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Breckenridge has two personalities. It's a complete winter and summer destination for outdoor lovers—hard core and weekend warriors—with a myriad of sports activities to do on and off the mountains, such as biking, hiking, horseback riding, river rafting, jeep touring, alpine slide and coaster, ice skating, dog sledding, snowmobiling, hot air ballooning, and, of course, skiing/riding and more. According to skier visit numbers, it’s consistently ranked the most popular winter resort in North America. But Breck also has a genteel side—a thriving cultural community of art galleries, artists-in-residence, art classes, a film festival, performing arts, live classical and pop concerts, historic tours, mine tours and museums. So while you see skiers and snowboarders schlepping their equipment around town, you may also see a tour guide dressed in period costume crossing Washington Avenue or a young musician with the National Repertory Orchestra carrying a violin in to the Riverwalk Center. It’s a vibrant town, bustling with activities for everyone, literally jam-packed into the peak seasons. Those who love playing in the short summer rejoice in every sun-splashed day; those who live for skiing and riding say, “Summer is three long months of a really bad ski season.” Or locals describing their favorite seasons: "Last ski season, this ski season and next ski season."
Most of the Best Breckenridge things to do can be booked at the Breckenridge Resort Chamber’s Welcome Center in the Blue River Plaza on Main Street. In fact, you should stop by at the beginning of your stay to check out all there is to do and make reservations where necessary. You also can book ahead of your arrival by calling Central Reservations at 888-251-2417. For skiing/snowboarding and on-mountain activities, contact the ski resort
at 800-789-7669. Breckenridge Ski Resort is owned by Vail Resorts.
Neighborhood: Peaks 7 & 8
Nordic (cross-country) skiing is as close as you can get to nature in the winter. It’s just you and the snowy woods and an occasional little forest critter. We like leaving the Alpine crowds behind and taking to the less populated wooded trails. If you’ve not skied cross-country before, you should take lessons, as we’ve found it’s not as easy as it looks! At the Breckenridge Nordic Center, you can rent equipment, take group or private lessons in either classic or skate skiing, or just glide on their groomed or set tracks with a trail pass. There are 32 kilometers of trails that wind through spruce forest and open meadows (where we’ve spotted a moose). There also are 16 km of dedicated trails for snowshoeing, which is easy to learn. In fact, if you can walk, you can snowshoe. The golf course becomes Gold Run Nordic Center in winter.
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Neighborhood: Around town
We’ve hiked trails that follow along mining ruins to high-alpine lakes and lush meadows to snow fields stuck in rocky crevices of 13,000-foot peaks. The Peaks Trail is an easy shady path that meanders across quiet forests of the Ten-Mile Range. The more difficult Wheeler National RecreationTrail climbs to the top of the world at nearly 12,500 feet. For lake lovers, an easy short hike in Monte Cristo Gulch leads to Blue Lakes shimmering at the bottom of a steep couloir. We were challenged by the steep and treacherous trail above the north shore that climbs the shoulder of 14,265-foot Quandry Peak, one of Colorado's 53 Fourteeners. Closer to town, history buffs like easy Iowa Hill Trail Loop that slips through lodgepole woods where mining remains are preserved and documented. To see ruins of an entire mining operation, hike to the Sallie Barber Mine perched atop a ridge with amazing views. Water, hat, sunscreen and rain jacket are essential for this free activity. Maps are at the Welcome Center.
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Neighborhood: Gold Run Nordic Center
“Dashing through the snow” takes on new meaning when it’s done against the backdrop of jagged peaks under a starlit sky or full moon. The crisp night air got us snuggling under heavy red blankets and made us break out in song. Two magnificent Percheron or Belgian draft horses pull large sleighs with as many as 20 people over the rolling hills of the Gold Run Nordic Center (it’s the golf course in summer). Or, impress your honey with a romantic evening on a smaller private sleigh. We ate a fabulous buffet dinner (or you can sign up for a less expensive treat from the gourmet hot chocolate bar) at the upscale clubhouse before the ride. This must-do outing is perfect for a special occasion, so save up. It’s not cheap ($87.50 for adults and $62.50 for children), but it’s worth it. Reservations required.
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Neighborhood: Around town
The Breckenridge Heritage Alliance maintains and staffs the museums and runs tours of the 151-year-old town, one of Colorado's largest historic districts. Discover the fascinating rough and rugged life led by the first residents of Breckenridge, such as the miner, Tom, who discovered the largest gold nugget in the state, Father Dyer, the snowshoe itinerant preacher; and Barney Ford, a run-away slave who became a wealthy entrepreneur and black civil rights activist in Colorado. Take the 90-minute guided walking tour for an historical overview; then visit the various museums and mining sites on your own. You can also take a self-guided walking tour, using illustrated guides obtained at the Welcome Center. While you're at the Center, take time to walk through the free museum in an attached old cabin. The newest venue is the Ski Museum that chronicles the last 100 years of skiing in Summit County, with wonderful old photos, vintage equipment and clothing, and a downstairs exhibit about the 10th Mountain Division. These mountain soldiers of World War II trained for winter duty on skis in the mountains of Colorado. Many came home to start ski areas around the country after the war.
