Since the beginning of summer break, I’ve seen dozens of my friends complaining on Facebook about their kids’ boredom and asking about interesting ways to keep them busy this summer.
I’m not a mom, so I’m not going to use this blog post to list arts and crafts projects or fun backyard activities to do with your kids this summer. However, I am going to shed light on a few free and low costs outings that are guaranteed to keep your kids entertained for at least a few hours.
Nearly every town in Colorado seems to have a free concerts series happening this summer. Some cities, such as Loveland, have two (Thursdays and Fridays). See my recent post for Visit Loveland for details. Continue reading
Mermaids, knights in shining armor, craft beer and belly dancing? I am so there! And I will be, because I’m attending the 5th Annual Pagosa Renaissance & Pirate Festival on July 19-21, 2013.
This festival is a fundraiser for the Pagosa Springs Chamber of Commerce, and the town’s 1700 residents have truly embraced this event. Last year more than 2400 people attended the Pagosa Renaissance & Pirate Festival in Town Park.
“It has grown so magically,” says event organizer, Stacy Kirby.
She has worked hard to keep the festival as authentic as possible, and although we all know that there weren’t mermaids during the renaissance period, Pagosa Springs has one for their magical weekend. Despite her mermaid, Kirby does insist all vendors and performers must fit with the theme of the festival, and as many of you know, authenticity is one of my measures of a good fest.
This 3-day event turns Town Park into a renaissance village, presided over by sitting royalty. Thunder Mountain Colorado Living History will be there to make sure things stay true to the renaissance theme. This nonprofit is a historical, educational, restoration and re-enactment organization dedicated to re-creation of history and cultural events. In Pagosa, they re-enact the renaissance and teach children what the period was all about.
Crafted with families in mind, children will be endlessly entertained from the moment they arrive at the festival and are given their quest. This quest involves solving eight riddles throughout the day in return for small prizes. Once he or she collects all eight prizes they will win a custom made pirate mug or pirate name tag.
Other children’s entertainment includes Sarah the Mermaid, the Salida Circus, weapons practice and more.
In addition to the many activities and vendors, there will be music, magic and theatrical performances throughout the weekend. Pandora Celtica will close out each day of the fest at 6 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday.
The Pagosa Renaissance & Pirate Festival is a family friend event that costs only $3 for adults and $2 for youths and children under 48″ are free. Visit the event website for other information.
We are looking forward to exploring Pagosa Springs during our stay, and these adventures will result in follow-up blog posts about this trip. In the meantime, if you want to join us at the Pagosa Renaissance & Pirate Festival, go to VisitPagosaSprings.com to start planning your trip.
I love trains. If you’ve been a fan of HeidiTown for any length of time you are already aware of my train obsession. I’m not into the technical stuff, but I like the experience of train travel and the nostalgia that comes with it. Train travel forces us to slow down and look around; something we should be doing on a daily basis.
While in Durango last month, Ryan and I had an opportunity to ride the famous Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. We boarded on a brisk morning at the end of April. I was gripping my camera and probably sporting a rather silly grin, because I’d been looking forward to this ride for a very long time.
We were happy to discover that a tour group of Brits were in our car. We love the British, and they did not disappoint – proving to be a very entertaining lot.
I suppose this is where I should tell you a little bit of the history. Durango was developed as a railroad town by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in 1880. The railroad arrived in town the next year, and construction on the line to Silverton began that fall. By July of 1882 the tracks to Silverton were completed and the train began hauling both passengers and freight. If that seems fast, it was.
After WWII, the Silverton line was nearly shut down, but thanks in part to a slew of 1950s westerns filmed in the area that featured the train, tourist began flocking to Durango. Today, the train provides year-round service. The locomotives used to pull the train are 100% coal-fired, steam-operated, and circa 1920s.
