Telluride's summer festivals, hiking, mountain climbing, and nature walks make for a warm-weather getaway that's even more popular than its ski season.
Telluride’s pristine mountain valley location, rich history, and proximity to world-class snowsports took the area from ghost town to bustling tourist destination around the 1970’s. Over the years, Telluride and the adjacent Mountain Village have drawn an influx of visitors to luxury resorts with ski-in access, five star accommodations, and fine dining. However, the mountain retreat is becoming increasingly celebrated for its warm weather adventures and summer festivals. Hiking, nature walks, 4×4 Jeep tours, and festivals including concerts, film, wine, dance, jazz, bluegrass, blues and brews pepper the town from June through August.
Colorado’s Great Outdoors
Adventurous enough for adrenaline junkies but tame enough for even small children, Telluride Outside (800/831-6230, Telluride Outside, 121 W. Colorado Ave, Telluride CO 81435) offers 4-WD Jeep tours into Tomboy Mountain, home to the old gold and silver mines in the San Juan Mountains more than 13,000-ft high. Half and full-day tours include excursions to Imogene Pass/Tomboy Ghost Town, Black Bear Pass, Ophir Pass/Alta Ghost Town, Last Dollar Road, and Dunton Hot Springs. The guides emphasize the history and life on the mines while shutterbugs and nature lovers savor the views. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better way to experience the San Juan Mountains. Telluride Outside can also arrange fly-fishing, river rafting, mountain bike tours, and saltwater trips.
Explore the wildlife and local flora and fauna of Colorado with a stop 10,500-feet up at the St. Sophia Nature Center (970/728-7360) directly off the St. Sophia gondola stop. Free to visitors, the center features children’s nature activities, maps, wildlife lessons, and interpretive hikes. Our guide was adept at identifying hundreds of flowers, beetle entry holes in aging aspens, and edible brush. I tried the Juniper berries, which tasted like clean and natural bitter gin.
The Adventure Rock, located in the Telluride Conference Center (970/369-6400) Plaza in Mountain Village, welcomes climbers of all abilities and ages from May 26th to October 22nd daily. For those with children who wish to climb, parents might want to come during the hours of 11am to 2pm when a monitor is present.
Telluride’s Town Park (970/728-3071) houses a variety of activities just for adults and children. A community swimming pool, toddler pool, campgrounds, sand volleyball, tennis courts and basketball courts are open to the public. Bring the skateboards or rent a bike for the town’s Skate Ramp, or burn off energy at the Imagination Station playground, open year-round.
Kids 12-years-old and under can try their hand at fishing at the Kid’s Pond located at Telluride Town Park and at Elk Pond in Mountain Village. Each child is limited to a catch of a 4-trout and fishing rods can be checked out for free at the Information Center in Town Park. Most of the park’s recreational activities run from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but call ahead for specific hours and information before you plan out your day’s activities.
Also at Telluride Town Park, kids ages 4 to 12 have the opportunity to become official Junior Rangers when they hike the Bear Creek Preserve with a local ranger and earn a badge at completion. A choice of themes includes wildlife, hiking, amazing mammals, wildflowers, aquatic life, tremendous trees, and more.
The Telluride Golf Course (970/728-2606, 136 Country Club Dr, Telluride, CO 81435), nestled 9,300 ft above sea level, offers stunning mountain views on a par 71, 18-hole resort course. Open from mid-May to early October, the course is located in the acclaimed Peaks Resort at Mountain Village. Tee off while surrounded by the highest concentration of 14,000-foot mountains in the United States. As the highest altitude championship golf course in North America some players may become a bit light-headed, but the air creates less resistance against the golf ball, resulting in up to 15% more distance. Sunset and twilight rates, lessons, golf outings, and clinics are also available.
Telluride Organized Family Programs
The Telluride Academy (970/728-5311, 135 S. Spruce, Telluride, CO 81435) entertains and educates children 4 through 17 when school’s out between June and August. A variety of programs include theater, explorers, mad scientists, Wild West, pottery, cooking camp, intro to climbing, tracking, and more. Groups of 12 students are broken down into appropriate age groups and are assigned to a team of two instructors. Offering over 100 programs, a majority of which run two-weeks long, are ideal for families looking to spend more than just a weekend in the mountains, and afraid kids may get bored. Overnight camp stays are also available to kids with an adventurous spirit.
The San Juan Outdoors School (866/FUN-TRIDE, 300 South Mahoney, Telluride, CO 81435) also hosts half-day and three day kids camps and teen clinics featuring rock climbing, outdoor games, arts exploration, nature hiking, teen climbing clinics, mountaineering camps for kids ages 4-years-old on up. Special design your own camps can be customized to include snowshoeing, mountaineering cross country skiing, fly fishing, and nature exploration. Adults can also join in on the fun with San Juan’s variety of adult programs from rock climbing to mountaineering.
For older kids, the Voodoo Lounge Youth Teen Center (970/728-0140, 233 E. Pacific St., Telluride, CO 81435) is open year-round, Tuesday through Thursday, complete with casual entertainment and hang-out options from pool tables, ping-pong, crafts, food, big screen TV, and movies. Give kids a chance to bond with other visiting and local teens while Mom and Dad shop in nearby boutiques.
