Tour de Colorado’s Best Mountain Festivals for Families: Crested Butte

During my family’s Tour de Colorado, we have visited many perfect places but have never had the perfect day.

You parents know what I’m talking about: when the destination’s private universe comes to life and the children do not beat each other to a pulp.

I had the perfect day in Crested Butte, my choice for Colorado’s best mountain festivals for families. It had the potential to be a nightmare. My husband could not join us until partway through the trip, leaving me to endure a 4.5-hour drive from Denver with two young children but all went smoothly.

When we arrived at the idyllic mountain resort, we checked into our perfect accommodations: The Lodge at Mountaineer Square. The perfection was not just the beautiful rooms and rooftop pool but also location, location, location. Situated at the base of Mt. Crested Butte, we were in the very pulse of the resort with their free Wednesday evening concert series. After grabbing some burgers off the grill, the kids joined the masses of rugrats rolling down the hill while this mama sat back and relished the hallucinatory montage of wildflowers, mountains and melodies.

It was there that I coined their new tagline: Crested Butte—It is Not Ugly Here.

I just know I have a lucrative future in marketing.

A Festival-Loving Town

The Crested Butte Music Festival (CBMF)

Most mountain towns have music festivals but I love the Crested Butte Music Festival because it brings world-class musicians, singers and dancers to one of the nation’s most stunning mountain hamlets. Celebrating its 12th season, the CBMF’s children and adult programs are geared to music and movement under the careful guidance of renowned Artistic Director Alexander Scheirle.

My kids attended the free Divine Family Young People’s Concert that is held on Saturdays in July. Designed for ages 4-12, this is a fun chance for the younger set to experience dance, music and fun in a fast-paced hour of music, opera or dance.

That evening, my husband and I attended Bluegrass in the Barn with musical jammers, The Infamous Stringdusters. It was not pretentious in the least—the concert was, indeed, in a barn. The rain started pounding, mist penetrated our mountain milieu and the ambiance was electric. My husband—though not a fan of bluegrass—declared that “If the Grateful Dead played bluegrass, they’d be called The Infamous Stringdusters.”

This is his way of saying he had a really, really great time.

The Crested Butte Wildflower Festival

It is only befitting that “The Wildflower Capital of Colorado” has a festival dedicated unto its glories. With the fuchsia pinks, sunny yellows and majestic purples of the lupines, Aspen sunflowers and mule’s ears, you will think you crawled onto a Monet canvas of mad, extravagant colors.

The Wildflower Festival serves up a huge array of clinics for adults and children that range from walks with a knowledgeable local guide through the low open meadows of Rustler’s Pass to photography workshops, horseback rides, yoga classes in a meadow, garden tours and even an ice cream party.

My children and I opted for a wagon ride to Peanut Lake with horse friends Billy Bob Bill and Bob. We made our way past the Wood Walk, a portion of an extensive network of trails perfect for little hikers. Our guide pointed out Mount Emmons a.k.a. Red Lady, a much-heralded mountain whose development is at the center of a heated molybdenum mine dispute.

We loped past Crested Butte’s famous landmark, the Gronk, which is nothing more than a mysterious hunk of concrete. Our reward was cobalt-blue Peanut Lake and the glorious Paradise Divide mountain range as the backdrop.

Oh, and there may have been a few [thousand] wildflowers along the way.

Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory’s Nature Camp

Sure, there are oodles of children’s camps out there but how many are conjoined with the nation’s most renowned high-altitude field station with the top students and researchers from around the world?

The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory is located in Gothic, a 4-mile drive from Crested Butte and a stone’s throw away from paradise a.k.a. the Gunnison National Forest and Continental Divide. While Hadley was at camp, my son Bode and I hiked to Judd Falls, one of many epic hikes in the area with commanding views of Mount Gothic.

My daughter Hadley’s Nature Camp experience was the highlight of her trip because these aren’t your average camp counselors. They are dedicated professionals who—in just two hours—gave her an in-depth look at our fascinating natural world through games, hikes, crafts and scavenger hunts.

The Nature Camps sell out fast and rest assured, we will be first in line next year.

Other Family Fun

Adventure Park—Be sure to check out the Adventure Park at the base of Mt. Crested Butte that includes a 28-foot Climbing Pinnacle, bungee trampolines and a state-of-the-art skating rink made from Super-Glide® synthetic ice. I was a bit wary of the latter (being a purist who grew up skating on Canada’s frozen tundra) but was delighted that the slower synthetic ice proved to be a better teaching ground for my novice Canadian/American half-breeds.

Playgrounds—My kids fell in love with the Crested Butte Town Park, centrally located in town with tennis, baseball, volleyball, pavilion, Center for the Arts, a fort and giant sandbox.

My love affair was with the Ted Scheske Park on Gothic Road. This park offers such amenities as a Total Fitness Trail, tennis courts, volleyball and The Mountain Garden, venue for a large number of weddings. When you witness the unparalleled vistas of Snodgrass Mountain and the Continental Divide you will understand why.

Also, be sure to bike or stroll along the recreation path that extends three miles from Crested Butte to Mountain Crested Butte. Not to be missed will be The Trailhead, a 5,000-square foot Children’s Discovery Museum and Arts Center that will be opening in 2010.

No “Buts” About Checking out “The Butte”

Take time to stroll around Crested Butte. This quirky, multi-hued town is a National Historic District, played host to outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and has a two-story outhouse.

It doesn’t get any cooler than that.

Toy store Pooh’s Corner delighted my kids for an hour, while the bevy of shops kept me entertained for an afternoon. For breakfast, you must have Izzy’s breakfast burrito with Indian spices. Dine creek-side but expect a long wait on the weekends. The Secret Stash pizzeria redefines eclectic with decor showcasing the owner’s world travels. Service is friendly, the kitchen is slow but Asher’s Pie (with a BBQ sauce and chipotle base, Canadian bacon, and grilled chicken) made it worth it.

Our favorite dining experience was at django’s restaurant & wine bar in Mountaineer Square, currently rated Crested Butte’s No. 1 restaurant on TripAdvisor. We enjoyed live music on the outdoor patio as we devoured small plates of artistic food such as the gnocchi in a light lemon cream sauce and my favorite (that will surely shock my mother): crispy Brussels Sprouts with apples, crème fraîche, apple cider reduction, pistachios and a dash of heaven.

Video Journal:

For additional information, go to The Crested Butte Music Festival, The Wildflower Festival and Gunnison-Crested Butte Chamber.

Note: This article was originally published at Mile High Mamas on July 20, 2009. Most services were complimentary or discounted.

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