Welcome back to The Ultimate Colorado Family Road Trip! Last week, we journeyed to Salida, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and the Best Western Movie Manor in Monte Vista. If you missed that journey, click here to get caught up.
Then, keep reading as the adventure continues!
From the Movie Manor, drive about 2.5 hours to Durango, a town that deserves at least a 2 night stay. Between hiking, rafting, biking, skiing, trains, shopping, and so many more opportunities for family fun, Durango is a fabulous Colorado destination.
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a highlight for many visitors. However, at 3.5 hours each way, the full train trip was not one we wanted to try with a toddler! Fortunately, other opportunities were discovered. Better yet, they were discovered in the form of Buddy the Dinosaur:
Imagine our joy when our pre-trip research led to the discovery of The Dinosaur Train! With a toddler already enamored with this PBS cartoon, we wasted no time. We bought our tickets immediately and knew it would be a highlight of the trip. We were not disappointed. A 30 minute train ride was all it took to arrive at the Nature Trackers Adventure Area, where the kids enjoyed dinosaurs, fossil digs, jugglers, bounce houses, and more.
Unfortunately, the Dinosaur Train has already wrapped up for 2013. Hopefully, a 2014 return is in the works. Other special events are scheduled, including The Heritage Train for history buffs and The Polar Express for the young and the young-at-heart.
Another family friendly activity is the Durango Discovery Museum. My children enjoyed the interactive exhibits, observed an eyeball dissection, operated a power plant, and participated in a mentos and coke explosion.
Although we had a pleasant visit to the museum, we were surprised to see many exhibits poorly maintained, lacking supplies, or not working at all. In fact, they seemed to struggle with some of the same challenges that we observed at the local Museum of Discovery. Despite those challenges, we still found it to be a worthwhile stop.
Important Tip: If you’re a member of the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, your admission to the Durango Discovery Museum is free!
A short drive out of town is Durango Mountain Resort, with skiing in the winter and an abundance of fun in the summer. Here, we spent a full morning giggling in a bounce house, navigating a ropes course, flying high on a bunjee tramp, braving a zip line, and walking on water.
Miniature golf, mountain biking, disc golf, an alpine slide, a mechanical bull, and a climbing wall are also available. Be prepared to empty out your wallet here. There is much to entertain the entire family and much to spend your money on!
Important Tip: Plan your desired activities ahead of time. Then, calculate the cost of paying per attraction versus the cost of the Total Adventure Ticket. We actually spent less by paying for each thing separate, but others may find that the package deal is the way to go.
I wish I could recommend a restaurant or two in Durango, but our dining experiences were underwhelming. Shopping, however, was quite enjoyable and even the little ones enjoyed browsing. One shopping highlight for us was Honeyville. Although you can buy the locally made products in downtown, I recommend a drive to their factory store where you can taste before purchasing. My favorite was the cinnamon whipped honey, my husband loved sampling their bourbon, and the kids enjoyed observing the beehive.
When departing Durango, prepare for a long, leisurely, and awe-inspiring drive along the San Juan Skyway. Make sure the car has plenty of gas and the kids have plenty of distractions. Then, settle in to enjoy the spectacular views along the Million Dollar Highway. Do not expect a quick drive. Although Google Maps says it’s a 1.5 hour drive, I wouldn’t plan on it. Cars drive slowly and road construction can result in significant delays. It is not a bad place to be delayed.
After this memorable drive, you arrive in Ouray, which is now on my list of favorite Colorado destinations. This little town, often referred to as The Switzerland of America, is quiet, charming, and beautiful. Ouray is nestled among majestic cliffs and mountains and surrounded by impressive waterfalls. In fact, our waterfall experiences were the highlights of Ouray.
An easy one to reach with the kids is Cascade Falls. The trailhead is located on the edge of town and a short hike will lead to the last in a series of seven waterfalls.
Our favorite, however, was Box Canyon Falls. After a stop in the visitor’s center to pay your entry fee, follow the easy walking trail for a cool, damp experience at the base of the falls. Although the walk was simple enough for my toddler, the thundering noise deep inside the canyon was a bit overwhelming for her. We then journeyed from the base of the falls to the top of the falls. This is not a long hike, but it is very steep and challenging, so we opted to do it in shifts without the toddler. The views are wonderful and it’s definitely worth the effort! In fact, my teenager has now fallen in love with waterfalls and is researching dream vacations to cascades throughout the world.
Many visitors to Ouray speak highly of the jeep tours available. With a toddler in tow, we opted to avoid the four-wheeling. Other popular sights and activities include ghost towns, rafting, rock climbing, and mine tours. During the winter months, Ouray is popular with ice climbers and boasts an impressive ice park and ice festival. Finally, any visit to Ouray should include a stop at the Hot Springs Pool.
Personally, I wish Ouray was a bit closer to home, as I’d love to return for a romantic winter weekend with my husband. I’m sure we’d enjoy watching the snow fall while we soaked in the hot springs, and watching the ice climbers while we sat on our derrieres drinking hot chocolate.
Telluride & Glenwood Springs:
Although we did not make these stops on this particular trip, I recommend working them into your itinerary if possible. In retrospect, I wish we’d scheduled time for Telluride, located about an hour from Ouray. Furthermore, our recent Glenwood Springs weekend was a family favorite, and would be a perfect stop on the route back to Fort Collins.
And there you go – our suggestions for the ultimate Colorado family road trip, Start the planning, strap the kids into the car, and enjoy your travels!
What destinations would you add to The Ultimate Colorado Family Road Trip?