Breckenridge, spread across a basin of the Rocky Mountains’ Tenmile Range, is renowned for its ski resort, year-round alpine activities, and gold mining history. The Victorian core, in the Breckenridge National Historic District, displays a variety of colorful, well-preserved buildings from the 1880s and 1890s, which today house shops, galleries and restaurants along Main Street.
The city offers culinary adventures, a buzzing nightlife and numerous cultural experiences year-round. Visitors will love the choice of outdoor activities, which go beyond skiing to mountain biking and alpine hikes of various levels of difficulty and accessibility to see stunningly photographic lakes and peaks.
Summer in Breckenridge brings alfresco dining, trips to the lakes and an escape from urban noise, while fall, colored by golden aspens, offers festivals and even more unique outdoor photo opportunities in the wilds of nature.
Winter sees the skiers, snowboarders and sledders flooding to town, bringing with them the après-ski vibe.
Breckenridge is the perfect destination for solo travelers, friends, families and couples to share some time and magic in nature.
In this article, let us take you on a tour of the highlights of the best things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado.
We recommend you start your visit with a look around the Breckenridge Welcome Center, in the Blue River Plaza at 203 S. Main St., which serves as a combination information center and historical museum. Opened in 2006, the 4,000 sq. ft. center offers information on the local dining, shopping, and other activities available in and around Breckenridge, and includes a small museum with exhibits and films that provide a historical overview of the town. The staff are helpful, and the facility has clean restrooms accessible by elevator.
Your next stop as you acclimate to the high-altitude city will likely be Main Street. Breckenridge boasts diverse cafes and restaurants catering to all tastes and preferences. The shopping scene ranges from touristy to high-end, and has a broad selection to choose from. Despite a lot of that being on the pricier side, it is a great shop-and-stroll experience, especially for those looking for a relaxed afternoon after their outdoor exploration of the surrounding nature.
For History Hunters…
The Barney Ford Museum
The small house of Barney Ford, one of the first African American leaders in the area, serves as a house museum, right in the middle of Main Street. Guided tours are available on the hour from Tuesday through Sunday and are led by knowledgeable guides like June and Sherrie. The tour, lasting around 45 minutes (depending how many questions you ask) provides an interesting history of Ford, an escaped slave who played a significant role in founding Colorado.
You’ll find the exhibits and presentation offer a fascinating insight into his life and accomplishments – from advocating for Black Suffrage to his contribution to the Underground Railroad, he was clearly a noteworthy part of Colorado’s history.
The Edwin Carter Museum
Believed to be the second oldest museum in all of Colorado, the Edwin Carter Museum is a free must-stop while you’re visiting downtown Breckenridge. Carter was an early mid-1800s naturalist who practiced taxidermy as a way to preserve species for the future (he thought all Colorado animals would be made extinct by the end of the 19th century due to the pollution caused by mining!).
Today, the renovated museum features a theater with a 20 minute video about Carter, along with pictures and interactive exhibits about gold mining, museum collections and other famous naturalists that kids and adults alike will enjoy. Our favorite area was the hands-on children’s room where kids can “hunt” for animals like Carter using a spotting scope.
Carter’s collection played a big role in the establishment of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and you should make a stop there when you’re able to see more of his great work.
The Breckenridge museum, housed in Carter’s home cabin, is staffed by enthusiastic volunteers who are passionate in their work sharing his unique story, providing guests a memorable and educational experience.
There is also a playground out front for those younger children with limited concentration spans, public restrooms on site, and museum parking.
We suggest leaving a donation so as to keep this gem going.
For Lovers Of The Arts…
Breckenridge Backstage Theater
The Breck Backstage Theater offers a brilliant alternative to ski-related activities!
Renovated in 2016, the theater can fit an audience of 137 and features a bar and lounge that are accessible 30 minutes before showtime. Comfortable seats with fold-down cup holders allow you to bring in drinks, and coat racks are available in the lobby.
Despite small restrooms causing the typical lines, the overall experience at the Breck Backstage Theater is worth your time and money- and it is conveniently located just two blocks from Main Street and between two Breckenridge town shuttle stops.
