Epic Colorado Family Vacations

Epic Colorado Family Vacations

What’s your family tourist destination this summer? Can I suggest several Colorado family vacations? I’m a little biased, but I really think Colorado is the perfect state for family vacations. If you’re a nature person or not, kids THRIVE when they’re outside and near a stream or in the mountains. Whether it’s hiking, fishing, kayaking, riding whitewater rapids, camping, or reading a book by the mountain lake, it’s an ideal spot for kids’ activities and empowerment.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Colorado family vacations pin

This summer we’re all about exploring and appreciating our own backyard. By that, I mean a good time to appreciate all the awesome travel destinations nearby our home in northern Colorado! We’ll be heading to Grand Lake for a few days, be doing some camping in various locations, getting the kids out to summer camp with their peers, and doing day trips to Denver. Of course, we have some more travel lined up, but that’s another post. We can’t wait!

Therefore, I thought it would be appropriate to start my list of EPIC Colorado family vacations close to home. My own hometown, in fact, Greeley, Colorado. If you haven’t, dive into my blog post linked below, and if you have, still read all about it. With an insider’s perspective, you’re sure to find something new and fun to explore!

Simply EPIC Colorado Family Vacations

Things to do in Greeley, Colorado

Recently, I was given the opportunity to collaborate with a fellow blogger and guest post on her website A Book Lover’s Adventures. Do you know what I was asked to do? Write a blog post for tourists from an insider’s view of my own hometown. How many of you think about your hometown as a travel destination? To be honest, I certainly hadn’t much. I LOVE my hometown and am proud of it, but it’s always been Denver or the nearby Rocky Mountains that seem to be the more natural tourist draw. If you have the chance to come through I know you’ll love it too.

Click over to A Book Lover’s Adventures to read all about awesome things to do in Greeley, Colorado.

Centennial Village, Greeley, Colorado

Things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado

Have you been to Breckenridge, Colorado? When you hear the name, what do you think? If you think skiing you’re right on. However, did you know Breckenridge is one of those amazing mountain towns with a TON of stuff to do for families in any season? I have to say I think summer’s my favorite season in Breckenridge. The old town’s fabulous, and did you know they hold an excellent summer music festival? Are you at all into concerts every night with beautiful mountain scenery? It’s the place for you!

We were there most recently in spring at the end of the ski season with a good dose of spring snow. To learn more things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids, see the blog post here.

Breckenridge snowboards with slope in background

Things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

Grand Lake, Colorado. Sigh. This is one of my favorite places on earth, and I’ve been nearly every summer since I was about six years old! There are many places I might tire of going that often, but not Grand Lake. For us as a family, it’s the perfect place to relax, be in nature, and enjoy the small mountain town and its residents. Kids can build castles on the beach, swim, fish, make s’mores, play on the playground, hike, marvel at the moose walking by the cabin, and just be a kid in the Rocky Mountains. As a mom, this is an incredibly relaxing trip because the kids are so easily occupied, and I can enjoy my morning coffee staring out over the lake with Mount Baldy (Mount Craig) looking down!

Learn more and read the blog post here!

Colorado family vacations, Grand Lake, Old Baldy

Things to do in Estes Park, Colorado

Estes Park, Colorado is another amazing Colorado destination for families. I have SO many memories from my own childhood and now with my own kids in this popular town. If you want to shop, play miniature golf, head out to the local YMCA, and so much more all in a spectacular Rocky Mountain paradise, you need to head here.

We LOVE to get out and hike so click here to see the Best Estes Park hikes for kids.

Half the fun of travel is eating, right? Click here to learn more about Estes Park restaurants with character.

View of Estes Park, Colorado

Things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park in winter

If you love Estes Park, no doubt the family with also fall in love with Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll find wildlife such as elk, coyotes, or bighorn sheep in any season, and it’s a great place to camp in one of the park campgrounds. We love it any time of year but especially in winter when the crowds are down slightly and you have time to explore.

Read all about what there is to do with kids in Rocky Mountain National Park in winter here.

Rocky Mountain National Park in winter elk

 

Planning a trip to New Mexico?

Check out the family-friendly, beautiful Ruidoso, New Mexico!

Ski Apache view, Ruidoso, New Mexico

Things to do in Denver, Colorado

If you fly into Colorado or most of the time even drive, you’ll probably head through our beautiful capital, Denver, Colorado. Denver has SO many amazing things to do with kids like the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Children’s Museum, the Botanic Gardens, the Butterfly Pavilion, and more! We make day trips fairly often as a family and are so lucky to be nearby to take advantage of all the interactive educational opportunities for kids. Denver is always a great base for a Colorado vacation or a vacation itself.

Things to do in Denver, Aquarium entrance

If you’re heading to Denver check out my articles on:

The PERFECT Denver Zoo trip and

The AMAZING Denver Downtown Aquarium

Visit Santa’s Workshop

Is Christmas the favorite holiday at your house? Well, you will want to make the day trip from Colorado Springs to North Pole, Colorado. Santa’s Workshop is a theme park set in the mountains where it’s always Christmastime and full of fun! Don’t expect a modern day Disney World or Six Flags, this is a place built in the 60’s, and it truly feels like a nostalgic step back in time. Be a kid again. There are SO many rides for the young and old; it’s a great day out.

Click here to see more and get my tips for visiting Santa’s Workshop

Santa's Workshop Colorado elves

Family camping tips and free printable packing checklist

Near all of these scenic family travel destinations, there are opportunities for camping. If you have an RV or love tent camping, you’ll find the perfect spot. So pull out those sleeping bags and hiking gear and let’s get ready for summer!

Check out my family camping tips and free printable packing checklist here!

Campsite sunrise view, feature

Are you convinced? Go Colorado family vacations

I hope you plan several perfect Colorado family vacations or camping trips! The sun will lift your mood, the mountains will call, the trees will rustle, and if you’re like me, you’ll be in your happy place. I think it’s so important to teach kids to appreciate nature and take care of it for the future. Also, they will see the joys of an active outdoor lifestyle and have the chance to embrace it for themselves.

