As an alternative to Colorado's famed skiing, bring the family in summer when cultural events and museums present non-stop distraction.
Summit County, Colorado, in the Rockies west of Denver, is best known for its winter sports and the resort town of Breckenridge, but summer is also a splendid time to visit. The mountainsides are lush green, with snow still covering the craggy tops, the air is crisp – temperatures average 70 during the day, 50 at night – and clean, the resorts aren’t as crowded as they are during the winter holidays, and there’s plenty to see and do.
Summertime activities in Breckenridge include hiking, mountain biking, golf, art fairs, canoeing, concerts, fly-fishing, backpacking, walking tours, horseback riding, rock climbing, white water rafting and more.
The town of nearly 3,000 was founded in 1859 and has managed to hold on to much of its heritage, with 171 officially designated historical structures, including an abundance of quaint Victorian buildings and several interesting museums.
Though it’s easily seen on foot, bio-diesel shuttles make regular rounds of the town. Breckenridge Station offers a conveniently located place to park and ride; turn right of Main Street on Watson Avenue just after the Information Center.
Recreation and Museums Galore
Aspen Alpine Guides (970/925-6618) offers rock climbing, hikes and mountain bike tours. Kayak Park (970/453-1734), usually open from April through August, free of charge, is the longest whitewater kayak park in Colorado. There’s an excellent new 69,000-square-foot Recreation Center (970/453-1734) with a full range of facilities, including child care, on the right just as you enter town.
For more information on local facilities, visit the Information Center (970/453-6018) in Daniel’s Cabin on the right on Main Street, or the Activity Center (970/453-6018) in the Blue River Plaza.
The Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (800/383-2632) offers a therapeutic Wilderness Program and a Professional Challenge Program, serving adults and students, those with special needs, youth-at-risk and corporate groups.
The Summit Historical Society (970/453-9022) has numerous walking tours focused on the region’s history, most less than $3 per person. Younger children will probably most enjoy the Mountain Top Children’s Museum (970/453-7878), near the Main Street Station, which is actually more of a playroom, where they can break open their own geode, romp around in various costumes, make impressions of the footprints of local animals, and much more. It’s open daily 10am- 4:30pm, except Sunday, when it doesn’t open until 12pm. They offer Summer Day Camp and Workshops.
The Barney Ford House Museum (970/453-5761), a half-block off Main Street midtown, offers a convincing step back into the late 19th century and an acquaintance with a memorable man, an escaped slave whose pluck, hard work and honesty earned him a small fortune. Hours are variable; admission free, donations accepted.
The nearby Edwin Carter Museum, built in 1875, houses a collection of taxidermy, excellent specimens of Rocky Mountain animals, as well as flora and antique furnishings. Hours are variable; admission free, donations accepted.
Breck’s Special Summer Events
The Breckenridge Ski Resort closes in the spring, but the summer won’t get into full swing until mid-June, when they tee off the Peter Forsberg Golf Classic at the 27-hole, 72 par Breckenridge Golf Club (970/453-9104) the only municipal course designed by Jack Nicklaus. Because the air is thin, you can get more distance with your drive.
In June, the Ride the Rockies bicycle tour rolls through town, and the town’s population will nearly double. The National Repertory Orchestra and the Breckenridge Music Institute Orchestra give more than 40 classical and non-classical concerts. In late June, the Genuine Jazz Festival has daytime performances on the floating stage on Maggie’s Pond with the Rockies as a backdrop; after dark there are performances at various nightclubs.
The 4th of July is celebrated with a parade and a free concert at the Riverwalk Center followed by a sensational firework display. Mid-August brings the three-day High Peaks Drifter Skateboarding Event, followed a week later by the three-day Summit Historics at Breckenridge Auto Event. The Breckenridge Film Festival runs in early September. The summer comes to a jolly close with the annual Oktoberfest, a bit later in September.
Summertime Lodging & Dining
During our most recent visit we stayed in Breckenridge at the excellent Hyatt Main Street Station (970/453-5995) conveniently located near the south end of town – on Main Street, as you surely surmised – with spacious comfortable rooms and a friendly, helpful staff.
Beaver Run Resort (800/288-1282, 972/453-6000), more off the beaten path, is larger and more upscale, but be advised that these owner-decorated condos have been furnished, within limits, to tastes that might not suit your own.
For the full range of possibilities, contact Breckenridge Central Reservations (888/251-2417, 0-800-2720-0000 outside of U.S., firstname.lastname@example.org).
