For most people, the name Breckenridge evokes the concept of a “ski town,” an area that was made up and commercialized to trap the unsuspecting out-of-town tourist or ski obsessed Coloradan into coming to enjoy the slopes during the winter. And while Breckenridge does boast an impressive ski resort of over 2,000 acres that first opened in the 1960s (and which Vail Resorts purchased in 1996), its history is richer and much more complicated than a fancy tourism trap would make it out to be. And there is so much more to do in Breckenridge than just ski.
While this may shock those whose sole purpose is skiing nonstop during the winter, Breckenridge is a historical town that has a number of other wonderful qualities and interesting things to check out. So for anyone who has a desire to venture into the mountains during the winter but doesn’t want to spend money on skiing—or dedicate their entire trip to the activity—there are also a lot of other things to do and explore in the historical mountain town of Breckenridge, Colorado.
Breckenridge: Historical Exploration
If you’re a history buff or interested in exploring one of the oldest settled in Colorado, Breckenridge truly is an area to explore. Breckenridge was actually a mining town founded during the Colorado Gold Rush in 1859—a decade or more sooner than places like Colorado Springs or Pueblo and nearer the time of the settling of Denver in 1858. As one of the oldest towns in Colorado, it has a lot of fascinating history surrounding the area. There are numerous ghost towns and old mining shafts in the region.
Breckenridge Heritage Alliance and The Summit Historical Society are both amazing resources for navigating the entire area through the eyes of a historian. Breckenridge Heritage Alliance includes museums like the home of Barney L. Ford—a runaway slave who lived in Breckenridge and became a civil rights leader—and the Edwin Carter Museum, who was a naturalist that observed the harmful effects of mining on the environment. The Summit Historical Society has museums like the Dillon Schoolhouse Museum, an old school that has been kept in prime condition.
The Heritage Alliance also offers quite a few walking tours that range from downtown historical homes to paranormal activity hunts, and the Iowa Hill Gold Mine Hike is one of their historical hikes that is open year round. It’s always good to start at the Welcome Center in downtown Breckenridge to get up-to-date information and brochures on seasonal tours. For more history, see our Breckenridge History section.
Breckenridge: Arts & Culture
Breckenridge also has a vibrant arts & culture scene that continues to expand and grow. In 2014, Breckenridge Arts District was opened in downtown Breckenridge. The district features art studios, performance venues, art exhibits, art classes and workshops, and other fun events like yoga for people of all ages.
There is a scattering of art galleries in Breckenridge that feature local artists, including Breckenridge Gallery, which has been in business for over 30 years; Arts Alive Gallery, a co-op of local artists; and Blue River Art Gallery, which is one of the newer galleries to open in Breckenridge and is the brainchild of renowned local landscape artist Jerry Georgeff.
Breckenridge Backstage Theater was established in the 1970s and is the oldest year-round theater company to form on the Western slope. With huge local support, this theater has seen awards like the prestigious Colorado Theatre Guild Outstanding Regional Theatre Award in 2010, and in 2016, it opened up a newly expanded theater with a bar and lobby space.
Breckenridge: Food & Restaurants
If food and drink are your passion, then this little mountain town isn’t something to snub. Breckenridge, in fact, boasts the most awarded distillery to date in all of Colorado: Breckenridge Distillery. Founded in 2007, the distillery has won top awards in spirit competitions all over the country. Breckenridge Brewery is a successful craft brewery that rapidly expanded outside of Breckenridge after its conception in 1990 with several locations, and they were the first Colorado craft brewery to be bought out by Anheuser-Busch InBev. If supporting a die-hard local craft brewery is important to anyone, then Broken Compass Brewery, opened in 2014, is a solid locally crafted brew choice.
One notable bar to check out is The Absinth Bar. Absinth was a controversial drink in the Prohibition Era known as the “green fairy,” thought to bring on hallucinations and madness (it doesn’t), and this is truly a unique experience for anyone curious about trying it with authentic absinth fountains, glasses, and sugar cubes. Après Handcrafted Libations makes amazing craft cocktails, and the Rocky Mountain Underground is a spot where all the locals go and comes highly recommended; they have a rotating menu of craft beers and craft cocktails, so things are new every few months.
When walking down Main Street, Crepes a la Cart is an affordable little crepe place that is a huge favorite with locals and visitors alike. Piante Pizzeria is a great stop for pizza lovers, offering mouth wateringly delicious New York-inspired wood oven pizzas that are all plant-based. Cashews for cheese—who would’ve thought that could be so delicious?
Relish and The Hearthstone Restaurant are two higher end restaurants in town that are highly praised by people that splurge there, and Hearthstone has a great happy hour for those patrons who might not want to splurge on a fancy dinner. Both places have exceptional service. Breckenridge Distillery also opened a high-end restaurant called Breckenridge Distillery Restaurant at their main location in the beginning of 2017 and brought in a nationally recognized chef, Daniel O’Brien—who was once on Top Chef—making their mark on cuisine in the region.
While there are a plethora of other things that could be highlighted about the area, this is just a taste of everything Breckenridge can offer besides skiing. So the next time someone suggests Breckenridge—find a new adventure outside of the typical ski day for the winter.
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