The fall season in Breckenridge promises lower numbers of visitors and loads of gorgeous trails to hike
Fresh mountain air, history, the arts, outdoor adventure and amazing food—you can expect this (and more) when you visit Breckenridge, CO with your kids. We scoped out this lively mountain town in the fall and found its resident troll (a friendly one), bike paths perfect for beginning mountain bikers, and restaurants with a welcoming crew and delicious food. What more could you want? Well, maybe a ticket to Oktoberfest will send you over the edge.
1. The outdoor adventures are plentiful.
When you first think of Breckenridge, chances are you think of it as a premier destination for skiing and other winter sports. We actually think that the fall is really the ideal time to head to Breckenridge as its elevation makes it one of the first spots in the country to welcome autumn. The town itself sits at just over 9,000 feet in elevation and there are numerous hiking options nearby. We particularly liked driving up Boreas Pass Road to the Black Powder Pass trailhead. This hike takes you above the treeline and is perfect for seeing the whole area from above. Keep your eyes peeled for mountain goats and moose while you are there!
All throughout town, you can find ski shops that double as bike rental shops during the warm months like Elevation Cycles. Book a guided tour of the mountain bike trails with Colorado Adventure Guides to increase your skills or try something you've never done before. It's a great way to view the area from a different vantage point and explore as a family.
Keep in mind that Breckenridge's elevation can hit you hard when you arrive. Be sure to hydrate for a few days before you arrive as well as while you are in Breckenridge. And, reapply sunscreen when you are out and about.
2. Ways to explore the arts are around every corner.
From a downtown full of sculptures to live theater performances, Breckenridge is full of ways to explore the arts. We loved discovering these points of interest along Main Street as well as tracking down the famed Breckenridge Troll in a nearby park. Named Isak Heartstone, this 15-foot tall wooden troll sculpture is located on the Trollstigen Trail next to Illinois Gulch Trailhead. You can walk here from Main Street to check out this massive sculpture by Danish artist Thomas Dambo, who is known worldwide for bringing awareness to recycling and upcycling by building great things out of trash.
Bonus: you can even explore the area's public art using the self-guided audio tour.
3. The town is full of history.
One of the best ways for families to learn about this area's gold mining history is to head to the Country Boy Mine for a guided tour. Venture over 1,000 feet into the mountain to feel, hear, and smell what it was like to be a Colorado miner over 100 years ago. Kids will love this tour that ends with gold panning and a visit with the resident mini donkeys. Bonus: It's the perfect activity for a hot day as it's always super chilly inside the mine.
Insider tip: You don't need a car while you're in Breckenridge! You can get to the Country Boy Mine via the Breckenridge Free Ride bus service (purple route).
4. You can see the mountain in a different way when the snow isn't there.
A visit to Breckenridge isn't complete with a ride up the mountain to check out Epic Discovery. You board the free BreckConnect gondola right from downtown and it takes you up the mountain to find a ski resort transformed into a mountain amusement park. Little ones will enjoy the gondola ride itself and you can grab a meal at the top.
We recommend that you get the Adventure Pass so that you can try out all the activities like the mountain coaster, alpineer challenge course, gold runner coaster and rock climbing wall. There's even a special area for the shorter set where they can do activities that are more their speed like the lower-to-the-ground ropes course and bungee trampoline.
Epic Discovery is open through Labor Day with Sep. 10-12 added.
5. The food scene is both super chill and top-notch.
Gone are the days when dining out with kids means fast food. Breckenridge totally gets that the sweet spot for parents is good food in a relaxed environment where kids can be kids. One of our favorite dining spots in Breckenridge is Tin Plate Pizza. Located in an old mining cabin in the historic district, this spot is steeped in history. Home to the town's gold assayer, Tin Plate is where Colorado's largest gold nugget, colloquially named "Tom's Baby", was cleaned and weighed at 13.5 pounds in 1887. Go for the meatballs to start and then choose from a dozen pizza options like our favorite, the elote pizza that's topped with corn, roasted poblano peppers and goat cheese. All the pizzas are made with 100% sourdough and you can definitely taste the difference.
The world's highest distillery also makes its home in Breckenridge and diners love the rustic menus with absolutely enormous portions. Breckenridge Distillery has burgers for the kids and top-notch cocktails and tomahawk steaks for the parents. We loved the osso bucco that comes with buttered noodles and is definitely large enough to share. Snag their free shuttle to pick you up from your hotel so you don't have to pick a designated driver.
If you are looking for another great dining option with a sophisticated fine dining vibe, head to Rootstalk. Cut to the chase and go for the tasting menu so you can try menu favorites like the melon gazpacho and goat cheese agnolotti. The tasting menu is a six-course surprise and you'll love every bite. Located in a darling 1800s home, this is the spot to reserve if you have date night on the agenda.
5. Gravite Haus is the perfect family home base.
The music is pumping and the communal vibe is present from the minute you walk in the door at Gravity Haus. Families will love the various room options from a queen-over-queen bunk room to a king-plus-twin bunk bed room that will give the kids their own space.
Kids want to get some energy out after a day of traveling? Book some time to check out the property's trampoline. You should definitely plan to spend some time relaxing in the Japanese-inspired Onsen. Here you can book your own hot tub, perfect for when muscles are aching after a day of hiking and mountain biking.
Other property conveniences include an on-site restaurant, coffee bar, gear rentals and even a coworking space if your vacation is more of a workcation. Most of all, the staff is super helpful and willing to offer nearby hiking suggestions, dining reservations and whatever you need to make your family's vacation the best is can be.
6. You don't need to rent a car to get to Breckenridge.
Breckenridge has a very walkable downtown with plenty of free shuttles to get you where you need to go throughout the town. But how about getting there from Denver International Airport? You can ditch the rental car and book your flight via United to add on the United Landline Shuttle that will take you directly from the airport terminal to Breckenridge. Your bags will be automatically transferred from your incoming flight to the shuttle bus and you can enjoy all of the gorgeous scenery on the way to Breckenridge without any of the stress of mountain driving.
7. Breckenridge is gorgeous in any season.
For the full scoop on what you can expect in Breckenridge during any time of the year, check out gobreck.com. It's full of family-friendly itineraries, details about seasonal festivals like the polka worthy Oktoberfest and info on Breckenridge's hundreds of hiking trails.
—photos and story by Kate Loweth
Editor’s note: This trip was paid for by the Breckenridge Tourism Office but all opinions belong to the writer.