Colorado’s Breck is a top-notch place for winter fun, with great skiing and riding — but it shines year-round with places to visit, play, and eat around town.
Breckenridge is among the most attractive winter resorts in North America, especially for families. Though perhaps not as chic and au courant as Aspen and Vail, it has abundant antique charm and a full array of activities and facilities. The town of nearly 3,000 was founded in 1859 and grew steadily. On a mid-summer morning in 1909, the Masons proceeded through downtown Breckenridge on their way to the “Laying of the Cornerstone” for the new courthouse. By its sesquicentennial year, the town had managed to hold onto much of its heritage, with 171 officially designated historical structures, including an abundance of quaint Victorian buildings and several interesting museums.
Breckenridge is easily seen on foot, bio-diesel shuttles make regular rounds of the town. Go now, while it’s at its peak (though we expect the town’s sustainability initiatives to keep it flourishing for many more centuries.)
Skiing & Summer Around Breck
Breckenridge Ski Resort (800/789-SNOW) stretches across four interconnected mountains – peaks 7, 8, 9 & 10 of the Ten Mile Range – with 146 trails and more than 700 acres of impressively diverse terrain above the treeline. The mountain is connected to the town below by BreckConnect, a newly built gondola that has eliminated a lot of vehicle traffic from town. There’s skiing galore, and experts will love the new Imperial Express SuperChair that reaches from town almost to the 12,998-foot summit of Peak 8. Snowboarders will flip over the terrain and features of the three terrain parks at the base of Peak 8.
Besides skiing and snowboarding, the area caters to other active families with ice skating, snowshoeing, snowmobiles, dogsled and mule-drawn rides. Younger kids will be especially delighted by a ride behind a sled drawn by Siberian huskies; for this experience, contact Good Times Adventures at 800/477-0144 or 970/453-7604.
They’ll also enjoy a mule-drawn sleigh ride through the snow to dinner – though you might want to reserve that for a more romantic interlude – with Breckenridge Sleigh Rides at Gold Run Nordic Center (970/453-4405 — reservations required). We especially recommend the food and experience at Two Below Zero (800/571-MULE, 970/453-1520), which departs from the Frisco Nordic Center.
Hate snowsports? There are a lot of local festivals to keep you warm in winter. Holipalooza is Breckenridge’s Victorian holiday celebration begins with the lighting of the town Christmas tree on December 3, followed by a fireworks display and a choir concert. In the following days there are sporting competitions, activities for kids and strolling carolers. The Ullr Fest, the second week in January, is a more adult festival celebrating Ullr (Ooh-ler, think ooh-la-la!), the Norse God of Snow, that brings wild times, including a Main Street Parade, live entertainment, the Ullympics, a Nordic event and an ice skating party. The last week in January brings the Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships in which 20-ton blocks of snow are turned into works of art.
Closer to Spring, the town also celebrates Mardi Gras with a parade, king and queen, live music, Cajun food and beads. And you can be sure St. Patrick isn’t neglected. April Fool’s Day provides another opportunity to fool around and help inaugurate the Spring Massive, which brings more competitions, entertainment and family fun.
Heading Indoors? Breckenridge Museums & Restaurants
For a break from the brisk outdoors, you might consider visiting one of the town’s several museums. We recommend the Barney Ford House Museum (970/453-5761), a half block off Main Street mid-town, which 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.
Younger children will probably most enjoy the Mountain Top Children’s Museum, 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 to 4:30pm, except Sunday, when it doesn’t open until 12pm. They offer Summer Day Camp and Workshops. For information about childcare and children’s activities, there’s a free Parents Handbook visit or call 970/390-3533. Summit Sitters ( 970/453-7097) can come to your accommodation.
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. Stay for awhile and acquaint your kids with its fun pool with waterslides; day passes are inexpensive. For more information visit the Information Center or the Activity Center (970/453-6018) in the Blue River Plaza.
There are plenty of good restaurants in Breckenridge that we can vouch for. On Main Street, Eric’s (970/435-1401) is the liveliest place in town, with a games arcade, sports memorabilia, and generous portions. Giampietro Pizzeria and Pasta (970/453-3838) is good; Daylight Donuts is for a hearty breakfast, but be prepared for a crowd. Mi Casa at 600 S. Park (970/453-2071), serves excellent updated Mexican, and The Cellar at 200 S. Ridge (970/453-4777) has more sophisticated fare. Gourmet Cabby (970/453-7788) delivers. We highly recommend Samplings (970/668-8466) on the main drag in Frisco, for samplings of various distinctively-prepared dishes and an impressive selection of wines.
Breckenridge Trip Planning Details
Connections to the area are easily made from Denver International Airport by shuttle van with Rocky 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 bus service throughout most of Summit County from approximately 6:30am to 1:30am..
Breckenridge Station offers a conveniently located place to park and ride; turn right of Main Street on Watson Avenue just after the Information Center (970/453-6018), in Daniel’s Cabin. (Call 303/639-1111 for road conditions in Colorado.)
Like most winter resorts, Breckenridge is most crowded during the holidays and in January. If that’s the only period during which you can schedule a vacation, book accommodations as early as possible. In March the slopes actually have the most snow, and it will usually hold well into April.
For the full range of lodging possibilities, ranging from condos to hotels to furnished homes, contact Breckenridge Central Reservations (888/697-7824).
Nearby Frisco (800/424-1554) would also make an excellent base, especially if you’re driving or choose to rent car. It’s less than half an hour drive west on US Highway 70 to Copper Mountain, a more recently developed resort with 22 lifts and 2,450 acres of skiable area. We liked the heated pavements that made getting about in icy weather easier and found it an exciting place for young people, but not ideal for children.
You can find an even wider range of accommodations and all the conveniences of home, including a Safeway, Wal-Mart and multiplex cinemas in Dillon (970/468-2403), half an hour away.
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