background img

Top 20 places to see fall foliage in Colorado

Denver has one of the longest periods of fall colors of any city in the country. That’s because there are five different climate zones within a two-hour drive of downtown Denver. Pick your elevation and you can find yourself at the height of fall colors for more than two months, from mid-September to mid-November.

 Our friends at have shared their favorite destinations for leaf peeping and scenic drives just minutes from The Mile High City. If you’re looking to make a weekend of it, check-out these fabulous Colorado Vacation Rentals.

Adjust your Altitude

Aspen trees in Colorado grow from 6,500 to 10,500 feet in elevation. Although many factors make leaves turn color, as a general rule, the higher the elevation, the sooner the leaves turn gold. That means that over a period of time, you can often see a variety of shades of color on one mountainside, with deeper golds on top at 10,000 feet, blending to pale yellow in the 8,000 foot range, while down in the valley or along the plains of Denver, trees might still be green.

There are 1.9 million acres of aspen trees in Colorado – over one billion trees that if placed together would cover an area larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. Aspen leaves don’t just turn color in the fall, they positively glow in a luminescent bright yellow, almost as if they had their own light source. The leaves are small, delicate and tissue-thin with an aerodynamic shape that keep them in perpetual motion. Even a slight breeze sends every leaf on the tree shimmering.

Although seasons can vary greatly, there are generally four distinct areas and time periods for fall colors in Denver. 


Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo: VisitDenver

Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo: VisitDenver

Mid-September to Early Oct. above 9,500 feet

Winter comes early to the high country. There are many roads within a short drive of Denver that climb to elevations of more than two miles above sea level.  Some great places to see early fall colors above 9,500 feet include:

  •  Guanella Pass, located just one hour from Denver, climbs to 11,670 feet and has many high aspen groves on both sides of the pass. An excellent hike is on Abyss Lake Trail (20 miles south of Georgetown) into the Mount Evans Wilderness Area. There are aspen groves at all elevations along the trail, offering a good chance of seeing color somewhere on the mountainsides.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park, one hour to one and a half hours from Denver, has many groves of high aspens around Bear Lake. There are also many high aspen groves getting to the park on the scenic Peak to Peak Byway (Colorado Hwy. 72 and 7) from Black Hawk to Estes Park.

Late September to mid-October, from 7,000 to 9,000 feet

Beaver Creek. Photo: Rich Grant

Beaver Creek. Photo: Rich Grant

Most of Colorado’s resort towns such as Vail, Keystone, Beaver Creek and Winter Park are in this elevation and have ample groves of aspens. Some interesting places to see fall colors include:

  • The quaint, old Victorian Mining towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume, located approximately one hour from Denver (40 miles) are surrounded by aspen groves. An interesting way to see the fall colors is by riding the Georgetown Loop Railroad, where a historic steam locomotive pulls passengers up the steep grade between the two towns, at one point crossing over itself on a 100-foot high trestle.
  • The area around Lake Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne is filled with aspen groves and is just a 75 minute drive from Denver. An 18-mile paved bike path circles the pretty lake, offering mountain and fall views in every direction.  Bikes can be rented in Frisco or Dillon.

Most of October, from 6,000 to 8,000 feet

 At lower elevations in the foothills of the Rockies and in mountain valleys, you can find brilliant fall color throughout October with riverside Cottonwoods and scrub oak trees adding more yellows and browns to the show. Some interesting lower mountain choices include:

  • Two old mountain gold mining towns, Central City and Black Hawk (30 minutes from Denver), have legalized gambling with 10,000 slot machines, poker, black jack, craps and roulette. But the real gold can be found on the surrounding hillsides, which are covered with aspen. Several historic old cemeteries near Central City have groves of aspen, and many other trees can be seen on the dirt “Oh My God Road” that runs between Central City and another old mining town, Idaho Springs.
  • Photo: VisitDenver

    Photo: VisitDenver

     Golden Gate Canyon State Park, located 20 miles west of Denver in the foothills (45 minute drive), has many aspen groves at lower elevations, as well one of the best panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains. By late October, this area may already be covered with early snow at the higher elevations. 

 Early October to mid-November, 5,280 feet above sea level

Down on the plains, Denver has a completely different climate than the mountains. Some 300 days of annual sunshine keep Denver warm enough to support most hardwood trees, from maples and ash to linden, elm, poplar and oak. There are 73 varieties of trees in Washington Park alone. 

 More than 850 miles of paved, off-street bike trails are available, criss-crossing Metro Denver.  Don’t have your own bike? Hop on a B-cycle, Denver’s bike sharing program with more than 800 bikes available at 84 different stations. Some great places to bike or walk and see fall colors in and around Denver include:

  • Selected by USA Today as one of the top 5 bike paths in the country, the Cherry Creek Bike Trail is a paved off-road path that follows the tree-lined creek for more than 40 miles from downtown Denver to Cherry Creek State Park. Most of the path is lined with trees that turn a variety of colors.
  • Another 40+ mile bike path, the South Platte River Bike Trail, follows the South Platte River from downtown Denver to Chatfield State Park and Waterton Canyon, where it meets up with the Colorado Trail and continues 400 miles to Durango. In Waterton Canyon you can see herds of Big Horn sheep right along the bike path.
  • The Highline Canal meanders through Denver for more than 70 miles, and almost all of it is lined with old Cottonwood trees that turn brilliant yellow in the fall.
  • In the fall, many of the small truck farms between Denver and Boulder open up pumpkin patches where you can pick your own pumpkins, take a hay cart ride pulled by an antique steam-powered tractor, or bike or hike on trails over the rolling prairie with mountain vistas in the distance. Some prime pumpkin patches in and near Denver include Four Mile Park, Chatfield Botanic Gardens, Mile High Farms and Berry Patch Farms. 
  • There are more than 200 parks in Denver city limits, many of them connected by a necklace of bike trails – and all of them will boast beautiful fall colors. Afterwards, there are diverse neighborhoods to stop by for a farmer’s market, outdoor café of craft beer. Some suggestions:
Washington Park, Rich Grant

Washington Park, Rich Grant

WASHINGTON PARK: Denver’s grand traditional park has two lakes, two flower gardens and a tree-lined, two-mile gravel running path. Afterwards, visit nearby South Gaylord for street-side dining, or South Pearl, which has one-of-a-kind boutiques, breweries and some of the city’s top dining experiences.  South Pearl also holds a farmer’s market on Sunday mornings.

 SLOAN’S LAKE: Denver’s largest lake offers city and mountain views and an expansive tree-covered park.  Afterwards, stop at nearby Highland Square at 32nd and Lowell, one of Denver’s hippest neighborhoods filled with outdoor cafes, shops and galleries.

 CITY PARK: Denver’s largest park is home to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Denver Zoo, several lakes and the Mile High Trail – a running trail that follows the 5,280-foot contour so that much of the path is exactly one mile high. After a visit, stop in Uptown, yet another of Denver’s hip neighborhoods with breweries, restaurants and cafes.

 For more information on daytrips from Denver, go to:

Colorado Family Travel: 20+ Best Winter Vacation Ideas

Sure, Colorado has world-class skiing but we’ve rounded up all kinds of Colorado’s best winter vacation ideas for families! Be sure to share your favorites with us as well. -AJ

Front Range Frosty Frolics & The Wild Side of Christmas in Colorado

Fort Collins

I can’t begin to tell you how much this college community and town offers, and for most of us, it’s barely an hour’s drive. For day activities, the Museum of Discovery provides hands on learning, interactive exhibits and fun—please note the awesome picture of myself in the tornado tunnel! In the Otterbox Digital Dome there is a holiday themed film Let it Snow: A Holiday Musical Journey.

Museum of Discovery, the wind tunnel!

Museum of Discovery, the wind tunnel!

