Our new series on weekend road trips aims to inspire you for what's to come as we slowly return to travel.
Covid-19 Disclaimer: Make sure to check the status of the states, regions, and establishments in which you’re planning to visit prior to travel. Many regions continue to see high infection rates and deaths, while many states and counties remain under varying stay-at-home orders. Those traveling from areas with high rates of Covid-19 should consider avoiding travel for now in order to reduce spread.
Breckenridge gets more snow than any other town in Colorado, making it a mecca for powder hounds and winter sports enthusiasts. But whether you’re bombing the back bowls, practicing your pizza and French fries, or staking out the best spot for après, there’s more than one way to earn your turns on a Breckenridge weekender.
Breckenridge’s appeal extends far beyond the slopes. A former gold rush town turned resort destination; it’s an easy getaway for both adventure enthusiasts and those looking for a relaxing, rejuvenating mountain retreat. With an eclectic downtown, the largest historic district in Colorado, and over 300 days of sunshine a year, it appeals to a wide variety of Front Range visitors and locals alike.
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What should be a straightforward hour and a half drive down I-70 is often confounded by ski traffic, weather, and accidents pretty predictably November through April, causing the 80-mile trip anywhere of 1-6+ hours in delays. If you are going to drive, try to avoid leaving Friday after work (4 to 8 p.m.), Saturday morning after 6 a.m., or attempting to return Sunday midday between 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
If you’d rather skip the headache, there are private and shared shuttles from DIA to the mountains. Or, if you have time to spare, you can take the Bustang West bus from Denver to Frisco and then hop on a transfer. Since Breckenridge has a free shuttle around town, you don’t need a car once you get there.
After braving I-70’s notoriously soul-sucking traffic, you’re instantly rewarded with Breck’s picture-perfect views and can begin to relax. Shake off the last bits of stress with a margarita and Mexican food from Mi Casa. A local favorite for over 30 years, you don’t want to miss their award-winning mango duck quesadillas and sizzling fajitas.
You’re likely antsy to stretch your legs, so before you get settled into your hotel, take some time to explore. You can wander the eight-block downtown on your own, or get acquainted on a (Fat) Bike and Brew Tour. Run year-round by Ridden, you’ll visit the world’s highest distillery and one of Breckenridge’s most popular local breweries, Broken Compass, to toss a few back and fully ease into vacation mode.
After you’re sufficiently loosened up, throw on your warmest layers because it’s time to experience a true winter wonderland. The magical evening begins with a sleigh ride to a chuckwagon dinner under the stars. Themed shows can be cheesy, but Two Below Zero does a great job appealing to guests of all ages while paying homage to Colorado’s cowboy culture. A riveting Wild West performance with on-site country crooners sets the tone for the evening as you fill your belly next to a roaring fire that slowly lulls you to sleep. In summer, their backcountry cookouts and wagon rides are equally entertaining, so no matter when you visit, you’re in for a unique treat.
If you’re anxious to make the most of the day, snag a French toast sandwich or signature green chili burrito at BreckFast. One of Breck’s most popular fast-casual concepts, they’ll get you fueled up and out on the slopes in time for first tracks.
If you’ve never skied or snowboarded before, definitely take a lesson so you don’t leave with a bruised ego or backside (or both). With five peaks, four terrain parks, nearly 3,000 skiable acres, the tallest chairlift in North America, and over 150 trails, you could spend days exploring the insane topography and still not even make a dent.
To begin to get your bearings, the gondola operates just about year-round and is completely free, whether you have a lift ticket or not. A breathtaking ride over Colorado’s looming peaks, gawk in awe of the outdoor playground that unfolds below you.
If the idea of flying downhill is intimidating, Breckenridge is also home to two Nordic centers, which boast more than 30 miles of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails, meaning you can still enjoy some alpine fun and take in the landscape on flat land. Spend the morning playing in the snow however you see fit.
When you’re ready for a lunch break, Pioneer Crossing is Breck’s newest on-mountain dining option. A cozy cabin to warm up, their menu boasts everything from crepes and burgers to local Colorado lamb so you can get right back at it. If by now your calves are screaming or you’d rather head back to town, The Canteen Tap House & Tavern’s burgers are always crowd-pleasers.
You can either spend the afternoon perfecting your turns, trying another sport like snowmobiling, or warm up with a scenic Snowcat ride.
In the warmer months, the ski runs are converted into mountain biking trails with other on-mountain activities like alpine slides and ziplines to keep the adrenaline going. There are hiking trails for all abilities and agilities from gentle inclines to Colorado’s awe-inspiring fourteeners (peaks with an elevation above 14,000 feet). Just steps from Main Street, Blue River and Maggie Pond provide watery adventures like fly fishing, paddle boarding, and kayaking, or local tour operators can take you whitewater rafting for the day.
No matter the season, après is always the best time of day. On the mountain, Robbie’s Tavern and TBar are great places to tip one back and relax slopeside. In town, Rocky Mountain Underground (RMU to locals), boasts an insanely popular backyard beer garden with rotating beer (and cocktails!) on tap.
You can fill up on nibbles and happy hour bites, or treat yourself to dinner at Hearthstone Restaurant. A local favorite for decades, indulge in hearty hand-cut steaks, wild game, and fresh seafood in a beautifully appointed Victorian home where sensuous blackberry elk and Alaskan black cod magically replenish your tired bones. Tuck in early because you have another long day ahead.
The mood today is: But first, brunch. Start the morning with a leisurely breakfast at The Crown, which has a cozy coffee shop vibe. Come for the house-made cold brew, but stay for the extra spicy Bloody and bagel sandwiches.
Of course, you can ski or snowboard again (practice makes perfect), but if you’re sore or seeking a more memorable adventure, why not give dogsledding a try? Guests will take turns mushing and riding in the sleigh while being pulled by a team of beautiful huskies ready to run. And yes, you can play with the puppies after.
Warm-up with a bowl from Soupz On, where you can sample the flavors before committing. Best known for their Elk Stroganoff, they also have creative palate pleasers like Chicken Chowder, Jalapeno Asiago, and English Cottage Pie.
WHERE TO STAY
As a major resort destination, Breckenridge has a plethora of upscale accommodations, midrange hotels, and ski-in/ski-out condos to satisfy all budgets, many of which are right on the mountain. Paragon Lodging offers some of the most luxurious vacation home rentals, while One Ski Hill Place is one of the most accessible, pampered properties. For a more affordable getaway, the Bivvi is a modern and chic hostel with private and shared rooms designed to serve as a crash pad for adventurers.
WHEN TO GO
Winter is prime time for powder hounds, but don’t discount summer or fall for warm-weathered fun like hiking and biking. Ski season generally runs from November through May and sometimes into June, weather permitting. It gets especially busy during the holiday season.