I spent last week in the magical, snowy wonderland that is Telluride, Colorado, but if you follow me on Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook, you already knew that. I went slightly overboard obsessing over the town via social media posts. Needless to say, if you are planning a family vacation this winter (or even in the summer — it’s beautiful and has tons to do then, too), you might want to give Telluride some consideration.
Not only is this town charming, beautiful, and full of the nicest people (seriously, I’ve never had so many strangers smile at me on the street), it is also the farthest thing from touristy. I’ve been to other ski-resort towns on family trips growing up, but as lovely as those places were, they’re also major tourist attractions. Nothing against tourists — obviously, I’m a tourist on vacation, too — but the more out-of-towners, the busier local restaurants and attractions are. And I hate a crowd or a line for ANYTHING.
Telluride isn’t the easiest place to get to — there’s a tiny airport that just one, small commercial airline flies in to — and it’s quaint, which discourages crowds of tourists to flock there. But you can also fly into neighboring towns Montrose or Grand Junction and drive 1 or 2 hours, respectively, through some seriously stunning scenery to get there.
Once there, you’ll be glad you made the trek; I promise it’s worth it. In the winter, imagine snowy capped mountains, towering pine trees, a charming old downtown with remnants of when it was once a mining town, and colorful, Victorian-style cottages dripping with icicles.
Skiing and snowboarding are the obvious wintertime activities, but we actually didn’t do either during our time and were still plenty fulfilled with everything else there was to do and see, including adorable dogs on every corner. This is a majorly dog-friendly town, guys. Just one of the many, many reasons I’m so in love. (It’s also incredibly walkable; you can get nearly everywhere by foot — or by free-gondola ride!)
Where to Stay
New Sheridan: This historical, boutique hotel provides cozy and charming refuge right along Colorado Avenue, the main street in town, allowing easy access to shopping, eating, and activities. Also, the bathroom floors are heated. Need I say more?
Telluride Rentals: The family I went to Telluride with (who I nanny for) stayed down the street from my hotel at the most beautifully decorated (think: oak wood floors, beautiful glass light fixtures, and mountain-chic art and furniture) house that slept ten. The management company offers more than 70 Telluride vacation residences for rent.
Where to Eat + Drink
The Butcher and The Baker: Fresh local foods meet a bright, airy atmosphere here, and I had to stop myself from popping in more than a couple (okay, a few) times during my stay. Go for the simple scramble with a blueberry muffin or apricot flax scone at breakfast, or the turkey, brie, pear sandwich at lunch.
Baked in Telluride: A simple, stark interior does not match the caliber of delicious food churned out of here, including pasta (the spaghetti and meatballs were divine), tacos, soups, sandwiches, salads, pizza, and all sorts of baked goods. (Most bread at local restaurants comes from the kitchen at Baked in Telluride.) Anytime we needed something on-the-go, this was our go-to.
New Sheridan Chop House & Wine Bar: I only had breakfast here (the chilaquiles are muy, muy bueno) since it’s attached to my hotel, but I hear the French onion soup and crab legs are winners off the dinner menu. (I may have also indulged in room-service creme brûlée, a MUST-try.)
Tomboy Tavern: Trendy wood paneling, a wrap-around bar, and Edison light bulbs adorn this pub-restaurant that serves local beers and a mean Southwestern salad, a tempting plate of potato-chip nachos, and perfectly spicy chile-garlic edamame. (Hop on the free gondola to Mountain Village to get there!)
Gnarly Tacos: Located in a house-turned-restaurant/bar, Gnarly sure lives up to its name with fun takes on tacos, like the Korean short rib or pork belly varietals.
Smugglers Brewpub: Go for the in-house-brewed craft beer (try the Citra IPA and Blackeberry Wheat); stay for the squash-curry soup. My one regret is getting the cup, not the bowl.
OAK Beer, Bourbon & BBQ: It’s not pretty and it’s not glamorous, but the name says it all if you’re looking for quality in any of the above three things.
There…: This tiny, bohemian spot was opened by a previous bartender and buyer at Nobu; if you want small bites, craft cocktails, and the best fried brussel sprouts ever, this is your place.
Esperanza’s Tequilas: Indulge in chicken enchiladas, topped with creamy poblano sauce, and a fierce margarita — or two — at this hole-in-the-ground (for real, you take stairs DOWN to the restaurant) Mexican-food hang. It’s not gorgeous, but it certainly hits the spot on a cold night, and Esperanza herself will most likely be around to say hi and offer up a recommendation from the menu.
Stuff to Do
Yoga: I am one of those annoying people who needs to workout on vacation, and Mangala Yoga was a perfect escape for a little hot power vinyasa in the “Lava” class. Telluride Yoga Center, which I didn’t have the chance to stop in to, offers more times, variety of classes, and surely a great view overlooking downtown’s main street from a second-story studio.
Skiing/Snowboarding: As mentioned, we didn’t partake in any skiing or snowboarding, but it is a major draw of this town, and the routes are aplenty…and they look seriously STUNNING. Go getcha’ some snow.
Telluride Brewing Company: The one larger scale brewery in town (as mentioned above, there is also Smuggler’s Brewpub, which is more of a restaurant and small-scale brewery), TBC is worth a taproom visit to try their blonde and IPA beers.
Snow Mobile Tour: The family I went with got out on a snow mobile tour one morning and said it was SO WORTH IT for the views alone.
Gym: Again, I’m a freak and need to workout on vacay. I went to 8750Alt, which is free if you’re a Sheridan guest, but for those staying elsewhere, it’s $25 a day or $40 for a couple, and it’s got all the equipment you could need, plus personal training services.
Shopping: So MANY cute boutiques and shops line Colorado Avenue — stop by Two Skirts for luxury and trendy women’s clothing, Mountain Tails: A Cat and Dog Boutique for pet goodies and souveneirs, The Telluride Toggery for casual warm wear or boots, Over the Moon for charcuterie supplies and kitchen decor (I went THREE TIMES over the course of five days), Sublime for cute clothes and accessories, Paradise Resortwear for cute tchotchkes and Telluride-themed keepsakes, Between the Covers for books and good coffee, and Patagonia if you happen to be freezing your tail off and need the good stuff.
Free Gondola: Take this puppy to the top of the hill (landing at about a 10,000-foot altitude up there) for stunning views and skiing, or take it all the way down the other side of the mountain to Telluride’s neighboring town, Mountain Village, where more lodging and restaurants await.
Telluride Historical Museum: What used to be the town’s only hospital is now a charming ode to Telluride’s long and bumpy, yet incredible, history. A $5 entry allows you to dive deep into this amazing place’s enthralling background — a MUST for trips anytime of the year.
Spas + Art Galleries: I’m grouping these together, because there are tons of both spas and art galleries around town (in fact, Telluridians are so into their art that many restaurants and even the Sheridan lobby display local artists’ work for purchase), but I wasn’t able to explore the spa or gallery scene. No worries, though! I am CERTAIN I’ll be back. I recommend Googling around for spas and galleries alike to find the spots with the best reviews and vibes for you.
So, that’s it! Go plan that dream of a trip, now. I’ll leave you with this quote I found at the museum that seems to aptly wrap up my feelings about this charmer of a town: “Telluride feels like a town that is taking a lot of care to grow intelligently, carefully, with an eye on the mistakes of other ski towns and a healthy awareness of what makes quality of life.” –Pam Houston
What are y’all’s favorite places to go on vacation? Where should I be heading next? Let me know in the comments below!