Each day, Old Town Square will be filled with the music of Santa’s concertina and harmonica, and in the quieter moments, kids of all ages can share their secret wishes with him in his cozy holiday workshop in Old Town Square.  A professional photographer will be on site during regular hours in order to capture those cherished moments with Santa. Santa’s Workshop will be open Wednesdays through Sundays from 12pm-6pm now until December 24th. And, families can also enjoy Stories from Santa at 11:30am every Thursday and Friday at Clothes Pony & Dandelion Toys in Old Town Fort Collins!  

Have a little extra fun while shopping. Take part in the Downtown Santas Shopping Quest where you will be able to explore shops while in search of “Santas” with a golden star. Between November 29th and December 15th, find the names of these Santas and turn in your list to the Downtown Business Association for a chance to win a Downtown Shopping Gift Cards.

Stroll through the Garden of Lights, a whimsically decorated and twinkling Gardens lit by thousands of LED lights. Visit the perennial flowerbeds and vegetable gardens in addition to a brilliant blue LED pond —all created entirely from holiday lights! During the weekends, visit with Santa (Saturday & Sunday only), listen to holiday music, see the Sugar Plum Hairies (canine troupe), and enjoy warm drinks at The Garden’s Visitor Center.

And, as always, I must point visitors to a couple of my favorite stops in town. The Colorado Room, their bison poutine, and lamb burgers are the Bielenberg gals’ favorite, we found the most amazing deals at Clothes Pony and Dandelion Stores on Main Street, and Dora had a blast at the New Belgium Tour. Visit Fort Fun this season.

Colorado Springs

In compiling these lists each year, I must put my elf hat on for Colorado Springs; I think they offer the most Christmas Cheer of any town for multiple generations.  Amber and I have both written Christmas pieces for The Broadmoor, because, we are hard pressed to come up with anyone else who can really do it better for families. And, if you don’t want to lick that gingerbread house when you see pictures, then just stop reading, because no one does Christmas like this iconic resort.

The Broadmoor's iconic gingerbread house

The Broadmoor’s iconic gingerbread house

The Broadmoor has a classic, heart-warming holiday show; enjoy cocktails, dinner and an enchanting evening of entertainment available December 12, 13, 19, 20, 21 and 24, 2014; packages begin at $180 per person per night including dinner show tickets for all family members. The season also comes alive with a passport of unique, complimentary experiences for you to enjoy during your stay with rates starting as low as $105 per person per night. Families can fill their days with the resort’s passport full of fun family activities like wine and cooking classes, golf and tennis clinics, art and history tours, and more through March.

The Broadmoor also offers two distinct holiday packages, the Classic Broadmoor Christmas 2014, and the New Year’s Eve Gala Celebration. Both include complimentary access to special holiday activities, as well as additional savings. In addition, the Spectacular Winter Savings Package, offered through February 28, 2015, is perfect for families. With rates beginning at just $105.00 per person, based on double occupancy, the package includes complimentary dining for children, and discounts on select spa services, bowling at Play, and adult entry into Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

My mother, myself, and the kids had the most lovely of getaways this year as summer waned into autumn at Cheyenne Mountain Resort. I have visited Cheyenne Mountain so often during the summer and fall months, I couldn’t help but wonder how they brought the spirit of the holidays to life at the resort. Question answered, they pull out all the stops. ‘Cheyenne Holidays’ enables families to affordably book a December getaway filled with seasonally-inspired perks, specials and activities to unwrap and experience during their stay. Starting on Friday, Dec. 5, Cheyenne Mountain Resort kicks off its seasonal program, a holiday guest experience that will run every weekend leading up to Christmas. Every Friday and Saturday guests can call Santa’s helpers at the front desk and pre-arrange a complimentary elf turndown for their kids at bedtime, which includes storytelling and milk and cookies. From 5-8 pm guests can relax in the hotel lobby and adjoining lounge and enjoy live holiday jazz and classical performances. From 6:30-9:30 pm, kids and kids at heart can enjoy two interactive treat bars. On Friday, guests will have fun building their own hot cocoa or hot toddies bar while on Saturday, guests can douse their caramel apple with their favorite toppings for the ultimate yummy treat. Program dates are December 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20. The hot cocoa bar is $8 per mug or two for $15. The caramel apple bar is $8.00 per apple or two for $15. Rates start at $99 per night Reservations must be booked online at


Delicious treat at Cheyenne Mountain Resort.

Delicious treats at Cheyenne Mountain Resort.

For one more quite the off-the-beaten-path-type-idea, let me make a very cool recommendation. My parents, husband, kiddos and I stayed at The Outlook in the dead of winter. It’s a house, turned-Inn, and the upstairs has two bedrooms with a bunk bed in each room, with a TV that comes down for each bed and an additional master bedroom. This place is the ultimate family retreat in the hamlet of Green Mountain Falls, maybe 20 minutes at most from downtown Colorado Springs. Green Mountain Falls has a superb diner, pizza parlor, and small skating rink. It’s so special and so close, I’m curious while writing this why I haven’t been back?

If you’re not staying the night, or just want some day offerings during the holidays, this is first on my list.  For train lovers, this is it, the Royal Gorge Santa Express—a winter wonderland where children can wear their pajamas and enjoy complimentary hot cocoa and a cookie on the way to the North Pole. Visit the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s 23rd Annual Electric Safari with more than one million glittering lights and 40 animated light sculptures. Other holiday favorites include the Festival of Lights Downtown – Holiday Parade; holiday shopping in historic Manitou Springs, an assortment of shows and performances at the Pikes Peak Center and Santa’s Workshop at The North Pole, including Christmas shows, activities and rides all month long. 

Estes Park

Since the majority of us live in the Front Range, a drive to Estes Park isn’t going to take more than 90 minutes in most cases. Go! Go now! Don’t let the cold scare you away. Actually, I haven’t been to Estes without snow in years! It’s one of my favorite quick getaways. For families, the YMCA of the Rockies is phenomenal. Amber and I have blogged about this place oodles of times, and it’s for good reason. They’ve got winter cabins with wood burning fireplaces, snowshoeing, ice-skating, s’mores by the enormous fire pits, winter crafts, holiday events, and guided snow hikes into Rocky Mountain National Park. Rates for two-bedroom cabins start as low as $84.00 per night, or $64.00 per night for a lodge room. Visit for reservations, or call 888-613-9622. AND for Cyber Monday. . . For one day only, on December 1, the YMCA of the Rockies will offer $15.00 off per night in lodge rooms at both locations (Estes Park or Snow Mountain Ranch) when booked online.  This offer is valid only for individual reservations, staying between December 2, 2014 through May 31, 2015.  Not valid from December 20 – January 4, January 16-19, or February 14-17. 

This year’s little secret is Estes Park Outfitters. A bit off the beaten path, Tim Resch, a true mountain man, can entertain your family (kids 12 and older) in his off-the-grid cabin with snowmobiling, wildlife sighting and an authentic winter dinner, fireside.

The rock climbing wall at the Estes Park Mountain Shop is great, and while you’re there you can pick up snowshoes for the entire family to explore RMNP—and cheap! Downtown has the ice rink or visit The Snowy Peaks Winery for a juice tasting with kids. You can also (ice) fish at Trout Haven Fishing Pond year-round.


I love Loveland. It’s not the “Valentine Day” motif of the town, or it’s younger sister status to Fort Collins, it’s just that this place is a surprisingly close drive with lots of hidden gems. If you’re going to spend the night, then do it at the #1 Embassy Suites in the World—YES—the world! Seriously, the Loveland Embassy Suites holds the crown for three consecutive years with this ranking. Obviously, this place rocks. From Nov. 28 – Dec. 26, the Embassy Suites Loveland is home to a life-size gingerbread house for the holidays, complete with fireplace, window box brimming with lollipops, and loads of ribbon candy.


At the Embassy Suites in Loveland cooking with the kids.

