castles are a cut right out of Disney’s musical fantasy Frozen where you’ll swear you’ve been swept away in an eternal winter with magic at every turn. Each ice castle takes thousands of man-hours to make. More than 5,000 icicles are “grown” each day to be harvested and sculpted together. Newly placed icicles are then regularly drenched in freezing water. By day the Ice Castles are beautiful with glacial tones of blue. By night they stun with a kaleidoscope of lights that are actually frozen inside of the ice.

My kids’ favorite part was a tunnel that cut through a wall of ice. They convinced me to slither through it with them and after a slow downhill slide, we were ejected onto the snowy floor. Think: Winnie the Pooh. But even though my landing wasn’t pretty, the rest of it sure was. General Admission, age 12 and up:  $10. Children 4 to 11: $8. Young Children under 4 years old:  Free.  We’re giving away four family four-packs of tickets so be sure to enter here.

skiBreckenridgeBreckenridge Ski Resort

I can’t talk about Breckenridge without mentioning the mountain that makes the town. I’d obviously never skied it and initially the 2,908-acre resort overwhelmed. But I’m a quick learner and getting schooled on this mountain is my kind of education. After dropping our kids off at ski school, my husband and I did the “freedom” shout. For the first hour, the wind was unrelenting but with 45 inches of snow in the last seven days we took a course in Sucking It Up and it paid off. We hunkered down and sought refuge by skiing under the cossetted C Chair and when the winds died down a bit, we had the best powder day we’ve had in a year. We particularly loved skiing Peak 6, Breck’s new 543-acre addition that features high-alpine, intermediate bowl skiing (a true rarity).

At the end of an exhausting day, we picked the kids up and were later able to track their progress via EpicMix’s newest feature, EpicMix Academy. Though the wind kept us from the Golden Runner Alpine Coaster and spending much time on Peak 6, the kids are already begging to take us back to their favorite haunts that included Trygve’s small terrain park with moderate jumps and boxes. There’s no parking at the base of Peak 8 but a free shuttle runs throughout town and delivered us right in front of Pine Ridge Condos where we proceeded to soak in the hot tub and then burrow up to a fire and a movie while a storm raged outside. That, my friends, is what a ski vacation is all about.

 Shop, Eat, Play, Repeat.

“I wish Denver had places like this,” sighed my daughter Hadley. “Like what?” I countered. “Like this,” she said pointing to Main Street’s charming Historic District dotted with boutiques, eateries and galleries. Even at 9 years old, she gets what makes a great shopping district and Breckenridge has it all. My kids are huge fans of the unique Peak a Boo Toys (and the big indoor play area is a bonus on cold days). The town’s Arts District continues to expand and Ready Paint Fire offers a nice respite where you can paint functional pottery like holiday platters to commemorate your trip. Indulge at Mary’s Mountain Cookies and if you stop at the Welcome Center head upstairs for some cool old ski exhibits and a great view of the slopes. If you want a parent’s night out, check-out the Mountain Top Children’s Museum or the 69,000-square-foot Breckenridge Recreation Center which also has indoor tennis courts, lap and leisure pools, a water slide, a racquetball court, basketball courts, indoor rock-climbing wall and more.

Our favorite tradition is grabbing crepes from Crepes a la Carte , a longtime fixture on Main Street. Choices range from breakfast to savory to sweet to ice cream crepes and our favorites are the German Apple Strudel or Cheesecake Crepes. All crepes are made-to-order, which is a nice way of saying they are fresh, delicious and take a while so be sure to hunker down by the fire pit in the outdoor seating area. During our half-hour wait, my daughter and I discovered our new favorite shop across the street, Magical Scraps Boutique and Studio. It’s Etsy comes to life with disarmingly darling crafts, fabrics and whimsical accessories like handmade belts, hats, scarves and jewelry.  We could have (and would have) spent a fortune had my husband not plucked us out of our chick reverie to inform us our crepes were ready. But Magical Scaps, we will be back to feel more magic.

