Make the effort to get here & you’ll be rewarded with fewer crowds, gorgeous views & a memorable family vacation.
Tucked in the San Juan Mountains in the southwestern part of the state, Telluride is often overlooked by tourists, but it’s my favorite Colorado getaway, because it’s so different from the other resort towns. Your family - from toddlers to teens - will take home unforgettable, and sometimes unexpected, memories.
Where to stay?
You can either stay in the town of Telluride or in Mountain Village. Transportation between the two is both easy and fun with the Telluride-Mountain Village Gondola, the first and only public transportation system of its kind. The ride (on the “flying chairs," as my 2-year-old calls them) takes about 15 minutes and is easily accessible for strollers, bikes, and pets. The best part? It’s free!
In Mountain Village, The Peaks Resort and Spa can be described in one words: waterslide. Yes, your kids will ride the indoor slippery slide over and over, while you relax in one of the hot tubs, both inside and outdoors. There’s even a baby pool for the littlest swimmers. The Peaks offers an on-site breakfast shop, the Steaming Bean, which serves espresso drinks and a limited, yet unique, breakfast menu (think chickpeas in a breakfast burrito). There’s also a sit-down restaurant, serving up eclectic dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If the menu doesn’t please your palate, just walk across the street to Mountain Village Center for more dining options. With fitness classes, a rock climbing wall, lap pool, and sauna (all free), the Peaks is a family pleaser. Starts at $230/night.
In you’re wanting to be more in the center of the action (especially during festivals), opt to stay in the town of Telluride. With hotels along the main street or along the river, you’ll be able to find something that won’t break the bank. Staying in Telluride gives you the best access to all the shops, more restaurants, and activities without having to take the gondola each day. For a stay jam-packed with Telluride history, stay at the New Sheridan Hotel. The 26-room boutique hotel is home to one of the oldest bars in the West. With relics all over the hotel dating back to 1895, you’ll feel like you stepped back in time while still enjoying the luxuries of modern-day living. Starts at $250/night.
KidTripster Tip: Telluride is known for hosting a festival every weekend during the summer. Beware of skyrocketing prices during the most popular events, such as the Bluegrass Festival, Blues and Brews, and Film Festival. Check the online events calendar in advance.
What to do?
If your family seeks adventure, look no further than Telluride. There’s golfing, fly fishing, tennis, horseback riding, paddleboarding, paragliding, biking, hiking, and more. For some free fun, there’s a rock climbing wall in Mountain Village for bigger kids and free fishing at Town Park. Just check out a kid’s fishing rod and some bait from the parks and recreation building near the parking lot and then head over to the kids’ fishing pond; after reeling in your catch, head to the playground right next to the pond.
There's a Gravity Play area in Heritage Plaza at the base of the Mountain Village Gondola which includes a ropes course, water walkers, and a bungy trampoline. Combo pack cost: $45.
For an absolute knock-your-socks-off adventure that will have your family talking for months, try a Jeep tour up Imogene Pass. These tours are terrifying but exhilarating! The four-hour tour heads up a rocky, narrow road with no guardrails to the top of the 13,114-foot pass with an engaging history lesson along the way. There were times that I was completely frightened to look down (my heart was beating so fast during the tour that my FitBit thought that I did 80 minutes of cardio exercise!), but all was forgotten once I caught sight of the expansive view of the mountains. My 2-year-old was even allowed to go (with her car seat, of course), and she loved it! She kept saying “more bumps,” as I closed my eyes! The tour is a bit pricey for an entire family, but it’s intimate with only eight people in a jeep, who leave bonded for life! Our guide from Telluride Outside was phenomenal and had surprises for us along the way (which I won’t give away). You can also do full-day tours, if you’re feeling extra adventurous. Half-day cost: Youth (12 & under) $80; Adult $90.
Where to eat?
Start your morning off at Telluride Coffee Company in Mountain Village. With a large breakfast selection of anything from pancakes and eggs to bagels and muffins, everyone can fuel up for the big day ahead. In Telluride, check out The Butcher and the Baker Cafe for omelettes and homemade bread.
Pizza lovers unite at Brown Dog Pizza along the main drag in Telluride. It serves up pies and slices to please any pizza preference including Chicago deep dish, Detroit-style or traditional Italian. Kids can even create their own masterpieces right at the table and then hand them over for baking. Not a pizza lover? The pasta dishes are authentic; they make all their own sauces in house.
Take dinner outdoors at Black Iron in Mountain Village. Couches surround numerous fire pits outside, creating the perfect spot for fresh-air dining without freezing. We opted to share a bunch of appetizers and small plates, and we filled up easily. The flatbreads are great for sharing and the fried artichokes were a sneaky way to get my daughter to eat some vegetables. Save room for dessert! You won’t want to miss the s’mores (kid and husband approved!). You get your own personal s’mores roasting kit, complete with a chocolate bar from the candy store nearby. And parents, let’s face it, sometimes you want to wind down with a cocktail after a long day. Try the Moscow Mule; it was the best that I’ve ever tasted!
Itching to try out some of that famous Colorado craft beer? Head over to Smugglers Brewpub. They’ve recently renovated the space and upgraded the menu, offering house-made specials like fried pickles and locally-sourced meat. Plus, the beer consistently wins awards year after year.
For a quick lunch or dinner, hit up La Cocina de Luz. Order at the counter and sit down at an outdoor table in the front for great people watching or on the side patio for more room and occasional live music. This place has large portions and a homemade salsa bar. (I personally went back three times!)
KidTripster Tip: Some of the best food in Telluride doesn’t come with a storefront. Walk anywhere in town, and you’ll find food carts filled with made-to-order goodness. My personal favorite (and my toddler’s) is the Grilled Cheese Cart. Yes, a cart dedicated to the gooey deliciousness that is grilled cheese. Just across the way, you’ll find Diggity Doggs, serving up beef, pork, turkey, and even tofu dogs. Food carts are a fun way to change up the traditional lunch routine and perfect for families on the go.
Telluride is a decent 6-1/2-hour drive from Denver. If Telluride is your only destination, I’d suggest flying into Montrose, Colorado. Some airlines offer direct flights from select cities; otherwise you may have a layover in Denver. It'll save you a little bit a time but a lot of headache in the car (unless your kids absolutely love road trips).
For added adventure, opt to fly into Telluride itself. Sitting at just over 9,000 feet, it’s the country’s highest commercial airport.
Through Mountain Limo, the Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association offers a fleet of suburbans as a form of free transportation to residents and visitors throughout the town. Gratuity is recommended. Just dial (970) 728-8888.
Amy Sward lives in Denver with her husband and their 2-year-old, off-roading, adventure-seeking, high-flying daughter.
This writer received a complimentary stay and some activities for the purpose of this review. However, all opinions expressed are solely her own.