I fell in love in Colorado’s mountains but it had nothing to do with snow. Dangling bouquets dot the doorways along Main Street Breckenridge in the mild months; wildflowers, verdant gardens, and park patches pop with color. The abundance of lush hues was a constant surprise, especially for my Southern Californian, drought-ravaged spirit. I can’t keep common marigolds alive in my backyard but here yards and gardens were flush with effortless rainbow borders. More entrancing still, all over town, baskets of flowers swung gently from overhangs. It was a visual feast that skiers and winter visitors miss completely. The town is pretty shy about bragging but this is only one of the under-the-radar reasons to visit Breckenridge in the summer and fall. (My numbered list of reasons is below.) This visit was sponsored by @GoBreck. All opinions are my own.
The seemingly effortless lush decor isn’t accidental. Alpine Garden is a short walk from Main Street Breckenridge. It’s an easy stroll to Adams Street, just across from the Riverwalk Center. It’s a perfect spot to catch your breath (which I did repeatedly while adjusting to the altitude. More about managing that in this earlier post.) Benches sit between pedestrian bridges and the Blue river burbles nearby. Owned by the Town of Breckenridge, the gardens are maintained by dedicated members of the Summit County Garden Club. They make high altitude gardening look effortless and include a “Plant Select” Demonstration Garden, a collaborative effort with Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado State University, and regional and national growers. Local nurseries manage the baskets as well and maintain them well into the fall.
Breckenridge – Leaf Peeping Ground Zero
I’ve failed as a leaf peeper, always missing the changing fall foliage back east. The phenomenon is a moving target and I’ve planned trips, booked flights, taken road trips, only to be disappointed with paltry pops of color. However, glimpses of red trees and forests brushed with orange and gold have only whetted my appetite. Now, I know that leaf peeping is much closer to home in Colorado. At 9,600 feet, Breckenridge is one of the first places in the country to see the fall changes. Main Street Breckenridge and the high altitude region is a bucket list for photographers from all over the world. I’m no photo pro but can imagine flying to Denver and shuttling into Breckenridge in the autumn to capture the golden aspen trees set against the majestic backdrop of the towering peaks. I might sign up for a photography workshop at Breck Create.
Imperial Express – The Highest Ski Lift in North America
My brothers are the skiers in the family and have stayed near Peak 8, a few gondola stops up from Main Street Breckenridge. I imagine they loved the heated plaza and escalator (the only one in the area.) I loved seeing it without all that cold white stuff as my gondola glided past the Grand Colorado resort to a hike through Cucumber Gulch Preserve. Once I emerged at the Peak 8 trail exit it was an easy walk to lunch at Robbie’s Tavern. While I sat indoors, there’s a huge patio overlooking the plaza and adventure action. I could imagine the anticipation advanced skiers have on the Imperial Express Chair Lift, the highest in North America. What a rush it must be to dismount just a hundred feet from the summit and criss-cross the powdery slope from over 12 thousand feet.
Check out the summertime gondola views above Main Street Breckenridge:
In mild weather, adrenaline junkies can test their mettle in a host of other ways. The adventurer in me wanted to jump on the Gold Runner Coaster and Alpine Slides. I’ll be watching for the zipline courses, which should open later in 2021. With an Epic Discovery Pass I could do it all. Plus, I could mix it up back down near Main Street Breckenridge at Gravity Haus, where members and hotel guests can sign up to try the Super Tramp. Not your kids jumpy, the 3rd floor trampoline helps snow boarders test moves for mountain jumps. I’d love to watch!
Trolls, Historic Art District and the Highline Railroad Museum
Free from parkas and winter boots, Main Street Breckenridge is easy to navigate. In winter heated sidewalks help. The city sponsors free shuttles to major sites across the town. I hopped on the shuttle to the Highline Railroad Museum with it’s spacious playground and close to the famous troll art piece by Isak Heartstone. Trollstigen Trail is a forest lined walk from Main Street Breckenridge walk or a five minute free trolley ride from the Breckenridge Welcome Center. It’s also across from the Ice Rink and numerous trailheads.
The God of Snow in Sunlight
That’s not the only troll in town. There’s another carved from a tree trunk on Main Street Breckenridge along with a robot statue and towering above them all, Ullr, who’s been dubbed, the Norse God of Snow (outside the Grand Coloradan.) There was no mistaking his presence at the gondola plaza as he gleamed in the late summer sunlight. The town celebrates the huge statue and the legend behind him at the annual party, Ullr Fest in January with bonfires, teams of huskies pulling locals down Main Street Breckenridge, talent contests and other fun guaranteed to keep them warm.
I was minutes from first arriving in town when laughter caught my attention. A group of summer camp kids were rolling down a riverside slope across from the town’s central plaza. The large blue sculpture, Syncline, above them was created by artist, Albert Paley.
Two blocks away Breckenridge has turned a handful of miners cabins into a vibrant Arts District. Workshops rotate through the mild months. There are galleries, art installations, and museums nearby. A small stage is set for performances.
There’s more history in action nearby. A trolley ride away, the Country Boy Mine offers tours and gold-panning. The tour into the original mine, where a 14 lb. gold nugget was discovered, is spooky fun. It was a kick to see the equipment the miners used and glimpse the gold vein. Rumor has it there’s still a lot of gold in that mountain!
I haven’t mentioned the cute shops and delicious dining options yet. Historic buildings reflecting the city’s mining heritage sit side by side along Main Street Breckenridge. These aren’t recreations or a Hollywood-style reconstruction but the original buildings. I can only imagine the challenges that shop and restaurant owners face in keeping them up and running. It’s another aspect of Breckenridge that’s kept seamless for visitors at spots like the Carboy Winery and restaurant next door. More about the dining is coming in another post.
“Love is like wildflowers; It’s often found in the most unlikely places.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Not everything in town is set up for well-heeled tourists. I did a bit of thrifting and souvenir shopping at a consignment store and a local charity shop. Again, most are garnished with swinging baskets of bright blooms. Keeping smiles on faces and reminding those of us who aren’t into winter sports there’s still lots to enjoy in the warmer months along Main Street Breckenridge.
Here’s a dozen reasons to visit in summer and fall:
- Enjoy the wildflowers and garden blooms along Main Street
- Riverside Alpine Garden
- First leaf-peeping in the U.S. Late in September
- Free gondola rides and trolley rides
- Tour the Country Boy Mine and pan for gold
- Stellar hiking across Cucumber Gulch
- The Highline Railroad Museum
- Art Distict
- Ice skating and hockey at the Stephen C. West Rink
- Troll spotting across town
- Gold Runner Coaster and Alpine Slides
- Ziplines (open late 2021)
Thanks for reading and thanks to @GoBreck for sponsoring my visit. As always opinions are all my own.