In the same spirit as the Vail Valleys seemingly endless ski-town offerings of summertime family fun, nearby Summit County is equally equipped to serve up overflowing days of adventure and exploration. In addition to a change of scenery, Summit County offers certain summertime opportunities not found in our fair valley or in many other places, for that matter.
A half hour from Vail, Summit County has plenty of mountains and ski resorts, but Lake Dillon and its shores present a slew of fresh options. And then there the areas exciting mining history to explore. To pack as much as possible into a day trip east of Vail Pass, here are some kid-tested, parent-approved ways to spend a full day in Summit County.
The Butterhorn Bakery on Frisco’s Main Street has been around for decades and is pretty special for diners of all ages with its gamut of fresh, homemade breads, muffins and pastries. It goes out of its way to ensure that kids develop a taste for fresh baked goods with its affordable children’s menu that offers a couple of varieties of French toast (made with either cinnamon fruit bread or multi-grain), scrambled eggs or the standout Mouse Cake with powdered sugar, fruit and whipped cream.
Go to www.butterhornbakery.com or call (970) 668-3997.
Pedaling, picnicking at the Frisco bike park.
Head up Highway 9 to the Frisco Adventure Park. You’ve been wanting your kid to get into mountain biking but have been a bit afraid to introduce him/her to the overwhelming force of gravity that comes with flying down a narrow trail zigzagging across a ski slope.
The Adventure Park, which doubles as a tubing hill and Nordic area in the winter, is home to four free bike courses open every day of the summer. The pump track allows bikers of all levels and ages to pedal over rollers and berms on relatively flat, open ground. It’s a great way to learn shifting, braking and cornering techniques.
From there, you can move onto the dirt jump or slopestyle course, or get competitive on the dual slalom track. Then pack up your sandwiches and head down one of the peninsula’s rolling singletracks or dirt roads ending at the lakeshore. There are sandy spots and breathtaking panoramas perfect for a picnic.
Go to www.townoffrisco.com or call (970) 668-2558.
Breck alpine coaster, slides and zipline With the family cardio capabilities maxed out for the day, how about a less strenuous route to the next adrenaline rush?
Drive 12 minutes to Breckenridge and take the gondola to Peak 8 for the thrill of charging down the mountain on the Gold Runner Coaster. Smaller tykes can ride with you on the self- controlled carts, which fly down the half-mile track of curves, dips and twists.
For a similar rush, tear down one of three alpine slides, all of which wind through fields of wildflowers on rolling sleds at full throttle or at a more leisurely, smell-the-roses pace. To ramp up the heart rate a little more and leave the speed up to gravity, try the TenMile Flyer Zipline. Strap onto the cable 1,500 feet up the mountain and soar 50 feet over the grassy slopes reaching speeds of 45 mph as the pine trees become a colorful blur.
Go to www.breckenridge.com or call (970) 496-4700.
One huge draw of towns like Frisco and Breckenridge that set them apart from Vail is that long before ski tourism took over, people flocked to the area for a more materialistic lure. There was at one time lots and lots of gold in them thar hills. In Breckenridge, the best way for families to learn about the area’s mining legacy is to travel headlong into a mineshaft, where every one of your senses can experience what it was like to be a Colorado miner more than 100 years ago.
Dating back to 1887, Country Boy Mine just outside of Breckenridge offers 45- minute mine tours down a deep mining tunnel. Learn about the gold that was found in the area, the techniques and tools involved and the kooky characters who earned their fame in the Old West. The tours wrap up with an actual gold-panning session.
Go to www.countryboymine.com or call (970) 453-4405.
Keystone a kiddy wonderland
Next up is another quick drive, taking the shortcut from Breck over Swan Mountain into Keystone, less than 30 minutes away. Most parents are already aware of the wintertime hub of activity Keystone offers for pint-sized guests, so it’s no surprise that in the summer the resort is a festival of crafts, bouncy castles and kid-specific fun.
The Keystone Pond is a peaceful place to spend late afternoon, particularly on a paddleboat or kayak. There’s also a tree house to explore and a huge indoor arcade with free wii rentals. The Kidtopia Play Park, complete with bounce house and bungee trampoline, is just down the road in River Run Village.
Keystone is also the county’s best place to be for dinner, since the resort is home to a handful of Colorado’s No. 1 dining options. The cozy Ski Tip Lodge offers exquisite, seasonally changing four-course meals that finish with dessert in front of the fireplace.
There’s also Keystone Ranch, with its farm-to- table-fresh fare and four-course specials for children in the rustic but elegant setting of a 1930s homestead. Or there are on-the-mountain dining options, involving a scenic ride up two gondolas, for family-style fondue at Der Fondue Chessel or the AAA Four-Diamond-rated Alpenglow Stube.
For a more casual and adventurous option, sign up for a Wagon Dinner and take a horse-drawn wagon from Keystone Stables through the grassy meadows of Soda Creek for a 30-minute scenic ride to a barbecue dinner outdoors. The grub is grilled chicken, smoked ribs, corn on the cob and apple pie for dessert, and the soundtrack is cowboy-style live guitar.
Call (800) 354-4386 or go to www.keystoneresort.com