This trip was sponsored by Winter Park Resort. The opinions are my own.
Our family just took an incredible vacation to Winter Park Resort in Colorado. If you’re considering where to go with your family for a winter vacation you need to add Winter Park to your list!
You may have heard of Winter Park for it’s incredible ski slopes, but there is so much more to do with kids in Winter Park than just skiing (though since Winter Park is USA Today’s #1 Ski Resort in North America, I do recommend you check out the skiing!). Today I’m sharing the ultimate guide for planning a family vacation to Winter Park, with lots of activities, restaurant and lodging reviews, and family travel tips. You’ll want to pin this post to your family winter vacation ideas, and when you’re ready to book check out the current deals and packages at Winter Park resort here.
Aside from the time we stayed at the Icehotel in Sweden’s Arctic Circle, our family doesn’t get to see snow that often (being from southern California and living in Texas now). We had never gone on a ski trip together, but the #FabFam is always up for trying nee things (see more of our family travel adventures)! When we had the chance to visit Winter Park, it looked to us like a winter wonderland; an environment so different than our usual day-to-day experience. After friends starting telling us their great memories of visiting Winter Park with their families when they were children, we knew that this was the type of vacation we needed. We were ready to break free from our routine and experience as much of this snowy paradise as we could, which brings us to the tips, reviews, and information I’m sharing here today.
Winter Park was everything we hoped it would be and then some. I knew the kids would have a blast just being in the snow, and I knew the hubs and I would have a great time unplugging from work and relaxing by the fire. What we discovered in Winter Park was that it was all the things our family needed in a vacation: romantic, scenic, adventurous, tranquil, and FUN. We always have fun, but there was something different about Winter Park that was seriously so fun. The adults had just as much fun as the kids at so many points during our time there. In ways it made me feel like a kid again myself. The experiences we had and the memories we made together put Winter Park towards the top of my list of family vacations destinations in the US. We’d happily go back and heartily recommend it to other families.
In this post I’m sharing everything you need to know to plan your family vacation to Winter Park, Co. If you’re planning your first trip to Winter Park, you’ll also want to bookmark Winter Park Resort’s First Timers Guide.
What to pack for a family snow vacation
If you’re like us and don’t live near snow, you may not have the proper clothes for a snow and ski vacation. Jeans and hoodies won’t cut it! Not only are they not warm enough, but they will get soaked and become wet and cold from the snow. Winter Park does have shops in the Village where you can buy things you may have forgotten, but I recommend buying these items to pack and bring for a snow vacation with your kids:
- Fleece-lined hats that can cover your ears
- Scarves (to keep your neck warm and pull up to shield your face in the wind)
- Fleece-lined gloves (for warmth when roaming the Village)
- Waterproof snow gloves (for skiing and playing in the snow)
- Fleece-lined leggings (women/girls) and long underwear (men/boys)
- Thick, water-resistant winter coats with hoods
- Waterproof snow pants or overalls
- Thick socks
- Snow boots and other skid-resistant boots (ice is very slippery!)
- Sunglasses (snow is very bright and reflects on the snow)
How to get to Winter Park from DIA
Winter park is about 90 miles from Denver International Airport (DIA), and the drive is just under 2 hours (barring any weather delays). There are a few ways to get there, including renting a car and driving, express trains, and shuttle vans (see more details on the transportation options to Winter Park here). As we are not experienced with driving in snow conditions, we took the Home James van service from DIA to Winter Park Resort. It was a clean and comfortable van that allowed us to enjoy the views, play on our devices, and nap (as my whole family did on our drive back from Winter Park to the airport) while the driver safely navigated the mountain roads. We also got to learn some neat facts about the area from our drivers during the time to and from the airport.
Lodging in Winter Park, Colorado
Winter Park, Colorado has many lodging accommodation options. As part of the resort, the hotel and condominium options include The Vintage, Fraser Crossing/Founders Pointe, Parry Peak Lofts, Zephyr Mountain Lodge, and Base Camp on Jane Creek. We stayed at Zephyr Mountain Lodge in the heart of the Village. Click here to see all the lodging options at Winter Park Resort, and here’s our review of Zephyr Mountain Lodge.
Zephyr Mountain Lodge. From the resort website: “Zephyr Mountain Lodge is Winter Park Resort’s ski-in/ski-out Base Lodging, just 110 feet from The Gondola. You are as close to the slopes as Lodging allows! Condominiums range in size including one, two, and three bedroom fully-equipped condos. The property has four outdoor hot tubs, a fitness room, on-site Front Desk, interior hallways, and comfortable lobby areas. The Village restaurants, retail shops, and additional activities are within steps of these condominiums. Other amenities include heated underground parking and on-site storage for your skis, snowboard or bike. For the closest location to the ski runs, bike trails and the gondola, this is the perfect property for you!”