For Nature Nurturers…
Boreas Pass Road
The scenic drive up to Boreas Pass offers breathtaking views of open meadows, diverse landscapes, and some historical insight too- look out for the information provided at the highest point about the old railway.
Potential drivers beware- the road is unpaved and bumpy, making it more suitable for trucks or SUVs! Though even with a 4×4, the 20-mile journey, crossing the continental divide at over 11,000 feet, may take over an hour due to slower speeds, and the elevation could make hiking hard if you’re not acclimatized.
The loop itself is under 3 miles, with a counterclockwise start from the parking lot, providing gradual inclines and scenic spots for photos. The loop includes both road and trail portions, so you can ride or drive if you don’t fancy the walk.
Sapphire Point Overlook
Sapphire Point Overlook is a fantastic destination to put on your list, with its stunning views and accessible trails suitable for all ages. Plus, the drive from Breckenridge is short and easy and there are plenty of picnic tables just waiting for you to feast on!
The location is popular, so be aware that parking can fill up quickly – opt for the small lot off of Swan Mountain Road for access to the easier trail (the alternative – a steep walk up from the bottom of the ski lift – may well knock it out of you!).
There is a restroom at the trail entrance.
The hike offers a leisurely loop around the lake with breathtaking scenery, making it a great place to head to for a relaxed hour or so. Being well-maintained, the trail is suitable for both families with small children and visitors with mobility issues. You’ll need around 30-45 minutes to complete it, with two main points to enjoy views of Lake Dillon from. Don’t forget to stop at the 7-11 on the way to buy sunflower seeds to feed the ever-hungry chipmunks, a fun experience for the whole family!
First note- If you want to visit McCullough Gulch, you’ll need to make a parking reservation at hikequandary.com, as the parking lot is shared with those hiking Quandary Peak and can fill up fast. During the summer, a shuttle is available to transport visitors two miles up the fire road near the trailhead.
While some say it is a “moderate” 4-mile round-trip hike, the trail can be rough in areas, with narrow bridges, uneven rock, and some steep inclines, so be ready (as one reviewer rightly noted “bit of a road march to start but solid elevation gain”), and it can take up to three hours to complete, including photo-stops. You’ll help yourself by wearing good hiking boots or shoes with a solid grip.
The scenery is worth-visiting pretty, though, with seasonal wildflowers, streams, waterfalls and a lake.
Head there early to beat the crowds, and wear layers to accommodate the changing temperatures. Be sure to take plenty of drinking water with you, too!
The beautiful thing about this hike is that everywhere you go, there is something spectacular to look at.
Vail Pass Path
Vail, a convenient 40-minute drive from Breckenridge, promises stunning views and hiking opportunities at the top.
We recommend renting a bike from Mountainview Sports (or another such supplier) to explore the area. The bike trail, while generally easy, includes a steep and curvy section that might challenge beginners, but once you’re past it, it’s easy sailing! The trail offers breathtaking views, and while the afternoon ride gives you plenty of time to enjoy the scenery, the morning option is recommended for a longer experience.
Cap off your day with a stop at Sugar Lips in Copper for mini donuts and coffee.
Head there early to beat the heat and crowds, wearing layers to accommodate the changing temperatures. And be sure to take plenty of drinking water along!
Completing the climb of Quandary Peak is a challenging yet very rewarding experience, ideal for those who have trained for high elevations. The weather can vary throughout your trip, with fog, sleet, rain, and sun, creating a mixed but interesting experience that you should dress in preparation for!
The hike, labeled as moderate to challenging, can present difficulties due to elevation for the unprepared, though, so be sure to acclimatize for a few days before attempting this climb!
Grab the shuttle from Breckenridge to the trailhead to avoid parking stress. If you do take your own car, you are advised not to leave your valuables inside – and to make a very early (6am latest!) start.
The hike, taking a total of 6.5 hours on a well-maintained trail, will likely offer sightings of wildflowers, mountain goats, pikas and mountain grouse – so keep your eyes open and your cameras at the ready!
