When I was little I remember taking a family trip to Steamboat Springs. My parents had a timeshare that allowed us to spend a few quality family days up there. I remember nothing else besides the place we stayed and looking out over the snow covered slopes. But that was all it took to fall in love and to want to return one day.
We had the privilege of going back a little while ago to spend Thanksgiving week as a family along with my parents–again with their timeshare. Let me tell you there is so much more to fall in love with in Steamboat than just the walls that surround you and the slopes you can ski down. Finding some of the local gems is what made the trip even more special and memorable.
That week will hold a lot of memories for our family for years to come! Especially preparing an entire Thanksgiving dinner in a Barbie-sized kitchen. Worth every moment, chuckle, and memory.
Leaving the Springs, you will head north to Denver on I-25 and then head west onto I-70. It is a familiar trip up to the mountains if you’ve visited any of the other Colorado Mountain towns. When you come into Silverthorne you will break off north towards Steamboat Springs with about 90 miles left until your destination. Overall, the trip takes about 4 hours to make, but the beautiful scenery makes it all worth it. Or you can take to the air and fly to the destination.
Steamboat Springs History
Steamboat Springs was founded in 1900 and is located near Mount Werner, a mountain in the Park Range in the Routt National Forest. It had been visited by French trappers almost a century before. That’s when the “steamboat spring” was discovered—and mistaken for the sound of a steamboat train engine. Ironically, the original natural spring is no longer there after the railroad was brought to town, but many others have been discovered since then. Celebrating its western heritage and ranching traditions, Steamboat Springs thrives as a world-class skiing, biking, and year-round recreational destination.
Five Must-See Spots
Hot Springs. There are two very different spots for Hot Springs, both equally fun and worth going to!
Fish Creek Falls. About a 10-minute drive from town, and you have a great little spot to take a short hike to the falls. This was easily one of my favorite finds, and I can still picture it when I close my eyes. We happened to visit the falls with fresh powder on the ground, and it was breathtaking. It was about a 1/4-mile walk on a gravel path and we were able to see the lower falls and beautiful bridge. Do bring cash for parking. It was $5, but worth it—especially with young kids who could easily handle this adventure.
Gondola and Steamboat Base Area. See the valley from above, and for miles. Taking a ride on the gondola will give you all the picturesque view of the Yampa Valley. Each gondola can hold up to eight passengers. It takes you to the mountain mid-point where you can walk around, bike, or grab lunch while taking in the panoramic views. The base area holds many events and are worth checking out!
Yampa River Core Trail. This trail is a great option for a leisurely stroll. It runs along the Yampa river, and much of Steamboat. It offers many things to see in nature, while still maintaining civilization. With access to many points of interest, restaurants, and even a botanic garden! This is a great for finding something easy to do to pass some time before dinner or another outing. Who knows what you and your family will find to do. Our kids loved seeing the possible trout swimming along, and men fishing.
Scenic Drive: Rabbit Ears Pass. If you’re looking for a great fall drive, or when there is a fresh blanket of snow on the ground, this pass is just right! You happen to drive near it when coming to and going from Steamboat from Colorado Springs. But it could easily be a separate afternoon drive. Stop by a local coffee shop before you set out for the 30 minute drive.
Five Great Places to Eat:
O’Neil’s Tavern & Grill. A downtown Irish Pub with a full bar. Serving traditional Irish food, steaks, and seafood, there was plenty to choose from. Everything tasted as amazing as it sounded from reading the menu. We loved the atmosphere too—from the moment we walked down the stairs into the tavern. Family friendly for a nice dinner out. The price can be a little more on the expensive side, but the portions were worth it. This was our one splurge meal while visiting Steamboat, and we would definitely go back!
Skull Creek Greek. Grabbing a quick lunch at this greek spot was a hit! A quaint little spot in the middle of all of downtown. They serve affordable greek foods like gyros, salads, and baklava! We opted to eat outside at some tables and enjoy the busyness of people walking around.
