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Steamboat Springs' central drag, Lincoln Avenue

First-Timer’s Guide: Steamboat Springs

We never tire of the ever-busy, all-season ski town. 

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When it comes to Colorado mountain towns, Steamboat Springs should be at the top of everyone’s list. With more than 12,000 year-round residents, a lively cultural and nightlife scene, and too many outdoor activities to count, Steamboat transcends its “ski town” designation. From hot springs, night skiing, Sunday-morning window-shopping, and live music, there’s plenty to do at any time of year for every member of your family. Which is all the reason to start planning your trip now. Here are some ideas to get your itinerary started.

The Odometer: 156 miles, one-way

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Fun Fact: Steamboat Springs was named by early 19th century French settlers, who likened the quiet gurgle of the natural springs that flow under and through the town to the low rumble of a steamboat.


Stroll (or Bike): Along the Yampa River Core Trail, which parallels the 250-mile Yampa River. The walk is a great introduction to Steamboat—and a good way to break a sweat, if you wish, before a long day of shopping and dining. The view of the river—frozen in winter; clear and full in summer—isn’t bad either.

Where to Nosh: Grab a green chile-smothered breakfast burrito from Creekside Cafe & Grill. If you still have room, do your sweet tooth a favor and head to Winona’s for a cinnamon roll. The famous rolls are larger than the palm of your hand, and the icing is so gooey and sweet, you’ll be quickly planning your next trip to the ‘Boat.

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When your tummy starts to grumble in the evening, head to the easy-to-miss Sumatera for a low-lit Thai dinner. Steamboat also has more than its share of white-tablecloth restaurants for a small town, and our favorites—Harwigs, Bistro C.V., and Café Diva—all boast ever-changing seasonal menus that accommodate gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan diets, and a well-researched selection of wine.

Sip: Head to Butcherknife Brewing Company and enjoy the locally brewed beers. Order the IPA, but stick to one if you’re driving—Butcherknife is a couple of miles away from Steamboat’s main strip. When you’re ready to head back downtown, stop by Carl’s Tavern for happy hour, then meander just across the street to Sunpie’s Bistro to mingle with the locals. Order the Hurricane, which is a dangerous but locally famous concoction of light, dark and coconut rum, orange juice, pineapple, and grenadine. Night owls can then hop over to nearby Schimiggity’s for its live music, seven nights a week, and buzz-worthy, small-venue setup.

Image courtesy of Daliah Singer

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If You Do One Thing…: Take a dip in Strawberry Park Hot Springs. The all-natural mineral pools simmer at around 104 degrees day and night. Be warned: In the evenings and weekends, you’re more likely to spot soakers sans clothing. There are cabins available on-site, but the bare bones lodging and amenities means your trip to the springs is best planned as a half-day venture. Heed the sign’s warning: Four-wheel drive is required to make it there in the winter.

—Image courtesy of Hotel Bristol

Stay: The history-rich Hotel Bristol—located just off Steamboat’s main drag on Lincoln Avenue—is ideal if you want to stay in town (much of Steamboat’s lodging is a short drive away). From here, you’re walking distance too all the town’s biggest attractions and dining.

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—Image courtesy of Steamboat Ski Resort / Larry Pierce

Get Outside: Dogsledding, dinner on a horse-drawn sleigh, tubing the Yampa River—Steamboat pretty much has it all. It seems like there’s always something going on, too, from a Hot Air Balloon Rodeo (that’s right), to “Texas Week,” and the upcoming Bud Light Rocks the Boat festival. When you’re not imbibing at one of the town’s many festivals, there are a few outdoor scenes that can’t be missed. In the summer, hike the short but steep terrain to the gushing Fish Creek Falls (pictured above). During the winter, if you’re not hitting the slopes, snowshoe or cross-country ski on one of the many backcountry trails near Rabbit Ears Pass. There, enjoy Mother Nature’s undisturbed powder the right way: for free. Which is great, becuase you’ll find plenty of ways to spend your cash on Steamboat’s urban adventures instead.

Jerilyn Forsythe, Digital Associate Editor

Jerilyn Forsythe co-directs 5280.com's editorial strategy, manages the magazine's social media presence, and oversees 5280's digital internship program. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter @jlforsyt.

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