When it comes to dinner time, there are plenty of good restaurants in Breckenridge, and we can vouch for all on Main Street. Downstairs at Eric’s (972/435-1401) is the liveliest place in town, with a games arcade, sports memorabilia, and generous portions; Giampietro Pizzeria and Pasta (972/453-3838) is also a favorite. Daylight Donuts is good for a hearty breakfast, but be prepared for a crowd. Mi Casa, 600 S. Park Ave. (972/453-2071), serves excellent updated Mexican, and The Cellar, 200 S. Ridge St. (972/453-4777) has the same proprietors as Samplings, about which we will shortly rave. The local business Gourmet Cabby (972/453-7788) delivers to all the condos.
Around Summit County: Dillon, Frisco & Copper Mountain
Breckenridge is undoubtedly the most charming town in the county with the most to offer, but you can find a wider range of accommodations and all the amenities of home, including a Safeway, Wal-Mart and multiplex cinemas, in Dillon, 70 miles west of Denver – though you’ll probably want to rent a car to take full advantage of all Summit County has to offer. Visit www.townofdillon.com for more information.
Frisco (800/424-1554), more or less halfway between the two geographically and in atmosphere, with similar amenities but no multiplex, would make an even better base. The Historic Park and Museum, a charming collection of old buildings, will give you a good look into a colorful past.
Nearby Frisco Bay Marina (970/668-4334) on Dillon Reservoir offers boating opportunities: sailboats, canoes, kayaks, runabouts, pontoons and fishing boats. (Because it was built as a source of water by the city of Denver, swimming is presently not permitted.) If you’re in town, you can attend the Colorado Barbecue Challenge on Main Street in June. There’s a Farmers Market called Frisco Fair on Fridays from late June to the end of August.
We had the most memorable meal in recent years at Samplings (970/668-8466) on Frisco’s main drag. Just as you’d expect, the specialty is samplings of various distinctively-prepared dishes and an impressive selection of wines. Make a reservation for the family’s special night on the town right here.
Copper Mountain (866/841-2481), west of Frisco on US Highway 70, is the gateway to the Eagles Nest Wilderness, one of Colorado’s wildest and most scenic areas, with spectacular jagged peaks, old-growth spruce and fir forest, abundant wildlife, and ample space to escape into solitary hiking, camping, fishing and hunting. (Permanent structures and mechanized equipment, including bicycles, are prohibited.)
A new, pre-fab ski town, it does boast heated sidewalks in winter and many cultural events in summer. During the first weekend of July, Copper holds its Three Ring Weekend, which includes the Copper Chase, inspired by TV’s Fear Factor and The Amazing Race, where you can watch people confront theirs fears. Pairs of friends or immediate family members (minimum age 13) can join in the competitions, which include tests of strength and endurance, mind games, rock climbing, an obstacle course, mud pits, high ropes, mountain biking and go-karts. There’s a cash purse of $6000.
During the final weekend of July each year, guitarists, including several legends, converge on Copper for Guitar Town, jamming, auctions and the Guitars on Fire Amateur Competition.
Throughout summer, Copper Mountain Stables (970/968-2232) offers a variety of rides, including early morning rides with breakfast and evening rides with dinner. Stick around and you can watch the annual Labor Day weekend event, Copper Country, which brings country music stars, rodeos and the Peak Performer contest.
Connections to the area are easily made from Denver International Airport (about 2 hours away) by shuttle van with Colorado Mountain Express (970/926-9800), conveniently located in the baggage claim area. There’s also limited air service to Eagle Airport, about 60 miles (1.5 hours) west of Breckenridge.
Summit Stage (970/668-0999) offers free, fuel-efficient bus public service throughout most of Summit County from approximately 6:00am to 1:30am.
For information about childcare and children’s activities there’s a free Parents Handbook; visit www.theparentshandbook.com or call 970/390-3533. Summit Sitters (970/453-7097) is one recommended outfit that can come to your accommodation.
Contact the local tourist information office (877/234-3989) or visit www.gobreck.com for more information and a current events calendar.
John’s Mountain Vacation Wellness Tips
If you go any distance up a mountainside you’ll soon find yourself two miles above sea level. Be prepared for altitude illness. You’ll breathe faster and/or deeper, may feel short of breath and may experience nausea, fatigue, headache and difficulty sleeping.
To minimize these effects, increase your fluid intake – two or three times more water than you usually drink – and reduce salt; eat smaller and more frequent high carb, low fat meals; and reduce alcohol and caffeine. Anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can reduce discomfort; those who expect to have greater difficulty might want to discuss the possibility of taking acetazolamide with their doctor.
With increasing altitude, ultraviolet rays become more intense, so don’t forget the sunscreen and lip balm, with an SPF of at least 15, and protective eyewear. Be prepared for changes in temperatures by wearing layers of clothing; wear undergarments – not cotton – that wick moisture away from your skin.
Because the air is dry as well as thin, use plenty of moisturizer and drink lots of water. (We repeat ourselves because sufficient water is essential to a healthy and enjoyable visit in the Rockies.) If possible, use a vaporizer/humidifier at night. You should probably bring along throat lozenges.
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