Last summer, I spent my time planning a family winter vacation in Colorado. It’s been on my radar for some time — ever since I read Matt Damon’s story of how he gazed at the beauty of Colorado while he was stuck in a cave. Smiling faces hang from the branches of a snow-covered pine tree. A small child grabs his mother’s hand at the top of a red run. The crisp Colorado air fills your lungs as you take your first steps toward the lodge. At Arapahoe Basin, family winter vacations are filled with fun and adventure.
When many people think of winter vacations, snow, sledding, and being trapped indoors may come to mind. However, our family understands the special opportunity that winter brings. We live less than seven miles from world-class ski resorts where we have season passes. The family can spend multiple hours each day on the mountain without needing a lift ticket. Do you have family comprised of who aren’t all crazy about what they each enjoy? Then you may have a challenge on your hands when arranging your vacation schedule. No one wants to stay in a resort that doesn’t do it for them.
Family Winter Vacation Colorado
If you’re looking for a family-friendly vacation spot to enjoy this winter in Colorado, you’ve got a lot of great choices. Long known for its stunning Rocky Mountains, unique rock formations, and a plethora of indoor and outdoor activities to enjoy year round, Colorado has a lot to offer the winter vacationer. We’ve done the research for you and put together a list of the top 10 Colorado family vacation destinations for you and your loved ones to enjoy this winter.
This resort has four mountains of fun and a secure spot on the top 10 family ski resort list thanks to its amazing ski schools and family-friendly terrain, not to mention all the fun activities available when you’re not skiing. The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) free naturalist-led ski tours every day at the top of the Elk Camp ski lift in Snowmass, where kids and adults who are intermediate-level skiers can learn about local wildlife, avalanches, and animal tracking. ACES operates a second location near Aspen’s post office, where snowshoes can be borrowed at no charge to explore the trail around the pretty nature preserve and lake. Take a snowmobile ride to North America’s most photographed mountains, Maroon Bells, and warm up with a steaming mug of hot cocoa. Experience an artistic adventure during your Colorado family vacation, at the Aspen Art Museum offering free admission, art supplies and museum activity packets for the kids, along with kid-friendly exhibition guides.
Estes Park / Rocky Mountain National Park
This stunning area of Colorado offers numerous outdoor programs and activities for children and families to enjoy during a winter vacation. Have an adventure with guided snowshoe treks, jeep tours, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, abundant wildlife, fishing, horseback riding, geocaching, skiing, and snowmobiling. The paved walkway around Lake Estes is accessible for all ages and easy to navigate all year round. It is level and safe for exploring on foot, in a wheelchair, or on a bicycle. Enjoy a guided tour and feast on a delicious brunch or lunch at the famous Stanley Hotel. Explore the mountains at Rocky Mountain National Park. Stay in a winter cabin with a wood burning fireplace at the YMCA of the Rockies on the edge of the park and cozy up for a family night indoors.
Skiing is just one idea for winter fun during your family vacation to Vail. If skiing’s not your thing, Vail also has several area sledding hills for family fun, or take the family to one of two scenic outdoor ice skating rinks in town. For some kid-centric fun try the Imagination Station in the Lionshead Parking Structure. Kids of all ages can enjoy a creative learning experience with areas designated for experimental play to virtual reality rooms. Then, warm up with hot chocolate or enjoy some delicious s’mores by an outdoor fire.
This Colorado vacation spot is often called a winter paradise by both first-time and returning vacationers with many varieties of winter fun for the whole family. If you’re not sure what to do, lessons and guided tours will help you get outdoors and try your hand at everything from skiing to fly fishing, dog sledding to snowboarding. Take a free gondola ride and enjoy the view on a crystal-clear winter day. Then, take the whole family on a dinner sleigh ride that includes entertainment and an elegant dining experience everyone will enjoy. Learn more about the town’s history on a walking or hiking tour of area historic sites, including saloon and ghost tours.
