Durango, CO

checking out the views on a mountain in Colorado with my family

Our goal was to find a serene place for our immediate family and my mother and father-in-law to enjoy with cooler temps. So obviously Colorado was on the short list. Second factor is Keith pilots our family in our plane, but it doesn’t fit everyone, so flying into one airport (commercial and private) was a plus. So Keith landed on Durango, Co. I haven’t been here since a child, and loved our time here. Beautiful scenery, perfect weather, nice rented house and fun family activities.

Stay

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With a family of five, we generally rent a house/condo when traveling. It gives us flexibility to spread out, make our own meals when we want and generally they have washer/dryer. It’s so nice to do laundry as we go and five gold stars if I can go home with suitcases full of clean clothes. So there’s of course the obvious and easier routes to renting houses: VRBO, Home Away, Airbnb, but if you dig a little deeper, there are typically independent options that are tacked with less fees. While there’s usually a cleaning fee no matter what (which I appreciate, because no one wants to show up to a dirty house), the big guys find other service type fees to include. Like hotels, most upper end home rentals usually have amenities including hair dryers, shampoo/conditioner, assorted teas and coffee, etc.

We rented a home about 45 minutes outside of Durango in Vallecito – River Dance on Vallecito Creek. Shoot me a message if interested in booking to see about a discounted rate. There were seven of us- our family and Keith’s parents. It fit our size requirements, nice house and was along the river that the kids and dad enjoyed playing around in. Too cold for mama! There is a porch around the house with views of the river just yards away from the back and hummingbird feeders all around. The sound of the river and hummingbirds floods through the house with the windows open. This was a great option if you want to disconnect and enjoy nature (ok, there’s WiFi). If you intend on doing lots in town, I would suggest something in town or a little closer to it to cut back on your travel time.

Eat

This wasn’t a foodie trip, but we had some good food. Our first stop upon arrival in town was Steamworks Brewing. We’re craft beer folks. Super cool brewery. Ale Sabor was singing my name that day and was on point, and the food was really good. The kids cheese pizza was impressive. I had an ahi tuna wrap that was yum. The consensus around the table was all around good.

We had bbq sandwiches and some more Steamworks Brewing beer at the rodeo. The pulled pork was tender and way above my expectations for rodeo food offerings.

The burgers at James Ranch were soooo! See below for more about this little slice of heaven that I am in love with.

kids exploring along the river at James Ranch sustainable beef and produce in Durango Colorado

Other than those few places out, we cooked breakfast at the house, had a lot of PB&J’s and deli sandwiches and grilled steaks and more at the house for a very laid back time.

Do

There’s so much to do in Durango. I like to start vacations off with a list of options and see where the road leads us. Sometimes the city’s website is a good starting point, which was the case for Durango. With a two and four-year-old, it’s important to plan ahead, especially when in an adventurous place, as a lot of things are age/height restricted. One big outing was enough for our crew each day was enough given that most were in and around Durango (^ our house was 45 min away), there was exploring to be had around the house, and we tried to keep Fynnie on a nap schedule.

Rodeo: True West Rodeo was most adorable rodeo that we enjoyed the first evening. Reasonable ticket price, good entertainment, food and a few local craft beers… and cotton candy!! The weather and scenery are unbeatable and the rodeo is the right amount of time for little attention spans. But maybe not little intestines (see @Topknotsandtakeout on Insta for story). 😂

James Ranch: Y’all I’m going to move to Durango just so I can go hang out here. It’s an organic, sustainable ranch that hosts Burger & Band on Thursday nights during the summer, plus much, much more. They had a bluegrass band playing in this little plot of heaven surrounded by mountains. Cows, chickens and goats roamed outside of the grassy picnic table area with a game of ladder ball. The beef in the burger was likely mooing minutes before I ate it. Aka amazingly fresh and delicious. I might have preferred a beer with my burger, but there’s no alcohol allowed. They’re all about the healthy. But hops are a veggie in my book so…??? Won’t let that kill my love for this place, though. It was adorable.

 

Hummer Tour: I put my family’s life into the hands of an unknown man in a Hummer on an mountain and can now tell you in good faith he will not try to take your lives. Actually my husband set this all up. Luckily I’m a good sport. We used Tom’s Tours and Tom himself was our driver. So nice, professional, knowledgeable about the land, wildlife, history. So one thing that was not relayed to mama in this booking process and would have been really nice to know is this is an open-air Hummer. Meaning, you’re at the mercy of the weather. I was not prepared with warm enough clothing. It poured down rain on the beginning of our trip, but Tom did have a tarp for the Hummer that he put on shortly into the ride. Luckily he had rain ponchos for us in the beginning, but I would definitely recommend dressing in layers and wearing your own rain jacket if you have one. We did the four hour tour and packed a lunch – sandwiches, chips, etc. that we ate about 1/4 of the way through. It was only our family on the tour, so Tom would stop/go at our pace if we wanted a break. He showed us the breathtaking sites and I learned a lot in the process. I honestly had very low expectations for how long Del and Fynn would put up with the tour, even before realizing that we were not dressed properly, but they did amazing and loved it. This even with an hour and a half drive to and from the starting/ending point of the tour back to our rental house. Toward the end of the tour, Tom stopped by a Rock & Mineral Shop, which was a great place to see some super cool rocks and get a fun souvenir.

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Hummer on the mountain

finding little hand carved treasures at the roack and mineral shop and museum outside of Durango Colorado

Kayaking: The last day we wanted to chill a bit more and just relax. We started off with a lazy morning and then rented tandem kaykas at the lake nearby, Vallecito Reservoir. One hour was enough time for us to row to the other side of the lake, play around a little and row back. It was a great short excursion that all of us could enjoy. Keith with the two littles and me with Ella. You can definitely take it easy and slow row around and relax, but I was looking for a workout and used this as a fun way to burn some calories while enjoying the beautiful view and serenity. I had been missing my regular rowing in my workouts at Orange Theory.

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Purgatory Resort: we ran out of time to do this, but there are tons of outdoor activities here on the ski mountain for a range of age ranges from toddlers to adults- who of course are just there for the kids, but who doesn’t love a good zip line?! Check out all the options.

Wineries: another activity on the list but we didn’t get to was an evening at Fox Fire Farms. On Friday nights during the summer, they have a band playing, food for purchase, carriage rides and beautiful scenery. It sounded like a lot of fun, but didn’t fit into our schedule. It’s about 40 minutes from Durango.

Train: The Durango & Silverton Train is a big tourist attraction in Durango. The trips are very lengthy, and I didn’t think it would go over well for our crew this trip. I hear the views are amazing. Keith has been before, and apparently I went as a child as well.

Pack

Like most mountain weather in the summer, the days are mild and the evenings/nights are cool. If you hike or drive up the mountain, the temps drop. Layering is key. Everything we did was super causal, nothing requiring more than jeans. Here’s a general list of what we packed, including kids:

  • Athletic wear: shorts, tanks, leggings, sweatshirts, hoodies, tennis shoes
  • Casual wear: jeans, jean shorts, denim jacket, tees, button down shirt, lounge wear, cowboy boots, Birkenstocks, sneakers
  • Lounge wear: joggers, tees, sweat pants, sweatshirts, fuzzy socks (I pack these vs slippers for space saving)
  • Other: backpack, Hydro Flask, GoPro, iPads, headphones, swimsuits, baseball hats, life jackets (kids, optional), rain jackets

Transportation

We flew into Durango-La Plata County airport and rented a car at the airport. We did lots of driving, so it was important to have a car.

If you visit Durango, I hope you will enjoy it as much as my family did!

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