Or, for a more rustic experience, visit Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch. One of the hardest impacted private businesses during the 2013 flood, my family and I visited this summer the weekend of their official dude ranch reopening (they officially reopened after the flood on June 1), and this place is back, and a wonderful winter getaway. “Warm cabins and guesthouses furnished with antiques in old west tradition and wood burning fireplaces are available in many units. Enjoy the new game room and add on horseback riding, wagon rides, campfires, hiking and more. One night stays at winter rate savings, start at $47.00 per person double occupancy. Add a truly memorable touch to your holiday festivities and join Sylvan Dale’s team of magnificent Belgian horses for a picturesque ride through Sylvan Dale Valley. $150.00 for up to 12 people. We did this in the heat of the summer, and even then it was AMAZING!

The Outlets at Loveland offer a chance at winning $25,000 when the stores open up for Moonlight Madness at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night through 12 a.m.  Look for the code in the newspaper, the Loveland Reporter Herald, and bring it to the event to see if you are the big winner. Centerra’s Santa Workshop at The Group is Dec. 6, 13 and 20. Complimentary photos with Santa, ornament decorating, fresh baked cookies, coloring, horse drawn wagon rides and story time with Mrs. Claus are all taking place. Breakfast with Santa at the Promenade Shops at Centerra is Dec. 6, 13 and 20. For $10 per person (2 and under are free), join the celebration and receive a 5×7 photo with Santa, a goody bag for the children, hot breakfast buffet and door prize giveaways. Also at the Promenade Shops is Santa’s Home for the Holidays, select weekdays and weekends, Nov. 28 through Dec. 24. Parents are invited to bring their own cameras and take photos of their children with Santa free of charge. 

The Ice Rink is also a winter treasure at The Promenade Shops at Centerra, at the crossroads of I-25 and Highway 34 in Loveland, Colo. The ice rink is open daily from Nov. 7 through Feb. 22, 2015. Learn more online, or by calling 970-66-SKATE. There is also a free, family-friendly Christmas Tree lighting in Civic Center Park from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m., Dec. 3 that will have everything needed to get into the holiday spirit: carriage rides, photo booth, Santa Claus, food vendors, face painting, and music. Afterwards head over to the Rialto Theater Center for the 1938 classic film A Christmas Carol followed by the 1989 hit, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation—filmed in Breckenridge!

And, if you need to eat, Loveland is a lovely dining hub as well. Matt Lauer claimed that the burger at The Boot Grill was the best burger he had eaten in 5 years when he visited during the 2013 floods. The Bielenbergs do agree these are some might tasty burgers. I can’t express more love for Mo’ Betta Gumbo. We visited the day, it too, had reopened from a flood, and it was alive with energy and personality. This New Orleans staple in downtown has gumbo, drinks, Slap Yo Mama Loaf, Fried Green Tomatoes and Beignets.


Helping the chef at Mo’ Betta Gumbo.

The Wild Side of Jack Frost this Season in Colorado

Ouray + Ice Climbing

No one can pronounce it correctly, so don’t let that be and immediate scare. This tiny Switzerland-type mountain town is majestic, it doesn’t matter what season you visit. For most of us, this place is remote and not easily accessible for a winter weekend getaway. However, should you have plans to be in the area visiting family, or if you can escape for 3-4 nights, then Ouray – hurray, here you come.

Ouray is also known as one of the best and most accessible ice climbing venues in the world because you can walk from your hotel to the Ice Park and then park for a soak in the hot springs. The Ouray Ice Park is for children of ages and climbing abilities of all kinds. There is a group called the kids climbing college, that will suit up kids and up them on the ice wall, climbing up 40 feet in a matter of minutes, and lends itself to wonderful vacation photos. The Ice Park itself is over a mile long, is free and has over 100 routes to explore. Usually it is open from mid-December through mid-March, weather, of course, a factor. There are two great local guide services for beginners, San Juan Mountain Guides and Peak Mountain Guides.

Soak in the Season

And while in Ouray, that’s right, another hurray, take a soak, in sulpher-free hot springs! We’ve stayed at Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs which provides private guest-only free soaks in a multitude of tubs with phenomenal views. (website). Two other lodging facities with hot springs on site include The Twin Peaks Lodge & Hot Springs and The Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa and Lodgings. (website) The Ouray Hot Springs Pool is the city-owned public facility featuring three different temperature sections. 


Amber’s family cross-country skiing Crested Butte

Crested Butte

Touted as Amber’s favorite resort town, if Crested Butte’s outer-world beauty of the surrounding peaks aren’t worth the drive, the family-friendly deals are. This season, kids 12 and under ski free at Crested Butte Mountain Resort until December 18, 2014. Also, the Crested Butte Nordic Center is offering free rentals AND skiing for kids 17 and under all season (the 55 kilometers of immaculately groomed trails that lead to the glorious Paradise Paradise Divide are stunning). Camp CB’s alpine ski school is one of the best in the state and the mountain has one base area so the ski-in ski-out hotels and condos make it extremely accessible for families. Grab a waffle at the new Waffle Cabin at the base or hang out at the whimsical Sweet Spot for candy, tacos, billiards or arcade games. If you have young non-skiers, the Trailhead Children’s Discovery Museum is a fantastic indoor alternative. Be sure to spend some quality time in quirky, multi-hued Crested Butte  For breakfast, try Izzy’s breakfast burrito with Indian spices or the head-sized pancakes. For apres ski, grab a Creamsicle or Beach Bum mocktail with the kids in the ultra-hip Montanya Distillers The Secret Stash pizzeria redefines eclectic with decor showcasing the owner’s world travels and the Crack Fries are, indeed, addicting.  Lower Loop Trail to cobalt-blue Peanut Lake, which has the glorious Paradise Divide mountain range as the backdrop.Lower Loop Trail to cobalt-blue Peanut Lake, which has the glorious Paradise Divide mountain range as the backdrop. -AJ

Beaver Creek

Vail gets plenty of editorial for good reason, but don’t forget about the boutique town of Beaver Creek. It’s not just the epic snowfall and ski hill that draw families, it’s the actual mentality of the Beaver Creek Resort; it was built for kids! I’ve written about this place before my youngest could crawl, and it wins the most coveted hotel awards from prestigious outlets yearly, so it’s not leaving my list now that both my kids are on skis.

Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek

Wilder Side Ideas: Cross-country skiing in McCoy Park is a spectacular Nordic ski and snowshoe area atop the mountain accessed by the Strawberry Park Express chairlift. This place is absolutely stunning. Its appeal includes breath taking views, picturesque snowfall, and the fact that few people use this hidden gem. Additionally recommended is skiing and snowshoeing out to the Overlook. With a yurt near the destination, those venturing back into the trail system can stop by for a warm up break. It’s a ways back into the trail system, but there is a yurt nearby if you need a warm break. You can’t beat McCoy Park on a Colorado bluebird winter day.

For places to stay check out The Westin Riverfront. They have recently brought back their Colorado Residents Rate for the ski season, which means that Colorado Residents can always take 20% off the best available rate. Guest must show a valid CO drivers license.  Families will also benefit from the Kids Club, which is open daily in the winter and offers drop off classes.

If you want take your family on the ultimate splurge of the season, Ritz Carleton Bachelor Gulch. Is offering a “Hit the Slopes” package from November 27, 2014 through April 6, 2015. Rates start at $1,159 USD per night and include 3 Day Lift Tickets to Beaver Creek Mountain for 2 Adults. Explore a world of snow-blanketed slopes, starry skies and unparalleled ski-in, ski-out access to Beaver Creek Mountain. http://ww

 Hot Springs in the Snow Season

Oh, we love ourselves a hot soak, doesn’t really matter the season. However, there are a couple springs that really do cater to winter activities. My favorite winter soak is at Mount Princeton Hot Springs. We’ve been there in every season, and winter somehow is just the most majestic.