Dog Sledding

dogsledwonderlandLast but certainly not least is Dog Sledding. The sport has recently received a bad wrap from the controversial practices of its Aspen counterpart but I was thrilled to Good Times Adventures runs the highest quality of practices as the only snowmobile and dog sledding tour operator in Summit County. Trip Adviser ranks it the No. 1 activity in Breckenridge and you’d better believe it was that good.

Dog sledding has been on my bucket list for years (read: borderline obsession) so I was like a kid in a very whitewashed candy store when we booked our outing. We opted to keep it a secret from our children and they were both ecstatic when we pulled up to the lodge, particularly my dog-loving daughter who repeatedly raved, “I never thought we’d get to do something like this in a hundred years!” It was the adventure of a lifetime,which begs the question: what more do I have to live for?

After signing our waivers and getting outfitted in our snow suits and boots, we met our guide Wes and team of Siberian Huskies. With a dog yard that is home to 140 dogs (with five litters to be delivered around Valentine’s Day), this huge operation allows dogs adequate recovery time as they are rotated in and out of their runs.  We quickly learned their names and personalities. Rocky and Bullwinkle were our lead dogs, next in line were the “swing dogs” Gimly (who had a crush on Hadley) and Red had a squirrel-chasing fetish. Blizzard was grumpy but when paired with Savage he performed like a champ and the “wheel dogs” (in the back) were Scarlet and Maverick who, at 9 years old, is in his last year of sledding and trunky for retirement.dogpet

Wes explained that the dogs are attached to the sled with a series of lines called rigging that includes the tow line (or gang line), tug lines and neck lines. Each sled had a basket where gear or a passenger was carried and were outfitted with a braking device. I volunteered to drive first (this was, after all, my dream) with Hadley in the basket. Wes, Jamie and Bode rode ahead of us in a snowmobile-pulled sleigh.

Before I knew it, the dogs enthusiastically surged forward upon command and I effortlessly balanced on the back tracks of the sled as we raced past old rough-and-tumble mining camps on the 50 acres that bordered a National Forest wonderland. “I’m mushing!!!” I squealed. It started lightly snowing as we soared across the endless snowfields and I was certain we’d been plunked right into an idyllic snow globe in the aptly named Swan River Valley.

Good Times offers various levels of dog sledding and we chose the tamer “Disney” experience. I had no expectations going in but was thrilled when Wes announced the kids would get to drive the team during our slow and steady uphill climbs (many dog sledding operators only let their clients sit in the basket). They were in their element; rosy-cheeked, their “MUSH” commands echoing through the trees as the pitter-patter of husky paws on snow distilled Colorado’s wilderness to its purest incarnation.

After my son’s turn, he moved to the basket while I drove him for the first time. Notoriously cautious when faced with new challenges, he lectured me, “Now, Mom.  Lean into your turns and remember…have a good time!”

With Good Times Adventures, it’s tough to do otherwise.

[Not a valid template]

For more information on visiting Breckenridge this winter, be sure to check-out A special thanks to them for hosting this visit; we’re already planning our return.


Family Travel: The Magical Ice Castles in Breckenridge

“Mom, so where are we going for our surprise?”
“I’m not telling. Be here’s a hint: the movie, Frozen.”
“Ice castles? Are we going to see ICE CASTLES?”

My kids nailed it on the first guess. And much to our delight, the giant Ice Castles in Breckenridge, Colo. are a cut right out of Disney’s musical fantasy where you’ll swear you’ve been swept away in an eternal winter with magic at every turn. Disclaimer: mangy reindeer named Sven not included.

This is Brent Christensen’s fifth year building Ice Castles and his third go-around in Colorado (previous years were in Silverthorne and Steamboat). Conveniently located at 150 W Adams Ave. in downtown Breck adjacent to Blue River Plaza, the 1-acre frozen kingdom gives you yet another reason to visit this world-class resort town.

So, how do they do it?