What is it about winter that seems to bring families together? Is it the anticipation of the holidays and the sweet memories of decorating (and eating) cookies? Sledding outside with your siblings? The feeling of warmth that comes with snuggling around the fire as a family on a snowy winter’s night, drinking hot chocolate and playing games? Those are some of my favorite winter experiences, both as kid growing up in America’s heartland and now as a Breckenridge local with my family and friends. There are so many warm moments to treasure, with many of them made possible by the cold and snow of winter. Many families plan all year for a trip to Breckenridge and want to make as many of those precious memories as possible – so here’s a list of must-dos for a family winter trip to Breckenridge, with special attention to those made possible by winter.
1. FREE Sledding at Carter Park
If this local park wasn’t in the Colorado Rockies, you’d swear you were in a Norman Rockwell scene in New England. This sledding hill in the middle of town (just a few blocks off Main Street) provided the slope for the town’s first ski hill and still offers thrills for kids of all ages. The views of the ski area are stunning, so this is a top spot for a family Facebook photo or Instagram post. A few things to consider:
- This is one of the only places to go sledding in Breckenridge so it is a popular spot (sledding is not permitted at Breckenridge Ski Resort). Consider going early or during the week to get the most of your time there.
- Carter Park is just that – a multi-use, town park. Sledding is walk up, sled down at your own risk. There are bathrooms, but no sled rentals. Many lodging companies and vacation rentals will have sleds for guest use, or you can usually buy one locally at either grocery store in town.
- Consider a helmet while sledding, especially for children. The more the hill is used the harder it can get, so this is a good safety consideration. Also – learning how to roll off your sledwill keep you from having to stuff your snow pants with Charmin!
2. Dog Sledding
Okay – THIS IS MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE THING TO DO IN COLORADO! Yes, I am shouting at you to do this! Breckenridge is home to Snow Cap Sled Dogs, one of the most respected ‘working dog’ kennels in the country, who operates a stunning 6-mile relay tour along an idyllic winding trail just a few miles north of town. The best part – you get to be the musher!
Children as young as five can take the helm of the sled or ride along as mom or dad “drive.”
These huskies love to work and play, and the guides are very informative (and super cool). Also – book early; these tours fill up quickly.
- Tip: There is no cell service and the cold can quickly zap a phone battery – so if you have a ‘real’ camera, bring it!
3. Family Private Lesson at Breckenridge Ski Resort
Did you know you don’t have to split the family up while taking lessons at the ski area? A family private lesson is a fun way to witness your kids’ first turns. Because it’s private, you can customize the day for your family’s needs, watch your kids learn and get a few pointers of your own. Bonus – you can skip the lines all day for more time on the slopes or a nice chat on the chairlift with your teen while their phone is tucked away in their jacket (if you really want long talk with them, jump on the C-Chair – it’s a 13 minute ride!).
- Tip: Get the best price and experience by booking lessons and lift tickets in advance at Breckenridge.com. You’ll save time and money by getting this done before you arrive. Half-day privates are also an option.
4. FREE BreckConnect Gondola Ride.
Even if some or all your family doesn’t ski or snowboard (although I suggest everyone try at least once) a ride in the FREE BreckConnect Gondola from town to the ski area’s Peak 8 base is still a must. Access the gondola from town near Breck’s transit center for a 20+ minute round trip over Cucumber Gulch, a high-alpine wetland preserve (keep your eyes out for Moose – they love to hang out here). Take in stunning views of the town and the entire valley. You can get off at the Peak 7 or 8 base areas for hot chocolate and people watching. Many of my friends with young kids will go once a week for a fun, free outing. Tip: the cabins aren’t heated, so be sure to dress warmly.
5. Free Main Street Trolley
Main Street Breckenridge is just shy of a mile long, perfect for a light afternoon or evening stroll through the hub of town. BUT I recently rode the free Main Street trolley with a two-year-old for an entirely new perspective of our main vein, in all his wonder and giggles. With many stops along Main Street, the trolley is easy to catch, an entertaining ride for wide-eyed toddlers and a sneaky way for parents and grandparents to save their legs for skiing. This is a must for any visitor (and even us locals)!
For anyone wanting a break from the wintery weather we love here in town, there are a few indoor options to keep your clan cozy:
- Ready Paint Fire! – More than just a paint-your-own pottery studio, Ready, Paint, Fire! is a place to create all kinds of art projects on pottery, canvas, with mosaic or glass. I love the Breck-specific options for a unique spin on local souvenirs. They also serve beer, wine and other snacks Tip: If pottery is your choice, make sure to allow for a 48-hour turnaround on the kiln.
- Downstairs at Eric’s Arcade – The Mayor’s popular sports bar is also home to a mini-arcade. My family loves to come here to play vintage Mrs. Pack-Man and Galaga, just a few of the 25 games located just outside the restaurant.
- Mountain Top Children’s Museum – With mountain-themed play areas and exhibits, young kids will absolutely love this place, they even have a ‘bear cave’ filled with stuffed teddy bears! It is fun, affordable and just for children 10 and under.
6. Ice Skating
No proper ski town is complete without an ice rink, and Breckenridge has a great facility at the Steven C West Ice Arena with a variety of fun programs and public ice skating– you can even try Curling! Both admission ($8/adults, $6/children) and skate rentals ($4) are extremely affordable, making this perfect for an afternoon or night out with the family.
- Tip: check out their calendar in advance for public skate times at the indoor and outdoor rinks, Disco Night festivities and more!
7. Sleigh Rides
There are many ways to explore our little winter wonderland and I’d suggest the one or two-horse open sleigh option for a gentle, cozy way to travel through the White River National Forest Breckenridge calls home. There are many options, from hot-chocolate filled, daytime sightseeing tours to entertaining, evening dinner sleigh rides and even private tours for larger families and gatherings. There are two sleigh ride companies accessible from Breck, Golden Horseshoe Tours and Two Below Zero.
- Tip: a clear night under the stars in the mountains is not to be missed, and they usually bring colder temperatures. Make sure everyone has hats and gloves to go along with winter coats.
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