10 Great Summer Activities for Your Family in the Colorado Mountains

I don't know if it's a lack of oxygen to my brain at the high altitudes...

or the spectacular weather, but when we go on vacation in the mountains - there is no sitting still.  I swear I become a different person - you should see me on the beach - I'm a complete slug!  In the mountains we love to soak in all the sights, fresh air and adrenaline we can!  It's a good thing we're so active because we don't hold back on trying ALL the local eats either!

Here are 10 great activities that we enjoyed on our two trips to the Colorado Mountains.  There is something that will appeal to everyone.  We always try to plan a low-key day after a day filled with high-energy action as it keeps the vacation relaxed and helps with the budget too.  I hope this post provides some ideas for your family should you ever visit the beautiful mountains in Colorado.

1.  Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Glenwood Springs, CO 

At the Glenwood Caverns amusement park you'll find, cave tours and thrill rides that leave you dangling 1,300 feet over the Colorado River.  We joined up with our Denver based friends, the Nelson Family, for this day and our fun started with a 4,300 foot ride up the tram system in glass enclosed 6-person gondolas.  The views along the 7 minute tram ride up Iron Mountain were spectacular.  I thought the view alone was worth the price of admission.  Once at the top, we found rides and amusements for all ages.  The wait times for the rides ranged from no line to about a 30 minute wait for the Alpine Coaster.  We only spent the morning at the park, but we really could have used a whole day to visit all the attractions.    

We Rode:

Alpine Coaster:  We rode tandem on this 3,400 foot coaster ride down the mountain.  You can control the speed as you go.  At the end, there's a relaxing 1,000 foot ride back up to the starting point.

Soaring Eagle Zip Ride: The views were amazing as we zipped 625 feet up and down the mountain.

Wild West Express Family Coaster:  This tamer roller coaster was fun for all.

Craziest ride I have ever been on!

Craziest ride I have ever been on!

Cliffhanger Roller Coaster:  Three of us braved this full size roller coaster that at 7100 ft. is the highest elevation roller coaster in N. America.  And the name "Cliffhanger" is certainly appropriate as you feel that you are going to fly off Iron Mountain into Glenwood Canyon below.  We rode this a few times in a row, as there were no long waits.

Glenwood Canyon Flyer:  This looks like the tame swing ride you see at most parks, but this one swings you out over Glenwood Canyon.  There is nothing between you and the Colorado river below but 1,400 feet of air.  I still can't believe my 10 year old braved this one!  Makes you feel like you are flying!

Giant Canyon Swing:  I remember seeing this ride/torture device two years ago when I was white water rafting on the Colorado river and our guide pointed up to this crazy swing ride that swung out from a cliff atop Iron Mountain over the canyon.  I said, I would never do that ride - I thought it looked insane.  Well fast forward 2 years, and after building up my nerves on the other rides in the park.  I decided to give the ride a shot with our good friend, Abigail.  We figured we could survive the ride as it really only was about 6 swings back and forth.  It was totally insane - you are swung at 50 mph over the 1,400 deep Glenwood Canyon below.  On the second swing I watched as my hair barrette unclipped and hurtled in slow motion to the river below - that could have been us - if the waist restraints failed - yikes!!  You'll get a good laugh when you see the picture of my expression vs Abigail's - priceless!  

Glenwood Adventure Park Photo Gallery:  

Click the side arrows to view photos.

2. Glenwood Hot Springs:

Glenwood Springs, CO

The Glenwood Hot Springs have been enjoyed for 126 years and have an amazing history.  It is a resort destination with the World's Largest hot springs pool, lodging, spa and fitness club.  After our adrenaline filled morning at Glenwood Adventure Park and a wonderful lunch at The Pullman, we visited the hot springs pool and enjoyed a nice relaxing soak in its legendary mineral filled "healing" waters.  It was truly lovely to lounge in the warm waters while gazing at the beautiful mountain vistas.  Truly stunning!    

