One of the reasons I decided to start writing this travel blog was because as a single parent, I wanted to get out to experience new things and to make new memories. Not only with my kids, but also creating new memories for myself as well.
As a Colorado native, with my primary stomping grounds being Northern Colorado and even the Western Slope at times, I went to visit my parents in Walden, CO. Currently the Moose Viewing Capital of Colorado. Yes. They have moose in this highcountry mountain park. No, I’m not writing about the moose today.
Just over Rabbit Ears pass to the west is Steamboat, CO, known mostly in the winter as a ski resort town which gets around 100 inches of powder every year. I don’t downhill ski (yet) so being an hour drive from some truly world-class skiing was wasted on me when I was growing up.
I enjoy Steamboat for what it provides in the summertime. Cool blue skies, temps around 80 degrees at the highest, crisp mountain air, hot springs, downtown shops, and the Yampa River. It is a great retreat for just you, a romantic getaway, or the whole family if you have 48 hours to spend there.
One of my favorite spots in Steamboat is the Old Town Hotsprings. I actually learned how to swim at this place when I was about 10, when they would bus kids up from Walden to Steamboat every day for two weeks each summer. As a result it took me about four years to learn how to swim. The pool has evolved much since those days. A series of hot springs are used to heat the pool year round, keeping it at about 90 degrees (the cold pool) to around 105 in the Heart Pool. There are waterfall springs and a sprawling hot pool where you can just hang out and let the kids splash around while you let the stress of the week melt out of you.
A few years ago, the kids and I went with Grandma to Strawberry Park Hot Springs, which is a wide spot in the river that has been built up to create a very natural hot springs experience. During the day, the pools can get crowded, and the springs are hotter and as evenly heated as a swimming pool, but the nearby river can give you a polar bear experience if you want to take the plunge in a snowmelt creek that is coming down off the mountain at about 40 degrees.
At night, Strawberry Park is clothing optional, and though a very respectable setting, I have heard it becomes very crowded.
The two venues are hard to compare, since they are so different. Each has their pros and cons. Strawberry Park is at the end of a dirt road and you should really only drive there in a vehicle that can handle washboarded dirt roads and steep terrain. The price is lower, but there are not the same accommodations as a full spa like you will find at Old Town Hotsprings.
For lunch, we went back in time to Johnnie B. Good’s, which is a retro diner with some truly amazing Americana food. From French dips to smothered hot dogs, burgers, shakes, and floats you won’t leave hungry when visiting this place.
Walking Main St. in Steamboat is a feast for the senses. You’ll find your typical Colorado Mountain town t-shirt shops in abundance, but you’ll also encounter some pro-bike shops that will appeal to the gearhead in you, as well as the local Drug Store, which is a pharmacy as well as general store.
Old Town Square is a cluster of shops, restaurants, and artisans you won’t want to miss. We were lucky enough to stop in at Solar Flare Glasswork and Design, where we visited with Caitlin Whitten, the owner and artist of this glassworks. Caitlin is a relative newcomer to the area, hailing originally from Albuquerque, NM. She has been in Steamboat for about eight months now, running the glassworks with her husband, creating all the glass art you can see in their shop right there in her glassblowing furnace.
For our demonstration, Caitlin made a paperweight. As she took a molten blob of glass on the end of the glassblowing rod, she asked my son which colors he liked. As he called them out, she rolled the red-hot glass into shards of colored glass and heated them in her 2000 degree furnace, twisting the molten glass into a pattern, shaping it and twisting it with the tools of her trade: a wet applewood spoon or tongs and scissors. At the end, she broke the paperweight from the pipe and put it in a kiln to cool down gradually for the next 24 hours so it didn’t explode.
Caitlin also runs a glass blowing class, which would be a great experience to knock off your bucket list, or to experience with a special someone.
Part of getting out more is getting out of your comfort zone and talking to new people, learning their stories, and enriching your life with new experiences. In the twenty minutes we visited with Caitlin, we learned a lot about glassblowing, but also walked away with an experience my kiddo will probably remember his whole life.
You could do a lot worse than Steamboat if you have 48 hours to spend with your kids, a solo adventure, or a romantic getaway in the summer. Wandering the shops downtown and just keeping your eyes open is a great way to avoid the heat for a weekend in Colorado. Steamboat is a lot less crowded than other mountain towns like Estes Park or Manitou Springs. The drive is long, but scenic. And yes, you might even see a moose on the way.