How Colorado Resorts Are Shaping America’s Newest Family Vacation Trends

From tiny home vacation rentals to teen-focused spa treatments, Colorado’s family resorts are quickly becoming national trendsetters.
Rock climbing in Colorado (Photo: @kjohnston6350 via Twenty20)
Rock climbing in Colorado (Photo: @kjohnston6350 via Twenty20)

With travel restrictions and health precautions limiting family vacation spots in the U.S. during the pandemic, smaller pleasures like in-state road trips, staycations, and outdoor movie nights have surged in popularity. But with vaccinations on the rise, new family vacation ideas and leisure activities are becoming more doable this summer—and that includes some hot new resort trends being pioneered in Colorado. 

Colorado Family Resort Trends for Summer 2021

The Centennial State has always been at the forefront of outdoor recreation, and its plentiful outdoor space is a big reason why it became one of the first states to reopen during the pandemic. Here are the newest resort trends from the national trendsetter for safe and socially distanced family vacations.

Outdoor Activities

At the new-concept Gravity Haus resort in Breckenridge, the Cabin Juice Elevated Eatery and Bar boasts private cabanas, four indoor/outdoor hot tubs, a sustainable and emissions-free coffee shop, and an outdoor Super Trampoline with free private booking windows for each hotel stay. The resort’s pet-friendly rooms were built with families in mind, too, and feature bunk beds and a few different layouts.

Dryland Sports Breck, located on the hotel’s lower level, is an open-air gym and fitness center for adults, teens, and kids. Outdoor classes are focused on building muscles specifically for sports such as rock climbing, kayaking, and ice skating. 

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For kids, there’s nothing better than booking an excursion through Colorado Adventure Guides, Gravity Haus’ outfitting and adventure partner comprised of ski patrollers, avalanche educators, and lifelong mountaineers. Last summer, Colorado Adventure Guides pivoted to customized excursions and private hiking, biking, skiing, climbing, and rafting experiences. 

When I visited in late July last year, our guide decided a four-mile journey to forage, identify, and learn about local mushrooms would be an ideal outdoor experience for my family (the kids were five, nine, and 11 years old). It was a wild success. My daughter spotted a morel mushroom in an old-growth stump, the first our guide had ever seen in Summit County. 

In addition to Gravity Haus Breckenridge, there are also Gravity Haus locations in Vail and (coming this summer) Winter Park

Over in Estes Park, the gateway to Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, the non-profit Rocky Mountain Conservancy field institute offers a number of hands-on outdoor educational programs perfect for families. Perennial favorites include Early Wildflowers of RMNP, Kids’ Fly-fishing and Stream Ecology, and Sketchbook Journaling: Wilderness, Wildlife and Wonder in Watercolor.

Whether you’re new to hiking or an experienced climber, Kent Mountain Adventure Center guides can take you on the high alpine trails and cliff faces of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Center offers opportunities for all ages and abilities, including hiking, rock climbing, and cliff camping. Brave souls can try the new Via Ferrata (Italian for “Iron Path”) and scale a 600-foot cliff while being safely secured to anchored steel cables.

This summer, Estes Park visitors can also climb, hike, mountaineer, and more with Colorado Mountain School’s highly trained guides. With countless one-day and multi-day courses and trips, Colorado Mountain School is the largest guide service in Colorado. 

For overnight accommodations, families can enjoy affordable and safe getaways at YMCA of the Rockies. Located on more than 800 acres in Estes Park bordering Rocky Mountain National Park, YMCA of the Rockies is the perfect place for an unplugged mountain vacation. Activities such as swimming, archery, and roller skating mean there’s always something to do. Private pet-friendly cabins and lodge rooms are available.

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YMCA of the Rockies also offers free outdoor education kits featuring easy-to-follow science and ecology lessons for all ages. Guest rooms at the lodge start as low as $89 per night (two breakfasts per day included). Cabins start at $109 per night.

Just outside Winter Park, Snow Mountain Ranch brings families together to relax and enjoy the outdoors year-round. With a huge selection of activities, most included in the cost of an overnight stay, there’s something for everyone in the family. Accommodations range from hotel-style lodge rooms (including new dog-friendly rooms) to cozy pet-friendly cabins to mega family-reunion-sized cabins that sleep up to 44 guests. Guests who stay in lodge rooms receive two free breakfasts for each night booked. 

Unique on-site activities include indoor archery, indoor rock climbing, a swimming pool, craft shop, and roller skating, plus creative weekly programming.

Skincare Trends for Teens

Wearing face masks, especially for teenagers, takes a serious toll on the skin. With online classes and other social pressures, there’s more stress than ever on teens, and Colorado resort spas are at the forefront of a growing teen travel trend: skincare.

In Colorado Springs, STRATA Integrated Wellness and Spa at Garden of the Gods Resort and Club offers a 60-minute teen facial that includes educational guidance in an easy-to-remember, easy-to-maintain home care routine. “Given the importance of wearing masks, our skin is deserving of more attention during this time,” says Grant Jones, Vice President of Wellness, STRATA. “Teens’ skins are in development and can benefit from a gentle, soothing application of nutrient-rich organic creams.”