For Winter Wanderers…
Carter Park in Breckenridge offers a variety of activities, including a dog park for your fur babies to enjoy, a pickleball/tennis court, and free sledding in the winter. You read that right- FREE!
Visitors can borrow sleds from the park instead of bringing their own, giving you and the little ones the chance to take a day off from skiing and enjoy some ice sledding instead!
Carter Park is easily accessible from Main Street.
Breckenridge Nordic Center
The Breckenridge Nordic Center offers a variety of winter activities, including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowcat tours. We love the knowledgeable, patient and friendly guides, and can highly recommend the snowshoe tour for the great workout and beautiful views it provides!
The center’s impressive wooden lodge offers a cozy base with welcoming staff for those seeking a break from the crowded downhill skiing scene.
Book you and your family on a snowcat trip through the Cucumber Gulch Wildlife Preserve on a modern Italian-made snowcat with an informative guide, and enjoy a bonus stop at Josie’s Cabin for stories, hot chocolate, and s’mores.
Breckenridge Ski Resort
Breckenridge Ski Resort is loved for its four huge peaks, five terrain parks, three half-pipes, high-speed SuperChairs, top-notch Ski & Ride School, the highest chairlift in North America, and stunning surrounding scenery!
Learn to ski with an awesome instructor, enjoy varied and well-maintained terrain for all abilities (including excellent beginner areas), great restaurants, and shopping options too – though these tend to be unsurprisingly pricey.
We recommend the Epic Pass to cut costs, and be sure to make use of the free gondola to the base of Peak 8. In fact, there is so much to enjoy at Breckenridge Ski Resort, we say pick your peak (or two, max) and stick to them to avoid overtiring yourself trying to fit it all in.
Avoid weekends to avoid the crowds, with lines starting way down on the I-90 before you even get there!
Expert skiers are encouraged to explore Peak 10, known for its black runs and double diamonds for experienced skiers.
And don’t miss the breathtaking view from the highest chairs at 12,500 feet!
Stephen C. West Ice Arena
Take a break from skiing to enjoy ice skating at Summit County’s only year-round facility, the Stephen C. West Ice Arena. The rink features a covered outdoor area (open mid-October to March) and a spacious 37,000 sq. ft. indoor NHL-size rink with seating for 500, locker rooms, and meeting rooms.
You and the family will have lots of fun here, not least for its good, smooth ice and reasonable prices, but for its public skating and drop-in hockey sessions too!
You can rent equipment at the full-service pro shop, and “walkers” are provided for beginners.
Year-round youth and adult hockey leagues are available without spectator fees, and there are biannual ice shows to put on your must-do list.
For Water Lovers…
The journey to Blue Lakes will see you navigating a super bumpy road, though it has been known to be manageable for smaller non-4WD cars if driven slowly and carefully.
The two-mile trail itself is an easy walk, though the small stream crossing may require a stick for balance. The views at the falls are beautiful, and it’s a nice spot for a picnic if you don’t mind a chilly breeze.
The lake and waterfall areas provide great photo opportunities.
On the way, keep a lookout for mountain goat families (but don’t get too close!).
Taking Blue Lakes Rd off Hwy 9 leads to Lower Blue Lakes parking lot, where a short walk to the shoreline promises amazing photo opportunities. Visitors can cross the stream, hike the trail, or drive to the next parking lot for stunning views of the lake and valley. Upper Blue Lake features a waterfall and trail accessible from the upper parking lot, and you have the option to walk across the dam and explore the surrounding trails.
The Sawmill Trail in Breckenridge offers a peaceful and wooded hike, starting from the Snowflake Lift. Although you can’t park at the trailhead (you WILL get a ticket!) the trail itself is worth your time – being quite serene and following a gently flowing stream, with bridges and wooden walkways to follow.
The shaded trail leads you uphill and around a reservoir at the top (though, due to that limited parking, some families just start at the top). The lake provides a picturesque setting with mountain views, and there are opportunities for you to take a dip in the water if you can stand the cold!