3.  Breckenridge Summer Fun Park

Breckenridge, CO

This was our second visit to the Summer Fun Park on Breckenridge Mountain.  You can park for free at the base of the gondola and ride up for free to the park.  There are over 15 different activities to choose from.  We chose to ride the Gold Runner Coaster and the Alpine SuperSlide.  The Gold Runner Coaster was another one of those 2-seater, manage your own speed coasters.  Breckenridge's version careens down 2,500 feet of twists, turns and straightaways.  The Alpine SuperSlide is just like the classic slides you remember from when you were little.  You can ride two to a cart or go solo and they have 3 different 2,600 ft. runs.  After our morning of rides, we relaxed with a wonderful lunch on the deck at Sevens, then shopped in the quaint town of Breckenridge

4.  Vail Adventure Ridge

Vail, CO

We rode the Eagle Bahn Gondola (Lionshead Village) up to spend the day at Vail's Adventure Ridge (10,000' + elevation).  First, the girls rode the 1,200 ft. long zip line tour and were begging to go again, which we did the next day!  Next, we took them to the ropes course.  They had to go through a ropes course training program first so they would know how to work all the hooks and harnesses.  Lauren, my ten year old, had a little difficulty reaching up high enough to unclip and reclip her safety ropes, but Sam (12) loved it and went back for more!  After the morning of activities we hiked along the Fireweed Trail across the mountain to Mid-Vail to have a lovely lunch at The 10th.  We hiked back to adventure ridge (hopefully burning off some of our truffle fries!) and enjoyed walking around some of the mountain top trails.  

5.  Stand Up Paddle Boarding on Nottingham Lake

Avon, CO

We are new to stand up paddle boarding (SUP) and wanted a place to go just for an hour or so close to our vacation home base in Vail.  Nottingham Lake was only a short drive away and turned out to be a great place for SUP rookies.  It's actually a reservoir with nice calm water.  The rentals were very reasonable and the girls and I had a great time!

6.  Piney River Ranch

Vail, CO

Half the adventure of visiting Piney River Ranch is getting there.  We visited on our trip two years ago.  It's actually in Vail where we stay, but you have to drive along a rocky unpaved road to get there - it's really bumpy - definitely need an SUV.  It took us 40 minutes or so.  But, it was worth it.  The views are those quintessential Rocky Mountains in the background, gorgeous water in the forefront.  We took our Christmas card photo there two years ago.  The ranch has rustic lodging options, casual dining, fishing, horseback riding, canoeing, SUPing and tons of hiking (many trails start right there at the ranch.)  There is no entrance fee.  You can park walk around, take pictures and hike all for free.  They also host weddings.  I would recommend checking their online calendar to see if a wedding is booked the day you want to visit, because it will limit your activity options.  Bridal parties don't seem to like noisy families canoeing right past their serene nuptial ceremony - he he! 

7.  Colorado River Rafting & Ziplining

Glenwood Springs, CO

On our trip in 2012 we ziplined and rafted with the Colorado Adventure Center in Glenwood Springs.  They sell package deals where if you book together, you can get a discount.  We zip lined in the morning, had lunch at their No Name Grill (surprisingly good grilled chicken sandwich!) and then spent the afternoon rafting on the Colorado River.  Lauren was 8 at the time and tried it all!  The rafting had some exciting rapids in the beginning and was pretty leisurely for the second half.  We were even able to jump in the water, swim around a bit and get hoisted back into the raft.  It was a very memorable experience for all of us!  (The photos we purchased as part of our package - I knew I wouldn't be able to take great pictures while careening across the river.)

8.  Georgetown Loop Railroad

Silver Plume, CO

On our Colorado trip in 2012, We took a day trip to ride the Georgetown Loop Railroad.  We rode a beautiful steam engine train on a 3.1 mile loop between the former mining towns of Silver Plume and Georgetown.  It's a great place to learn about the mining history in the area.  There is an optional tour of the Lebanon Silver Mine.  I recommend stopping by the town of Georgetown too, as we did - on a potty stop and discovered it was such a cute mining town with country stores, cafes and shopping. 