In Boulder, there are tours to suit every taste in this high-altitude town. Great restaurants, entertainment, and shopping excursions await you and your family at the Pearl Street Mall, a famous Boulder attraction that features twinkling holiday lights during the winter months, as does the city’s Central Park. Make a trip to Boulder’s excellent natural history museum, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, the Fiske Planetarium, Leanin’Tree Museum of Western Art, NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, or the Celestial Seasonings tea factory (located on the aptly named Sleepytime Drive). For Colorado-made art, souvenirs and trinkets, check out the Art Mart or The Wind store.
With over 1,400 acres of skiable terrain and the first ski resort in the U.S. to launch an extreme skiing contest, Crested Butte has made its mark on the winter ski scene as a haven for extreme skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts. However, skiing is available to all skill levels at the Nordic Center’s groomed trails. Guided winter tours are also offered to provide visitors a safe way to explore the area. For an indoor adventure, the Trailhead Children’s Museum is fun for all ages.
Kids 12 and under ski free at this Colorado ski resort with two nights of booked lodging. Camp Keystone ski school teaches kids 3 years of age and older how to ski, with snacks and an indoor play area. Ice skating on the largest Zamboni-maintained outdoor ice skating rink in North America, winter snow tubing on the highest tubing hill in the world, and the world’s largest snow fort to explore mean there’s plenty of outdoor fun to be had without ever strapping on a pair of skis. Kidtopia offers canvas painting and face painting opportunities, a cookie hour, and pre-fired ceramics your child can paint and pick up the next day.
Located just an hour and a half south of Denver, this bustling Colorado city is home to America’s Mountain, Pike’s Peak, and the world-famous Garden of the Gods state park, both popular destinations for visiting families. Visit Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the country’s only mountaintop zoo, and see over 750 animals, stop into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, check out ancient cliff dwellings in nearby Maintou Springs, or spend an afternoon at the Pioneer Museum. Take a scenic train ride at the Royal Gorge Route Railroad or the Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad for breathtaking views and a memorable family experience. You can even visit the North Pole, home of Santa’s workshop, and meet the man himself. This holiday-themed amusement park is open from May through Christmas Eve.
Home to Colorado State University, this town offers tons of holiday activities for families. The Museum of Discovery is a great way to spend an afternoon enjoying some hands-on learning fun and interactive exhibits. During the holiday season, Old Town Square is full of music from Santa’s concertina and harmonica, and kiddies can have their photo taken with Santa and spend some time in his workshop, during Wednesdays through Sundays afternoons until Christmas Eve. Enjoy a family stroll through the Garden of Lights, whimsically decorated and twinkling with thousands of LED lights. Visit the perennial flowerbeds and vegetable gardens and experience a brilliant blue LED pond created entirely from holiday lights. During the weekends, visit with Santa on Saturdays and Sundays listen to holiday music, see the canine troupe known as the Sugar Plum Hairies, and enjoy warm drinks at The Garden’s Visitor Center.
The Mile High City of Denver consistently ranks in the Top 10 Best Places to live in the United States and is a top vacation choice for families year round. Rich in Western history, Denver proudly hosts the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo January 12–27, 2019, one of the country’s largest horse shows and one of the world’s richest regular season professional rodeos. This unique event offers up tons of family fun right in downtown Denver. With a variety of kid-friendly activities to choose from, including the Denver Zoo, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus, Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison and the Denver U.S. Mint, you’re bound find a wide range of activities everyone will enjoy on your family trip to Denver.
No matter where you find yourself in Colorado this winter, there’s bound to be a family-friendly vacation destination with lots of indoor and outdoor opportunities for you and your loved ones to create lasting memories and enjoy winter fun. When you need some delicious homemade food to fuel all your activities, stop by and enjoy a meal at The Original Pancake House, with two locations in the Denver area at Cherry Hills or Denver Tech Center, and experience the made-from-scratch goodness that makes breakfast at America’s finest pancake house a great idea any day of the week from 6:00 am to 2:00 pm. We look forward to welcoming you and your family!