Where to Hold Family Reunions in the Mountains
By Beth Buehler
Family reunions are sweet times that bring together groups that can span four generations and in some cases even five. Or perhaps it’s just a grown-ups trip of two generations to celebrate a significant occasion like a birthday in style. Whatever the reason, the organizers (whether it’s mom and dad, Uncle Rick or cousin Leah) have to dial in what ages they are dealing with, where everyone is based, appetite for cost if everyone is paying their own way, and type of destination, venues and activities their posse will embrace.
Most of my family’s reunions have centered around weddings, holidays and my parents’ decade wedding anniversaries. There are some main things we all love: mountains, beaches, great food, dancing and fun experiences in the destination. Some of us like adventure and fitness more than others while others prefer to have plenty of relaxation by a pool or on a patio. Sound familiar?
No worries as Colorado has a lot of great places to consider that run the gamut from lively urban and mid-sized communities to places with peaks and small-town charm. There are even beaches by lakes! This time we’ll look at where to hold family reunions in the mountains.
Timing is Important
Make sure to understand the timing of tourist seasons in the mountains when discussing the timeframe of your family reunion. If there are youngsters in the group, the gathering is likely to be in the summer or over other schools breaks. The problem is, other families are in the same boat and brides and grooms love summer and fall weekends. If you are set on booking during busy tourist times—including winter when mountain properties get reserved early for holidays, spring break in March and several weekends—make sure to plan in advance. If you want to pay less and dodge crowds, consider months like May and June, January and April. Autumn varies based on festivals, weddings and prime fall foliage viewing.
Family Friendly Destinations
It is hard to find a state that is more family friendly than Colorado, and that includes pets! Understanding the ages and interests of your crew is key in selecting a destination from Durango and Telluride in the southwest to Breckenridge, Keystone and Copper Mountain in Summit County.
What my family does for reunions when everyone from my parents down to the great-grandchildren is involved is very different than when it’s adults-only. When it’s the whole group, a burger and BBQ place will likely be on the itinerary versus a higher-end place that has a wine-pairing dinner. Adults may want hot tubs and care less about a swimming pool, but the opposite is true for families with kids.
What kinds of properties, price points and experiences do the destinations you are considering have? Aspen is very different from Crested Butte and the same is true for Vail and Estes Park. Not one town is better than the other, just different in scope and personality.
Place to Base
Personally, I like to stay at places where you can also enjoy some activities together without always having to drive or leave like resorts, guest ranches, hotels located at ski area bases, and camp-style places like YMCA of the Rockies’ Estes Park Center and Snow Mountain Ranch near Granby.
Some resorts and most ranches have programs for kids so that adults can go do their thing during the day. Even if it’s just a nice outdoor pool area, comfy hotel lobby and lounge, or a place with a free shuttle to the vibrant downtowns in Breckenridge and Steamboat Springs, these features matter for family reunions!
What type of lodging your family enjoys also might influence where to hold family reunions in the mountains. Are you looking for cabins and condominiums to do some cooking on your own and have space to spread out or something more along the lines of hotels with guest rooms and suites? Or you might want a place that incorporates tent camping, camper hookups and glamping!
Selections on the Fun Menu
My family always has the agreement of when it’s free time, do as you wish alone or in smaller clusters and we’ll meet back for pool time, cocktails or dinner. Moving in a pack is difficult and people get cranky. Family reunion organizers should scope out what there is to do during free time and give people some ideas, which can be as simple as providing a link to the local destination marketing organization’s website and visitor guide. Ski resorts and many mountain properties also have great ideas on their websites.
Snowmass and Vail have fun bowling options, and several ski areas like Winter Park and Telluride have ice rinks at their base areas. Adventure parks with alpine slides, climbing walls, zipline courses and more are a huge hit in towns like Breckenridge and Glenwood Springs, which also has the world’s largest hot springs pool that now also has a new aquatic park. At guest ranches, it’s not always all about horseback riding, cattle roundups and wagon rides. There can also be Nordic skiing, snowcat skiing, snowshoeing, fly-fishing, mountain biking, cooking classes and more. Don’t forget the culture lovers and foodies in the group as there are mountain destinations with great museums, performing arts centers and walking food tours.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when looking at where to hold family reunions in mountains. The main thing is that you are getting together as a family!
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.