As soon as the train left the station we moved to one of the open-gondola cars, as did most of the Brits. The open-gondola cars are excellent during warmer months, although you will be covered in a thin layer of coal soot by the end of the day, and by the end of our excursion I’d made the decisive decision never to work in a coal mine.
We arrived in Grand Lake on a snowy Friday. The area had received three straight days of heavy snow, which made our first stop at On the Trail Rentals, even more fantastic. I previously wrote about this experience.
We were booked at the Western Riviera Lakeside Lodging & Events, soon to be world famous because on March 25, they will be featured on the Travel Channel’s Hotel Impossible. Much to my delight, because I’m a fan, the crew of Hotel Impossible was filming on the weekend we were in town.
We were staying in The Tree House, a huge two bedroom apartment overlooking the lake and just a short distance from the Western Riveria’s lake front property. It has a full kitchen, a living room and dining area with a fireplace. The master suite features a walk in closet the size of my first apartment, and the bathroom has Jack & Jill sinks.
We thoroughly enjoy the purple and pink sunrises from our big front window each morning, and we had a front row seat to the fireworks show on Saturday night. I was in town covering Grand Lake Winter Carnival, one of the best little winter festivals I’ve attended in Colorado.
Scheduled for a guided snowshoe trek in Rocky Mountain National Park, we got up early on Saturday. The Fat Cat had been recommended to us by the bartender at The Lariat. They serve a $12 breakfast buffet on the weekend and the selection included Scotch eggs, a personal favorite. A table heavy laden with desserts caught our eye. It looked like something right off the pages of Bon Appetit Magazine.
My husband, Ryan, is a big fan of desserts. Big. He looked at me, eyes full of excitement and asked, “Do you think that’s part of the buffet?”
It was. The Fat Cat will now always hold a special place in my Ryan’s heart, and mine too. We ended up there twice during our stay. We met and chatted with Sally, the owner, and felt like we’d discovered a home away from home. That’s how I feel about Grand Lake in general – it is genuinely comfortable.
At 9 a.m. we arrived at the Kawuneeche Visitors Center for our ranger led snow shoe outing with Ranger Barb. This was one of the best mornings ever, in part because Barb’s husband cut the trail for us. The scenery was breathtaking and it felt like we were snowshoers in a postcard. Barb is a gifted guide and amusing storyteller. Ranger led hikes at RMNP are free, but you must make reservations by calling 970-586-1223.
After our hike we sped back to Grand Lake to enjoy Winter Carnival activities. During winter carnival the businesses along Grand Avenue sponsor snow sculptures and this year’s theme was Alice in Winterland, resulting in especially whimsical creations.
The bed races are the Carnival’s most famous event. Eager festival goers were already lining the streets when we arrived and I noticed right way that Grand Lake is probably one of the most dog friendly towns in a state full of dog friendly towns.
The bed races lived up to the hype. It was a seriously entertaining event and since Hotel Impossible was in town they entered a team complete with their own camera crew caught here in our video of the races.
After the events were complete we made a quick trip out to Grand Lake Brewing which had moved out of town since our first visit. Their taster trays are huge and the staff is really nice. Back in town, we walked from The Tree House to Pancho & Lefty’s, another one of our favorite places in Grand Lake. It’s a super fun place that I mentioned in previous posts here on HeidiTown.
After a rather impressive fireworks show that we watched from our porch, we dined on delicious handmade pizza at the Grand Lake Bowling Alley.
The next morning, after filling up at The Fat Cat once more, we headed out to the picturesque Grand Lake Nordic Center for a morning of cross country skiing. The club house is beautiful and with 35 kilometers of groomed trails, you could easily spend a day here.
Sadly, we couldn’t. We had to head back home, but we’ll miss Grand Lake, and can’t wait to go back.
Author’s Note: Don’t miss the historic Daven Haven Lodge while you’re in town. It’s been open since the 1930s, and has had just three owners over the years. For a delicious steak, or all you can eat shrimp on Friday nights, make a reservation at the Daven Haven.