Now, I have to admit I haven’t covered nearly enough of the state and need to remedy that. Where else are your favorite Colorado family travel destinations?

Tell me in the comments, where shall we adventure next?

Things To Do In Breckenridge, Colorado With Kids

Things To Do In Breckenridge, Colorado With Kids

Are you planning a mountain vacation? Do you need things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids? There’s always skiing, but what else is there to do in winter or even summer? We’ve got you covered! Recently we had the opportunity to visit Breckenridge for a long weekend and had a blast with the kids.

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This past weekend we got a deal on a hotel and decided it would be a fun weekend to explore Breckenridge but not make it a ski weekend. We wanted to relax, hang out as a family, and have fun! There are not a lot of places in the world with a better view than Breckenridge so my arm doesn’t need a lot of twisting to head on up there.

As a kid, I remember heading up to Breckenridge usually in the summer. My favorite thing to do was to ride the alpine slide, or sleds on rails, down the ski slopes. Most of the ski areas around have one as a part of their summer activities to draw in tourists.

Another thing I’ve always loved about the town is that there’s ALWAYS some festival or event going on. The Breckenridge Music Festival is fabulous if you are at all interested in orchestral music. One year, I think I was a freshman in high school, I attended a weeklong music camp and focused on flute and piano all day. Every evening of the camp we attended the nightly music festival performance, and I was in heaven.

Things to do in Breckenridge, CO with kids

8 things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids

This last time we were in Breckenridge, it was the end of the ski season. Still a good snow, but at the very end before it starts to turn to mud. Since we weren’t determined to ski the whole time we were able to find quite a few great activities to do as a family. If you head up I hope you try some of these things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado too!

1. Breckenridge Gondola

First of all, the Gondola. The Gondola is a great thing to do with kids once or more a day because hey, it’s FREE!! During the ski season, it runs from 9 am to 6 pm seven days a week. You can ride from the base parking all the way up with stops at Shock Hill, Peak 7, and Peak 8. It’s great even if you’re not skiing to go up to the top to eat, explore and see the views, check out the new hotels, or to take it up to go snowshoeing.

Eight people can fit in the enclosed gondola cars, and I found everyone in our cars always eager to encourage each other and share their experience so far in town. A lot of the people we ran into were escaping offices in Denver for the weekend and just could not quit smiling they were so happy to be up in the mountains. The Breckenridge Gondola is one of many awesome things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids.

Breckenridge gondola winter view

2. High Line Railroad Park and Playground

189 Boreas Pass Road, Breckenridge

Do you have a Thomas the Tank Engine obsessed child in your household? While my son is not quite so into it as he once was, this High Line Railroad Park was a HUGE hit. On display, just outside in the park, you’ll find Engine No. 9, one of the few remaining narrow gauge engines that once braved the precarious mountain passes. Think Skarloey and Peter Sam. As a bonus, it’s even fitted with a huge snowplow just like Thomas is always grumbling about. If that means nothing to you just move on, but it’s a fun tie-in for young kids! 😉

Breckenridge narrow gauge steam engine

You’ll also find a caboose and various other cars and memorabilia around. It’s so much fun to see the engine detail up close and to try to figure out how it all works. We actually easily explored the area with snow on the ground, and it was a much-needed play time for my kids. The playground next to the trains was a lot of fun, a good way to get in some more exercise and laughter.

3. Stephen C. West Ice Arena

If your kids want to try out some ice skating, head over to the Steven C. West Ice Arena. It’s right next to the High Line Railroad Park and has a ton of fun options for everyone. They’re open seven days a week, but I would call (970-547-9974) or check the website beforehand to verify the daily schedule. However, there are choice activities for the entire family. Join the free skate indoors or outdoors. Maybe you’re into figure skating or want to try your hand at curling! They have something for you!

Ice arena & railroad park, Breckenridge

Love Colorado mountain towns?

Read all about the perfect family-friendly mountain getaway in Grand Lake, Colorado!

Grand Lake, Colorado best of 2017

4. Carter Park Sled Hill

300 S. High Street, Breckenridge

Are you still looking for things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids? I hope so because this is a good one! We got an insider tip from a woman working at our hotel about this great sledding hill just over at Carter Park. We brought a sled with us, but the hotel also had stacks of them you could borrow while you were there.

Things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado sledding

Many locals use this hill for a fun afternoon of sledding. However, on the day we went out there, the sledding hill had only two other families out there with us. I was shocked because it was one of the busiest, craziest days of the ski season, and the ski slopes were more than a little packed.

Plan to get your exercise because yes, you have to walk back up the hill. It didn’t seem to bother the kids too much, and in fact, they wanted to stay on there into the evening! Unfortunately, my husband wore out pulling the child up the hill in one of the sleds, but while they did that I got to admire the magnificent view. This is a place to see. Have fun!

5. Ready Paint Fire

Okay, switching gears here. Do you like to paint? Make pottery? Fire things in kilns? Well then! Take a rest from all the outdoor activities and check out Ready Paint Fire. Have you always wanted to make a mosaic or fuse glass together as abstract art?

This place is awesome! Truly, it’s a place to be enjoyed by the entire family ages 3-80. Plan to spend a couple of hours and make a piece of art and share fun and laughter with the family. It’s a very different activity and one the kids can really get into.

Tip: Check the local guidebooks found at most hotels for coupons because there is a studio fee along with different costs depending on what you want to do!

Breckenridge Rail Road Park view

6. Breckenridge Recreation Center

If the kids get sick of the hotel pool or yours doesn’t have one, you need to visit the Breckenridge Recreation Center. After all the fun in the snow switch to warm and water! What kid (or dad) doesn’t like an excellent water slide? It’s obviously perfect in summer too.

