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First Time Vacation in Colorado -Active family of 5

First Time Vacation in Colorado -Active family of 5

Old Feb 21st, 2016, 08:48 AM
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First Time Vacation in Colorado -Active family of 5

Not even sure where to start....

We are very interested in planning out a family vacation this year in Colorado. I've been in the area on business (Vail area) only. We will be taking our family vacation later this year towards the end of July/ thru the 1st week of August. Is this a good time to visit??? We have 8 days for this trip (included in that is the 2.5hr flight from Cincinnati). We are a family of 5 (Wife & I plus our 3 teenage sons).

We are an active family. We've traveled throughout the Canadian Rockies and enjoy hikes, biking, exploring. We would like to have part of the trip where we can be connected to a town/ city where we can walk or bike places. We have gone rafting but would not claim to be an expert and the wife would lean to the mellow side of that particular activity. Love to try some fly fishing excursions (never have but I am interested).

I've heard from friends to drive up to South Dakota and explore the badlands, Mt Rushmore etc. Is that recommended at all??

We plan to rent a car/ van for the week.

Wide open for suggestion of where to start...
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 10:45 AM
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I suggest you focus on Colorado. There's so much to see here, no need to go to South Dakota, etc.

Your time-frame is a good one, for good weather in the mountains and lots of activities going on.

Our favorite place is Aspen. It's more of an authentic town, compared to Vail. There is fly fishing, rafting, horseback riding, hiking, dining, shopping (expensive designers in Aspen, but fun window shopping), dining. All in a gorgeous setting.

Stay in Aspen itself, not Snowmass, to get the old town feel of it, and to be able to walk around town. We have liked two condo-hotels in particular: The Gant, and Aspen Square. We've had 2 bdrm/2bath units in both of these places.

The Gant is a very short walk from downtown Aspen. It has three price levels, so it's easy to figure out which units are the nicest.

Aspen Square is smack in the middle of town. My only caution there, is to ask for a recently refurbished unit, as their prices are not different for the newer vs the older units.

Both of these have wonderful pool areas, and are close to the grocery market in town.

Look for musical events in Aspen while you're there. They have a wonderful program, with performances in an open air tent.
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 11:54 AM
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Ditto: definitely not worth going to South Dakota on this trip, stay in Colorado.

Aspen is great, one of our favorites for sure, but Crested Butte is also great and maybe a bit cheaper.

A favorite with many folks is to do some variation of this loop: Denver -> Estes Park -> Grand Lake / Winter Park -> Breckenridge or Aspen area -> Denver.

But parking yourself in Aspen or Crested Butte for the whole week, and using that as a base for daily excursions would be pretty darn nice.
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 02:13 PM
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Nelson, I think many visitors overlook the simple notion of staying put for a week, and getting to know a place like Aspen or Crested Butte. There's so much to see and do; no need to drive place-to-place everyday.

Trying not to get on a soapbox here, but we probably should not be encouraging people to fill up the already-crowded state highways, and pollute the mountain air. Driving loops through the state, to tick off the spots driven by = a waste of time and fuel.
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 04:12 PM
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Thanks for the feedback.. We are definitely dropping the extra trip to South Dakota off the list. Love the Aspen idea and the recommended spots. We land into Denver on Sat and would like to spend a few days somewhere close by. We're thinking somewhere around Boulder near the town. Than the plan has us driving to Aspen and basing ourselves there for 5 days. Is Boulder a nice place to see for a few days? Recommendations of hotels/ resorts that would be close (walking/ biking) to the city (restaurants/ stores)? What are some outdoor things to do in Boulder? Also, any suggestions on Aspen activities. Interested in fly fishing, hiking, biking, floats etc.
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 04:47 PM
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Boulder would be a good choice for a night or two. Especially for your teen sons.

Take them to explore the CU campus. It's gorgeous, with its red rock buildings. A great place to walk around for a couple of hours.

There are so many great places to eat in Boulder. I'll just tell you our longstanding favorite: the Chautauqua Park dining hall, sitting on its wraparound, covered porch at sunset. Great food & service, at surprisingly affordable prices. Highly recommend!

