Keeping the family busy and happy in the Colorado mountains
When most people think of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, they think of adventure lovers throwing themselves off mountains in skis, or active travelers biking down trails, or weathered outdoors fanatics hiking through the mud or snow in search of the tallest summit.
But there’s a lot more to this beautiful city than adventure travel experiences; from high-energy to low-key, grandma and the kids, there is no shortage of fun to enjoy.
There are two ways to get to Steamboat from Denver: Either take a short plane ride to Hayden Airport, or rent a car and road-trip three hours to the mountains.
When it comes to lodging in the area, the available options fit any family, whether that family seeks a hotel stay, a house, or a condo rental.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of renting a space that feels like home and offers amenities such as a kitchen and washer and drier. Eating out with a large family can really kill the budget, and having laundry facilities makes packing for the trip less hectic.
If you plan on visiting Steamboat in the winter, it’s best to reserve your stay in advance as that’s the busiest season. We visited recently. Here are some tips based upon our experience.
Viewfinder Tip: When traveling with a large group, book a condo or vacation rental for more space.
Our large family of travelers was very comfortable in a unit at the Bear Claws Condominiums. We’ve also stayed and really loved The Steamboat Grand. We cooked in our fully equipped, modern kitchen. We grilled by the pool while overlooking the beautiful mountain skyline. Having these comforts of home made the effort more enjoyable, even while on vacation.
During the winter months a shuttle service helps to take guests to different parts of the Steamboat Resort area. During warmer months, when the demand for services aren’t as high, it’s best to rent a car to get around. Though Steamboat has a free and pretty easily accessible public bus system, we found it easier to move around with our own car, especially since the condos are located halfway up the mountain.
Downtown Steamboat is a pedestrian-friendly spot. Depending on what’s happening in town, you might be better off taking the bus rather than trying to find parking nearby.
Want experience a different kind of rodeo? During one weekend in July, hot-air balloons fill the sky at the Hot Air Balloon Rodeo. This event brings together balloons of various colors and images; they all float majestically on the breeze. This morning event is followed by Balloon Glow after dark, an evening event where spectators get to enjoy the glow of balloons at night.
Having access to Steamboat mountain is a treat. Even if you’re not an adventure-lover, the mountain is perfect for all of those hikes and and activities. My mom, the kids, and I really enjoyed getting out into the mountain and hiking the trails. My husband and I loved taking romantic strolls through the wildflowers.
There are tons of trails to choose from, and when there is no snow to ski down them, you can mountain bike down for a quick adrenaline rush.
The mountain also is home to restaurants at the base, as well as an awesome brunch and light-lunch spot at 10,330 feet! There even are sunset and jazz events held at the summit during the summer months. These make for a great little date night escape.
Other family favorites
There are other great activities at Steamboat. We absolutely love hiking to the Fish Creek Falls. We also like dining with cowboys after a wagon ride through the gorgeous Saddleback Ranch. An afternoon spent at Strawberry Park Hot Springs was one of the most enjoyable days we had there, and a rainy evening of classical music at the Strings Music Festival made everyone in our brood feel like we had reached paradise.
You can tube down the Yampa River or rent a pontoon boat and spend an afternoon on Steamboat Lake. When we did this, the kids got a kick out of watching their grandmother try her luck at fishing, while the teen took on the role of DJ and streamed music through the boat’s entertainment system. I was happy to sit back with a drink while watching my husband work his magic at the grill.
Of course July 4 is a big day of celebration in Steamboat, too. This holiday usually is kicked-off with a parade in the morning through the center of town. Another great event to take in before the fireworks is the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo.
At this event, cowboys and cowgirls from 5 years old and up come out to compete and perform for their fans. This Steamboat tradition has been around since the 1970s, when local ranchers started coming together for friendly competition. The rodeo has grown quite a bit since then, drawing the attention of those willing to try their luck and show off their skills in the ring. As a city girl, I found the whole thing quite fascinating and couldn’t believe the courage and strength of the competitors. After the rodeo, the lights in the ring go out, the music starts to play, and the fireworks light the evening sky. There’s nothing quite like it.
For us, what made a family vacation to Steamboat so enjoyable were the variety of experiences and the ease with which our large family was able to access it all.
With this in mind, my final tip when planning your vacation to this great destination is to plan accordingly. When you’re in Steamboat, the problem won’t be finding what to do, but rather having time to do it all. When you’re vacationing with a big family and you’re to please different members of your family, that’s not such a bad problem to have.
What are you favorite multigenerational travel destinations?
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