If swimming’s not your thing, they also have an indoor rock-climbing wall, gymnasium, racquetball court, indoor track, and aerobic/dance studios. I even heard mention of fencing classes. Check out their website for complete information here. Tempting!

7. Hiking, snowshoeing, and bike trails

Breckenridge is well-known for being great for bike-riding. There are paved trails through town and well-maintained trails all around the area. My family loves to snowshoe, and so in winter, many of the bike trails double as awesome snowshoe hikes. It depends on the age of your kids, but even a short walk or hike can be memorable for them up in the beauty of the mountains. My son tends to remember it for making him TIRED, but you know, it’s good for them! Am I right?!

Breckenridge bicycle path with snow

Just next to the gondola you’ll find one of the paved bike trails, and you can easily get a map of those online, from a local store, or your hotel. For some snowshoe trail options, click here. I remember when I was younger and came up with a good friend of mine, we brought our bikes. Her dad loaded all the bikes and drove us to the top of one of the slopes, and we got to ride our bikes downhill all the way back to town. I thought it was such a good idea, thus avoiding the difficult uphill climb!

8. Dog Sledding or Snowmobiling

When you were young did you read Jack London and imagine you were going to be in that great sled dog race the Iditarod? Scott O’Dell, Jack London, and several other authors I read gave great accounts of the preparation and entire Iditarod experience, and at about age 10 I was determined to participate.


While unfortunately, that dream didn’t come true, did you know there are places where you can at least go dog sledding? Oh, yes, my friend. You too can mush the dogs and pose for an action photo of you seriously fighting the cold and bonding with your trusted sled dogs.

At Good Times Adventures you can take the whole family dog sledding or snowmobiling. This is one of my favorite things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado. For more information see here!

BONUS!

2 Below Zero

I know I said 8, but here’s another possible awesome thing to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids! If you head on over to 2 Below Zero you will have an amazing sleigh ride or chuckwagon ride (depends on the season) with a chuckwagon dinner, musical and/or comedy entertainment and fun! The winter sleigh ride is about 2 hours and 15 minutes or so and includes a sleigh ride, dinner, and musical entertainment. My family LOVES these kinds of places, and it’s so awesome to make an event out of your location, its cultural history, and FOOD! 

Breckenridge sunny day, snowy mountain

What other things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado will you try out?

I absolutely LOVE being in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Moreover, the more you get kids out in nature the better I tend to think. Teach them an appreciation of nature, a love of exercise and the outdoors, and they have an outlet for life. So many problems can be solved with a good hike and time to think.

Where are your favorite family vacation destinations to get the family outside and moving?

Family Camping Checklist And Must Haves

Family Camping Checklist And Must Haves

Now is the perfect time to be talking about family camping preparations because hey it’s just decided to start SNOWING! Do you know what? I’ll let you in on a little secret. Go ahead and go through your family camping checklist. There’s never a bad time to plan for a camping trip, and I’m in Colorado so since it’s 25 degrees Farenheit right now, tomorrow it should be 74 again, right? Because that’s what happens here!

This post contains affiliate links which means I make a very small percentage if you click through and purchase something. All opinions are strictly my own!

Family camping checklist, campfire pin

Let me first tell you what can happen on a badly planned family camping trip. Last summer we decided on a whim to grab that camping site that had just been released on the website in Rocky Mountain National Park at the Moraine Park Campground. What luck! That place is crazy busy in the summer and we hadn’t booked ours months in advance. We threw the tent, some food, and the kids in the car and set off to enjoy the mountains.

The BAD Camping Experience

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my Rocky Mountains, but what ensued was NOT a pleasurable experience. I did NOT use a family camping checklist. Our campsite was in the middle of a group of sites in the large campground, although at first, we didn’t think it was too close to others. We got our tent up and sent the kids to look for pinecones and bugs. Unfortunately, there’s not a river or lake or a lot to do at that campsite, and we were sort of pinned in. We’d forgotten our normal card games and had to drive out of the campground to do much hiking or other activity.

That night the ground was hard, the hole in our camping mattress painfully evident. Not that we could sleep anyway because it was so cold one of the people at the next campsite turned their car on and ran the heater ALL NIGHT. YES!! All night the hum of the car and the burr of it when the heater came back on caused none of us to get much sleep. By morning we were so tired, grouchy, and picking at one another that we picked up things and went home. It was not like a bear attacked our food and destroyed our campsite, it was just NOT the ideal family camping trip in nature.

SO what did that teach us? PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!! With kids, my sanity revolves around checklists and planning and preparing for every eventuality. Of course, so many people’s personalities are different, but even a little planning can’t hurt!

Prep the kids and test your gear with a trial run

Rocky Mountain National Park tree view

What do you mean by a trial run you may be thinking!? I mean exactly that. If you haven’t used your camping gear for a while, pull it all out and build up a grand event for the kids to CAMP IN THE BACKYARD!! Ooh! Try out some of your favorite or new camping recipes modified for your kitchen, but take it outdoors to eat in camping chairs by the tent. Test out your headlamps, flashlights, even the camp stove if you use one. Also, I like to shake out the tent and sleeping bags to air them a bit and make sure they’ve all been cleaned since the downpour and mud slosh of the last trip!

Another thing that I love about a backyard campout is that it’s a great trial run for the kids! If you have young ones who’ve never camped before it can be scary. In the backyard, it still can be but with easy access to the house. Once the tent and set up is more familiar to a child, they will be more comfortable with it in a foreign setting, your desired campground. Baby steps, right?

Family camping checklist picture, campsite

Reserve your campsite in advance

If you are headed to a national park or a popular campground, be sure to book your campsite online in ADVANCE. The Rocky Mountain National Park campgrounds open up reservations six months in advance, and if you’re planning to go there I suggest you book it as soon as you can.

