Just Kidding Around; Entertaining Children in the Valley
Ahhhh… the family vacation. You’ve taken the time off work, packed up the whole family, and endured countless repetitions of the “Are we there yet?” metronome from the back seat. You’re in the beautiful Vail Valley ” now what?
Hoofin’ through the hills
Hiking is a great activity to do as a family and the price is right. Even if you’re not an avid hiker don’t be intimidated. “The Vail Hiker” is a wonderful book that can get you started, and is available at most grocery stores and outdoor shops in the valley. It gives directions to the trailheads, mileage, level of difficulty, estimated time commitment, tips on what to bring, and has special modifications for most hikes if you are bringing younger children.
If you want to get out in the wilderness but don’t want to walk uphill, or you have preschool-age children, try taking the Gondola up Vail Mountain or the Centennial Chairlift up Beaver Creek. There are many short easy hikes with sweeping views, and the trail maps are free. When I hike with kids I always make sure there is a place for them to play in a stream or lake along the way.
But my real secret weapon is Skittles. Skittles are a magical cure for whining and minor injuries. Just stash them in your pocket and dole them out a couple at a time.
In the pines
Are you looking for an all-day activity? Piney River Ranch is a one-stop shop for fishing, canoeing, horseback riding and gazing at the gorgeous Gore Range. It’s a 30-minute scenic drive up Red Sandstone Road in Vail. Pristine wilderness meets rustic civilization at Piney. An on-site restaurant serves lunch and dinner. Plan on spending most of the day up there to do it right.
Park it there
Vail, Avon and Minturn all have grills in the park which are open to the public. They’re available on a first-come, first-serve basis. See page 70 for a complete list of locations.
Nottingham Lake in Avon has paddle boat rentals, fishing, a bike path encircling the lake and a nice playground with open spaces and trees.
Ford Park in Vail Village doesn’t just have a great playground. The Betty Ford Alpine gardens are right next door, where children and adults can read and learn about flowers and plants that grow well at high altitudes. Then take a stroll down the lovely river trail to the Vail Nature Center where the kids can learn hands on from the naturalists on staff about plants and animals native to the area.
Not just for hiking
Beaver Creek Village is the only place to ice skate outdoors during the summer. Located smack in the middle of the village, there’s plenty of seating around the rink. A bungee trampoline and miniature golf course are also good for a diversion. Best of all is the Beaver Creek Children’s Theatre, which offers free performances in the plaza on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 11 a.m.
On Vail Mountain, a trip up the Gondola lands you next to Adventure Ridge. At the Dino Dig, kids sift through an enormous sandbox looking for dinosaur bones. Indoor laser tag and a rebound trampoline provide an adrenaline fix for anyone. In the Lionshead Parking Structure, kids will like The Imagination Station, a drop-in children’s museum with hands-on art and science activities.
Eagle Explorers Junior Naturalists
By attending two children’s programs and finding the answers to a series of questions found in a small booklet, kids can earn a patch that declares them an Eagle Explorer Junior Naturalist. The program is a joint venture of Gore Range Natural Science School, the Vail Recreation District, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Colorado Ski Museum and the White River National Forest. Not only will kids learn a lot about the world outside, but it will help organize their time in the valley and give them a goal.
Family night life
The Back Bowl is in Eagle and offers automatic bowling lanes with gutter-guide options. The restaurant serves good family fare. Four Eagle Ranch, just outside of Wolcott, hosts a hayride and family barbecue. It also offers historical buildings and a cute playground to keep the family busy all night. Another local favorite is the Beaver Creek Rodeo which takes place Thursdays, from 5-9 p.m. until August 24 behind Chapel Square in Avon. It includes bull riding, roping, pony rides, mutton busting, a petting zoo and Moe’s barbecue sandwiches.
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