There are also nice, vintage family cabins to rent at Chautauqua. They probably fill up fast. I think you'd love being there, if possible. The hiking is great, as are the views and its position below Flagstaff. A nice theater hosts live events all summer. Some classic musicians do small shows there.

It's worth checking out.

As far as activities in Aspen, "yes" to all your questions. It's all there. And easy to find. Aspen town is very small. A lot of the daytime activities leave from the base of Aspen mountain (old Ajax). You can wander over there and get your questions answered. The Frying Pan river must be called that for a reason!
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 04:50 PM
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PS. For a truly elegant stay in Boulder, the St Julien.

For a classic hotel, The Boulderado
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Old Feb 22nd, 2016, 04:30 AM
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Thank you everyone for your feedback..! Very good stuff.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2016, 05:54 AM
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We love Colo at that time of year. Glenwood Springs has a nice semi-amusement park and cave that we really enjoyed, and there is rafting and a great hike (hanging lake) nearby. Summit County has a lot of great hikes, and there is biking and some other activities at Peak 8 of Breck. I think there is another semi-amusement park now by Frisco.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2016, 07:40 AM
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Tabernash is our main tout for Aspen. If it was just the two of you I would support her recommendation but three teenage sons throws a big wrinkle into you needs. Aspen is bit isolated with limited activities for teenagers unless they really like window shopping.

My recommendation would be Breckenridge. Aspen is a four and a half hour to five hour drive from Denver airport. Breckenridge is two hours. Breckenridge is centrally location with a lot of different activities within an hour or so drive. Cowboy mine, Mineral Belt trail (a real hidden gem) in Leadville, the Georgetown railroad. With very strong legs you could bike to Vail. But bike rental companies will take you to the top of Vail pass and you could coast nearly all the way back to Frisco and then gentle uphill to Breckenridge or alternate routes to Keystone. There is an Alpine slide at Breckenridge. And Vail will haul your bike up mountain so you can ride various levels of single track back down. Cannot remember if Breckenridge has a similar program or not. They should but just don't remember. There is an Alpine slide at Breck.

One of the premiere white water raft areas in Brown Canyon is little over an hour away BUT water levels could be to low by early August so a float trip somewhere else might be available.

I could go on but just think you would have more appealing and convenient options for teenagers in someplace like Breckenridge.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2016, 09:01 AM
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I'm a "tout". Hmmm. Interesting that poster pops up every time I recommend Aspen, so he can slam my ideas. Ho hum.

Anyway, I don't agree. Obviously. Leadville to us is a depressing, left-behind little place. I can't imagine making a point of driving there.

There is as much to do around Aspen for teens as anywhere. Maybe more. Any outdoor activity you can think of is there, unless you want the manmade stuff like alpine slides and amusement parks. We have been to Aspen several summers when our kids were teens. The Maroon Bells are one of the most gorgeous places you will see anywhere.

River rafting, float trips, fishing, hiking, panning for gold, drive Independence Pass, concerts, etc. Last year, No Doubt, Hozier, and Lenny Kravitz headlined at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience. Something tells me teens might like Gwen Stefani! There are also wine & cheese tasting events, and art festivals.

What I don't like about Breckenridge, Summit County in general, and Vail, is that it's too built up, busy, touristy, and you really don't feel like you're off-the-beaten path with I-70 right there.

Aspen has cache and history. I feel it's more "real" Colorado, than Vail's fake Swiss-ness, and newer towns in Summit. Visit the venerable Hotel Jerome, and ask about stories of Hunter S Thompson and Bill Murray being crazy there together.

Just my opinion, of course. I'm sure a rebuttal will follow. Wait for it.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2016, 10:33 AM
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Breck does have the lift up-bike down option at Peak 8. It has 2 types of slides/coasters: there is the alpine slide with sleds on a cement half pipe, but also has an alpine coaster with basically individual roller coaster carts, which is a blast. (Not particularly scary, just fun. You can control your speed on either. Glenwood springs also has an alpine slide. Our whole family loved them.
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