First, choose your campground. What activities are there around for the kids to do? Do you want to be by a good fishing spot, a lake or a river? Do you want to be close to accessible hikes or areas for wildlife viewing? Or do you just want a space to hang out, play cards, talk, and hang out around a campfire? Some campgrounds even have games like horseshoes, putt-putt, and other things children like to do. Do you need electricity and a bathroom? Decide, what is it you want out of the campsite area?

Second, study the campground map and look at the campsite pictures if there are any. Are you a family that likes to be in the middle of things among a lot of people at a party or more separated with space and a good view? Book your campsite accordingly! If you’ve never been there, consult someone who has or Google reviews for the specific campground. Another thing, be sure the review is recent so you know there hasn’t been a fire or attack of pine beetles or something to drastically change the area!

Third, book your campsite on-line! Find the website for the campground you’ve chosen and get your reservation booked!!

Love to go hiking with your kids?

Check out these awesome Estes Park, Colorado hikes for kids and family!

Estes Park hikes for kids, mountain with golden aspens

Camping Gear

When you’re looking at gear for a camping trip a lot of it depends on the length of time you’re going to be camping and what exactly you’re wanting to do. I’ve admitted I’m no longer a hardcore, a week at a time camper with kids, but I do like a two-night trip. When you do your trial run fun backyard campout you can determine what gear you still may need to get. I would really LOVE to have this entire awesome new tent setup from Cinch!, with solar charging hookups and super easy setup and takedown. However, for our short-term camping, our old tent will probably do just fine! What kind of tent’s on your family camping checklist?

Cinch!

I highly recommend downloading my family camping checklist. You can write all over it, add things, and cross things off as you need. As a mom going in a million directions I know I need something written down clearly defining the next step. Truly, I’ve learned because I’ve had too many experiences where I’ve said oh, I’ll remember that! And then, of course, I don’t, and it gets left in the storage area in the basement.


Sign up for Explorer Momma’s newsletter and as a bonus download this amazing family camping checklist today!

Family camping checklist preview

Family Camping Food

Food! There are so many fun camping recipes on Pinterest I encourage you to find a few new ones to please the family. As a kid, I still remember how much fun it was to wrap my packet of food up in foil and throw it in the fire to cook. How in the world did the adults let me do that?! As a strict rule follower, it was a great release and rebellion for me without really rebelling. Of course, there’s always a traditional s’more to be had as well!

If you are wanting to cook with a campfire or just sit around one, always check for fire restrictions or bans at your campsite before you go!

With food, plan out your days. What will you eat for each meal? What are your snacks? Will it spoil or need to be kept iced? There are a lot of things to think about with food, and my preferred short trips make it a lot easier than a couple week campout, although that is totally doable also.

Another thing to think about is how you can keep your food away from the wildlife in the area. Can you contain it at night so the bears don’t sniff out your camp? (Often there’s a locked “bear box” assigned to campsites to keep food if that’s a problem in the area). Maybe you can tie all the food in a bag up in a tree or in your car? Although, I’ve heard of bears getting into cars as well! Talk to the ranger or campsite director about best practices in regard to food storage.

PLEASE! When you plan out your food, remember you also have to cart out all your trash or find an appropriate receptacle for it!! Leave nature and your campsite as it was when you found it!

Tent camping in the Rocky Mountains

Things to do while camping

I mentioned this briefly before, but think about what things you want to do with the kids or friends while you’re there. Find out what’s available and what will work for you all to do. Add the necessary items to your family camping checklist.

  1. Where are the best nearest hikes?
  2. Can you fish in the area? Who all needs a fishing license?
  3. Can you boat or kayak?
  4. Bring card games to play during a downpour in your tent!
  5. Frisbee, baseball, soccer, or other sports
  6. Plan a nature scavenger hunt for the kids.
  7. Give the kids an old camera and tell them to take pictures of as many different: leaves, pine cones, bugs, birds, animals, or whatever’s around, they can. My son LOVES this and can do it for hours.
  8. Create a nature journal. This is more my daughter’s style. She loves to draw and write about the things she sees. I don’t like to give it too many rules so she can be creative, but you can give suggestions. Why don’t you draw all the flowers, butterflies, or animals you find? Can you imagine a story about that tree and write it out?

Family camping trip, kids hiking

What’s left on your family camping checklist?

Family camping and camping on your own or with friends are two ENTIRELY different animals. I used to love to pack in all my gear and tent on my back 5 miles or more to the backcountry campsite where there wouldn’t be anyone else around. Peaceful. Quiet. Serene.

Add young kids to that equation, and you are headed for a disaster of high magnitude!! Now, as a family, our ideal camping experience is 2 nights at a campground site. In addition, this site is close enough to walk back to the car, but separated enough from the other campsites so you still feel the peace of the great outdoors.

You can have an amazing experience, but it does take some patience and planning. And flexibility, which is what I always have to work on!! I hope you printed your family camping checklist and will use it this summer!

Get your family outside and run! Soak in the sun and stare at the stars. Give it a chance, and planned properly with a family camping checklist, you will LOVE your time and memories made.

Now here’s a question for you! Where are some of your favorite family camping spots all over the world?

 Family camping checklist preview1

Things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

Things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

Are you ready to start planning the perfect summer family vacations and adventures? A lot of times I start planning much earlier in the year, but when spring hits I allow myself to really dig into the details and begin to daydream about summer days on the lake. We love to find new things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado, our absolute favorite lake retreat!

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Did you know Grand Lake is the largest natural lake (meaning not man-made) in Colorado? Also, it’s on the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park so can be a great base to avoid the crowds of Estes Park and explore not only the Grand Lake area but the Park as well. There are just so many things to love about Grand Lake, from the historic boardwalk to the burger and ice cream shop on the beach, to the spectacular hikes nearby.

So let’s dig in. What are some of the best things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado as a family?

Things to do in Grand Lake Colorado

Awesome things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

Why do I love Grand Lake so much? For me, it’s the perfect little mountain town on the lake with charm and old-time character. It’s not pretentious, and nearly everyone’s friendly and ready to enjoy themselves on the lake. In addition, it’s super kid-friendly. Did I mention it’s also the most beautiful idyllic spot?? So, if you get tired of reading a book in your beach chair by the lake or your kids drag you away, here are some fun and entertaining things to do.

