Thanks to Noelle Coen of Houston, TX for this guest post.

When in Breckenridge, the first exciting “ride” for kids is the gondola! They could stay on it all day and be entertained, and it’s FREE.

When in Breckenridge, the first exciting “ride” for kids is the gondola! They could stay on it all day and be entertained, and it’s FREE.

Our family of five, plus my mother-in-law, ventured to Breckenridge for two splendid weeks this July. After several college ski trips to Breckenridge, and one summer weekend (sans kids) last year, we knew we had to return with the entire family. We live in Houston, where the heat and humidity can smother the fun out of any outdoor activity this time of year. Breckenridge and the surrounding communities are truly a breath of fresh air, even if less oxygenated, for us!

It's summer and the water's fine!

It’s summer and the water’s fine!

Our boys are 9, 6, and 3. My husband joined us for only the second week. Therefore, during the first week we planned our activities to be a little more relaxed and easy for all. When we went rafting on the Arkansas River (The Adventure Company, intermediate level on the Browns Canyon route), we left the youngest with grandma. Nearly everything else we did is appropriate for all ages. The one activity we did not get to do was rent bikes and wee-hoo trailers and travel along the many miles of paths around Breck. This will be the first thing we do when we return!

A guided fly-fishing adventure is something the whole family can enjoy together.

A guided fly-fishing adventure is something the whole family can enjoy together.

What did we pack? Layers! Our first week was quite warm, so we wore shorts and tees during the day and light jackets in the evening. Note that many places do NOT have air conditioning, so they open the windows for your fresh cool air. For all activities, we packed rain jackets. These came in handy when rafting (we wore them on top of rented wet suits), and when shopping in town. Many an afternoon sees a rain shower on Main Street. It’s not a bad idea to put a dry change of clothes in the back of your car, just in case you get a little soaked while fishing, rafting or biking. Our older boys took a tumble during our fly fishing lesson (Breck Outfitters) and filled their waders, becoming popsicles on the way home. Keep your camera battery charged and at the ready – there are photo opportunities at every turn. Pack sunscreen, lip balm and extra bottles of water, along with snacks, and you are ready to go! Bonus points if you remember a picnic blanket.

Layers can make your day so much more fun!

Layers can make your day so much more fun!

What did we do? On the first day, it is important to take it easy and acclimate. Boosting water intake before we arrived and continuing throughout our trip saved us from any altitude issues. Book Breck is a fabulous company to use if you are searching for a rental home – we were very pleased with ours. We shopped at the City Market in Breck (they do carry organic items) and the brand new Whole Foods in Frisco to stock our fridge. TIP: There is a gondola car inside Whole Foods where your children, or you, can sit and eat fresh food from their café! If you’re missing something you can find it at Target; it’s located in Silverthorne.

While in Frisco, don’t miss Foote’s Rest Stop for homemade ice cream, live music and beanbag tossing, and the Stork and Bear toy shop to entertain the kids (I even found boys’ Keen sandals on sale here). We later returned to Frisco to have a picnic at the marina and ride the water taxi over to Dillon. Call the captain ahead of time to let him know you’re on the way!

On the way up the 6-person Independence Superchair.

On the way up the 6-person Independence Superchair.

When in Breckenridge, the first exciting “ride” for kids is the gondola! They could stay on it all day and be entertained, and it’s FREE. If you go in the morning, look for a mother moose and her calf, or look for the dam-building beavers in the marshy areas. We stopped at Peak 7 to eat at Sevens, where my boys enjoyed outdoor shuffleboard and other games while we dined on the patio. You may purchase tickets to ride the 6-person Independence Superchair for some breathtaking views and a hold-on-to-your hat ride (did I mention I’m afraid of heights?).

The way back down might just have the best views.

The way back down might just have the best views.

Ride the lift back down and continue on the gondola to Peak 8 to discover the Alpine Fun Park. Thankfully, you can purchase tickets a la carte, as we just had time for putt-putt golf and mining for gemstones. TIP: go in the morning as the gondola often shuts down if there is lightning in the area (you will stand in a long line for a bus to get back down the mountain). When we go back, we will do the Gold Runner coaster and the alpine slide.

On Breckenridge Main Street, our favorite spots include the Riverwalk Center and the Blue River, Peek-a-boo Toys (don’t miss the play area in the back of the store, and the Dippin’ Dots up front), Mary’s Mountain Cookies, and the many unique shops. I bought a very special “Riverwalk” painting at Breckenridge Gallery that now hangs over our fireplace! We dined at Giampietro’s (best pizza in town), Empire Burger, Eric’s (great arcade games for the kids on a rainy afternoon), Kenosha Steakhouse, and Crepes a la Carte (I had one with local peaches – yum!).

Found a good one! Gem panning at Peak 8 Fun Park.

Found a good one! Gem panning at Peak 8 Fun Park.

For a nice date night, my husband and I enjoyed a couple’s massage at Blue Sage Spa, followed by happy hour drinks at Modis. Off of Main, we loved the coffee at Cuppa Joe. Our souvenirs were hand-painted by our own hands at Ready, Paint, Fire! They shipped them home for us. Another fun activity for the kids is the Mountain Top Children’s Museum, a discovery center with educational centers and fun to last an hour or two.

At the Sapphire Point overlook, the ground squirrels are pretty tame!

At the Sapphire Point overlook, the ground squirrels are pretty tame!

Headed out for a drive to Keystone, we couldn’t miss stopping on Swan Mountain Road to see the chipmunks and the ground squirrels. We hiked the loop around the park and posed for family photos with the Dillon Reservoir and mountains in the background. In Keystone, we cooled our toes in the Snake River and ate lunch at the Haywood Café. This is a spot the locals love, and my family recommends. They have delicious omelets, bacon, cheese grits, and pancakes for the kids (juicy burgers too). All sorts of sports channels are on display to keep diners up-to-date on their team’s scores. Note that the Keystone Gondola is free on Friday afternoons, and they may have live music at the top then. Arapahoe Café is another favorite eatery located next to the Dillon Marina.

Breckenridge sits on the Western Slope - water flows from all rivers here to the Pacific. A Short drive south from Breck lets you sit astride the backbone of the continent.

Breckenridge sits on the Western Slope – water flows from all rivers here to the Pacific. A Short drive south from Breck lets you sit astride the backbone of the continent.

Our rafting trip was based in Buena Vista, taking us on a nice drive through the Continental Divide and small towns we had not seen before (Alma and Fairplay). The Adventure Company, based in Breckenridge, did a great job hosting the trip for us. I like the relaxed pace of fly fishing more, but my husband and boys were thrilled with the rapids on the raft.

At Georgetown Loop Railroad, you might just get to ride in the caboose!

At Georgetown Loop Railroad, you might just get to ride in the caboose!

The last day of our trip, we traveled to the Georgetown Loop Train. It was a cold and rainy day and we were happy to upgrade our tickets to the enclosed coach! This is a great experience for kids.

A highlight of our rental home location, in the Highlands just north of Breckenridge, was the bike and hike trail located just outside our door. My boys enjoyed exploring and “going on a bear hunt” each afternoon. You absolutely could not beat the views we had from our living room. Sipping hot tea or wine in the evenings, while reading a good book, was simply heaven. We are counting the days until we can return to Breckenridge!

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