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Breckenridge is popular—some may say insufferably so—for a reason. The former gold-mining town attracts more than 1.6 million skiers annually, tantalizing travelers with its 100-plus restaurants and bars, 200 boutiques, and one of the state’s largest historic districts, all tucked into 5.5 carefully preserved square miles.
This Colorado ski town is an actual, well, town—one with heart, community, and culture. The 9,600-foot-high destination was built on grit, pride, and an unwavering alliance to a 10-mile stretch of snow-loaded peaks. That’s why locals savor and occasionally grapple with seven months of winter, pay exorbitantly high mortgages, and agree to knowing there will be no eggs or milk at the ransacked grocery stores between Christmas and New Year’s. We love our mining and ski culture roots fiercely. We’re proud of our ski bum settlers, shoot-’em-up saloon lore, and Victorian footings.
Here’s where to dip your toes into quintessential Breckenridge and experience its raw, high-country charm like a local.
- You don’t really need a car in Breckenridge. The free BreckConnect Gondola zips you from the middle of town to the base of the ski resort, and free countywide buses and hotel shuttles run to pretty much anywhere you’d want to be.
If You Do One Thing
Grab a hot cocoa or coffee at the Crown, a cozy, locally owned hangout decked in community art and serving Breckenridge Coffee Roasters joe, then stroll Main Street Breckenridge and revel in its Victorian-era charm. Window shop and pause for selfies in front of Blue River Plaza’s glimmering light display set against the skyscraping Tenmile Range.
While the skiing and snowboarding at Breck is legitimately epic, the aforementioned weekend and holiday throngs often send locals into the backcountry, onto Nordic ski trails, and packing up the littles for (free) sledding hill laps. Skip the line snaking up Carter Park’s popular knoll and take the saucer sled you picked up from City Market to the new Runway Sledding Hill just north of town on Airport Road. Look west to find Yo Mommas Cantina, a hidden gem known for slow-marinated pork pibil tacos and generous margarita pours.
Where to Eat
Breckenridge’s restaurant scene has steadily transcended from family burger and pizza joints to elevated chef-driven menus at every price point. Tour the Breckenridge Distillery and stay for smoked pork belly buns and pickled fried okra. Epicurean après fun happens over Korean fried chicken at Aurum Food & Wine; wine, cheese, and charcuterie at Rootstalk; and stuffed dates with smoked coconut sauce alongside barrel-aged Manhattans inside the richly decorated 19th century home turned restaurant, Hearthstone. Grab the most coveted sushi in town at Mountain Flying Fish, creative burgers and smoked wings at the Canteen Tap House, and daily specials like the famous roast beef sandwich and fish and chips at Fatty’s.
Where to Drink with Locals
Follow Instagram influencers to Rocky Mountain Underground, or RMU, for year-round beer garden buzz with a side of ski and bike retail. Or pony up to the Gold Pan Saloon, which has survived gunfights, Prohibition, and the Gold Rush to maintain the longest continuous liquor license this side of the Mississippi. Before it began pouring Front Range microbrews, mainstay Breckenridge Brewery was also serving Anorak-clad ’90s ski crowds its beloved Avalanche Ale and Vanilla Porter. Catch live music, trivia, and karaoke at the unapologetically brazen MotherLoaded Tavern.
Spend some time exploring Breckenridge Ski Resort’s five peaks and nearly 3,000 acres. Ride smooth morning corduroy rollers on Peak 7, challenge yourself with softened afternoon hike-to terrain and wide-open bowls on Peak 6, and rip lightning-fast advanced terrain on Peak 10. Hit open skate times at the indoor/outdoor Stephen C. West Ice Arena (skate rentals are available), or try cross-country skiing at the gorgeously groomed Gold Run Nordic Center. Beefy fat bike tires also cruise the area’s snow-packed trails with ease; or, spare your quads and go dog sledding with Good Times Adventures for a thrilling ride through the Swan River Valley behind an eager team of Siberian huskies.
Shop and Play
Find the most adorable hand-stitched children’s wear at Magical Scraps; upcycled antique housewares at Marigolds Farmhouse Funk and Junk; and locally made art and gifts celebrating live music and mountain living at Mountainkind. Then, head underground and try your hand at gold-panning with Country Boy Mine. For homegrown mountain entertainment, nab seats at the Backstage Theatre, or see touring bands like Brett Dennen and Graham Nash at the acoustically celebrated Riverwalk Center.
Sleep and play slopeside at swanky One Ski Hill Place, or lounge in terraced hot tubs at the Grand Colorado on Peak 8. For an option that’s easier on the wallet, the Bivvi Hostel is a former mountain lodge offering traditional hotel rooms and bunk-style spaces.