Winter Park Colorado – Year Round Forever Memories

Our guest writer Carla is a journalist and travel enthusiast who is sharing her visit to Winter Park Colorado.

By Carla Marie Rupp

What is an extra wonderful place to have a Rocky Mountain fall colors bonding trip with your family?

A place to build beautiful memories by enjoying Colorado’s spectacular Autumn mountain scenery. A perfect little short trip in a lovely spot away from the city.

Winter Park Colorado

I brainstormed my usual spots: Estes Park, near Rocky Mountain National Park; Idaho Springs, or Glenwood Springs. But Lari-Ann, my 25-year-old niece, suddenly surprised me with an invitation to the scenic town of Winter Park Colorado.

I quickly said yes to going, especially since it was only an hour’s drive.

My brother, son, daughter, and I would meet her at the Winter Park Lodge.

Kim, Lari-Ann, Larry, Jason & Carla building family memories at Winter Park Colorado

It would be a few good days to laugh, eat, hike and be together. Build memories. Enjoy togetherness. The dreamy whisper of the mountain wind through the yellowed aspen leaves warmed our hearts many times over.

Lari, a Denverite who gets a season pass to their ski area every year, became our tour guide of the places she chose for cocktails, for food and adventure activities.

Where is Winter Park Colorado?

Winter Park Colorado USA is a year-round playground surrounded by beauty. While it’s not as ritzy as Aspen or Vail, it’s full of plenty of things to do during each season, from mountain biking to down-hill and cross-country skiing.

You can go horse-back riding, ziplining, snowmobiling and much more.

There is a budget for everyone, from small motels to up-scale resorts. It’s so convenient to get to Winter Park and Fraser because it’s only 67 miles from Denver. The town’s free bus will even take you just about anywhere you want to go.

I’ve been there in every season over the years. Each season has its own awe-filled scenery and its own activities.

Winter Park in Colorado
Lari having fun while out exploring

Winter Park is a great destination for all ages, from children to grandparents. Singles or families.

It’s easy to get to by car on I-70. Or you can take a bus or train. I have memories of going there with family by train to ski. The journey itself is exhilarating.

My memories also include a past family stay at the YMCA of the Rockies at Snow Mountain Ranch in nearby Granby. The snowy landscape provided a lot of good views and fresh air activities.

Cocktails by Personality

To kick off the trip, we piled into the SUV, heading to a bar downtown. 

It was the Idlewild Distillery. “I’m going to pick a cocktail for each of you based on your personalities,” said Lari. This was intriguing. What in the world would she choose?

For me, she chose an Aviation Purple Martini.

For my daughter Kim, a Colorado Bulldog.

A Rum and Coke with lime for my brother Larry. I knew that fitted him.

My son Jason was treated to a Dark and Stormy. Then, for herself, Lari ordered a Vieux Carre cocktail. The spirits for these cocktails are all distilled at Idlewild in Winter Park, and from the bar side, you can witness the distilling process.

Then it was off to the Smokehouse BBQ, a barbecue restaurant for dinner, in Winter Park. It’s at 78656 US-40 and features tasty comfort food. Meat eaters ordered ribs galore, and we got all the yummy side dishes, collard greens, slaw, fries, the works.

Back at Winter Park Lodge, we cozied up in the big leather couches by the fireplace and Lari played her native American wood flute for us. It was the flute I had gotten for her at the Heard Museum in Phoenix a few years ago. We made sure not to forget our swimsuits because no matter the season, no trip to Winter Park would be complete without running off to soak in a big bubbly hot tub.

Frasier River Trail

The next day we slept late, grabbed coffee in the lobby, and got ready for an adventurous nature hike for our over-40 bodies to get fit and see the gorgeous scenery. We parked and walked on the Fraser River Trail, loving every minute and taking lots and lots of photos along the way.

Fraser River Trail
Walking the Fraser River Trail

The trail is paved and relatively flat and runs for several miles. We opted to walk the one mile stretch from the ski area to the downtown area and back. My mother would have loved to have been pushed in her wheelchair on this trail along the Fraser River. It was peak season for viewing fall colors, and every now and then we would come across families taking Christmas photos and couples taking their engagement photos. Talk about a great place to capture a portrait.

We had a big appetite for lunch at the Crooked Creek Saloon and Creekside Eatery, billed as a funky joint with comfort grub in an easy-going atmosphere. One of the reasons we chose this place was because of the plentiful and fresh salad bar. We loved sitting out on the back patio by the river and relished in the good energy here. (401 Zerez St.)

Meal at Crooked Creek Saloon and Creekside Eatery
Enjoying lunch at the Crooked Creek Saloon and Creekside Eatery

After a leisurely meal together, we agreed that we had fully bonded as a family. We will have to make another visit because there was still so much more in Winter Park that we could do. The Denver Post voted the Winter Park Resort one of the best skiing destinations. The Winter Park Express Ski Train is run by Amtrak and services the town and the resort.

It also offers a gondola ride for skiers and non-skiers.

But all seasons offer a lot. Even fall, spring and summer. And don’t forget to look for festivals and concerts.

Winter Park is not just for winter.

It’s also a place to get closer with family (and friends, too). The close mountain town offers a lot, including warm bonds with loved ones.

If you go:

Grand County

Winter Park Colorado

Winter Park Mountain Lodge

81699 US-40, Winter Park, CO

Idlewild Distillery


Carla Marie Rupp is a freelance travel journalist based in New York City and a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She loves food, family, friends, music festivals, and playing musical instruments. Carla really enjoys seeing the world and special places of beauty and history in the United States. Carla is also co-producer of her son Jason Rupp’s popular YouTube channel. Daughter Kim, in this story, flew in from Florida. Carla’s brother Larry lives in Denver, and Lari-Ann, who planned the trip told here, is an engineer working this year in Salt Lake City on construction of a new convention center. Carla’s instagram is @carlarupp

Carla Rupp
Carla Marie Rupp


Things to do in Winter Park Colorado
Winter Park Colarodo
Winter Park Colorado - Year Round Forever Memories

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