After our experience, I’d say Zephyr Mountain Lodge is one of the best lodging options in Winter Park due to its proximity to the ski slopes, that it’s steps away from the restaurants and entertainment of the Village, and the spacious and comfortable family-size condos. Our condo was appointment beautifully, and we enjoyed our downtime by the fireplace while watching the skiers from our slopeside window. We also experienced friendly and welcoming customer service from the lobby staff during our stay. Zephyr Mountain Lodge was both fun and tranquil, energetic and relaxing. It is the perfect place to stay to experience this dichotomy of mountain life.
Features like the equipped kitchen and separate bathrooms for the adults and kids made our condo at Zephyr Mountain Lodge feel like home. We all had enough space to stretch out or gather together as needed. The ability to brew your own coffee or cook your own meals in the kitchen also allow for cost savings during a longer trip.
While our lodging was right in the heart of the Winter Park Village, there are several ways to get around, whether your hotel is in a different part of Winter Park, or if you just need to get to another part of the resort for your activities. The free Cabriolet gondola takes you from the Village to The Vintage during the day (where you’d access Hill House for tubing and the Camp Idelwild Kid’s Club; more on both of those below), and a free local shuttle makes rounds all day and evening. From what we heard, Uber and Lyft aren’t easily available in the area, so it’s awesome that these local transportation options are free and easy to access.
What to do in Winter Park for families
As I said, there is so much to do with kids and families in Winter Park, whether you’re a skier or not. Yes, a lot of people seek out Winter Park as their family travel destination for its great skiing (it’s the fourth biggest ski resort in Colorado). However, there is enough to do in Winter Park that even non-skiers will be well entertained. It was our first time skiing, so we had to take advantage of the nationally-recognized slopes, but we had just as much fun on the days we didn’t ski. Here are the activities that we tried while we were there, and what we recommend that you check out when planning what to do with your family in Winter Park, CO.
Skiing. Remember, Winter Park is USA Today’s #1 Ski Resort in North America, so if you’re up for it, I definitely recommend giving it a try. As newbies (I’ve snowboarded a handful of times, but never skied, and neither the hubs nor the boys had skied before), we thought it best to take part in some of the on-site Ski and Ride School lessons at Winter Park. We had a private all-day lesson. Our teacher, Greg (who we started calling “Coach Greg” thanks to Sawyer), was incredibly patient with our varying levels of experience (read: little to no experience), age differences (teaching both adults and children at the same), and athletic ability. We appreciated how encouraging he was of us improving, and the passion with which he teaches. His love for the sport was contagious, and it pushed us to keep at it even after a fall so that we could keep going and have as much fun as possible on the fresh powder (though the record should show that I fell the least!).
I recommend lessons for kids or those without a lot of ski experience (there are many different lesson options) so that you get a basic foundation for skills, expectations, and safety before getting on the mountain. I know that we felt much more confident after Coach Greg’s time with us. Another benefit to ski lessons at Winter Park Resort is that you can also get discounted Winter Park lift tickets with your lessons package.
We also kept things streamlined by getting our equipment rentals on-site at the resort. Learn more about the hassle-free rental options at Winter Park Resort so you can pick up your gear at the base right near the gondola. Note: you can also save time and money by reserving online 7+ days in advance. Want to further maximize your time at Winter Park? Save even more time by scheduling an in-room fitting (bonus – these packages also include slopeside storage).
How to save money on Winter Park lift tickets: You can get a discount on Winter Park lift tickets by purchasing them online 7+ days in advance.
Tubing. Fun in the snow isn’t relegated to the slopes at Winter Park! You also have access to some of the best snow tubing in the area right at the resort. We had an absolute blast tubing at the Coca-Cola Tubing Hill at Hill House (next to The Vintage hotel, and accessible from the free Cabriolet gondola). Safe and fun, you can slide down the hills for an hour on your own or tethered with friends and family members. They also have a Magic Carpet to take you and your tube back to the top of the hill after each run, which makes the experience even easier for everyone. Pro tip: grab a gourmet hot chocolate at Hill House after you’re done.
Snowcat tour. I had never hear of a snowcat vehicle before this trip, but since Winter Park’s tagline is “venture out,” we thought this would be a great way to see more of the mountain. Snowcat Tours are offered during the day and evening in a warm and comfortable renovated snow construction vehicle (like the kind that comb the slopes and paths each night).
