In South Central Colorado lives an understated little town neatly tucked between two highways and at the helm of converging mountain ranges. You wouldn’t think much about this town on a drive-by, but if you stop and stay for a while you may be as surprised (and totally impressed) as we recently were.
Salida, Colorado is home to nearly 5500 full residents. It’s a small but bustling community of people hanging out at the funky shops, restaurants and art galleries in what is Colorado’s largest historical downtown. When the locals aren’t biking to dinner, they’re most certainly having fun on Colorado’s playground. Conveniently located right in their backyard is hiking (there are 15 nearby peaks reaching 14,000 ft) biking, kayaking (the Arkansas River weaves right through town), fishing, and skiing (family-friendly Monarch is only 25 miles away.)
So much to do. So little time.
With two kids in tow, we had two days to explore. Here is what we did (and liked!)
Patio Pancake Place
Locals and tourists alike can’t help but love the heaping pancake portions at this joint. Tucked behind the menus at each table are books loaded with random local facts. Loved our Flo-like waitress and the retired locals who were oohing and aahing over my boys. Perfect for pancake-obsessed six year olds… er, families.
Currents Steak & Seafood
Steaks, seafood, local micro-brews and beer nuggets (huh?), yep, beer battered balls – yum! Kids loved awesome grilled cheeses. Bonus: a big display of kids artwork (that our kids added to!)
With wood fired pizza and micro brewed beer, this ain’t your typical pizza shack. Bold colors and funky décor made us feel like we were in a big city. The boys played with balls of raw pizza dough, Mom and Dad enjoyed the beer. And, that pizza? Mouthwatering delight! This place alone made us want to move to Salida!
Salida Hot Springs Pool
You would never know that this public pool was built in the ‘30’s, the grounds were immaculate. Natural hot springs water is piped directly in from several miles away and is then tempered by city water to keep it at a comfy 97 – 100 degrees. Known as the largest indoor hot springs facility in the country, this is a MUST for any family visiting the area. Bonus: zero-entry kids area with fun water features. Double Bonus: private pools for mommy-daddy weekend getaway.
Skiing Monarch Mountain
Monarch Mountain is one of Colorado’s most family-friendly ski resorts, located a mere 25 miles from downtown Salida. Kids as young as three can enjoy the Children’s Center with private lessons; group lessons start for kids’ aged 7 and up. Adults will enjoy moderate to expert skiing from any of the five chair lifts or taking snow cat tours from the top of the Continental Divide.
Dog Sled Tour
The Iditarod has nothing on this amazing and fun dogsledding experience by Monarch Dog Sled Rides. Ok, that may be a stretch! But, this was truly fun (particularly for the kindergartner who followed the Iditarod at school!) Tours include a quick lesson on dog sledding as a sport and the Iditarod, meeting the dogs, going on an hour ride, feeding the dogs a treat, and finishing off with yummy hot chocolate.
For only $3 per person, your family can enjoy some wholesome mini-golf at the Rocky Mountain Mini Golf course. There were enough water features to happily entertain the kids and enough challenge to keep it fun for Mom and Dad. Bonus: mountain views in every direction.
Salida, Colorado is a gem of a town. The small-town charm combined with big city amenities (wide-range of restaurants and bustling art scene) creates a perfect storm for family-friendly travel. We can’t wait to go back and experience one of many weekend festivals and huge assortment of art and music events at the Salida Steam Plant!
The opinions of this article are my own. Thank you to the City of Salida for the tour, dinner at Currents Restaurant and pool passes to the Hot Springs.