Vaqueros Mexican Restaurant & Taqueria. Another great spot along the main road going through town was this Mexican restaurant. Three ways I give a Mexican restaurant the approval is how they determine what smothered means, whether the menu is full of items that also need the English translation next to it, and if they serve sopapillas. If it passes those three marks, it is a go! And this spot did not disappoint! The wait staff were so friendly and welcoming, too—genuinely happy to have us.
Winona’s Restaurant. A great local spot for breakfast and lunch! Delicious food without cleaning out your wallet. Homemade cinnamon rolls and bakery items are sure to hit the spot before starting the day! They have hearty breakfast choices, as well as “light & lean” fares. Highly suggest!
The Iron Waffle. Waffles and coffee in the morning and specialty pizza and cappuccinos for the afternoon and evening! This is definitely more for the “foodies” in your group, but will be a hit with everyone!
Howelson Ice Arena. Two words: Bumper cars. But even better, bumper cars on ice! The only Colorado ice arena with this fun activity! The pricing wasn’t unreasonable either. Definitely a fun indoor activity for many ages! The arena also has ice skating and other usual activities, as well.
Old Town Hot Springs. Located conveniently downtown. This one is a great option for families who are wanting to avoid a drive and maybe have other things they want to do that day. Kids and adults will love the waterslides and rock-climbing wall. It also has a kiddie pool, lap pool, fitness center and adults-only spring, which makes this the perfect family activity.
Strawberry Park Hot Springs. The second spot is worth the short 15-minute drive it takes out of town to your destination. Surrounded by aspen trees, wilderness and beautiful scenery, this is a relaxing spot unlike any other! There is the option of staying there as a more romantic getaway, or visiting during the day for family time. The hot springs are connected and have varying temperatures for all ages and preferences. This was hands down the best activity we did—a unique and beautiful experience. Bring all your gear to change afterwards, and shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy along some of the paths and parking lots. We found out later that they also have a shuttle that will take you there, if your car isn’t up for the trek when the road is a little more muddy or slick. Explore their website to plan the best way to enjoy this spot—you won’t regret it!
Skiing and Snowboarding. It would be a tragedy if I left this off the must-do list! A somewhat obvious suggestion because of how well known Steamboat is for this sport. Nevertheless, it really is a must-do. Whether you are just starting out or very experienced. But there’s more: Howelsen Hill is Colorado’s oldest continuously operated ski area, since 1915, and is a local favorite. Famous for it’s Olympic history and heritage, Howelsen Hill is offering free skiing on Sundays this winter.
Nighttime lights. Steamboat offers night skiing, and occasionally has fireworks, as well! This was a treat, and the snow covered slopes light up so well under the fireworks. The night skiing is also just pretty to see the slopes at night all lit up.
Five Great Places to Stay:
The Steamboat Grand. A great option near the ski resort, with hotel rooms, studios, condos, and even penthouses. There are plenty of options for the size of your family or group. The hotel has restaurants on site, but breakfast is not included.
Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas. Another spot that is near the ski slopes, and easily accessible to the rest of town. A modern design hotel with views! Offering studios, villas, and condos—it’s sure to fit your crew. Villas offer fully-equipped kitchens or kitchenettes with cookware to prepare meals at your leisure. Plenty of room to spread out while enjoying privacy in separate guest rooms.
Vacation Home at Hill Street. A personal favorite of mine! This vacation home is tucked in with the locals, and is a great option for a bigger group who wants to cook some of their own meals, have a place to hangout after the kids are asleep, and overall feel like home away from home.
Legacy Vacation Club Steamboat Springs Suites.This spot is between downtown and the slopes. A great in between place to stay. All suites have full kitchens. A more rustic feel to the rooms reminds you that you are in the mountains!
Hotel Bristol. A more historic and quaint choice for staying in Steamboat, but worth the experience. Located near downtown, and near all the activities. An on-site restaurant has great dinner options, but also close enough to plenty of coffee shops and other spots.
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