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Steamboat Springs: 6 Unbeatable Winter Things To Do With Kids

Steamboat Springs: 6 Unbeatable Winter Things To Do With Kids

We went to Steamboat Springs, Colorado to visit friends for Thanksgiving. While we were looking forward to finding cool local things to do with kids in early winter, there was no skiing in our forecast.  Then we arrived to several inches of the fresh powder snow the Rockies are famous for.

We promptly signed Tiny Traveler up for a ski lesson, seeing as she was the only one who packed ski pants. Meanwhile, we looked around to see what else we could do outdoors in this unexpected winter wonderland.

Here’s what I suggest for fun winter activities in this Colorado town with kids, whether you ski or just want to get outdoors and enjoy this western mountain town.

Steamboat Springs Winter Vacation Cheat Sheet
VRBO lists more than 2500 Steamboat Springs rentals, including slope-side homes.
TripAdvisor will point you to the best rates for area hotels.
• I like Expedia for flight and car rental packages.
• You might want to print my Winter Packing List.
Don’t Forget Winter Gear For Moms That Looks Great and Will Keep You Super Warm

Steamboat Springs Hotels & Lodging for Families

Condos and hotel/condo hybrids are more common in Steamboat than are traditional hotels.

You’ll have your pick of vacation condos both at the ski resort and in and around town. Many, especially those at the ski resort, have hotel amenities like a heated pool or concierge. They often have washer/dryers, too, which is handy for wet ski clothes.

Prices range from economy to luxury with amenities increasing accordingly.

the steamboat grand hotel nestles into the towns ski hills.

If you do want a traditional hotel, the Steamboat Grand provides ready access to the slopes and all the ski resort’s amenities. And you can take a free shuttle to town. (It has condo accommodations, too.)

The Trailhead Lodge, a bit further down the mountain has studios and one, two and three-bedroom suites. Relax after your ski day in one of three hot tubs. And you can get to the base lodge via gondola.

The Bristol is probably your best bet if you want to be in town, and teens might appreciate the opportunity it provides to explore on their own.

It’s small but does have an indoor hot tub, Italian restaurant and cozy sitting areas with fireplaces. Several of their rooms sleep three to four people and some of these have two bedrooms with a shared bathroom.

But all-in-all, given the ubiquity of condos and the flexibility they offer, that’s the way I would go.

Read More!
Winter Park is another easy family ski destination near Denver
• Find the Best Things To Do in Denver All Year Round and at Christmastime

The Most Fun Winter Things To Do In Steamboat Springs With Kids

Get Your Kids on the Slopes With Steamboat Springs Ski School

the ski mountain at steamboat springs

Steamboat Ski Resort is known for its excellent skiing. It didn’t disappoint.

The instructors at the resort’s ski school were seasoned adults, not teenagers. They were unfailingly friendly and did a good job of putting the kids at ease and grouping them by both age and ability.

The slopes, much longer than what Tiny Traveler is used to, intimidated her at first. But by the end of the lesson she was having fun. If she’d had a second day I think she would have had a blast on the long green and blue runs.

the wooden steamboat bear greets skiers at the lodge.

If you also have adults skiing for at least five days, kids’ ages 5-12 get free lift tickets for the same number of days. Lift tickets for kids under 5YO are $10. And you can save some money by booking lessons and rentals together.

Lessons are all full-days and they include lunch at the lodge on the mountain top or at the kids’ center, depending on the age group.

For kids ages 2YO – 6YO there are camps that combine skiing and other activities.

Packing Tip: The sun is bright and reflects off the snow. Bring sunscreen, lip balm and goggles for everyone. Dress kids in layers so you can unzip when the slopes warm up and keep warm on the long ski lift rides.

Tip: Even on a slow day, buying lift tickets, setting up a lesson and arranging rentals took a good hour. If you aren’t able to make all your arrangements online before you arrive, leave plenty of time before your lessons start.

Things To Do in Steamboat Springs if You Don’t Ski

Since most of us didn’t pack ski gear, we donned good boots and warm clothes and went in search of fun things to do without skis, both on the ski mountain and around town.

Ride the Gondola, Just For the View

the gondola at steamboat springs provides awesome 360-degree views for both skiers and sightseers.