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Neighborhood: Around town
From paved paths to smooth dirt roads to rugged single track, biking options in Breckenridge are great for the entire family. The popular paved recreation path follows the Blue River nine miles all the way to Frisco. For mountain biking, a network of trails on Peaks 8 and 9 challenge any city slicker. Resort maps detail trails for ability levels. Tiger Road off Colorado Highway 9 is an easy dirt-road ride through the scenic Swan River Valley. Baker’s Tank Loop is a twisty fun single track off Boreas Pass Road that descends through a thick pine forest. Lower French Gulch dirt road (accessed from Wellington Road in town) passes mining relics and lots of vibrant aspen before it becomes rugged and climbs sharply to remote French Pass above timberline. Any bike shop (and there are many) can supply you with area maps, as well as bike rentals.
Neighborhood: 5 miles North of Town
The Breckenridge Golf Club is the best on the planet. Play the course and see how far and straight the balls fly at roughly 9,300 feet above sea level. You’ll play through meadows, stands of stately pines and groves of aspen, across valley streams and around beaver ponds. Native grasses, sagebrush and natural wetlands form the idyllic mountain setting below the jagged peaks of the Ten-Mile Range. Twenty-seven holes make up the rambling course. Each plays differently than the next, and you can play any combination of the three sets of the nines: The Bear (named for The Golden Bear, its designer Jack Nicklaus); The Beaver, and The Elk. This is the only 27-hole Nicklaus-designed municipal course in the world. Weather-dependent, it’s usually open from late May through the first weekend in October when early- and late-season rates apply.
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Neighborhood: Peaks 7 & 8
With 2,358 acres spread across four interconnected mountains served by 28 lifts, there’s plenty of room for destination visitors during the week. But we have to warn you: lift lines can get long on weekends due to season pass holders who drive up from Denver. Breck’s varied terrain makes everyone happy: knarly steep tree-lined gullies (one named Devil’s Crotch); high alpine bowls, chutes and glades; groomed ballroom slopes; smooth beginner runs, and four terrain parks with three half-pipes. The highest chairlift in North America is here: Imperial Lift on Peak 8, serving the most expert runs and the best snow. If the altitude doesn’t get you, climb up to the Imperial Bowl at nearly 13,000 feet for a dramatic 360-degree view. Start your day from five base areas: Main Street Station, Beaver Run, Peak 8, Peak 7 and Snowflake. Lodging, lift and lesson packages booked online are the most economical.
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Neighborhood: Arts District
The Riverwalk Center—a year-round performing arts facility—is the summer home of the Breckenridge Music Festival and the National Repertory Orchestra. The NRO is made up of 89 of the nation’s best musicians chosen from more than 800 applicants from music schools around the country. It’s a treat to see these talented young people perform together for the first time. Concerts, dance performances and other events are held here as well, mostly during the summer months when the garage-style doors open to the outside lawn for fresh-air listening. Most performances require reservations, which you can make online or by calling the box office. From here, a short walk over the bridge takes you to the Blue River Plaza, downtown restaurants and the heart of the arts district.
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We love dogsledding as a fun family adventure (or romantic escapade) because it combines speed and giggles with the beauty and tranquility of nature. Teams of Siberian Huskies do what they do best: run fast over snow-covered trails, pulling one of us on a sled on an exhilarating romp through the woods while the other person stands on runners at the back “running” the dogs (with supervision). Then we alternate, taking turns at the helm during the hour-long ride. Don’t do this if you’re pregnant, and don’t take a child 3 or younger. Dress in your warmest clothes, with snow boots, gloves and hat, and don’t forget goggles to protect your eyes from snow that kicks up from the dogs.
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Neighborhood: Peaks 7 & 8
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Besides offering the usual family summer stuff like mini-golf, climbing wall, maze and bungee trampoline, this fun park uses the mountain to create thrills and spills. The SuperSlide is a concrete luge-like track snaking down the slope. Ride the chairlift up, sit on a sled—alone or with a small child—and let it rip down the track, or not, controlling speed with a hand lever. Do it once and you gotta do it again. Long lines form for the slide, so get there early. There’s no parking, so you must take the free gondola. Pan for gold, while you’re there, and grab lunch, too. STET, scheduled for end of summer 2010 is the Alpine Coaster, a roller coaster-style ride short to the ground that will operate summer and winter. Fun Park is open 9AM-5PM every day from the third weekend in June through Labor Day (weather permitting).
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