Glenwood Springs: What’s Happening Winter 2014-15

 Ski Swim Stay: A Winning Combo On and Off the Slopes

After nearly three decades, Glenwood Springs’ Ski Swim Stay package is still Colorado’s favorite winter recreation package. Ski Swim Stay packages bundle a lift ticket to Sunlight Mountain Resort, admission to the world-famous Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, and overnight accommodations at one of the participating lodges in Glenwood Springs. Incredibly, Ski Swim Stay packages are still offered for as low as $99! Best of all, for families with pre-teen children, kids 12 and younger ski free with a paying adult (some restrictions apply). Packages are available for reservations now; opening day at Sunlight Mountain Resort is Dec. 5.

glenwoodNew “Winter on the Mountain” at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park (get our exclusive discount)

The equivalent of 35 miles of lights has transformed the Park into a twinkly winter wonderland atop Iron Mountain. A giant lighted Christmas tree takes center stage with visits from Santa and carolers adding to the festive spirit. Also new: lighted thrill rides, the 4-D movie “Winter Wipeout,” fire pits for roasting s’mores and a fresh family-style menu at the Lookout Grille. Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday – Sunday, with extended dates through the holidays. Get 50% off on your Winter Funday Pass by entering in the code MHMama14.;

Restaurants Spice Up Dining Scene in Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs is a hub for gastronomic goings-on with a plethora of eateries opening, relocating and remodeling. For the freshest burgers in Glenwood Springs head to the new home of The Grind at 701 Grand Ave, located at the base of the bridge. It’s the place where grinding the burger for every single patty served is a point of pride. The new location will also have 20 taps serving wide selection of brews. Neighbor, The Lost Cajun adds southern charm to the Glenwood’s downtown dining. Louisiana specialties include red beans and rice, shrimp and lobster bisque, fried catfish, gumbo, and of course, beignets and authentic chicory café au lait. Right next door is Smoke Modern Barbeque, a casual yet hip place that offers both traditional and unusual BBQ specialties. The drink menu features an extensive list of bourbons and American whiskies. For those with a sweet tooth, plan a stop at Sweet ColoraDough where the iconic American doughnut rises to an art form. These extraordinary pastries are handmade fresh every day. Choose from glazed, old-fashioned, cake and raised doughnuts to fritters, cinnamon rolls, twists and bear claws.  Located in the 700 block of Glenwood’s restaurant row, CO Ranch House Kitchen is set to open in the near future. The new eatery will feature wild Colorado game including duck wings, elk burgers and a trout BLT! Serving hungry guests since 1947, the Riviera Supper Club, Glenwood’s oldest, continuously operating dining establishment, just completed a major remodel. In addition to a completely refurbished interior, the restaurant’s newest attraction is a state-of-the-art, temperature-controlled wine bar that allows for dispensing by the glass and even “flights” of wine samples. Red and whites are served at exactly the right temperatures and even the most expensive wine is available by the glass! Enjoy surf and turf specialties, including Mabel’s Prime Rib, a favorite with diners since 1965.

Glenwood Vaudeville Revue Holiday Schedule

Count on the crew of the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue to tickle your funny bone! The cast of professional actors, singers and comedians is rolling out all new material for its Holiday 2014 show. The shows are always family-appropriate and include traditional Vaudeville slapstick, ridiculous gags, novelty song and dance numbers, a barbershop ensemble, audience participation and skits that reference pop culture and current events. The Holiday show runs Nov. 28 through Jan. 3, with additional shows between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Thurs. – Sat, 5:30 p.m. on Sundays with food and drinks served prior to the beginning of the show. The venue is also featuring a series of guest performances which have included acts ranging from standup comedy to musical artists. For a complete schedule of upcoming shows, visit

Merry & Bright: The Hotel Colorado

The Hotel Colorado’s annual lighting ceremony is one of the most highly anticipated events of the Glenwood Springs holiday season. On the Friday after Thanksgiving, to the delight of kids of all ages, the historic hotel flips the switch that illuminates approximately one million lights, one of the most extravagant lighting displays on the Western Slope of Colorado. The show culminates with a dazzling fireworks display. The magical moment also reveals Santa arriving on the balcony waving to the crowds in the courtyard below, much like President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt once did when he stayed at the hotel. This year’s event takes place on the evening of Friday, Nov. 28, from 6 – 7:30 p.m. Afterwards, visitors are invited to explore the hotel’s lobby where the halls and all the public spaces are decked out with holiday finery. Indoor displays include 76 holiday “sets,” many with moving parts. During the Thanksgiving holiday and concurrent with the lighting ceremony, the hotel hosts Christmas in the Rockies, a fine art, craft and gift show that runs from Nov. 27 through Nov. 29.

New Year’s Eve at Glenwood Hot Springs

Ring in the New Year with a splash at the Glenwood Hot Springs’ annual New Year’s Eve Celebration on Wednesday, December 31, 2014. On this one evening of the year, the world-famous hot springs pool stays open until 1 a.m.! The event is alcohol-free and ideal for families who want to celebrate together. Festivities include noisemakers while supplies last and a countdown to the New Year.

National Parks in the Winter

 I have some statistics that state the some parks get almost 80% of their visitors in summer, and only 20% in winter. Think of the amazing wildlife and scenes you can view without the crowds! One of the most accessible if RMNP. Elk still abound in the snow, trails are still walkable and some trout don’t mind swimming in cold.

Here’s a picture, pre-children, from a visit to Mesa Verde on New Year’s Day. It happen to be free that day, as it common (make sure to check) and we saw people on horseback, the famous cliff dwellings and deer. It was silent, just amazing. We returned there last summer and it was a very different experience with the masses. Winter is magic and especially mystic.

Mesa Verde on New Year’s Day.

Mesa Verde on New Year’s Day.

You would think that I go to a National Park every New Year’s Day, I might? I spent another January afternoon at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. It was free, yet again, and our group danced on the dunes with our pooches and watched the sun warm up the snow-covered mountains. Again, there was no one else around to even view our amazing show. 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. You got me on this one, I’ve only visited during summer, but I can’t imagine a place so spectacular could ever disappoint, event blanketed in white with the river at a milder pace. The drive around the rim is jaw-dropping and can be done almost any time in December or January, roads are usually open.

What are your favorite winter getaways?

10 of the best places to camp with kids in Colorado

Updated April 2022

A few months when I was researching a new place to go camping this summer, I was stressed out. I have lived in Colorado for 12 years and the possibilities for outdoor explorations are limitless, making the process overwhelming. So, I put it out there to the experts (you!) and received some fantastic recommendations of where to camp. My criteria is it needed to be approximately two hours from Denver, in the mountains, preferably near water and gorgeous.

That isn’t too much to ask in a fabulous state like Colorado, right?

Also, don’t miss Camping Colorado: A Comprehensive Guide to Hundreds of Campgrounds

Colorado’s Best Camping for Families

Turquoise Lake. Photo: USDA

Turquoise Lake. Photo: USDA

Turquoise Lake. With a name like Turquoise Lake you know this recreational area near Leadville has got to be beautiful. Located in the heart of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains and near the state’s highest peak, there are 8 campgrounds that are named for nearby gold and silver mines and the tycoons who owned them. The 300 campsites consist of fire rings, toilets, drinking water and picnic tables and area activities include hiking, fishing, boating and two boat-launching ramps.  For a great family hike, do a portion (or all) of the 6.4 mile Turquoise Lake Trail that parallels the shoreline of Turquoise Lake from the Dam to May Queen Campground. Turquoise Lake is about 5 miles west of U.S. Highway 24 and Leadville, Colorado.

 Camp Dick. Camp Dick is the site of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp that was established in the 1930s just off the Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway. The campground is situated on the banks of the Middle Saint Vrain Creek in a glacial valley surrounded by mixed conifer and aspen forests and has vault toilets, campfire rings, firewood, drinking water and grills. The Middle Saint Vrain Creek is a good fly-fishing stream where anglers cast for rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout. Many trails in the vicinity are open to hiking and biking, including Sourdough and Buchanan Pass trails. The Indian Peaks Wilderness boundary is four miles from the west end of the campground. Guided horseback riding is available at Peaceful Valley Lodge, which is just over a mile away.

