Photo: Breckenridge Ski Resort
The 1859 Gold Rush brought prospectors to settle in Breckenridge, and the area’s rich history boasts all that one might expect from a Wild West Colorado town. In 1960, the town’s population dwindled to just under 400 residents, and the following year Breckenridge Ski Resort started spinning lifts on what is now Peak 8. Over the next twenty years, the resort would expand and start attracting new settlers – skiers, that is. Over fifty years since its beginnings, Breckenridge is now a top Rocky Mountain destination for perfect powder, massive terrain parks, arts and culture, and some of the best mountain town concerts the industry has ever seen.
Close enough to Denver to please those seeking a weekend getaway but bustling with a small-town culture all its own, Breckenridge can please most walks of life with its eclectic mix of mountain town charm and affinity for big-time events and parties. Families find numerous kid-friendly activities on and off the slopes, while après enthusiasts can hop from happy hour to happy hour from late afternoon through the wee hours. Accommodation ranges from luxury to budget, with great value options offering ski-in/ski-out access. Restaurants raise the bar with “pasture-to-plate” bistro fare in refurbished Victorian homes, and the nightlife is suited for anyone looking for an unpretentious good time.
In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about the planning the ultimate Breckenridge Ski Vacation. We clue you in on how to get there, where to stay, what to eat, and how to enjoy yourself on and off the slopes. You’ll find insider tips and links to the best ski vacation deals Breckenridge has to offer. We’ll tell you where to get an après beer and where to dance the night away. Keep reading for the ultimate guide to skiing Breckenridge.
Fly into Denver International Airport, which hosts hundreds of daily flights from major US cities. The drive from DIA to Breckenridge is 2 hours, mostly along I-70. The highway is susceptible to closures during heavy snow storms, but never for more than one night.
Rent a car at the airport, or opt for the well-operated shuttle services, like Colorado Mountain Express. They offer shared passenger van rides for $49-$77 per person, with kids riding at discounted rates. Private car services are also available, and a great option for families.
Another option is to fly into Eagle County Airport, which is 1 hour drive from Breckenridge. Flights from DIA operate daily, and this is a good option if you’re looking to save time (or experience the charm of a small Colorado airport!)
A weekend in the mile-high city before hitting the mountains is well worth your time, and getting a taste for the best of metropolitan Colorado distinctly different from other US cities. It’s a place of craft beer and outdoors enthusiasts, yoga mat-toting professionals with a love for natural beauty and play. The music scene is hoppin’ year-round, the nightlife is vibrant, and the opportunities for a dip into Wild West culture still abundant.
We recommend choosing your top interests and selecting a few – quality over quantity when it comes to the relatively laid-back Denver pace. Stroll Larimer Square for chich boutique shopping in Denver’s most historic block, then drop by the Molly Brown House Museum for a not-to-be-missed tour of the famous prospector’s home. When night falls, head to the LoDo area for a tour of bars and restaurants sporting live music and the best craft beer selections of Colorado.
A few more suggestions include a short drive to Red Rocks Park & Ampitheatre on a sunny day, or catching a Colorado Avalanche hockey game. Kids love the Wings Over The Rockies Air & Space Museum, which offers visitors a close look at fighter jets and antique planes. The Denver Art Museum, complete with interactive exhibits, is free for kids under 18.
When You Go:
Dine… at Mercantile Dining & Provision in central LoDo for high-end comfort eats like marrow bone brûlée and smoked duck sausage choucroute.
Stay…at the Oxford Hotel, a lux boutique base in LoDo with on-site spa and complimentary Escalade service to nearby attractions.
Party…rub shoulders with lively locals and up-and-coming musicians at Hi-Dive, Denver’s trendy dive bar.
Shop…stroll the boutiques around historic Larimer Square for one-of-a-kind finds – you’ll see local designers as well as international brands.
Attend…a performance at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, which hosts broadway tours, cabaret, and local theater company shows.
Don’t Miss…beer connoisseurs, make time for a Denver brewery tour for the ultimate taste of the Colorado craft beer scene.
Breckenridge Ski Resort
Photo: Breckenridge Ski Resort
Top Elevation: 12,998ft
Skiable Terrain: 2,908 acres
Average Annual Snowfall: 107 inches
Day Lift Ticket: $161
Private Lesson: $905
Childcare: Ages 2+ months
Prospectors settled in Breckenridge in the late 1800s, using the town as a base for gold mining. One hundred years later, Breckenridge Ski Resort began to develop into what is now a top international skiing destination. The resort is famous for its specific elevation and location within the Rockies, which affords it some of the lightest, finest powder skiing in Colorado. A top destination for friends on spring break and families year-round, the resort offers something for everyone. Stroll downtown for goods and gifts at the locally-owned businesses, hit the clubs late night for drinks and dancing, or catch first chair for nearly 3,000 acres of varied terrain. With such easy access from Denver, Breckenridge is closer than it may seem (but far enough away to – you know – feel away!)
Ski…the cruisers off Independence Super Chair first thing in the morning for perfect corduroy and without the crowds.
