Do you ever panic at the thought of planning a summer vacation the entire family will enjoy? Do you live in a part of the country where you would like a break from the heat for a few days? Would you like to share some fun and adventure with your kids outside?
If your answer to the above questions is a resounding YES, then read on. This blog might be for you.
This past summer my two grandsons came to visit us in Colorado. Several months before their visit, I began making my plans. My assignment - how to entertain two, highly energetic 8-year-old boys with a Fortnight addiction. I knew I had to keep them busy, and I wanted to provide active learning experiences as well. Unbeknownst to them, their iPads would be on near-complete lockdown during their stay.
Summer in Colorado is a special time, especially in the mountains. The humidity is low with warm days and cool nights - perfect for being outdoors. My plan began to take shape as I imagined what these 2 boys might enjoy.
Our first day we spent near home. After breakfast, I loaded them into the car for our first surprise event, a trip to K1 Speedway in Littleton, CO. Just about everything planned was kept under wraps and used as incentives for good behavior.
K1 Speedway is not just in Denver - there are scattered locations across the United States but none in Pensacola, FL where they live - so I thought this would be fun for them, and it was. If you can imagine a pleasant environment with a go-kart track, this is it. Located in an indoor, temperature-controlled environment with no smelly gas engines, the company uses electric motors which are nice to the ears and to the nose. Plus, 8-year-olds can drive and race their own cars, a major caveat for growing boys.
K1 Speedway is open every day and located at 8034 Midway Drive, LIttleton, CO 80125. For additional information, contact them at www.K1speed.com or by phone (720) 726-1264.
Today is Saturday, June 1, 2019, and we are headed up the mountain to visit Breckenridge. The boys don't know this but we have a couple of stops in mind along the way, the first one being Georgetown, CO to ride the Georgetown Loop Railroad.
A few years ago, we took another family of grandkids on this train tour and had a great time. Our ticket includes a tour of a real gold mine used back in the Goldrush days. There are several mine tours on the website however, I chose the Everett Mine because this tour isn't quite as long as the others. It's chilly down under so bring a light jacket. Everyone is issued a hard hat to wear. The lighting is dim and the tunnel is narrow, so be sure everyone in your party can handle the environment.
After the tour you can pan for gold - each miner will take home a few flakes in a glass bottle - and then have grilled hot dogs, chips and lemonade at an outdoor picnic lunch. The timing is just about perfect because as soon as you finish your lunch you will hear the train whistle sounding the train's arrival. Allow about 2 1/2 hours for the train ride and mine tour. We were lucky enough to purchase our tickets for a Railroad Days weekend. During Railroad Days, the Old West comes to life with a train robbery - lots of fun for the kids. For more information about the Georgetown Loop Railroad, you may contact them at https://www.georgetownlooprr.com or by phone (303) 569-2030. The Devil's Gate Station address is 646 Loop Drive, Georgetown, CO 80444.
Georgetown Railroad Loop
The two Powder Monkeys. Powder monkeys was a name they gave the kids who were about Coop and Jax's age and worked in the mines. The kids were responsible for lighting the dynamite, then running as fast as they could out of the danger zone. This was a job for kids because they were little and fast...much faster than a miner.
In Colorado, the summer days are long, with plenty of daylight until 9 p.m., so after the train trip, we had plenty of time to explore. The boys had been begging to see snow, and I had a good idea of where to find it. Often times, by early June, the snow has melted, but with our major snowfalls occurring in late spring this year, I predicted that if we drove high enough, we might find some snow worthy of playing in - and I was right! If you want to try this sometime, plug in Guanella Pass or Mt. Bierstadt Trailhead on your GPS. The locations are the same - about a 45-minute drive up the mountain from Georgetown. The views at 11,670 feet are beautiful, and you might even see some Bighorn Sheep on your way up or down.
Days 3 & 4
We spent the next couple of days in Breckenridge at Grand Colorado on Peak 8. I made a big mistake thinking that the Breckenridge Epic Discovery Fun Park on Peak 8 would be open - but I was wrong. Oops!! So...what does one do? One makes lemonade out of lemons - right?
We had a great time swimming in the different pools and using the various hot tubs the resort offered. There was also a game room the boys utilized several times a day, plus arts and crafts in the day room. We cooked in, ate out, played Uno, and had a small birthday party for my friend, Debbie, who happened to be in Breckenridge visiting her mom. The Breckenridge Recreation Center was another valuable resource where the boys played basketball, Raquetball, and used the climbing wall in the pool.
We also went on a zip-lining tour not far from Breckenridge. Now that was the bomb!! Great views, very well-managed with a "safety first" policy, plus I didn't have to climb swaying towers for access to the zip line.
