Breckenridge, Colorado embraces its history while welcoming modern culture and dining
By Joe Laing, El Monte RV
For anyone of any age, memories of a trip to the Colorado Rockies will likely be among their most treasured. Fresh air, kind people and sharp mountains piercing an unbelievably blue sky aptly sum up the little town of Breckenridge, Colorado, a necessary stop on any Rockies itinerary.
No bad time
It’s little wonder that when the first settlers of Breckenridge arrived in the mid-1850s, they assumed that there was gold in “them thar hills.” In September, the mountainsides surrounding Breckenridge are blanketed in the luminescent, molten gold of aspen leaves at their fall peak. It’s all anyone can do to keep their eyes on the road as they drive.
There’s really no bad time to visit Breckenridge. For a town of slightly more than 4,500 residents, the number of things to do are amazing. From the Breck Ascent (an early January series of five hill climb events that encourages competitors to use any means possible to complete their course — as long as they ski or snowboard back down) to Five Peaks (a late March/early April event that involves an 8,000-foot vertical course with six climbs) to the summer Breckenridge Music Festival Breckenridge offers action all year-round. There’s even a local coffee house celebration in November called “Wake Up, Breckenridge,” and a Santa Run in early December (which is held in conjunction with the annual holiday Lighting of Breckenridge). In fact, there seems to be no end to the events and activities around town.
If the snowshoe fits
If you’re looking for lodging downtown, one fantastic option is the Fireside Inn, an amazing little bed and breakfast that also functions as a hostel. What’s more, the owners serve an incredible breakfast each morning, warming travelers up for the day ahead. If you need a place to park your RV, check out the Tiger Run Resort where you can cross-country ski right from from your RV.
If you feel like trying your hand at a little snowshoeing, stop by the Breckenridge Nordic Center and rent a pair of snowshoes and a map. On excellent option for exploration is the Willow Trail, a 2.5 km hike that takes you pretty close to the top of Peak 8 and back down past a handful of amazing ski runs.
Grabbing a bite and a brew
After wearing yourself out on a morning hike, warm back up with food from a place like Soupz On, a local institution since 2000. The owners prepare fresh soups, sandwiches and salads every day, and the menu changes often. While they do have vegetarian options, you can’t go wrong with a thick Roast Chicken Muenster sandwich and a cup of Dad’s Bathtub Chili.
You’re on vacation, after all, so top off lunch with a microbrew at the Breckenridge Brewery. Opened in 1990, the brewery has since expanded its operations to Denver, but the original brew pub can still be found on Breckenridge’s Main Street. Both the Avalanche Ale and the Brewery’s small batch, barrel aged Twenty ESB, are excellent, and the atmosphere and is comfortably warm.
Playing the tourist
When many people here the words “gold mine” as a travel destination, they conjure an image of a cheesy little tourist trap where you “pan for gold” from a pre-sorted bucket of dirt and walk away with a handful of rough glass rocks. Travelers will find themselves thoroughly surprised at Country Boy Mine, just off of French Gulch Road.
Founded in 1887, the mine was restored in the early 1990s and includes many of the features one would find at a working gold mine. A chilly mountain stream runs by the side of the mine, and visitors are welcome to pan for gold in the true gold mining tradition: with steel pans and dirt hauled right from the mine. There’s no time limit on the panning, so it’s not surprising to find some people there for a half or even a full day.
The tour, however, is the most amazing part. The tour guides are passionate about Colorado’s mining history and that comes through strongly in their tour. Visitors are offered rain coats before walking into the mine, and groups venture almost 1,000 feet into the side of the mountain. The passageways can become tight at points, but small pockets in the side of the main shaft hold authentic mining equipment, showing what life would have been like as a miner in the late 1800s.
In all, it’s an incredible experience, and you’ll walk away with a better knowledge of, and much stronger appreciation for, the people who settled this rough country.
A cheesy ending
For a little gem of a fondue restaurant off South Main Street, try the Swiss Haven Restaurant. It can get crowded, but once you’re comfortably seated, try the raclette (Swiss melted on the block) with potatoes and charcuterie. If you can resist the temptation to order the Swiss chocolate fondue dessert, wander outside to Crepes a la Carte for a hot Strawberry Romanoff — milk chocolate, strawberries and Grand Marnier — by a roaring fire.
Breckenridge is a town filled with incredible activities, exceptional food with plenty of options, and a passion for its history that not only comes across in the historically well-preserved downtown, but in the love for the town that can be heard in the voices of its residents every day.