See more photos from this trip on Instagram at @TheMayorofHeidiTown.
HOTEL IMPOSSIBLE featuring the Western Riviera airs Monday, March 25 on the Travel Channel.
Throughout childhood I watched the Iditarod with pure excitement. I remember watching the late Susan Butcher dominate the race during the late 80s and early 90s. It was a sport that crossed gender lines and pitted human nature against Mother Nature, and Mother Nature sometimes won.
I was also a fan of the Iditarod because growing up in the Pacific Northwest I had several connections to people who ran the race; not close associations, but close enough to make me feel connected in a small way.
After reading the book “The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs & Men in a Race Against an Epidemic“ by Gay Salisbury, I developed a renewed interest in this race that had mesmerized me as a child. The book, published in 2005, is a nonfiction account of the 1925 diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska. Unable to reach the town by plane, sled dogs were used to race lifesaving serum to the people of Nome. At the time, this event captivated the nation and inspired the annual Iditarod Dog Sled Race.
This long intro illustrates just how much I’ve always wanted to try dog sledding, so when I got the opportunity at Sled Dog Rides of Winter Park this past weekend, I jumped at it. I was in town covering the Grand Park Dog Days of Winter, a sanction sled dog race, so it was the perfect fit.
Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park is located just three minutes outside of Fraser, or 12 minutes from Winter Park Resort. My husband, Ryan, and I arrived on a snowy and blustery Friday afternoon. Ryan’s uncle, Dean, joined us as well.
As we were guided to the area where the dogs are tied, all was quiet, but not for long. When the dogs realized that sleds were being set up the howls began. It was as if they were all saying, “Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!”
Ryan and I were bundled onto one sled, while Dean rode alone. Because our combined weight was significant, our team consisted of 12 excited dogs.
Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park has around 80 dogs, mostly Alaskan huskies. An Alaskan husky is a husky that has been bred with a variety of other breeds, so they all look a little different. Our team had one crazy Siberian husky named Yukon, while the rest were Alaskan huskies. Yukon is the dog in the video below that seems to be bouncing around and looking everywhere except forward.
Snuggled into a large blanket aboard our sled, we watched as our team was hooked up. This is quite a process and I kept thinking of the phrase, “herding snakes.” When the team was ready our musher, Laura, hopped on the back of the sled and we were off. The fast start was somewhat unexpected, and I was startled and tingly with delight all at the same time.
Laura informed us that we were sledding in less than ideal conditions. With fresh snow and wind, the groomed trail was constantly being covered with snow, making the dogs’ job more difficult.
Even with a heavy sled and deep snow in places, our team ran their hearts out. As we flew through Grand County’s beautiful countryside Laura kept us entertained with stories and answered our many questions; her knowledge made this ride not only fun, but educational.
While going through a deep drift our sled slowly turned over and we had to bail. Ryan was especially excited about this little incident because he felt it made a better “dog sled ride story.” However, it’s not nearly as dramatic as it sounds. Once the sled was good and stuck, Laura had us roll off the side so the dogs would be able to pull the sled out of the drift. After that we got back on and were off again.
The ride took about 45 minutes and we covered around 3 miles. Dog sledding is exhilarating, and for dog lovers like me, there’s the added bonus of getting to meet the dogs after the outing.
Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park operates winter and summer. During the summer the dogs pull visitors in modified golf carts or on specialized scooters. You can visit Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park at DogSledRidesofWinterPark.com or check them out on Facebook here.
See more photos of this dog sledding trip here. My husband took the following video or our dog sled adventure at Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park.
(NOTE TO SUBSCRIBERS: You’ll need to go to HeidiTown.com to see video)
Below is one of my favorite Instagram from this dog sledding experience. This was one of our “wheel dogs” (meaning he was directly in front of our sled). I love that face! Follow me on Instagram @TheMayorofHeidiTown.