Mothers and daughters looking for relaxation and pampering can head to Atmosphere Day Spa (970/728-0630, 250 West San Juan, Telluride, CO 81435) in the Camel’s Garden Hotel at the base of the Telluride gondola. The varied spa menu include manicures and pedicures, customized facials, scrubs, wraps, and of course relaxing massages. It’s tranquil setting indoors and out serves to further your relaxation experience. From mid-June through October, stroll through the adjacent Farmer’s Market and recharge after a deep-tissue massage with fresh fruit and produce.
Telluride History & Culture
The Telluride Historical Museum (970/728-3344, 201 W. Gregory Avenue, Telluride, CO 81435), a former mining hospital, houses a vast collection of exhibits and artifacts depicting the history of Telluride’s mining industry, Native American influence, metal extraction, and old-fashioned medical techniques. Five walking tours of Telluride are also available with the help of the museum. Choose from mp3’s, cell phone, or mini disk tours to wind your way through historical Swede-Finn Town, Catholic Hill, Main Street, the Sunnyside, and Telluride’s former red light district. Private walking tours can also be arranged with advance reservations.
The Telluride Repertory Theatre Company (970/728-4539, 156 Society Dr, Telluride, CO 81435) offers intensive summer workshops for teens 14 to 17-years-old with a focus on acting, directing, playwriting and production. Adult classes are also available for parents looking to flex their own acting muscles. Families just looking to take in a show can check the website for current productions. Past performances include Chicago and Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
The Telluride Society for Jazz (970/728-7009) hosts an annual Jazz Workshop and Clinic Series for all ages. Musical-minded families can explore voice, strings, horns, or percussion under the advisement of a visiting world-class artist. Their Free Jazz Project offers 5 free concerts, highlighting the contributions of Latino culture to the community. They also have a Young Razzcals Jass Project, which introduces High School musicians to the classic jazz of the past, including jam sessions that combine the classic jazz sounds of yesterday, with the future of jazz.
The historical Nugget Theater (970/728-3030, 207 West Colorado Avenue, Telluride, CO 81435) was originally the Old First National Bank Building. Although the theater only shows two movies at a time throughout the year, it opens its doors to welcome the annual Telluride Film Festival. A variety of children’s movies and PG movies also play for younger crowds. Call ahead for show time information. Tickets: Adults $8, Teens(13-17) $6, Kids(12 and under) $5, Seniors $6.
The Fire Pit in Mountain Village’s Heritage Plaza is an ideal meeting place for your family to gather and relax after a long day outdoors. On chilly nights, warm up by the fire or stop by and listen to writers, historians, and scientists discuss the history of the region. My group was entertained by long-time local Jerry O’Rourke, a former secret service agent who worked during John F. Kennedy’s term in office. His lecture, Gold Heist at the Idarado Mine kept adults and kids asking questions from how gold and silver is processed to rumors about Marilyn Monroe. For a list of upcoming fireside chats, please visit www.telluridemuseum.org.
For a small mountain town, Telluride has a surprising amount of delectable food options and absolutely no chain restaurants or fast food. It’s a refreshing change from traditional strip-malls that pepper most tourist towns. But that doesn’t mean they’re short on kid-friendly eateries.
For a special treat or dessert, try the Sweet Life (970/728-8789, 115 W Colorado Avenue, Telluride, CO), featuring an ever-changing menu of homemade ice cream including brownie batter and traditional chocolate flavors. A varied menu of burgers, sandwiches, and fries are also available. Other kid-friendly options include Baked in Telluride (970/728-4775, 127 South Fir, Telluride, CO 81435) for bagels, breakfast sandwiches, juice and coffee.
For a more upscale Italian dinner, the Excelsior Cafe (970/728-4250, 200 W. Colorado Avenue, Telluride, CO 81435) is a cozy, rustic restaurant with frequent specials including their tasty gourmet-style pizzas. I personally couldn’t get enough of their baked Brie in a cherry reduction sauce and Gorgonzola salad. Their food is comparable to fine dining without the stuffy atmosphere.
Parents looking for a special night out should head to Allred’s Restaurant (970/728-7474, 2 Coonskin Ridge Ln, Telluride, CO 81435) located at the St. Sophia stop. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a seat without a miraculous view of the mountains. Arrive just before sunset and enjoy the sun dancing across the snow-tipped peaks while listening to music lulling the crowd from the piano. Menu options include elk short loin, Colorado rack of lamb, seafood, foie gras, and rich desserts.
Families who want home cooking without having to step foot in the kitchen can contact Kendra’s Kitchen (800/894-9086) for catering and private cooking services. Kendra Wilcox, Ralph Lauren’s former personal chef and entrepreneur, knows how to cook tasty, organic, low-sodium meals without the kids ever knowing they’re eating anything but savory chicken, fresh farmer’s market potatoes, sweet salad, and healthy cookies.