9.  Hiking, Flowers & Photos

Vail, CO - or pretty much anywhere in the high country!

We spent a day hiking around the top of Vail Mountain.  The girls and I had fun taking pictures of chipmunks, marmots and wildflowers.  There are tons of hiking trails in the mountains - and the best part is hiking is free!  You can do a quick internet search for wherever you want to hike and you'll find out tips, difficulty, time frames etc.  There are trails for every level of hiker!    

10.  Creeks, Playgrounds & Strolling Around Town

Vail & Breckenridge, CO

We like to plan at least one day where we just enjoy strolling around town.  The flowers in Vail and Breckenridgle always amaze me - simply gorgeous!  We discovered on our first trip that splashing around and tubing in the local creeks is welcome, so we always pack some sort of water friendly sandals.  They're a little easier to navigate the rocks with.  Most towns also have great playgrounds and planned activities for families and kids.  Just check out the town's website and calendar of activities.  We discovered a really unique playground in Lionshead Village.  They are these really creative structures that remind me of a bulb of garlic.  So we called the playground "The Garlics."  They are lit from within and our girls really enjoyed playing in them in the evening when they had them all to themselves.     

Thank you for letting me share our travels with you!  I hope this post helps another family who is planning a trip to the area.  While we participated in a lot of great summer activities, there are tons more that we didn't have time for.  There are tons more hikes, mountain biking, 4x4 mountain tours and much, much more.  If you've been to the area and have a great activity to share, please post below in the comment section below - I'm already collecting ideas for our next trip!

Happy Travels!  Tina ( :

Thank you:

Thanks again to the Nelson Family for all your great suggestions and for taking us to and from the airport!

Also, thanks to Sara Lococo with Vail Mountain for her great activity suggestions and for the gondola, zip line and ropes course passes.  Thanks also to Rachel Zerowin (GoBreck.com) for the Breckenridge suggestions.  Vicky Nash (Resort Trends) thank you for the Glenwood Adventure Park and Glenwood Springs passes. 

 

Mushroom Festival Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

Can you imagine eating 11 1/2 pounds of fried mushrooms in 10 minutes?  

Yeah, me neither, but you should have seen it - Molly Schuyler, the world’s  #1 ranked competitive eater, crammed all those 'shrooms into her little body yesterday, beating out some pretty big guys - saw it with my own eyes or I wouldn't have believed it!  Was kind of gross and exciting all at the same time.

Mushroom eating isn't the only competition at the festival.  They also host the Amateur Mushroom Cook Off which used to feature mushroom soups and now showcases mushroom appetizers.  I competed in the cook off for the past four years, so I was thrilled when I was asked to be a judge this year!  I will admit that It felt kind of weird to be on the other side of the table this year.  But, it was certainly fun to be able to taste all the delicious entries!

Amateur Mushroom Cook Off:

Congrats to all the finalists!  You all did a great job!

(The winning recipes will soon be posted on the Mushroom Festival website)

Jane Henry (Avondale, PA) – Baby Bella Shrimp Bangers
Katie Hagerty (Garnet Valley, PA) – Mushroom Medley Flatbread
Danielle Sanderson (Philadelphia, PA) – Cremini & Caramelized Onion Tartlets - Second Place
Devon Delaney (Westport, CT) – Saigon Summer Salad Rolls
Nancy MacKenzie (Newtown Sq., PA) – Baby Bello ‘Shroom Taco Bites - Third Place
Kathleen Harman (Abbottsown, PA) – Mushroom Taquitos - First Place 

Cooking Demonstration:

Along with the judging, I was asked to do a mushroom cooking demonstration and talk a little bit about my cooking contest experiences.  I decided to use my favorite mushroom flavor combination, caramelized crimini mushrooms, bacon and shallots, in three different dishes: Macaroni & Cheese, Nachos and Empanadas.  There was a really great crowd despite the high heat and humidity! …maybe the smell of mushrooms cooking in bacon fat lured them in ( :

Recipes:

Click Link to go to the post and scroll down:

Kennett Square Ultimate Mushroom, Bacon & Shallot Nachos 

Spinach, Bacon & Mushroom Nachos w/ Gruyere Cheese Dipping Sauce

Mushroom Festival Macaroni and Cheese Recipe:

Christina Verrelli - epicuricloud

Serves 8-12 depending on serving size

Ingredients:

Mushroom Mixture:

6 strips bacon, cut into thin pieces

1 cup shallots, thinly sliced

6 cups crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon salt (I used kosher)

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons dry marsala wine

2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley

Cheese Sauce:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt (I used kosher)

1/4 teaspoon pepper

4 cups whole milk

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 cups each fontina and gruyere cheese, shredded

Macaroni:

3 quarts water

3 tablespoons kosher salt

3 cups uncooked macaroni pasta

Toppings:

1 cup panko bread crumbs

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons flat leaf parley, chopped

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Mushroom Mixture:

In large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy.  Use slotted spoon to remove to paper towel lined plate.  Pour off all but two tablespoons bacon fat.  Add shallots, mushrooms, salt and pepper to pan.  Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes or until the released mushroom juices have cooked off.  Deglaze the pan with the marsala wine and add the parsley.  Cook for about 15 more minutes or until the mushrooms and shallots are caramelized.  (If they start to stick to the pan, you can add a tablespoon or two of water - it will loosen the mixture up and then cook off.)  Stir the bacon into the mixture, cover and keep warm.

Cheese Sauce:

Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat.  Stir in flour, mustard, salt and pepper.  Cook and stir for a minute or two.  Slowly whisk in the milk.  Cook over medium low heat, whisking frequently until the mixture thickens a bit, (about 8 minutes and 155- 160 degrees on instant read thermometer.)  Take pan off heat and stir in Worcestershire sauce and cheeses.  Stir until cheeses are melted and smooth.  Cover and keep warm.

Macaroni:

Bring water to boil over high heat.  Add salt and stir to dissolve.  Stir in macaroni and cook about 1 minute less than box directions.  Drain and pour into 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish.

Assemble & Bake:

Stir cheese sauce into the macaroni.  Sprinkle the mushroom mixture evenly over the macaroni mixture.  Top with the bread crumbs.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Top with parsley and lemon zest, if desired.

Printable Recipe: Mushroom Festival Macaroni and Cheese

Thank you for spending some time in the cloud with me!  I hope you enjoy the recipes!  Tina ( :

Spinach, Parmesan and Orzo Salad Recipe

We love pasta salad at our house...

and this one if definitely a favorite!  It has a nice light dressing and it's filled with lots of fresh veggies.  It's the perfect side to your BBQ or picnic favorites.  It's also delicious with some grilled chicken tossed in - dinner done! 

Spinach, Parmesan and Orzo Salad:

Spinach, Parmesan and Orzo Salad Recipe

Christina Verrelli - epicuricloud

Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

1-pound orzo
1 (5-ounce package) baby spinach, cut into thin strips
1 (8-ounce) tub pearlini fresh mozzarella*
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
1/3 cup oil (I use olive or safflower)
½ lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon shallot, finely minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Heat 6 quarts of salted (approx. 3 tablespoons kosher salt) water to boiling.  Cook orzo according to package directions.  Drain and rinse* just a little bit with cool water, drain again.  In large bowl, add orzo, spinach, mozzarella, tomatoes and Parmesan.  Whisk together oil, lemon juice, shallot, salt and pepper in small bowl and toss with orzo mixture.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

*Notes:
-Pearlini – If I can’t find the tiny pearlini mozzarella balls, I use the cherry sized ones and quarter them.

-Rinsing Pasta - I don’t generally rinse pasta, except for when I make certain pasta salads, it cools it a little more quickly so the hot pasta doesn’t melt the mozzarella and I find it helps make the dressing go a little further.

Printable Recipe: Spinach, Parmesan & Orzo Salad

Perfect for Pinning: ⬇

Thank you for spending some time in the cloud with me!  

I hope you enjoy the recipe!  Tina ( :