Buena Vista/Salida

Buena Vista/Salida

Buena Vista/Salida.
This beautiful valley has it all: The mighty Collegiate Peaks in the Sawatch Range stand sentry at the west and host a dozen of Colorado’s famous 14ers (14,000-foot peaks). More than 100 miles of the mighty Arkansas River forms the eastern boundary and is perfect for rafting, fishing, floating or kayaking. Camping options abound in this land also famous for its hot springs. The Arrowhead Point Campground and Cabins is located on 23 acres with campsites, cabins, cottages and yurts in a mountain setting. The Buena Vista’s KOA 35-acre property boasts million-dollar views of six 14ers, while the Chalk Creek Campground in Nathrop (7 miles south of Buena Vista) lets you get back to nature with a fun twist like Summer Potlucks on Thursdays and Rubber Ducky Races on holidays. Other options include Fisherman’s Bridge Campground (between Nathrop and Salida), Heart of the Rockies Campground (10 miles west of Salida) or the Monarch Spur RV Park and Campground that is nestled in a valley only 200 feet from a trout stream.

Kenosha Pass Campground. Northeast of Fairplay on U.S. Route 295 (and just 50 miles southwest of Denver) is Kenosha Pass campground. The campground features a trail head for the Colorado Trail, which infamously starts outside of Denver and threads its way nearly 500 miles over eight spectacular mountain ranges before ending in Durango. The campground includes an interpretive area that has a wheelchair/stroller-friendly trail on the old Denver, South Park and Pacific Railways.  Facilities at the 25-site campground include water, tables, vault toilet and fire rings and if you love fall, consider returning late-September when the area’s aspen trees come to life. Hike the spine of the Front Range from Jefferson to Grant with tremendous views of 14,265-foot Mount Evans and 14,065-foot Mount Bierstadt.

Red Feather Lakes. Photo:

Red Feather Lakes. Photo:

Red Feather Lakes. Head to the Rocky Mountains northwest of Fort Collins and you’ll fall in love with this rustic mountain village that is surrounded by 612,000-acre Roosevelt National Forest. This year-round outdoor playground boasts the Cache La Poudre River, Colorado’s first designated Wild and Scenic River, and has the area’s best whitewater rafting, kayaking and fishing. Camping choices range from Archer’s Poudre River Resort on the Poudre River with a Country Store for all your grocery and fishing tackle needs to the Poudre Canyon KOA that is nestled in one of Colorado’s most scenic river valleys–a favorite for whitewater rafters and kayakers. The West Lake Campground has 36 sites in a mountainous, ponderosa pine forest while nearby Dowdy Lake’s 70-site campground is extremely popular for fishing, hiking, and mountain biking.

 Honorable Mentions

Jack's Gulch. Photo: USDA

Jack’s Gulch. Photo: USDA

State Forest State Park’s 70,838-acre park offers visitors 71,000 acres of forest, jagged peaks, alpine lakes, wildlife and miles of trails located in Jackson and Larimer counties east of Walden, Colorado. 

 Snow Mountain Ranch. The YMCA of the Rockies’ lodges and cabins near Winter Park, Colo. are well-known for family vacations with hiking, biking, swimming, roller-blading, ziplining, a summer tubing hill and more. But not to be overlooked is their campground and yurt village–all the fun at a fraction of the price.

Jack’s Gulch Campground is located 48 miles northwest of Fort Collins and is tailored to those traveling with horses. The campsites have corrals and the area is home to a network of trails amid aspen stands and ponderosa that are perfect for leisurely rides.

Colorado Summer Vacation Guide Resources

Denver Summer Activity Guide (200+ ideas)

Crested Butte’s Mountain Paradise for Families

Royal Gorge: The Ultimate Colorado Escape for Denver Families (with the coolest lodge in Colorado)

10 Best Places to Camp in Colorado

Kids Guide to Camping in Colorado’s Mountain Towns

Colorado Road Trip: 26 Scenic Byways and Small Towns to Visit This Summer! 

Colorado’s Top Five Lodging Suggestions

25 great fishing ponds in Denver

15 Fun and Quirky Roadside Attractions in Colorado

Denver’s best biking trails for kids

Winter Park in the Summertime

25 Unique Lodging Spots That Take the Colorado Adventure Indoors

Denver Mountain Parks: Family Fun for Denver Families

Best of Summer – Visit Leadville and Twin Lakes 

Top 10 Summer Adventures for Colorado Families

2019 Summer Vacation in Colorado: 75+ ideas for families

Colorado Summer Vacation Guide

 Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. While clicking these links won’t cost you extra money, they help us keep this site up and running. See our disclosure policy.


Day Trip: Nederland Fun and the Carousel of Happiness

“I’m going to ride the zebra!” yells one daughter from the back seat as we buckle in for our 30-minute drive to the Carousel of Happiness, just up the canyon in Nederland.

“I want the mermaid!” cries a smaller voice. “No, the gorilla!”

Such is the anticipation as we twist our way toward one of Colorado’s most whimsical, fantastical and affordable attractions.

The backstory of the Carousel of Happiness, which opened in 2010, is pretty well known by now — Scott Harrison, a Vietnam veteran from Nederland, obtained a classic carousel frame and motor, then spent 26 years carving 50 animals. The people of Nederland chipped in, raising $700,000 and creating a nonprofit volunteer organization to house and run the Carousel.

Four years later, the Carousel is celebrating passing the 250,000-visitor mark by adding six animals to the menagerie in the Carousel’s main room. They’re not for riding — rather, they are featured in “Somewhere Else,” an art piece conceived by Harrison and his friend, illustrator George Blevins. The work shows parts of creatures disappearing into and coming out of a mysterious membrane.

“The wall is a kind of portal, we think, maybe to a new dimension,” says Harrison. “Honestly, we haven’t been able to explain it. But certainly, magic is afoot.”

For a buck a ride, the Carousel of Happiness is hard to beat, whether I’m hosting visitors from out of town or killing half a day with my daughters. It’s only an hour’s drive from Denver, and you can combine a visit there with a drive along the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, a hike at Brainard Lake National Recreation Area, or at the very least, a quick, cooling splash in Boulder Creek on the way down.

One friend takes her kids to the Carousel in Ned as an après-ski treat after a day at Eldora Mountain Resort. Someone else I know has a tradition that her daughter rides first by herself, then holds both her parents’ hands from the animals next to her. When Moises Gadea, my musician friend from Nicaragua, visited the carousel between concerts, he rode the dolphin. It was the first one he’d ever seen. Afterward, his smile bigger than my daughters’, he exclaimed, “I feel like I’m in a movie! The music box is fantastic!”

Today, however, I am not hosting visitors; it’s just me and my girls. Inside, I buy three rides for each of them, and we enter the round, cheerful, light-filled chamber; the brightly painted animals await our arrival. The 1913 Wurlitzer band organ starts to play, the smiles on the riders faces broaden, and I give a silly wave every time my girls pass. After their three rides (on a different animal each time, of course), we climb the stairs to the self-service puppet theater.

“I’m the lion! No, the monkey!”

They disappear backstage, then open the little curtains, and I sit back for a performance … while the Carousel of Happiness spins below.

Joshua Berman


Caribou Village Shopping Center, Colorado 72, Nederland, 303-258-3457, By bus, take RTD Route N.

Colorado’s Top 20 Family Vacation Ideas for 2014

If there’s anything we love at Mile High Mamas, it is family travel. Living in Colorado, you don’t need to go far to experience world-class destinations in our own backyard. We have rounded up 20 of our top family vacation ideas for spending summer 2014 in Colorado.

