By Jeanenne Tornatore
As an outdoor-lover who once quit my day job to move to the mountains of Colorado, I’ve been longing for the day when I could take my three young kids on a vacation in the Rockies. And now, after a week-long family trip to Summit Count, Colorado, I find myself asking, “what the heck was I waiting for?!”. At ages 4, 5 and 6, they hiked, zip-lined, and even completed a rope course. So, don’t wait. Just go. And here are my top 10 reasons why:
#1 Happy hiking.
If you’re worried trying to tackle trails will be a tediously slow, whine-filled morning long excursion – don’t be. You’ll be amazed at how far your kids will go when they find their own walking stick, follow a rambling stream, hop roots and rocks, stop to smell wildflowers, and marvel in the beauty of everyday wildlife. And there are great resources out there for finding local family-friendly trails, such as this roundup on www.gobreck.com that was our guide for a week’s worth of happy hiking adventures for our littles.
#2 Gondola rides never get old.
How many times can you ride the gondola in a week? Too many times to count if you’re like our brood. Nothing beats the excitement of riding high with a window to the world, watching for deer and moose, and enjoying your own bird’s eye view of life on the mountain.
#3 Ropes courses rock.
If your kids are fans of American Ninja Warrior, just wait until they get the chance to race through a ropes course just their size. Epic Discovery at Breckenridge Ski Resort is the perfect place to challenge your kids to try new things, from the ropes coarse to zip-lining to a ride down a mountain coaster. And it’s not just for kids, adults get in on the action too with plenty to experience for every generation.
#4 Training-wheels welcome.
Whether you can bring your own bike or rent one when you arrive, there’s a trail for every ability level, from hardcore single track to a paved path that meanders through Breckenridge along the Blue River and, if you’re ambition allows, can take you all the way to Frisco and back.
#5 Cowboy training.
One of the pleasant surprises of our trip was learning about the many family activities available through Keystone Resort’s Kidtopia program. And one of our favorites was an evening spent at the Keystone Ranch enjoying delicious barbeque, s’mores, riding ponies and learning some key cowboy skills like how to use a lasso. The night ended with a family-friendly movie under the stars before we drove off into the sunset.
#6 Super Slimy Science.
While parents often seek out learning experiences for their kids on vacation, it isn’t always easy, especially with younger ones and shorter attention spans. But, put them in right environment (the outdoors), give them engaging instructors and some slimy science and you’ll have them hooked for an entire morning. We showed up impromptu one day for another Keystone Resort “Kidtopia” offering – the “Super Snake River Science” program – where the kids spent the morning in the fresh mountain air learning how to sample and test stream water and getting their hands dirty during the super slimy – and super fun – scavenger hunt. And not only was it big hit, it was FREE.
#7 Family Festival Fun.
Another highlight for our kids was the free family festival offered at Keystone Resort on select summer weekends, and we were lucky enough to be there for one. From balloon artists, super slides, a giant bubble pool, and an epic hula hoop contest, our kiddos were content all day long. Yes, you heard me right…ALL. DAY. LONG. Now, that’s a vacation day any parent can appreciate.
#8 Going for Gold.
One of my favorite things about Breckenridge is its history as a pioneering gold-rush town. And the kids loved bringing home little pieces of this history when they had the chance to pan for “gold” at Breckenridge Epic Discovery. This kid-centric experience allowed them to try panning themselves, which for them was the mountain equivalent to hunting for buried treasure. Not to mention, the loot has been a big hit for show-and-tell at school.
#9 Inspiring Views.
I was genuinely surprised at how much my young children appreciated the awe-inspiring views that surrounded us. I suggested one evening to my sons that they might like to use their art supplies to draw and paint the landscape of Mt. Baldy from our balcony, not thinking it would last more than five minutes. At the end of the week, we came home with several paintings and colorful sketches that are undoubtedly some of our favorite family souvenirs.
#10 Alfresco dining.
Typically, one of my least favorite things to do with my kids is dine out. I’m just not a fan of trying to keep three kids at the table, eating their food and generally not fighting their way through dinner. But, when you have beautiful mountain weather that allows you to dine in a relaxed outdoor setting nearly any day you choose, it’s a recipe for dinnertime success. Our table was always full of margaritas, puzzles and a stack of UNO cards. And just like our mountain family vacation, it got two thumbs up.