We went on the Vasquez Ridge nighttime s’mores snowcat tour, and it ended up being one of the best memories of the trip for me. Not only could we see gorgeous views from some of the highest points of the mountain (even seeing where the tree line ends), but we also learned fun history and anecdotes from our tour guide, Marc, before stopping for beverages and to make s’mores at Vasquez Ridge. I took a few minutes to have some quiet time stargazing in the beautiful, clear, Colorado skies, seeing some of the best stars I’ve seen in years (including witnessing a shooting star right when my husband walked up to join me) while the kids pretended they were Luke Skywalker and Han Solo in Hoth (though I did have to remind them that marshmallow roasting sticks should not be used like light sabers).
Kid’s Night Out at Camp Idlewild. Parents – listen to this: Winter Park has an option to take your kids for a few hours in the evenings. Again, they will take your kids! Also located at Hill House, Camp Idlewild is a fun night out completely geared towards kids (think snow play, kid’s movies, arts and crafts, board games, pizza dinner, and the like). The kids love it (the staff at Camp Idlewild were so fun and friendly with the kids), but let’s be honest, the real winners here are the parents! It allowed my husband and me to have a romantic dinner, just the two of us. Vacay date night, compliments of Camp Idlewild!
Explore the Village. Even if you did no other activities, you could be entertained day and night in the Winter Park Village. It is full of great shops (we loved City Pop – you must stop in for some gourmet popcorn – especially the Bacon Cheddar flavor – and delicious sweets), restaurants (see some of our specific food recommendations in the next section), bars, and and plenty of other entertainment like music and more.
Other activities in Winter Park worth checking out: Snow shoeing, ski biking, ice skating, snowmobiling, SNOWga (yoga geared towards skiers to help you stretch and reset your body for skiing again the next day), and more. See a huge list of all the activities at Winter Park Resort here.
Where to eat in Winter Park – Winter Park Village restaurants
You don’t even have to leave the Village to find the best restaurants in Winter Park. Between all of the top-notch Winter Park Village and mountain restaurants and your ability to dine in your condo with the kitchen, wondering where to eat is the least of your worries when planning a Winter Park family vacation. As for the quality of the dining options in Winter Park, I can attest that we didn’t eat a single thing that wasn’t amazing. Here are the restaurants that we personally tried and recommend.
Sunspot Mountaintop Lodge. If you are planning a romantic date night dinner during your trip to Winter Park, this is the spot (pun intended). Drop off the kids at Camp Idlewild and take the gondola to the top of the mountain, then enjoy selections from a gourmet prix fixe menu with a view of the entire region. The Prime Rib was phenomenal, as was my husband’s Buffalo Ribeye.
Sunspot Mountaintop Après. While we didn’t have time to experience this ourselves, Sunspot also offers Happy Hour specials from 4-6 pm with a panoramic view. We overheard many people raving about the Happy Hour and live music.
Rippy’s Mountain Tavern. We went to Rippy’s after hearing great reviews of their mac and cheese and chicken fried steak. I loved the fusion of cuisine on the menu and enjoyed Poke Tuna Nachos, while the kids had some of the famous mac and cheese, and the hubs loved the Mother Clucker sandwich.
Doc’s Roadhouse. I highly recommend a visit to Doc’s Roadhouse sometime during your family’s trip to Winter Park. I had one of the daily sandwich specials (a Prime Rib Grilled Cheese – drool!!), Sawyer had the kid’s grilled cheese (a kid-approved sandwich on buttery Texas Toast), and Grayson and the hubs ate BBQ Bacon Burgers. Aside from the delicious food, Doc’s has a great selection of beverages, including a whole menu of hot alcoholic drinks. I loved the boozy hot chocolate drink called The Snuggler (which was like a hot, alcoholic Thin Mint that you drink).
Pizza Pedal’r. Another must-visit restaurant in Winter Park is Pizza Pedal’r in the Village. Seriously delicious pizza that you can eat in-restaurant or take to go back to your condo. This one came highly recommended to us, and now I would heartily recommend it to others.
Waffle Cabin. If you want a quick breakfast (or a waffle any time of the day), Waffle Cabin in the Village is where to go. We each got combos (waffles topped with our choice, a hot beverage, and bacon), and it was the perfect amount of tasty food to fuel us for a morning of fun in the snow.
Starbucks. Located just steps from Zephyr Mountain Lodge, Starbucks was there for us for an on-the-go breakfast and a hot cup of coffee (or an iced coffee if you’re one of those that drinks iced coffee in any weather).