-Amber Johnson and Julie Bielenberg


It may be summertime but Snowmass has returned to the Ice Age with the Snowmass Ice Age Discovery Center that features the most significant Ice Age ecosystem find in Colorado history (and it’s free). Touch a mastodon tooth, marvel at a half-sized 6-foot Wooden Mammoth Skeleton, do a dig of your own or a daily hike. Visit the Snowmass Rodeo on Wednesday nights (June 11- August 20) and sign your kids up for the Calf Scramble and Mutton Busting. Every Thursday (June 19-Aug. 14), the Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center at the Base Village offers a free craft hour from 4-5 p.m. to make mementos such as hats, backpacks and picture frames. Ride the Elk Camp Gondola up Snowmass Mountain where the Elk Camp Restaurant has activities including downhill biking, dinner, campfires, live music, movies, a Stryder Park and a kid’s playground on Friday evenings. Try your hand at some slopeside bowling at Slopeside Lanes that features eight full-sized lanes, a lounge area with full bar, wood-fired oven pizzas and upscale bar food. Or, there’s nothing quite like stand-up paddleboarding the Roaring Fork River. Then get inspired at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center, a stellar place for kids of all ages to take workshops in sculpture, photography, painting, beading and mask-making. (AJ)

Pearl Street. Photo: Gordon Stach/Boulder CVB

Pearl Street. Photo: Gordon Stach/Boulder CVB


Just a hop, skip and a jump away from Denver, Boulder is surrounded by a greenbelt of city trails and open spaces. Chautauqua, a National Historic Landmark, is our favorite stomping ground with charming rental cottages, 48 miles of hiking trails, a dining hall with the best patio dining around and thousands of acres of natural lands. The Ranger Cottage at the Chautauqua trailhead offers free guided hikes or for something new, Theater-Hikes Colorado will be performing “Alice in Wonderland” while you hike. If biking is more your speed, cruise the shady 7-mile Boulder Creek Path that runs through the center of town. On Saturdays, we love to explore the Boulder’s Farmer’s Market for eclectic and delicious offerings. Not to be forgotten are Pearl Street Mall’s restaurants, shops, people-watching, the Pop Jet Fountain (between 13th and 14th Streets), the climbable animal structures (between 15th and 14th Streets) and the rock garden play area (between 13th and Broadway). The newly-renovated Fiske Planetarium, the largest planetarium west of the Mississippi, is now one of the most sophisticated planetariums and multimedia centers in the world with a cool laser light show. Take a free tour at Celestial Seasonings or the National Center for Atmospheric Research where a new exhibit teaches kids about the ingredients of weather while they play with clouds, make a tornado and steer a hurricane. (AJ)


Breckenridge is a gorgeous mountain community 1.5 hours from Denver where we will build our cabin someday (dare to dream, right?) Peak 8 Fun Park at the base of the resort just got a lot more fun with a two-stage zipline that soars 50 feet above the ski slopes at 45 miles per hour with a dual span of 392 feet and a second quad span of 1,095 feet.  Be sure to also do the Fun Park’s Gold Runner Coaster, climbing wall, Alpine Superslide, Superputt Mini Golf and free scenic gondola rides with spectacular views of Cucumber Gulch. If you want to explore the great outdoors even more, local fan favorites include fishing the Blue River, a scenic drive over Boreas Pass road accessing 1,000 miles of mountain biking across Summit County, hiking countless miles of trails or climbing a nearby “14er.”  Grab your bikes or strollers and explore Breckenridge’s extensive paved trail system that connects to mountain towns Frisco, Dillon, Keystone, Copper Mountain and Vail. Once upon a time, the Country Boy Mine was one of the largest and most famous gold mines and today, offers family-friendly tours where you can actually pan for real gold. The Kingdom Days/Outhouse Races June 14-15 are a must. It’s not every day that the star attractions are Outhouse Races, old-fashioned games like potato sack races, magicians, blacksmithing demos, gold panning and historic hikes.

Wind Walker Challenge

Wind Walker Challenge

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs may be only an hour south of Denver but it feels like a world away. We love local staples like hiking Garden of the Gods, the Pike’s Peak Cog Railway that climbs to 14,114 feet, tours of the U.S. Olympic Training Center, exploring the fascinating Manitou Cliff Dwellings and Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s newish $13.5 million exhibit Encounter Africa. For a thrill, check out the Cave of the Winds’ new “Terror-Dactyl” zipline and the Wind Walker Challenge Ropes Course that is located on the rim of a 600-foot drop into Williams Canyon.  Colorado Wolf Adventures offers 1-hour educational programs with their ambassador wolf or you can actually go for a walk with a wolf!  It’s Christmas all summer long at Santa’s Workshop, a 25-acre theme park built on the slopes of Pikes Peak. Or venture out to the 4,400 square-foot Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument’s visitor’s center with exceptionally preserved fossils and interactive exhibits. Following Colorado Springs’ devastating floods, the Royal Gorge Bridge has plans to reopen their brand new park late this summer or early fall. Popular attraction Seven Falls was recently purchased by The Broadmoor but sustained significant flood damage and will reopen in 2015. (AJ)

View from Snodgrass mountain

View from Snodgrass mountain

Crested Butte

Crested Butte may be a four-hour drive from Denver but the drive is worth it—it’s my favorite destination in Colorado.  In addition to world-famous mountain biking and hiking (the views from Snodgrass Mountain are second-to-none), don’t miss the five-week-long Crested Butte Music Festival (with the free Divine Family Young People’s Concerts on select Saturdays) and the Wildflower Festival (kicking off July 7) where you’ll swear you climbed onto a Monet canvas of mad, extravagant colors. At the base the resort, get airborne on the Coke Zero Gravity BagJump a 50 feet by 50 feet bag of air for guests to tube and ski and ride into. For younger kids, check-out the Trailhead Children’s Museum and big kids (must weigh at least 70 pounds) can try the Crested Butte Zipline Tour, which includes five zip lines ranging in length from 120 – 400 feet connected by features or “events” such as suspended wood bridges and towering platforms. P.S. A few years ago, my kids did Kids Nature Camp at world-renown Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in nearby Gothic, Colo. and still rave about it. It is truly one of the prettiest drives in Colorado. (AJ)


Denver Museum of Nature & Science's new Maya exhibit

Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s new Maya exhibit

Whether you’re from out-of town or staycationing, the Mile High City is fabulously kid-friendly for summer! If you love museums, the already impressive Denver Museum of Nature & Science added 126,000 square feet and five levels of discovery including the new exhibit Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed. Travel around the globe in the Wildlife Experience’s 3-D exhibit that features animal animatronics and eight different habitats or if you want the real thing, you’ll love the Denver Zoo’s 80-acre facility with Toyota Elephant Passage as its crown jewel. The Children’s Museum of Denver’s interactive playscapes are great for kids under 10 and next door, the Downtown Aquarium houses over 500 species of animals. Outside of the Children’s Museum and Aquarium you’ll find the multi-use Platte River Trail that is perfect for biking or stroller walks. Hitch a ride on the Platte River Trolley that runs Friday-Sunday along the South Platte Greenway, being sure to stop at Confluence Park to watch the kayakers and get your own feet wet. Cool down at nearby Little Man Ice Cream, Denver’s iconic shop in the shape of twenty-eight foot tall, 14,000 lb. cream can. Red Rocks is not only a world-famous concert venue but also boasts fantastic views, a visitor’s center and trading post, not to mention classic films at Film on the Rocks. Find out where kids eat free any day of the week and don’t miss our Denver summer activity guide with 100+ suggestions.