Non-skiers can enjoy the mountain scenery while riding to the top of the ski mountain in the gondola. Our tickets came with a discount at the mountain lodge.

The food is standard ski cafeteria fare. But the bar has a stunning view of the mountains.

We couldn’t resist the large glass jars filled with colorful layers of pickled olives, tomatoes and peppers for bloody Marys. While we waited for Tiny Traveler to finish up her ski lesson we had our impressively good cocktails with a view to match.

Soak in the Hot Springs

It’s called Steamboat Springs for a reason. You can’t visit without a dip in the eponymous hot springs, even in the winter.

Old Town Hot Springs, right in town, and completely family friendly. Daily admission buys you access to several heated outdoor pools and whirlpools along with use of the locker room; towels can be rented for a fee.

old town hot springs are the ideal place to soak and relax in steamboat springs, even in winter.

There is a kiddie pool in summer. Slides and a water obstacle course are an additional fee when they’re open, also only in summer.

Even without these extras, kids love it. It was snowing when we went and Tiny Traveler got a huge kick out of building snowmen while standing in a hot tub.

Tip: Local people wore winter hats with their swimsuits to keep their heads warm. Flip-flops and your own towels are handy in the busy locker room.

Take a Scenic Winter Hike Near Town

hiking trail at fishcreek falls, covered in snow.

The trails at Fiskcreek Falls, just four miles above the town, were shoveled and navigable (with proper boots) despite a good foot of snow on the ground the day we visited.

A 15-minute walk uphill gives you a good view of the valley. Head back to the parking lot and a 5-minute walk downhill (it’s longer coming back) takes you to a scenic bridge below the falls.

The scenery was Frozenesque and the distances are manageable for kids 5YO and up.

Visit the Local History Museum

The small Tread of the Pioneers Museum, located in a stately Victorian house in the center of town, pleasantly surprised us. And I recommend making a point of popping in when you’re visiting Steamboat.

the lighted man, a night skier in steamboat springs

Half the space is preserved as a 19th century home. The other half has exhibits on pioneer life, Native Americans and local culture, which includes a fair amount about local skiing..

Highlights included a traveling candy salesman’s case (with the original candy!) and the equipment for special night skiers who cover themselves with lights.

Ask for the scavenger-hunt at the front desk for kids; figuring out riddles and finding the items helped to pull Tiny Traveler into the exhibits.

Explore Downtown Steamboat

We had a fun afternoon window shopping in this Rocky Mountain town. You can feel its Old-West roots. If you want to celebrate them, pop into the well-regarded FM Light & Sons to try on western boots, hats and other western-style clothes.

Look for sales on quality winter clothing brands like Smart Wool in the several outdoor stores. Find something to read by the fireplace at Off The Beaten Path bookstore.

steamboat springs main street

Steamboat also has a large, modern library at one end of town, tucked back from the main street.

With a brightly decorated kids’ section and comfy armchairs throughout, it’s a very good place to warm up and to keep toddlers occupied while older siblings are at their ski lessons.

2 Downtown Steamboat Restaurants

Outdoor activity makes a family hungry. You’ll find the usual ski-town mix of pizza, brewpubs and barbecue on and just off of the town’s main street.

Several store owners directed us to Carl’s Tavern, a busy sports bar at night, but a kid-friendly restaurant at lunchtime. The homemade chicken-pot pie, grilled cheese and onion rings we ordered were tasty, hearty and definitely all made in-house.

Our local friends also like Freshies for made-from-scratch sandwiches, salads and egg dishes.

Basic Information on Steamboat Springs

Steamboat is a three-hour drive from Denver and nearly six hours from Salt Lake City. But driving over the mountains in the winter is precarious. Plan to take your time and expect delays for weather conditions and accidents.

Decades of winter driving in New York state and New England winters did not prepare us for the slick roads you have after even a dusting of snow at high altitudes.

Flying is better. In winter there are daily direct flights from 16 U.S. cities to the Yampa Valley Regional Airport (Steamboat/Hayden).

Rent a car when you get there so you can get between the slopes and town. Make sure it has four-wheel drive and snow tires.

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* All photos by FamiliesGo!© except the night skier (Tread of the Pioneers Museum).