Fine Dining…Indulge in contemporary American fare with western flair at Hearthstone, set in a cozy downtown Victorian home.
Cheap Eats…Grab a sweet or savory crepe and a seat next to the outdoor fire pit at Crepes a la Carte on Main Street.
Après...at the Gold Pan Saloon, a long-standing mainstay for good booze, good friends, and a healthy dose of Wild West antics.
Shop...at Goods, which boasts a great selection of shoes, boots, and unique gift section in the back.
Party…at Cecilia’s Martini Bar for – yes – fabulous martinis, as well as late-night dancing to regionally famed DJs.
Off The Slopes…Book a tour through surrounding valleys with a dog sled team of Siberian Huskies.
Don’t Miss…Spring Fever, a month-long festival including free live concerts, big mountain competitions, food and beer tastings and more – all starting mid-March and lasting through closing day.
Photo: Crystal Lodge
Most lodging options offer ski-in/ski-out access and easy walks to Main Street. The high-end hotels have their own complementary shuttle services around town. Condominium units are most popular, and a great value option for groups.
Opt for luxury at the Crystal Peak Lodge, located at the base of Peak 7 and boasting refined condominium units suited for couples, families, and friends. Just 50 yards from the nearest lift makes it ideal for hardcore skiers, while access to the bowling alley, aquatics center, and media rooms at One Ski Hill Place make for perfect off-slopes activities.
Sophisticated and stylish, Bluesky Breckenridge boasts all the benefits of a major resort, with ski-in/ski-out access, on-site spa and ski rentals, and a huge array of spacious condominiums. Some units include private outdoor hot tubs. Check out their best deals here.
Family-owned and operated, the Wedgewood Lodge boasts a huge options of units – ranging from studios to three-bedroom townhomes, all with ski-in/ski-out access. There’s also a dry sauna, indoor/outdoor hot tubs, and access to the Upper Village Pool less than 2 blocks away.
The Village Hotel is modern and convenient, boasting double, queen, and king rooms with mountain views. Perk amenities include valet parking, town shuttle, ski-in/ski-out access, fitness center, and on-site childcare.
Park Meadows Lodge is a top affordable option for families, as it offers short walking distance to the slopes and downtown, a shuttle stop point, game area for the kids and 2 huge hot tubs. Units range from studio to 2-bedroom condos.
Breckenridge’s “first boutique hotel,” the Skiway Lodge offers guests cozy rooms in a Bavarian-style lodge offering ski-in/ski-out access to the BreckConnect gondola and only 2 blocks from town. Rooms are individual decorated – we recommend Suite 1 for the gas fireplace and private balcony.
Sustainable ethics and fresh ingredients set the foundation for the resort’s restaurants; the top picks listed here all take reservations for lunch, so be sure to book ahead during peak times.
If you’re lapping Peak 7, be sure to stop by Sevens for a casual lunch and contemporary American fare. The patio is the place to be on a sunny day, with clear, stunning views of the Rocky Mountain range. Split a wood fired pizza or wild game chili to refuel for the afternoon.
Comfortable and casual, 9600 Kitchen is Breck’s slopeside American bistro, serving up specialties like pork belly paella and gourmet fried steak sandwich. The kitchen has a “pasture to plate” concept that supports sustainable food movements, and the small but inspired wine list pairs well with dishes.
Inside One Ski Hill Place you’ll find The Living Room, an elegant space for and upscale breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Options range from dressed-up comfort eats like grilled cheese with manchego and local sourdough to entrees like braised lamb shank with sweet onion and French pastry dough.
Breckenridge is evolving into a foodie destination for contemporary American fare with creative local twists. Book early at these popular spots.
Award-winning Hearthstone is ideal for a romantic dinner out or a special night with friends. Local, organic, and wild-caught ingredients inspire the contemporary American menu, which features eats like blackberry elk with garlic granola crust and goat cheese farro risotto. The wine list is extensive.
Ember is set inside a contemporary Victorian home and features delectable and internationally inspired dishes that get consistent rave from visitors. Current menu highlights include pheasant tacos with Grand Marina goat cheese sauce and lamb osso bucco with cashew gremolata.
One of the classiest joints in town, the Briar Rose Chophouse & Saloon prides itself on serving the finest cuts of wild game with locally sourced ingredients in an elegant, homey atmosphere. Start with the wild game sausage trio, followed by cervena elk medallions in a wild mushroom demiglace. Save room for family-style sides and house-made desserts.
Breckenridge specializes in the art of après ski; slopeside and downtown options abound, so plan your bar hopping accordingly.
The famous T-Bar is nestled at the base of Peak 8 inside One Ski Hill Place; with seating for 150 and an expansive spread of tables across the patio, this is a great option for groups looking for plenty of space to kick back for an après beer. Stay until sundown or last call – the BreckConnect Gondola can give you a ride back to town.
Locals love Burke and Riley’s Pub, where hearty pub grub complements a huge selection of draft beers with English and Irish influence. Line up for a shotski of Jameson at the bar, or sip martinis by the firepit on the deck.