Trail Ridge Road

To get to Grand Lake, we like to head west from Estes Park, through Rocky Mountain National Park. The highlight of this route is the awesome Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous road in the United States. Let me tell you, there are some amazing views to be had, and I highly recommend taking your time. Stop to take pictures, explore the visitor’s center, and take the Alpine Ridge trail hike at the top. It’s not a long hike, only .6 miles roundtrip; however, you gain 200 feet so can be a bit of a climb. Slow down and breathe in the views. You won’t regret it!

Trail Ridge Road, Things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

Play on the beach

Shoveling sand in Grand Lake

Here’s a great way to stay relax and enjoy the view as you read a book and drink your coffee next to the lake. There are a couple of sand beach locations, one in town and open to the public between Grand Lake Marina and Headwaters Marina. We like to stay in one of the cabins in Lemmon Lodge with its own beach and kids’ play structure. Grab a floaty and some sand castle supplies, and the kids are set for the afternoon!

My morning coffee spot Grand Lake, Colorado

Get some hiking on!

There are some awesome hikes around Grand Lake, at many different levels depending on who’s going. I can’t think of many better things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado than some good hikes. Try one out with your family!

Adam’s Falls – easy

Adam's Falls, Things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

From the East Inlet Trailhead, Adam’s Falls is a great short hike with an impressive reward at the end. I like this hike because it’s accessible to nearly everyone, and kids feel a good sense of accomplishment when they reach the falls. When I was little I remember my father hanging off the side taking pictures, and I was scared to death he was going to fall in. I think he enjoyed that. However! Since then they’ve added more stone walls to block off dangerous areas and make it more kid and family friendly. Also, it doesn’t take very long if you need an activity because it’s only .9 miles roundtrip.

Cascade Falls – medium

Grand Lake wildflowers

If you start at the North Inlet Trailhead, Cascade Falls is a good 6.8-mile roundtrip hike with amazing views and falls. I like it because there’s only a 430-foot elevation gain and doable with older kids. In this area, we’ve seen moose and deer and other wildlife so be on the lookout! It’s also a good trail to spot wildflowers along the trail.

Shadow Mountain Lookout – hard

Shadow Mountain Fire Lookout

I’m classifying this hike as hard because it’s difficult for me, and at the ages of 5 and 9 my kids would not get very far. However, it’s a beautiful hike with far-reaching views from the lookout point at the top, and I do recommend it for adults or older, experienced kids. The hike begins at the East Shore Trailhead and is about 9.6 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1,635 feet. Good luck!

View from Shadow Mountain

There are many more hikes around, and it’s always good to ask in one of the local hiking shops which hike is good at the moment. For people who are on them all the time, they can generally tell you which ones are in good shape or difficult to navigate because of snow or mud. I also like to hear which area is their current favorite. You can get some good recommendations!

Are you also headed to Estes Park, Colorado?

Estes Park hikes for kids, mountain with golden aspens

Fishing things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

Fishing is my husband’s favorite activity when we get to Grand Lake. There are great opportunities to catch trout, especially rainbow, brown, and lake trout. I’ve been advised the best time is early morning and the best spot where the river runs into the lake. Of course, there are many great fishing spots from land or even from a boat on the lake. If you forget to purchase a Colorado fishing license, most marinas, fishing tackle shops, and even some gas stations sell them. Currently, kids and seniors fish for free, although seniors must still obtain a license. When you get your license be sure to also grab the year’s Colorado Fishing Brochure containing regulations and information on the area.

Fishing things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

My son told me recently he’s planning to catch a lot of seaweed and sticks because he doesn’t want to put a hook in the fish. A kind soul.

Get out on the lake

There are many options to get you and your family out floating on Grand Lake. Truly, there are so many things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado. As a family, we like to sometimes take the tour boat from the Headwater’s Marina next to the public beach. We like to take it around the lake because the drivers give you the history of the area, lake facts like depths and fishing, and they also point out all the cabins and the famous people who’ve lived there. You’ll also get random facts about which ones are accessible by road or only by boat or snowmobile.

Swimming in Grand Lake Colorado

At several of the marinas, you can rent a canoe, paddleboat, motorboat, pontoon boat, kayak or the newest fad – a stand-up paddleboard (SUP). Have you tried out a stand-up paddleboard? They’re those things that look like big surfboards you stand on with a paddle. I’ve even seen people doing yoga on them, but so far I’ve been a chicken to try one. Therefore, this summer’s the time! I will get out on an SUP, and it’s really not the end of the world if you fall in, right? 😉

Nature hunt

Momma and baby moose, things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

My kids always love to go out on what we call a “nature hunt”. This is one of their favorite things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado. You can do this on a hike, around town, or just as you wander around your cabin. Be on the lookout for animals such as hummingbirds, deer, elk, moose, coyotes. We try to take pictures when we can, and my daughter likes to draw a picture of each animal spotted in your journal. There are also some beautiful wildflowers and plants to see around, and we always love seeing the Colorado state flower, the Columbine.

Kauffman House Museum

I’m a complete history geek and love to check out local museums when we travel. The Kauffman House Museum is conveniently located near the lake just up from the public beach. It was built in 1892 and run as a hotel by the Kauffman family until 1946. Now it’s run by the Grand Lake Area Historical Society as a museum and open most days from 11 am to 5 pm. Check their website here for more information and hours.

The museum is a fun activity for history buffs like myself and for older kids interested in how people lived in the area over 100 years ago.

Holzwarth Historic Site

Another interesting hike and interactive historic site for the family to visit is the Holzwarth Historic Site, also sometimes called Never Summer Ranch. The trailhead and parking area to visit the ranch is located a little over 7 miles north of the Grand Lake Entrance on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s about 1.3 miles roundtrip from the parking lot to visit the site and historic structures.