Here is how they get around that. They drive you in a big truck to the top of a mountain. The take-off platforms are built right into the side of the mountain, so there is no climbing involved. I must admit, my knees were a bit shakey after the first couple of trips, but after that, my anxiety waned. One of my concerns was that maybe the boys wouldn't be quite as brave as they boasted but to their credit, they never hesitated and were the first ones to make the first trip across the canyon. I'll leave the info for Grand Colorado and the zip line tour below in case you are interested.
Grand Colorado Peak 8 Top of the Rockies Zip Line, Inc
1627 Ski Hill Road 6492 Hwy 91
Breckenridge, CO 8042 Leadville, CO 80461
Phone: (866) 539-2102 (800) 247-7238
Top of the Rockies Zip Line Tour
Yep, I went too!
Getting our gear on.
Up the mountain we go!
Getting our instructions.
They made a new friend, Corbin, from TX.
No hesitation from Coop...he's ready!
Jax wants to dive off the platform. Running just isn't enough.
Last run - still smiling.
Days 5, 6 & 7
After checking out of Grand Colorado in Breckenridge, we drove to Grand Lake, a cute little town near Rocky Mountain National Park which, today probably looks a lot like it did 100 years ago. Shops and restaurants with old west facades line the wooden boardwalks on Grand Avenue. Stories and legends of yesterday's cowboy culture abound in Grand Lake. Just go into the Sagebrush BBQ and Grill and read the menu - you will see what I mean.
I booked a humble but comfortable condo at the Historic Rapids Lodge and Restaurant at the end of the road, because it sits on the Tonahutu River. After living it up at Grand Colorado, the boys thought I had lost my mind when we pulled in to our new digs, but new experiences only come with a sense of adventure. The river was raging behind the condo which impressed the boys and led to discussions of snowfall and the resulting snowmelt in spring.
Grand Lake has some of the best, homemade ice cream in Colorado which we happily pursued at Grand Lake Chocolates after our paddleboat adventure. I will give you the address at the bottom because you don't want to miss this treat! Goofy golf and bumper cars were also on our agenda and are just 2 of the many activities available for kids in this quaint town.
The prime reason I chose Grand Lake was for the close access to Rocky Mountain National Park. It's but a 5-minute drive to the west gate, and we wanted to show the boys how we hike and discover wildlife within the park. I don't know if this was their favorite part of the week spent with us, but I'm sure it ranks high. We taught them how to be stewards of the environment, to hike quietly through the woods and observe the wildlife silently at a respectful distance. For information about the park visit: https://www.nps.gov/romo/index.htm
In the park, we saw many moose - cows with calves plus the big boy Bullwinkles - in addition to deer, yellow-bellied marmot, pika, chipmunks, and elk. The day we checked out, we took the boys on Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the United States at 12,183 feet to reach the east side of the park. Stopping for a picnic lunch at the Alluvial Fan allowed the boys to have some fun and expend energy hiking over the massive boulders in preparation for the long drive ahead. Thinking that our wildlife adventures were over after leaving the park, we were excited to watch two separate episodes of Bighorn Sheep crossing the road in Big Thompson Canyon on our drive home.
The Historic Rapids Lodge & Restaurant Grand Lake Chocolates
210 Rapids Lane 918 Grand Avenue
Grand Lake, CO 80447 Grand Lake, CO 80447
(970) 627-3707 (970) 627-9494
The dock at Grand Lake.
Looks like we are going for a ride!
Ice cream tastes even better after the paddle boat trip.
Photographing Wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park
It's Saturday, June 8 and our last full day with the boys. We are back home in Franktown, but I have one last surprise in store. Elizabeth, CO always hosts a PRCA rodeo every year the 2nd weekend in June. I've always wanted to go but never have had the opportunity, but this year the timing is perfect. When we arrive at Casey Jones Park, there are horse trailers and cowboys everywhere, but the boys have no clue what is going on. I found out they had never been to a rodeo before!
We take our seats and soon the boys are mesmerized by the fanfare. There are cowboys and cowgirls warming up their horses, little kids getting ready to ride the sheep, and the bulls are bellowing within the corrals. When the rodeo begins, the boys have so many questions about the events they are watching I can't answer them quickly enough. As excited as they were, I don't believe they will ever forget their first rodeo. For more information about the Elizabeth Stampede Rodeo visit http://elizabethstampede.com or call (303) 646-0308.
Summer Fun With Coop and Jax
The adventures we had with our grandsons are just a smattering of the activities available in the west. Horseback riding, fishing, chuckwagon dinners, camping, backpacking, whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking, backcountry 4 wheeling....the list goes on and on. There is so much beauty to see and wilderness in which to play, the possibilities are endless. I know for some of you, Colorado is far away from home, but if you start planning now, one day that vacation will happen, and you will make memories your kids will never forget.
Comments? Suggestions? Drop me a note - I'd love to hear from you!
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