I secretly fantasize about teaching at Fort Lewis one summer as an adjunct and living downtown Durango. This is one cool town, and everyone who visits usually gets it right away. The town is rooted in railroads and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gage Railroad is iconic, scenic, memorable and still a huge attraction. While my boys took the train up to Silverton, my daughter and I visited James Ranch, just 10 miles North of Durango en route to the remote town of Silverton for a rendezvous. They have a great farm with a cheese making shop, tons of livestock and great stories. The tour wraps with an opportunity to snack and some delicious farm fare. Once back in Durango, there’s a fabulous little children’s museum, Durango Discovery Museum, that is heavy on the science exhibits, and truly appealing for most pre-teen children. The Animas River Trail runs through town and gives to access to gold medal waters for fishing and a white water park for water enthusiasts. My kids also enjoyed the Durango Wildlife Center and Fish Hatchery.  Whether you want to wander a great downtown with brews and burgers, hike the gorgeous San Juans or drive along the awesome scenic byways, Durango will certainly be your kind of town the second your arrive. Also check out Durango Mountain Resort for their summer programming and outdoor adventure. The famous Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings are also only an hour away from Durango and the opposite direction towards Pagosa Springs is Chimney Rock, a great center with hiking trails. (JB)

Estes Park

YMCA of the Rockies' Craft Center

YMCA of the Rockies’ Craft Center

The iconic entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park needs some extra love and attention this summer. Hit hard by Mother Nature in 2013, this resort town is ready for the visitors! We were up in early November last year and had a blast! You go to Estes to visit The Park, and it never disappoints. Bear Lake Road is a brand new road, was never impacted by the flood and it leads to great family hikes including Sprague Lake, Bear Lake and Nymph Lake. Regardless of your destination in the Park, the wildlife abounds and brings laughter to all generations. Downtown has your quintessential tourist candy and ice cream shops, boutiques and burger joints, but speckled in there are goodies like the Estes Park Brewery, Snowy Peak Winery (that has a juice tasting area for children), Mary Jane Boutique (fabulous home decor and lifestyle store), Ed’s Cantina and many more. Miniature Golf, the classic and affordable, Tiny Town is a throw back to yesteryear, including prices. For a more supped miniature golf experience head down the road to Fun City, it includes the giant Rainbow Slide, bumper boats, trampolines and more. The Bielenbergs hit up the YMCA of the Rockies and this place is Disneyland in the wilderness. You name it, they got it from swimming, horse back riding, roller skating, arts and crafts studio (it’s huge!), rock climbing, zip lines and DAYCAMP for children while adults go play, there is everything. The teenagers even came and played BINGO with my little ones, it was darling. There are over 250 cabins with multiple bedrooms, lodge rooms and multi-family lodges. This resort is over 860 acres, so you cannot even pack everything in during one trip, especially since you can hike right into the park from the property. There is a real adventure element, especially for the older children in Estes Park as well: The Open Air Adventure Park, Off-Road Tours with Green Jeep Tours or Rocky Mountain Rush, guided fly-fishing and classes and adventures and classes through the Rocky Mountain Nature Conservancy.

fortcollinsFort Collins

Fort Fun or Choice City, whatever you want to call it, Fort Collins is the perfect urban getaway for Denverites. Just an hour jaunt up I-25 and you are in an agricultural, bicycling, beer-brewing, coffee-grinding, farm-to-table wonderland. Visit the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery and don’t miss out on the Tornado Tunnel, it’s a kid and adult favorite. More kid fun includes wandering through the Gardens at Spring Creek loaded with kid’s activities. Certainly book a trip on the Magic School Bus offering up kid tours, farm tours and history tours, all around the city and even Horsetooth Reservoir. Want to do a brewery tour with kids, head to the third largest craft brewery in the nation, New Belgium. Stick through the entertaining 90-minute tour and take your turn down the slide. This brew tour is loaded with strollers and families. Stroll down Main Street (College Avenue) near the CSU Campus and take in the coed culture and the blooms at the Annual Trial Garden. The Farm at Lee Martinez Park is an agricultural oasis smack dab in town. And, to top off any day, had to The Colorado Room for some of my favorite local eats in town, may I recommend the bison poutine? My daughter LOVED it! (JB)

glenwoodcavernsGlenwood Springs

Take the world’s largest outdoor mineral hot springs pool (Glenwood Hot Springs), add an adventure park built on top of a mountain (Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park), sprinkle in the Roaring Fork Valley’s crimson rocks and emerald forests and you have a memorable family vacation just a few hours from Denver. Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park’s thrill rides Glenwood Canyon Flyer, Giant Canyon Swing and the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster are perched on the edge of Glenwood Canyon. For fun without fainting, try the zipline, alpine coaster, laser tag, Music on the Mountain’s free concert series and the Historic Fairy Caves tour.  Local rafting companies annually guide thousands of visitors down the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers through rapids with names like Upper Superstition and Tombstone (consider yourselves warned). Even if you’re not a kayaker, you’ll love watching the the daredevils at the Glenwood Whitewater Activity Area or have your own adventure by renting a Segway and glide through downtown Glenwood Springs, up Red Mountain or along the river trails.  Head outside of town 7 miles to Hike the short, steep mile-long trail to Hanging Lake, a crystal-clear, turquoise blue lake. Grab your bikes and take the paved Rio Grande Trail, which winds along the Roaring Fork River from Glenwood to Aspen. (AJ)

fruitaGrand Junction / Fruita  

The Western Slope town of Grand Junction has truly transformed itself in recent years. The Grand Valley, surrounded by three very distinct mountain ranges: The Book Cliffs, Grand Mesa and Colorado Plateau, is bustling with young families. Kids might love the Main Street splash pad in downtown best. The never-ending water spout entertainment gathers tourists and locals alike. The Bielenbergs went bananas at Bananas Fun Park (go carts, bumper boats, arcade games, etc) what a gem so close to the downtown. The Thursday evening farmers market throughout summer is a great way to sample the Western Slope culture, eat, dance and relax. Just a few miles down the road from Grand Junction is Fruita, home of the Colorado National Monument, an over 100-year-old designated region for families, bikers, local and even international tourists to view and experience some of the Western United States’ most remarkable sites such as Independence Monument or Balanced Rock. Head to downtown Fruita for a quaint downtown and lovely food and beverage options. The Dinosaur Journey Museum is also tucked off Highway 340, right off of Interstate 70, and is a small, yet, immensely important dinosaur museum with an interactive collection known throughout the world as well. And, new to Fruita is the Children’s Nature Center. (JB)

Leadville's Mineral Trail

Leadville’s Mineral Trail


This funky historic town 100 miles west of Denver is surrounded by high-alpine forests, glacial lakes and boasts a backdrop of the Sawatch and Mosquito ranges including 14,440-foot Mount Elbert, Colorado’s highest peak. Camping, hiking and mountain biking are king, as are several unique activities such as free tour of the Leadville National Fish Hatchery where kids can feed the fish and do 1-mile Evergreen Trail with educational signs and access to the Colorado Trail. If your family loves trains, the Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad’s 2.5-hour ride is not only scenic but chock-full of historical gems. Speaking of scenery (it’s tough not to in Leadville), Interlaken Boat Tours were introduced last summer at Twin Lakes. Be sure to bring your bikes and cruise on the paved 11.6-mile Mineral Belt Trail that loops Leadville through aspen groves and wildflower meadows or drive serpentine Independence Pass with oodles of hiking options and a ghost town on the Aspen side. Reward your efforts with Leadville’s Cookies with Altitude with fresh cookies, breads, fudge, sandwiches, soups, breakfasts and whoopee pies.

tellurideOuray / Telluride

It’s going to take most of you mamas a good drive to get to either of these destinations, but this is for superb reason, Ouray and Telluride are noted as some of the most beautiful mountain towns in Colorado, and quite honestly, all of America. The remote mountain hamlets are surrounded by the massive San Juan Mountain Range. In Telluride, ride up and down one of the only free gondolas in America connecting downtown to Mountain Village. In downtown walk the streets made famous by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Head to nearby Bridal Falls for views and history. There isn’t anything in or around Telluride that isn’t beautiful or secluded.