Despite those aforementioned parking challenges and some poorly marked sections, the trail is fantastic and very family-friendly.
Also worth your leg time are Spruce Creek Trail and Mohawk Lake!
For The Thirsty…
The experience at Breckenridge Distillery promises friendly staff, excellent food, and quality bourbon. Definitely try “The Founder’s Experience” tasting (we had ours paired with chocolate), followed by a tasty meal during the 2pm – 6pm Happy Hour, taking advantage of a great menu of food and cocktails on the outdoor terrace – our favorites were the hanger steak and lobster rolls!
Afterwards, buy several bottles of your favorite spirits from the store.
The servers here tend to be knowledgeable and attentive, and the prices reasonable.
Broken Compass Brewery & Tap House
Broken Compass has some of the best beer and vibes in Breckenridge. Their taproom in town and the brewery by Airport Road are both worth a visit, with the latter tending to have more local clientele.
The presence of cool ski decor adds to the atmosphere. Get a flight as it’s a good way to try out the different beer options- and that flight should definitely include the famed chili beer and Coconut Stout! You’ll find the servers friendly and knowledgeable.
There’s a laid-back, welcoming atmosphere here to add to those reasonably priced beers, and a dog-friendly patio area outside, and they regularly have live music.
While they don’t serve food, you are allowed to bring your own.
Dancing Pines Distillery
This hidden gem near the gondola and Main Street sources all its ingredients locally in Colorado, and offers high-quality spirits without GMOs, added sugars, extracts, or preservatives.
Of their variety of spirits on offer, including bourbon, spiced rum, and vodka, the most popular choices include the Black Walnut, Chai & Cherry liquors, and their smooth gin which has a slight citrus flavor.
The knowledgeable and friendly staff contribute to making this a must-visit locale in Breckenridge.
Dancing Pines is housed in a rustic barn off Main Street, a cozy spot that offers live music on Saturdays, perfect for a relaxed drink and chill atmosphere.
But drinking isn’t all you can do there – be sure to learn about how the spirits are made, and take advantage of the “buy two get one free” deal on chai vodka!
For Something Uniquely Breckenridge…
Visit Isak Heartstone
Isak Heartstone, a unique troll sculpture, lives in “Trollstigen” in the woods of the Rocky Mountains, and is easily accessible with a five-minute walk from the Stephen C. West Ice Arena parking lot.
The trail, featuring both rock and wooden walkways, leads to this surprisingly large troll nestled among beautiful trees. Isak has a heart, too, adding a touch of warmth to this artistic creation.
Please don’t let your kids climb on him, though, as he is a piece of art – great for photos but not for rough-handling.
Get Your Fill Of Breckenridge’s Railroad History
The High Line Railroad Park in Breckenridge offers a family-friendly outdoor experience with a focus on railroad history. The park features Engine No. 9, an original locomotive from the late 1800s, along with a boxcar display, caboose, and a rotary snowplow used for clearing tracks.
Children can enjoy a railroad-themed playground, engage with Engine No. 9’s whistle, and explore the replicas.
The park has picnic tables for family outings, and restrooms are available at the nearby Ice Arena.
Conveniently located across from the starting point of the new troll train, the park is a static site WITHOUT train rides, but offering an enjoyable break for families visiting Isak Heartstone.
Breckenridge has everything you need for a fun vacation in the mountains – lakes, woods, hike & bike trails, winter recreation and cute museums packed with local history! We hope we’ve inspired you to explore to the max!
What Else Can I Do In Colorado?
How about some hot springing? Colorado has both free, natural hot springs to explore in nature, and commercial hot springs resorts offering the full package for fun and relaxation.
If it’s adrenaline you’re seeking, why not head to Royal Gorge for bungee swings, rock climbing and scenic views from a historical bridge?
While we at Traxplorio do our very best to give you the most up-to-date information, we always recommend you do your own research before you travel, and check conditions and prices with official sites. Thanks for understanding, and enjoy your adventure!