With its historic Main Street filled with cute shops and restaurants, a vast mountain playground for hiking and biking, and historic treasures to uncover, the ski town of Breckenridge beckons explorers in the summer months. Just a two-hour drive from Denver International Airport, Breckenridge is a quintessential high-altitude hamlet that exudes charm with its Victorian-era buildings, as well as a healthy dose of playfulness and a plethora of outdoor activities.
I always recommend a combo trip to Colorado for my out-of-state friends: Spend a couple nights in Denver to get acclimated to the altitude at 5,280 feet, then make the easy, 90-minute drive to Breckenridge, which sits at 9,600 feet above sea level.
Your first stop should be the chock-full-of-information Breckenridge Welcome Center on Main Street. The facility is one part visitor’s center, one part history museum (where admission to the interactive exhibits is free). I highly recommend chatting with knowledgeable staff here to get the lay of the land, then take some time to make your way through the displays to learn more about Breck’s history as a booming gold-mining town that eventually became wildly popular ski area. Here are more of my recommended attractions:
Viewfinder Tip: Breckenridge is a casual mountain town. Jeans and cowboy boots are accepted dress code at even the nicest restaurants.
Summer Fun Park. If you are traveling to Breckenridge with children between mid-June and mid-September, this bustling center of activity at the base of the ski hill is a must do. For one fee, get access to these fun activities at the Summer Fun Park: alpine coaster, alpine slide, scenic chairlift ride, mini-golf, human maze, bungee trampoline, rubber-duck racing, gemstone panning, and pony rides. New for 2014, and for an additional fee, is a two-stage zipline, where riders reach up to 45 miles an hour maxing out at 50 feet above the ground.
Hiking and biking trails. Mountain biking is made easy at Breckenridge: You can pay to have your bike hauled up the chairlift, then you can ride downhill all the way on clearly marked trails designed for riders of just about every skill level. For the less adventuresome (or those traveling with kids), flat paved paths through town are fun, too. Similarly, you can take the chairlift up and hike down the mountain through wildflower-studded open spaces and thick aspen groves. Guided hikes are also a worry-free way to explore the area with a local expert.
Human maze and mini-golf at the Summer Fun Park
Country Boy Mine. Explore a bit of Breckenridge’s mining history on a highly informative tour at the Country Boy Mine. I’m not a huge fan of enclosed spaces, but our tour guide was so entertaining that I forgot I had ventured 1,000 feet into the side of a mountain for the tour. Down in the mine, we learned what daily life was like for miners 100 years ago (ICYW, it was hard), and got to handle some authentic artifacts. The steep ore-chute slide at the end of the tour (optional!) was slick and fast; my kids loved it.
Main Street restaurants. Tex-Mex, buffalo burgers, quinoa salad, sushi—you’ll find it all at eateries along the main drag in Breckenridge. I’m a fan of Kenosha Steakhouse, which serves steaks, BBQ and burgers, and has a fabulous backyard seating area with horseshoe pits and mountain views. But if you want to get your hands on a really yummy burger with an equally tasty bun and thick, hand-cut fries, head over to Empire Burger. My kids like Downstairs at Eric’s because it’s adjacent to an arcade jammed with video games. I like Park & Main for its wine measured and served in lab beakers, as well as its array of fresh salads and ciabatta paninis. Warming Hut offers comfort food in a sweet Victorian cottage, while Relish is my go-to dinner-date restaurant for its sophisticated menu featuring Colorado-raised meat and local produce.
What are you favorite things to do in the mountains?