We stayed at the Mountain Lodge (866/595-8084, 457 Mountain Village Boulevard, Telluride, CO 81435) in Mountain Village and were treated to mountain views, the sound of a local creek, and spacious accommodations. This exclusive resort allows guests to choose from luxury cabins, condominiums, and lodge rooms. They also have conference facilities, reception services and catering. The on-site restaurant, The View, provides an authentic Italian dining experience. If you’re looking to get out and take a stroll, the main building houses a full bar, gift shop, and pool with hot tub, it’s a short five minute walk to the Mountain Village Parking gondola stop.
Mountain Lodge has partnered with Telluride’s Further Adventures, offering guided white-water rafting, fly fishing, hiking and mountain biking for guests during the summer. The experienced guides will take guests on half-day, full-day and multi-day trips. To kick off this partnership guests can receive 30% off accommodations at the Mountain Lodge, and 20% off Further Adventures activities if they book their stay by June 15, 2009.
The San Sofia Bed and Breakfast (800/537-4781, 330 West Pacific Avenue, Telluride, Colorado 81435) in downtown Telluride is an intimate bed and breakfast choice for families looking for touches of home. They also manage a variety of condos and cabins in the area for families looking for more space. The inn just happens to host the best breakfast in town, but you don’t have to be a guest to enjoy the chef’s collection of fresh pastries, homemade granola, and creative egg dishes.
The Telluride Regional Airport, located at 9,078 ft above sea level, is North America’s highest commercial airport. From the ground, the airport looks like it’s near the edge of a mountain and locals tell me service can be unpredictable during inclement weather. However, it’s a quick option to get into town quickly. You can also fly into the Montrose airport, a beautiful hour and a half ride to town. Telluride Express (888/212-TAXI) is a convenient shuttle option dropping off at all area accommodations.
For those unaccustomed to high altitudes, or for those who live at sea level, keep in mind that AMS, or Acute Mountain Sickness, and can spoil your vacation if you don’t come prepared. Symptoms range from headaches, nausea, insomnia, fatigue, lack of appetite and lightheadedness. Fluids will help ease the symptoms within 24 to 48 hours. But if your child or member of the family has a history of AMS or you’re concerned about the effects, speak with your pediatrician in advance. Some medications, including the prescription Diamox, can assist in preventing altitude related illnesses. For more information about altitude sickness, warning signs, and treatments, check out Coping with High Altitudes in the Family Travel Forum archives.
If you’re planning to stay in the Telluride and Mountain Village area during the duration of your vacation, consider skipping the rental car and using the free gondola system instead. Running year-round with a brief break during off-peak spring and fall seasons, the eco-friendly gondolas between Mountain Village and Telluride make for a breathtaking 15-minute ride. Special gondolas are also marked as pet-friendly, so your dog can also ride for free and enjoy the breathtaking views. For a complete schedule, visit www.telluride.com.
Telluride Summer Festivals
The onset of warm days and cool nights brings festivals and concerts to the mountains. Choose from film, music, and kid-friendly events including the hot air balloon festival. Keep in mind festival season means a swell of tourists and limited accommodation options, so book your summer plans in advance.
Here are just a few examples of warm-weather festivals. For a complete list of this year’s events, check the Telluride and Mountain Village visitor guide at www.telluridevisitorguide.com for upcoming dates and locations.
Children’s Film Festival (970/626-3137) offers free films about real and imaginary animals, balloons and a special parade at the Palm Theatre (970/369-5669 721 W. Colorado Avenue, Telluride, CO 81435).
Mountain Film in Telluride (970/728-4123) attracts international filmmakers, artists and outdoor enthusiasts to honor the environment and culture of the mountains with films, presentations, and seminars.
Watch the sunset and enjoy live music with this year’s Sunset Concert Series (970/728-1904) in Mountain Village. Gather in Sunset Plaza with a blanket and picnic for family-friendly films every Wednesday.
If the stunning mountain views aren’t enough, come during June for the annual Telluride Balloon Festival and watch dozens of customized balloons take flight. Visitors even have a chance to ride, though festival sponsors get first pick of rides. Visit the festival website for information on hitching a ride and an upcoming schedule of events.
Telluride Blues & Brews Festival (866/515-6166) brings crobrew tasting, crafts, food vendors, live blues and rock performances and entertainment in Telluride Town Park every September.
The legendary Telluride Bluesgrass (800/624-2422) festival hosts new talent and music veterans alike with unique combos including Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby with Kentucky Thunder. The festival also falls around the Summer Solstice with evenings lit by a full moon, making for a magical event under the stars.
Honor the history of jazz and emerging new talent at the annual Telluride Jazz Festival (970/728-7009). Past performances included appearances by the Neville Brothers, the Dave Liebman Group, and Son Como Son. The festival prides itself on offering the best in classic, mainstream, blues, and international jazz.
Young People’s Theater (970/728-6363) gathers young thespians at the 240-seat Sheridan Opera House with kid-friendly performances. Previous productions included the childhood classic Charlotte’s Web. The theater welcomes kids aged 3-18 and offers workshops and classes.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.