At the base of Peak 9 you’ll find The Maggie, a hot spot for afternoon drink specials and sunbathing on particularly warm days. The Maggie features food and drink specials from 3-5pm, live music, and the perfect location for ending a day on the slopes and transitioning into town.
Photo: Breckenridge Ski Resort
Breckenridge is known for its nightlife, and you’ll find plenty of 20-somethings heading to Breck from the Boulder and Denver area during weekends and spring break. We recommend getting a taste of everything – from ski bum dive bar one night to swanky lounge the next.
There’s one place to go for an all-out night of DJs and dancing. Cecilia’s Martini Bar is the top destination for anyone looking to cut some serious rug and sip the town’s most famous martinis. Some nights also feature live bands.
Après your heart out, then hit the town at these local not-quite-dives bars. Breck is a resort that knows how to party, and you can follow the flannel-clad ski bums to these spots for good times.
Rita’s has everything a classic ski bar requires: great drink specials, fresh tacos, and killer margaritas. With a rotating craft beer list of regional favorites and theme nights like local trivia, this is the place to go for a fun night in your Colorado casual jeans.
The historic Gold Pan Saloon has been serving up libations since 1879, and continues today as one of the West’s longest standing saloons. Gather with locals around the pot belly stove for warming toes on a cold night and swapping ski stories from a day on the slopes.
The select luxury hotels boast elegant bars for a quieter after-dinner scene, while some bars offer separate seating areas for sipping cocktails when you’re taking a break from the dance floor.
The theme behind The Motherloaded Tavern is home-cooked food, friendly staff, and an atmosphere to help you feel totally taken care of – which is why it’s one of our top picks for lounging with a drink and live music on weekend nights. It’s a lively place to be sure, offers a relaxing vibe found only in the most special corners of ski towns.
Cozy up with late night eats and a nightcap at the Park Avenue Pub inside Crystal Peaks Lodge. Favorite cocktails like Moscow mules in copper mugs are mixed with the best local Colorado spirits, and the quiet ambiance after après (and après après) dies down is warm and inviting.
Photo: Belevedere & Hern
Breckenridge boasts an eclectic mix of quirky gift shops and fine boutiques boasting unique goods and clothing. You’ll find a t-shirt souvenir shop around every corner, but we encourage you to stop by some of these favorites for elegant takeaways.
You’ll find luxury, outdoor, and boutique brand goods and clothing at Goods, a go-to for mountain town chic outfits. It’s your one-stop-shop for everyone in the family, whether the kids need some moon boots for après ski sledding or you need a new blouse for a night out on the town.
Don’t Miss Belevedere & Hern for finely crafted leather goods with a distinctly Wild West flair. Goods for home, gifts, and personal accessorizing are all popular, and owners Marissa and Dylan have excellent taste in choosing the store’s stock. Be prepared to want everything…and probably drop some big bucks.
Sisters Tara and Kathleen of Two Wild Sisters run a favorite stop among tourists for quirky gifts, t-shirts, and selection of fine yet affordable jewelry. Stop by for the goods and gifts, and leave with a thoroughly warm welcome to the Breckenridge shopping scene thanks to their famous hospitality.
Outdoor adventure abounds at Breckenridge, and we recommend taking a day away from the slopes to fully experience the majesty of the area. Explore the valleys, air, or rivers with one of these activities and still get back to the resort in time for après hour.
View the stunning Rocky Mountain landscape from the air with a hot air balloon ride in nearby Frasier. The drive is an hour from Summit County, but well worth the early morning wake-up for the most unique adventure you may have on your Breckenridge Vacation. Grand Adventure Balloon Tours run year-round.
Head out on a 6 mile tour of the Swan River Valley with a dog sled team that you actually get to mush yourself. The tour starts with an introduction from guides, and guests switch off throughout the tour to take turns driving the sled.
The stretch of the Blue River just outside Breckenridge is a world-class fly fishing destination, and local outfitters around town provide daily guide services so you’ll be in the know of the best tips and tricks on the river; check out Mountain Angler or Breckenridge Outfitters, and book a day ahead during peak weeks.
Photo: Breckenridge Ski Resort
Breckenridge may be a party town at heart, but it’s also become a family favorite along the I-70 corridor; take advantage of the off-slopes offerings, as well as the occasional Kids’ Night Out so you can steal away without finding a sitter.
Younger kids love the Mountain Top Children’s Museum, which features tons of interactive exhibits and activities to get kids’ creativity and imaginations working. Current activities include a Bear Cave, Wonderlab Planetarium, and Kidstruction Zone – look for the new location on S. Park Ave.
Sometimes kids need a break from all the outdoor activity – treat them to an afternoon of games at the arcade, located inside Downstairs at Eric’s on Main Street. Older kids can unwind with pinball and pac man while you do some shopping downtown.
Take a ride on the Gold Runner Alpine Coaster, which covers 2,500 feet of elevated track through the forests of Peak 8. The activity runs year-round and is open to kids, although younger tots will have to ride with mom and dad on one of the two-seater cars. Be sure to brake for some of the sharp turns in the middle.
Ready for your epic Breckenridge ski vacation? We can help you find the best deals here.