Holzwarth Historic Site

During the summer, volunteers help visitors connect to the Holzwarth’s story, the German family who immigrated to Colorado and settle the original homestead and began the ranch. They also teach the homestead way of life and what early dude ranches were like on the border of Rocky Mountain National Park. You might even get to have your picture taken in a period giant bearskin coat!

Grand Lake boardwalk and shopping

Another fun activity is to wander up and down visiting the shops along the historic Grand Lake boardwalk. You may be on a mission to find your perfect cabin style souvenir or just window shop, but it’s a must-do activity for our family. There’s also a conveniently located park and play area for kids about midway down the boardwalk, so a good resting place.

There are so many other things you can find to do if you want such as putt-putt golf, bowling, making s’mores, card games, and fun restaurants to try.

Our favorite restaurant – The Fat Cat Cafe

I’ll do another post later on restaurants and food in Grand Lake, but I have to point out the Fat Cat Cafe here too. Of all the wonderful things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado, of course, you have to eat. Do NOT miss the Fat Cat! We absolutely love the food and the people who run this place. Truly, I don’t know how she does it, but the sausage, yes I said breakfast sausage, is to die for. I love pretty much any of the food, but I’d also recommend especially any of the homemade pies. Like the banana cream. The last time I was there I bought a whole one on our way out of town to take home with me it was so good.

Closing

Yesterday I walked around my backyard with my son, just sort of to survey the yard work we need to get done. I was also trying to get him to burn some energy because he’d been going crazy being inside so much lately. Did you know that children actually grow faster in spring than other times of the year? So says the book Spring: A Spiritual Biography of the Season by Schmidt and Felch, and I really believe it to be so. Kids have been cooped up more all winter and are ready to run and grow!

Back to our explorations, we discovered some tulip and crocus leaves starting to peak out through the old leftover fall leaves we planned to clean out. I LOVE spring flowers, lilac bushes starting to bloom, and the sun warming off the chill in the air. It’s spring, and do you know what that means? Yes, indeed, it’s time to plan a trip to Grand Lake, Colorado!

At least, that’s what it means to me. Flowers coming up through the snow are the clear signal I’m allowed to begin dreaming of our June trip to Grand Lake. It’s truly one of my favorite spots on this earth, and I hope you get to visit one day. Try out any or all of these activities, and if you discover something else awesome I’ve left out please give a shout-out in the comments below!

Things to do in Grand Lake Colorado, Mount Baldy

Things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado.

Top 10 Things To Do In Ruidoso, New Mexico With Kids

Top 10 Things To Do In Ruidoso, New Mexico With Kids

Picture your favorite Western movie. Do you see wide open spaces, dusty ground with cactus and yucca plants as far as the eye can see? But wait! What’s that in the distance? Is it a plateau, a mountain? Imagine the scene as Billy the Kid and his crew come at you in a cloud of dust. As they get closer you can make out figures on horseback in cowboy hats racing to guide the stampede of cattle. The rustlers just made off with the cattle from a nearby ranch, will get rid of them for a price, and for good measure may even rob a train in the evening. Who knows? Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico with kids.

What I know is that the scenery as you near Ruidoso, New Mexico inspires all my stereotypical western stories to come to life. Moreover, it’s truly another world you step into, at least another culture, as we travel from northern Colorado to mid-southern New Mexico. The area around Ruidoso may be the dry, cracked Western scene; however, go up the mountain and into Ruidoso, and you’ll find a charming mountain town perfect for family vacations.

But what are the top things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico with kids? What is it that draws us so often away from our beautiful Colorado mountains? To be perfectly honest, my grandparents lived there long ago, and now it’s where we meet up with our relatives from Texas for fun and family. We LOVE it.

So be inspired! Go pull up that western soundtracks playlist on Spotify, and plan your family vacation today.

This page contains affiliate links.

Top 10 things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico with kids

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico pin

1. Book a cabin with plenty of outdoor space to play

If at all possible I highly recommend booking a cabin or house with plenty of outdoor space for the kids to play. It’s true we usually go as a large group and so enjoy a larger area, but there are smaller cabins choices available too. Then, with your own cabin, you have a kitchen to do more of your own meal prep, and more space for the family to rest and relax. We loved our space this last summer with a fabulous outdoor seating area complete with grill and hot tub, our own little golf green, horseshoes and much more!

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico cabin Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico cabin yard

Website options for cabin rentals:

1. Airbnb – We’ve had good experiences with Airbnb in the past. My advice is to make sure you look for places with plenty of good reviews and use your best judgment. If you are new to Airbnb you can use my link here to sign up and get $40 off your first booking. Click here for the link to sign up.

2. VRBO – Click here for their website.

3. Ruidoso Reservations by Condotel – Click here to see the cabin availability on their site.

A lot of these cabins are available on multiple sights so you can do some searching to get the best deal.

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico horseshoes

2. Inn of the Mountain Gods

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico, IMG buildingThe Inn of the Mountains Gods is owned by the Mescalero Apache Tribe and boasts beautiful scenery, fabulous rooms, food, and a casino. It’s located a little over seven miles from Ruidoso and will take you about 20 minutes by car.

For kids, we like to make a day excursion out of it. First, we drive out to the hotel and look around the inside for a bit. When we’re ready we head down to the buffet and enjoy the variety and quantity of the breakfast or lunch buffet. After that, once sufficiently stuffed, we either continue to look around the inside of the hotel or wander down to the lake for the kids to play or walk around it on the convenient pathways.

What kid doesn’t love a walk around the lake with frequent stops to look for fish, study the plants, or throw rocks and twigs in the lake? You probably won’t make it all the way around, but it’s fun to explore!

3. Pillow’s Funtrackers, Family Fun Center

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico Funtrackers carFuntrackers is a great place for families to play and have a fun time together. First, you might play a round of miniature golf. Following that, race around the track on the goKarts (there are several tracks depending on ages). Then perhaps you’ll want to cool each other off with a giant splash from the bumper boats and then go get lost in the Mountain Maze.