This trip sponsored in part by the Winter Park & Fraser Chamber.
An embarrassing truth is going to be revealed in this post – I’m a novice downhill skier, and by novice I mean that I’ve been downhill skiing twice in my life.
At my first lesson, I was stuck with a bunch of daring teenagers who begged the instructor to take them straight to the big hill and I trailed along in mortal fear. By the end of that lesson I did manage to ski a few greens, but I learned the rather painful lesson that one, I am not a natural born skier and two, I can’t seem to get off a chairlift without falling flat on my face.
Fast forward a number of years, and I had the opportunity to attend Ski & Ride School at Breckenridge Resort this past January. This ski school experience was very different from my first introduction to skiing. First of all, I’ve been cross country skiing for the past three years, so I’m more comfortable wearing skis. Second, everyone else in my class, with the exception of a gal from Boston, had never been on a pair of skis before.
The class was made up of sweet, friendly and slightly terrified Texan girls. They all looked the part, having splurged on fashionable ski gear for the occasion, but several of them were suffering from altitude sickness. Honestly – their fear gave me comfort. I passed out Tylenol from the stash in my pocket and felt pretty good about not being the newbie in ski school. Note: Tylenol helps alleviate some of the symptoms of altitude sickness, but you should also drink plenty of water. Get more tips here.
Our instructor was Darrin Hart, a guy with an Australian accent and matching chill attitude. As a true beginners class we first learned about our boots and skis, and then practiced clipping in and out of our skis, which is a lot harder than it sounds if you’ve never done it before.
We walked to the top of the first bunny hill and stood alongside kids that barely came up to my knees. If they can do it, I can, I thought as I snapped my boots into my skis and took a deep breath of thin air.
After learning a few basic mountain rules and skills, we learned the mechanics of the snow plow and then, one by one, we slid down the bunny hill, legs awkwardly splayed, applying the use of muscles we didn’t know we had. Within minutes, a Texan was down, but being fairly athletic she was back up in no time.
Halfway through the morning we “graduated” to the larger bunny hill which required a short ride on a J-bar ski lift – the kind you put between your legs and hold on as it slides you up the hill. It turns out the J-bar was a challenge for many of my ski school buddies as one after another went down on her way up.
After a few runs down the larger hill, even making our way into real ski traffic once or twice, we were dismissed for an hour lunch. My husband, Ryan, had been out skiing real mountains all morning where he’d ran into a friend. They were drinking beers when I showed up in very good spirits.
“I think I’m turning into a real skier,” I announced.
This was, perhaps, a bit of an exaggeration coming from someone who’d been snow plowing down the bunny hill all morning.
After a lunch of hot and delicious green chili at The Maggie, I joined back up with the other students. The afternoon was going to involve some real mountain skiing on Peak 9, which meant I was going to have to ride a chairlift. My previously high spirits began to dissipate.
Fact: I’ve never fallen while skiing, but I’ve never gotten off a ski lift without falling. This day was no exception.
This is no mark against my ski instructor, Darrin. He gave us very good advice about holding our ski poles in one hand and pushing off with the other hand. His wise words worked for the four other gals on our chairlift, but not me and down I went. Fortunately, I’m skilled at ducking and waiting for the chairlift operator to pull me up and plop me down unceremoniously, but upright on my skis. I rejoined my class, who were watching with no trace of amusement. After all, they’d all spent time on the ground that day, just not in front of so many people.
The other skiers and snowboarders gave us a wide berth as we trailed down the mountain following our patient and faithful leader, Darrin. Back and forth we went, and occasionally I gained more speed than I felt was appropriate and I snow plowed the heck out of the hill.
I didn’t have time to do a second big run with the rest of the class because I had to head back to my condo to get ready for the Ullr Festival Parade, but I’m not sure my muscles could have handled it. After a day of snow plowing bunny hills, my legs felt like cement and my ski boots felt like torture devices.