Just an hour or so drive from Telluride is the town of Ouray, loaded with hot springs, so take your pick, many are even offered at hotels and motels in town. Ouray Hot Springs is the most popular choice. Ouray is also world famous for it’s climbing, both summer and winter. Take it a bit easier with the wee ones and visit Box Canyon Falls. It’s an easy boulder hike with water and you can always go further up the rocks. Stroll down the idyllic downtown and stop in one of my favorite kitchen stores, Khristopher’s Culinare, it’s perfect for finding the unique gifts for foodies. We in Ouray for the 4th of July, and it’s memorable. The town parade, BBQ, water fight and late-night Torch Light Parade (lighted Jeep parade descending from Red Mountain Pass) certainly takes advantage of the surroundings for an all-American holiday. (JB)


Palisade is just East of Grand Junction and is the true sweet fruit capitol of Colorado. You take your family here for one reason, to experience orchards and groves of produce that is rare for many in and around the metro area. First up, the famous peaches. Those orchards offering tours are Aloha Organic Fruit, High Country Orchards, Clark Family Orchard (who does a tour with a wagon and team of horses), Kokopelli (who does a tour on their hoopie) for an up close and personal view of the fruits. Second up, visit multiple other producers for grapes, pears, apples, apricots, cherries and plums. Next, visit my personal favorite, SunCrest Orchard Alpacas and say hello to some of my favorite furry, quiet, and sincere creatures on this planet. I even wrote a MHM blog on about this farm and why these darling buddies would make great husbands back in 2010. The Fruit and Wine Byway intersects through Palisade and is a must for every generation. The highway winds by over 20 farms, and just take your pick (literally!), you can’t go wrong. (JB)


The last “bigger” town South on I-25 before New Mexico is Pueblo. The Historic Arkansas Riverwalk offers shops, restaurants loads of . . . surprise, history! Try and plan a trip to Pueblo to coincide with one of their many festivals: Loaf ‘N Jug Presents Boats, Bands & BBQ, Bands In The Backyard, 30th Annual NSRA Rocky Mountain Street Rod Nationals Plus, Rollin’ On The Riverwalk, National Little Britches Rodeo Finals and the grand daddy of them all, the Colorado State Fair. Lake Pueblo State Park is one of the state’s most visited parks with 60 miles of shoreline for lots of “beach” family time.  Endless water recreation awaits all including sailing, motor boating, waterskiing, river tubing and prime fishing. And, if animals are on the mind, located in City Park is the Pueblo Zoo, home to more than 140 species of animals! Kids really clamber for the shipwreck journey in the Islands of Life building. For evening, try the City Park Rides for only 25 cents. Established in 1904, every ride ion this carousel is specifically tailored toward younger children. (JB)

Captain Zipline Aerial Adventure Park

Captain Zipline Aerial Adventure Park

Salida / Buena Vista

Salida is one of my favorite “destination” towns in Colorado for many reasons—the non-tourist appeal, the home of the Sawatch Mountain Range that contains 15 14ers (14,000-foot peaks), the great restaurants and secretly, the shopping. Only 12 blocks in from Highway 50, is historic downtown Salida. This charming, recently designated, creative district is only 3-4 blocks in length, but it’s packed with some of the best boutiques, shops, eateries and artist-owned galleries in Colorado, and a riverfront that makes many other mountain towns jealous. Salida also ranks as one of Colorado’s best beach towns. There is a whitewater park downtown, on the Arkansas River and a great spot to put your feet in and let the kiddos splash around. My kids’ favorite entertainment was the fetching dogs and the kayakers, SUPers and white water rafters going by—it provided MORE than a couple hours of entertainment. If you’re a thrill-seeker, Captain Zipline Aerial Adventure Park is an interconnected network of 120 different combinations of swinging bridges, catwalks, ladders, platforms, nets, rope and cable swings, obstacles and flying elements. Mount Princeton Hot Springs, a full service resort just 15 minutes north of Salida, is one of the most popular attractions to Chaffee County with constant additions, lots of lodging, oodles of pools and springs, a brand new spa and our favorite hot springs directly in the river.

Chaffee County also houses Buena Vista, which is about 20 minutes North of Salida off 285. The town has its own White Water Park on South Main and a charming downtown from yesteryear; however, this new park is part of South Main’s new urban development. A new hotel is also on tap so check back. For big mountain biking families, attempt the world famous Monarch Crest Trail. Buena Vista has less tourists than almost any other place on this list and also access to Crested Butte via the popular summer-only Cottonwood Pass. For big mountain biking families, attempt the world famous Monarch Crest Trail via shuttle from Poncha Springs.  Both Buena Vista and Salida have mountain bike trails adjacent to their downtowns and many other great trails within minutes of town. Friendly bike shops in both towns can direct you to the trails that are perfect for all abilities.  (JB)

Tubing the Yampa River

Tubing the Yampa River

Steamboat Springs

In the winter, Steamboat Springs in northwestern Colorado is famous for its champagne powder; in the summertime the Yampa River Valley, Steamboat Lake and Zirkel Wilderness Area become a veritable outdoor wonderland with boat rentals, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, SUP, swimming and camping. Hike to Fish Creek Falls or wind along the paved 4-mile Yampa River Core Trail on your bike. Or better yet, grab a tube and cruise down the only free-flowing river in the Colorado River Basin (grab your tube rentals or arrange a shuttle from Backdoor Sports or One Stop Ski Shop). If you just want to soak,  do the short, scenic hike to Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs (warning: clothing optional at night) or the more family-friendly yet less inspiring geothermal springs at Old Town Hot Springs with waterslides and a climbing wall.  Getting there is half the fun with Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch, which offers hourly horseback rides (kids need to be at least 6 years old) and summer pack trips. During the half-hour shuttle ride from town to their 6,000-acre ranch in the Elk River Valley, fourth generation Steamboat native, Olympian and cowboy Ray Heid delights guests with stories of his family’s colorful history in the valley. The Coca Cola Adventure Zone at the base of Steamboat Ski Resort includes ropes course, slingshot bungee jump, climbing wall, mini-bounce, mechanical bull, human gyro and t-shirt spin art. If you love hot air balloons, pilots let spectators help inflate the balloons at the Hot Air Balloon Rodeo July 11 and 12. The Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo runs every Friday and Saturday mid-June through mid-August. Once upon a time, my daughter won the Ram Scramble and still raves about it. It’s not every day grabbing a ribbon from a sheep’s rear counts as a win. (AJ)

grandlakeWinter Park/Granby/Grand Lake

Aptly named, Grand County is, indeed grand. Located about 65 miles from Denver in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, family-friendly activities abound. Winter Park boasts Colorado’s longest alpine slide, a climbing wall, free Friday movie nights and the Trestle Bike Park, which has over 40 miles of lift-serviced mountain bike trails perfect for riders of all ages and abilities.  Take a one hour educational walking tour of the kennels at Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park or a 45-minute cart ride through the forest. Grand County has five mountain lakes popular for fishing and boating and 7,000-acre Grand Lake is one of Colorado’s largest bodies of water. Known as the “Western Gateway” to Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Lake’s historic boardwalk has more than 60 shops, restaurants, and galleries including the new Rocky Mountain Repertory Theater. The national park has more than 350 miles of hiking trails and the western slope trails in Grand County are much less frequented than those on the eastern slope. In nearby Granby, YMCA of the Rockies’ Snow Mountain Ranch offers an affordable and wholesome environment where friends, families and groups enjoy everything from roller-skating to zip lining to swimming to a new Snowflex® tubing hill that is the first of its kind and only the third in the United States (opening July 15). -AJ

-Amber Johnson and Julie Bielenberg


Do you want to have even more fun? Check-out these 2014 Colorado Summer Escapes!

Silvershield/Oak Creek trail. Photo: Ouray Chamber

Silvershield/Oak Creek trail. Photo: Ouray Chamber

RAFT: Cache La Poudre offers easy day or weekend opportunities

HIKE: Ouray’s 60 trails means something for everyone

FISH: Arkansas River has Gold Medal status, plenty of trout

BOAT: Grand Lake a grand getaway for water sports fans

BIKE: Grand Mesa’s Mesa Top and Flowing Park Loop trails

WRANGLE: Back on the ranch, summer is for dudes

SPA: Breckenridge home to top massage treatments

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.