For weeks after we visited this place my son’s favorite thing to call out was, “Grandpa’s lo-oost!” Yes, Grandpa got a bit mixed up in the maze, which was of endless amusement to the children.

There is just so much to do here you could literally hang out most of the day or until the kids get there fill and wear out. The goKarts were great. Lots of fun for all!

4. Kids Konnection Playground

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico playground

For a morning out to a playground, you won’t want to miss the Kids Konnection Playground (685 Hull Road, Ruidoso). First of all, the equipment is fun and original and actually covers a large space. Also, there are areas for kids 5 and under as well as 6 and up, fabulous!

We also like the fact it’s located right next to a big open grassy field where the kids can run, play soccer, play tag, or just burn off some energy. I’ve also been told there’s a good dog park nearby, and although we haven’t been in need of one, you may!

Ruidoso, New Mexico, best of 2017

 

5. The Hubbard Museum of the American West

26301 Hwy 70 West, Ruidoso Downs, NM

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico Saddle

All right now, tell me. Have you cranked up an American Western film soundtrack yet? You might try , or , my favorite , or if you have Amazon Prime .

Listening to a bit of this will get you in the mood to visit the Hubbard Museum of the American West. This is a fun museum for kids and adults alike, although with kids you may have to move a bit quicker than if you were on your own! Be sure to see the horse statues at the top of the hill.

A tour of this place is sure to bring out your inner cowboy, and if you’re like me you’ll start saying, “I’m your huckleberry” in a southern accent to all friends and family. Or to that random person who meets your eyes in the museum. 😉 Just kidding.

6. Horseback Riding, Grindstone Stables

523 Resort Dr, Ruidoso

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico, Horseback riding

It’s inevitable the kids will be dying to go on a horseback ride after a visit to the Hubbard Museum of the American West. Therefore, why not saunter on over to the Grindstone Stables and go on an hour-long guided horseback ride? Or if that’s not your thing, enjoy a carriage ride through mid-town Ruidoso with amazing views of Sierra Blanca in the distance.

 

 

7. Ruidoso Municipal Swimming Pool

515 Sudderth Drive, Ruidoso

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico, swimming poolIf it’s hot, and the kids need some exercise, we love to head over to the Ruidoso Municipal Swimming Pool for open swim. Be sure to check their website or give them a call (575-257-2795) to get open swim times before you drive over. The swimming pool is nice, and although definitely not brand new, a lot of fun. As a matter of fact, they have a huge, fabulous slide perfect for kids. While I stayed in the baby pool with my son the last time we were there, my eight-year-old daughter probably went down the thing 15-20 times. It’s a climb to get up to the top of the slide so it’s also great for ensuring an easy bedtime routine in the evening because they’ll be so worn out!

8. Wildlife Photo Scavenger Hunt

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico deer

Ruidoso is a beautiful mountain location with mountain views, a variety of flora, but also wonderful chances to see wildlife. Go on a wildlife photo scavenger hunt with the kids to get pictures of elk, deer, wild horses, hummingbirds, eagles, and so much more. However, I will advise if you happen to run into one of the bears, steer clear!

 

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico, Hummingbird

 

 

9. Gondola Ride at Ski Apache

1286 Ski Run Road, Alto, NM

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico, gondola

Is your family ready to see some stunning views? Make the drive to Ski Apache in summer to take the gondola ride to the top of the mountain. You won’t regret it a visit to this magical place, unless perhaps you have a child like mine who claims vertigo and refuses to step on all gondolas, funiculars, etc. But never mind that! Have an amazing ride up the mountain, eat at the snack bar, and enjoy yourself.

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico

 

Ski Apache view

10. Flying J Ranch

6 Flying J Road, 1028 State Hwy 48, Alto, NM

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico Flying JThe first time I visited Flying J Ranch was over 20 years ago (no need to be exact!), and I loved it just as much then as I do now! It’s my favorite attraction in Ruidoso, and kids love it.

Relax and find your inner New Mexico western cowboy, or cowgirl. At Flying J you’ll enter an old west town complete with Sheriff and a live gunfight. The kids can ride ponies, explore teepees, and even rope some cattle. Then the whole family will enjoy a chuck wagon dinner with beef, chicken, beans (of course!), biscuit, applesauce, and my daughter’s favorite spice cake!

After you eat be ready for James and Cindy Hobbs and friends to entertain with the Flying J Western Show. See their website here for more information. “The show is an action-packed show filled with World Champion yodeling, amazing harmonies, fancy fiddling, hilarious comedy, banjo playing and guitar picking! The show at the Flying J Ranch is simply fantastic!”

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico Flying J, game Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico horse Ski Apache view

What are your family vacation plans for this summer?

Are you planning to visit Ruidoso this summer? Take advantage of my kid-tested list of top things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico with kids. Then let me know how it works out for you! For us, it’s a family tradition and fabulous time.

Where else are you planning a family trip this summer? Or maybe where did you go recently? Give me your suggestions below!

Looking for an excursion from Ruidoso?

Carlsbad Caverns featureCarlsbad Caverns are a must-see and completely awe-inspiring. It’s such the perfect exploratory experience for kids. We love it!

 

 

Are you planning a fun family vacation to escape from the noise of the everyday? Perfect for family reunions and getaways, check out my top 10 things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico with kids.

Tips For Visiting Santa’s Workshop

Tips For Visiting Santa’s Workshop

This page contains affiliate links. Santa’s Workshop

What are your childhood memories of visiting Santa? Did you go to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap and ask for that one special gift? Maybe you spoke to Santa’s helper at a Christmas party? Personally, I rarely went to see Santa, but I did write him letters. As I grew older I knew what was actually going on, but I didn’t want to let go of the magic. Truly, I embraced the idea of Santa and his reindeer stomping on our roof and saying ‘Ho! Ho! Ho!’ down the chimney.