Despite the chairlift incident, I felt pretty good about my day at the Breckenridge Resort Ski School. Darrin was a supportive instructor who made us feel confident before moving to the next level. I’m definitely not a real skier yet, but I did manage to make it down the mountain in one piece. Now, if only I could conquer that dang chairlift. I plan to take on that challenge on my next ski adventure.
While sitting in the hot tub back at our condo that evening, we were regaled with a story from a young couple who spent three hours getting down the mountain earlier that day. He thought he could teach her to snowboard, but he was wrong. Take it from me, if you are a newbie skier or snowboarder, a lesson is the way to go. It might even save your relationship.
To learn more about Breckenridge Ski & Ride School click HERE.
To learn more about all the fun Breckenridge has to offer year-round go to GoBreck.com.
I’d like to send out a big thank you to Darrin and Kristen at Breckenridge Resort and Rachel, Jessie and the rest of the team at GoBreck.com. It’s the people who make or break a ski town and you all do an awesome job at making Breckenridge, Colorado an extra special place to visit!
I’ve been a fan of dog sled racing since I was just a little girl. Growing up in the far northern reaches of Washington State – let’s face it, it was practically Canada – there were quite a few Alaska connections around my community. This meant that throughout my childhood I had roundabout connections to the Iditerod, and therefore I never missed the race on television.
Since moving to Colorado in 2000, it’s been on my bucket list to make it to one of the many sled dog festivals that are held in the Rocky Mountains. This February I finally get my chance, not only to fulfill my childhood dream of riding in a dog sled with Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park, but also to witnesses sanctioned sled dog races.
I’ll be attending the Grand Park Dog Days of Winter over Presidents Day weekend in Grand Park, Colorado, just outside of Winter Park.
This is a two-day event, sanctioned by the International Sled Dog Racing Association. Races will offer slots for sled teams of four, six and eight dogs, a three-dog junior division and one and two-dog skijoring, where the mushers, wearing cross-country skis, are pulled by their dogs.
A skijoring clinic will be held on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 1:30 p.m. and people are encouraged to bring their dogs and give it a try. Harnesses and gear will be provided, but you need skis and a willing dog. In addition to the races there will be vendors and other entertainment at the race site.
In addition to the spectacle of the dog sled races, the area will be bustling with activity over Presidents Day Weekend. On Saturday night, visitors can experience Winter Park Comedy Night at Winter Park Resort. Learn more about winterparkcomedynight.com.
Grand Park Dog Days of Winter
Grand Park, Colorado
(between Winter Park & Fraser)
Feb. 16-17, 2013
Official event poster (click to enlarge):
On our trip to Breckenridge for Ullr Festival earlier this month, Ryan and I were invited to go ziplining at Top of the Rockies Zip Line. Up until this point my one zipline experience involved zipping across the small lake at the village in Copper, so the thought of a fast, long zip was exhilarating and rather frightening.
We took the free shuttle from Breckenridge along with a group of men who were going to the same place for a day of ziplining and snowmobiling from White Mountain Tours, the sister company of Top of the Rockies. Our van driver, who lives in Fraser, was an entertaining source of information as we drove through the beautiful, snowy scenery.
When we arrived at Top of the Rockies I was delighted to find out that I was going to get to ride in a snow cat. Here’s a little insider info about me – I have an obsession with Antarctica. I have read a lot of books about this ice covered continent where they drive around in snow cats instead of cars. Therefore, I’ve always wanted to ride in a snow cat and this was going to be my first opportunity to do so.
First, we had to put on our ziplining gear that hung down and hit my knees throughout the day, but it was worth it. Then, we loaded up into the snow cat with Ty, the manager of Top of the Rockies at the wheel and Oz, our ziplining guide for the day.
Ty let me ride shotgun as we barreled up the mountain. We were soon well above treeline and the view at the top is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The panoramic cannot be described in words.