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At Grand Hyatt Vail, the resort’s full-service spa offers a “Teen Mascne Facial” designed for ages 11 to 18 to help teens heal and revitalize acneic skin caused by hormonal changes and frequent mask-wearing. Comfort Zone’s Essentials line is utilized in this facial to offer a gentle and deep cleansing, while providing a protective barrier to young and delicate skin. The spa’s estheticians provide education on basic skincare steps—a great introduction to a healthy skincare routine. 

“While massages and facials may seem like an indulgence, their physical and mental benefits are a critical part of any health and wellness routine for all ages,” says Carly Oakland, the resort’s spa director. “Now more than ever, it’s important that we help teens establish early habits and understand how self-care can optimize their health and well-being.”

Colorado Resort Food Trends

With dining ordinances varying from county to county, Colorado’s resorts and restaurants got very creative during the pandemic. That’s translated to clever and affordable options for enjoying Colorado cuisine in a safe and enjoyable manner this summer.

During ski season, skiers were left with very few slope-side food options because most eateries could not accommodate indoor dining. That’s why The Westin Riverfront near Vail rolled out new food packs right before the holidays. There’s a Breakfast Pack, Fun Pack with Friends Pack, a Lunch Pack, and a Family Fun Pack. You’re given a backpack full of food and get to keep it for the entire day, stash your food and enjoy it wherever and whenever. 

The Family Fun Pack, for example, includes a bag of Pirate’s Booty, two Peter Rabbit Pouches, one bag of Smashmallows, one pack of Pan Di Stelle, four waters, two fruit cups, four muffins or croissants, and four cupcakes or brownies. 

The resort’s onsite restaurant, Maya, continues to thrive despite COVID restrictions as well. “At first we were only doing to-go, and that included Easter, Mother’s Day, and big celebrations last spring,” explains Executive Chef Angel Munoz. “We got that down, then began to adapt to the new parameters of indoor dinning and tableside service. Family and sharable meals were not popular, and we didn’t stock or have many requests for the big-ticket items like carne asada and carnitas. Instead it’s the tacos and smaller staples.” 

In Longmont, sustainable heritage pork company Mulay’s Sausage saw a big increase in family pack orders at the start of the pandemic. Families vacationing in Colorado have been booking rooms and suites with kitchenettes, full kitchens, and grills during COVID. Mulay’s went from being a grocery-market driven food provider to selling direct to consumers over the internet, shipping and delivering more than ever to families vacationing in Colorado. 

Tiny Homes and Yurts

In northwest Colorado, Trail and Hitch is an RV park and tiny home village with campsites that’s surged in popularity during the pandemic. The 20-acre property features nine unique tiny homes that sleep anywhere from four to six guests per home. Sleeping arrangements include queen-sized loft beds, full-sized pull-out futons, and twin-sized nooks. All tiny homes feature a flat screen televisions on the main levels and there’s Wi-Fi throughout the resort. 

Each tiny home contains a fully equipped kitchen with dishes, glasses, silverware, pots, pans, baking sheets, and utensils. Some kitchens have stoves, while others are simpler and offer hot plates for quick meals. All units have a refrigerator, freezer, microwave, and Keurig coffee maker. There is an outdoor propane grill on each patio for use year-round. And each home’s common area has the flatscreen TV, books for different reading levels, board games, comfortable throws, and a table for eating that can seat two to four people.

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The community space at the center of the village includes a large picnic area with shade from the sun and rain. There’s also a faux grass area for children and dogs to romp about. Giant-size Jenga, Connect Four, and other games are always available for guests as well.  

With its outstanding variety of chic tiny homes, River Run Resort in Granby was one of the hardest-to-book family glamping resorts in the state last summer. The resort offers one- and two-bedroom tiny homes with kitchens, television, Wi-Fi, outdoor grills, and full bathrooms. Last year it debuted kayaking and standup paddle boarding activities at its on-site lake, as well as four types of glamping: Airstream trailers, Conestoga wagons, yurts, and adventure tents. 

River Run also has oversized, full-hook-up RV sites and three styles of pet-friendly vacation rentals. The resort’s amenities include a pool, hot tubs, two restaurants, a dog park, golf cart rentals, a putting green, lawn games, an arcade, playground, jump pad, fitness center, and more. The tiny home resort offers easy access to Rocky Mountain National Park, three nearby lakes, and lots of hiking, biking, and boating options all less than 20 minutes away. The Colorado River runs through the property. The resort offers drive-through check-in for all lodging and enhanced safety and cleaning measures.

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Julie Bielenberg
Julie Bielenberg is an award-winning journalist and photographer based in Colorado. She is a national leader in agritourism and publishes more than 50 editorial assignments annually for over a dozen outlets.