Where is Santa’s Workshop?

Well, this year our family made the trip to Santa’s Workshop at North Pole, Colorado, and it was fabulous! North Pole, Colorado you say? Yes, that’s what they call it, Santa’s Workshop at North Pole, Colorado. Actually, it’s located conveniently near Colorado Springs outside the town of Manitou Springs. It’s a full-blown theme park dedicated to the North Pole and Santa Claus. Santa’s house is at the center of the village, and a visit with Santa’s an important part of any trip! I’m going to save you a hassle and let you in on my tips for visiting Santa’s Workshop.

Tips For Visiting Santa's Workshop pin

What is Santa’s Workshop?

Santa’s Workshop is a theme park aimed towards younger kids, but teenagers and adults alike love the place. In spite of the fact it’s not as large or modern as Disney or Six Flags, it’s treasured by locals and visitors alike. Moreover, it’s set in the mountains, unique, and nostalgic. Santa’s Workshop is in its 61st year, a quaint mountain village theme park with fun rides especially for ages 3-7. Of course, there are other rides for older kids and adults, but there are few a 3 or 4-year-old can’t ride.

My kids love it because you can ride as many rides as you want all day long with very short lines if any at all. Well, that’s if you avoid the busiest days! Also, my daughter enjoyed the magic show so much she wanted to go again later in the day. You’ll find rides, shows, food, shops, and fun!

Tips For Visiting Santa's Workshop Colorado entrance

My top tips for visiting Santa’s Workshop

1. Print out the $3 off coupon before you go

If you visit the Santa’s Workshop website go to the coupon section to print off the coupon. When I last checked it was three dollars off the general $23 admission. Also, if you have a military or dependent ID an even greater discount so be sure to bring it with you.

Tip! Print the coupon before you go or copy a picture of it in your phone. Internet and phone services are iffy, and most phones will not have service.

Tips For Visiting Santa's Workshop Colorado ride

2. Double check to be sure they’re open the day you wish to go

In winter Santa’s Workshop is closed most Tuesdays and Wednesdays and can be closed due to weather. If you’re not sure about the weather you can call 719-684-9432 to check whether or not they’ll be open.

3. Wear your walking shoes and several clothing layers depending on the weather

There are picnic tables and benches all around, but even so, you’ll do a lot of walking! In order to be comfortable, wear comfy shoes and a jacket or layers depending on the weather. Therefore, check the weather and dress accordingly.

Tips For Visiting Santa's Workshop Colorado sled

4. Arrive at least 10 minutes before they open

Santa’s Workshop opens at 10 am, and if you’re there on a busy day (such as the day after Thanksgiving) you’ll want to be early! I suggest you arrive and park 10-15 minutes before they open to get in the entrance line. Then again, some days there may be little to no line, but do you want to take that chance?!

Tips For Visiting Santa's Workshop Colorado bridge

5. Go see Santa first to avoid the lines. Smile big for your picture!

Again, in order to avoid long waits, make a beeline for Santa’s house to get in line for a visit. With kids, you HAVE to visit Santa, and you might as well get it done early and then enjoy the rest of the park. In addition, be sure to avoid the lunch hour. You won’t be happy if you’ve been in line for 45 minutes, Santa goes to lunch, and you have to wait in line another 30 minutes until he gets back!

You can have an elf or helper take a picture with your own camera or have them use theirs. After that, you can go to the shop around the corner to view the pictures and make any purchases you wish. For example, get your picture on an ornament, a mug, or in a photo book just to name a few. Smile!

Tips For Visiting Santa's Workshop family picture

(Yes, I covered up my kids’ faces. I generally do on the blog, and that is a personal choice. In this post you may notice I got a little carried away with adding characters to my pictures…)

Santa's Workshop Colorado tree

6. Make any personalization orders in the shops immediately after visiting Santa

There’s a great shop with all sorts of ornaments and Christmas decorations that can be personalized with kids’ names and years, family names, whatever you want. If this is something you want to do go early so the personalization can be done while you ride rides. Then you can pick up your order on your way out and not have to carry it all day either.

Santa's Workshop Colorado slide

7. Pack your own lunch for any sort of special diet or to cut costs

The food is expensive at Santa’s Workshop and limited to pulled pork, turkey, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, pretzels, and various other items. Moreover, if you’re on a special diet, need gluten-free, or have other allergies I would suggest bringing a sack lunch. You can keep it in the car and send someone out to get it when the time comes if you don’t want to carry it around with you. As I said before, there are quite a few picnic tables in the eating areas, and you can enjoy your lunch there.

Santa's Workshop Colorado tree view

8. Make some s’mores!

Santa's Workshop Colorado s'mores

I loved this! There’s a fire pit in front of the village shops, and there you can stop and warm yourself. OR…go into the candy shop and purchase a s’more kit! Who doesn’t love to make s’mores? If you have kids with you, it will be something they remember. Also, they’ll need a good snack mid-afternoon. In the candy shop, they’ll also give you sticks to roast the marshmallows. So much fun!

Santa's Workshop Colorado candy kitchen

9. Get super-excited about the magic show!

Like I said, my daughter thought the magic show was AMAZING! As with anything, go in with a positive attitude and play it up to the kids. The more excited you are, the more they will be.

10. Have fun and be a kid again!

Santa's Workshop Colorado ferris wheel

Our family favorite holiday is far and away Christmas. Did you know you can get a dose of Christmas cheer any time of the year? Indeed, one can visit Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, Colorado year round. Do you need a dose of Christmas in July when you’re on your family camping trip in Colorado? I hope you’ll review my top tips for visiting Santa’s Workshop. Then go for it! Santa’s Workshop is merry anytime during the year.

Do you need some Christmas book ideas for Mom?

Check out my cozy Christmas book list and grab a couple today!

 

Christmas Books for Adults pin

 

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