After gaping at the view for an appropriate amount of time, we loaded back into the snow cat and rolled back down to the first of five ziplines at Top of the Rockies. The first one is at 11,000 feet and flies out over the side of the snowy mountain.
First we did a little briefing with Ty and Oz in the “practice” area. This helps riders familiarize themselves with terminology and with how it feels to be hooked to the line. Once we were ready, my heart was beating pretty fast as I got on the wooden platform, still very shiny and new because Top of the Rockies only opened this past summer.
Oz zipped out to the other side to act as brake–man and then Ty hooked up Ryan who didn’t even hesitate when he got the GO. The line hummed as his 200 lbs went flying out over the precipice. I don’t think he even screamed, but when it was my turn to zip I let out some whoops and hollers that they probably heard in Leadville.
I might have been scared in the beginning, but after the first zip I learned to trust my equipment and my guides. As we worked our way through the five zips, the smile on my face grew and grew. I’ve described the experience of ziplining as a true natural high. For a control freak like me, throwing myself off a platform and flying through the air is more than fun – it is freedom – it’s letting go and truly living in the moment.
Top of the Rockies is one of very few Colorado ziplines that stays open year-round. Nearly everyone can zip, and while there is some hiking between zipline platforms, it is light weight. There are all sorts of packages to choose from including a ziplining and snowmobiling day that include lunch. In exciting news, Top of the Rockies already has plans to add to more ziplines this summer, making the total number of zips 7.
You can learn more and book a trip at TopoftheRockiesZipline.com.
A huge thank you to Ty and Oz for being fun guys and great guides. Thanks for the snow cat tour and the ziplining. Hope to see you again for a summertime zip!
Below is video taken by Ryan of one of his 5 zips at Top of the Rockies. If I had taken video there would have been a lot more screaming involved!
It’s time for another HeidiTown segment on KRFC 88.9 FM.
As a reminder, I’ve decided to cut down on these radio shows because I create entirely new content for each segment and it’s too much to keep up with on a weekly basis. So, the HeidiTown show can be heard now twice a month on the radio.
This week’s show includes a preview of a couple upcoming winter carnivals and a look at some Colorado winter sports you should try out this season. Some of these “sports” require little more than sitting down and hanging on, as you can see by this photo.
So sit back and buckle up and take a listen to this week’s radio show HERE.
I love small town festivals. There’s just something so real and so special about a town coming together to enjoy the company of friends, new and old. And while I love the big Colorado ski towns, sometimes it’s nice to get away from the glitz of a resort and simply bask in the glow of Americana.
Grand Lake has an abundance of Americana. It’s like turning back the clock to a different era when people borrowed eggs from their neighbors and didn’t think twice about letting their kids bicycle around town.
However, Grand Lake’s quaintness shouldn’t be mistaken for boring. Case in point? Grand Lake Winter Carnival, and this year’s theme, Alice in Winterland, should prove to be very entertaining.
The party gets started on Friday evening with live music at Grumpy’s Saloon from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday is when the real event takes place. All of the crazy activities will happen in downtown, along Grand Avenue, and everyone is encouraged to participate.
The bed races are the highlight, and chamber executive director, Lisa Jenkins, tells me that they make extra beds so that people can decide to put together a team and participate on the spot.
“This is a small town snow festival that is quiant and very family-fun oriented. It will make you laugh and smile,” says Jenkins.
Events like human bowling will surely get the crowds giggling along with tea pot curling, snow golf and the parent/child sled pull. In addition to all the games, there’s also a Winterland Parade, snow sculptures, a movie, the crowing of a king and queen, fireworks over the lake and even a Winterland Snow Dance.
All the proceeds from this event go to benefit the Grand Lake Fireworks Fund.
Grand Lake Carnival
Theme: Alice in Winterland
February 2, 2013
I hope to see you there!!!
Footage by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer, HeidiTown.com of this year’s bed race at Grand Lake Carnival: