Where else in the world can you get lots of sunshine, great ski runs, world class restaurants, and fresh beers from the local brewery? That’s Durango, Colorado – the perfect winter Christmas trip, where you’ll find something for everybody.
I’m not kidding; Durango has 300 days of sunshine per year, so the weather is not only great, but it makes it easy to get around and enjoy some of the local attractions. Whether you’re here for a long weekend or a week, Durango is just a lot of fun. Here’s why.
Ski at Purgatory
Purgatory is the name of Durango’s local ski resort, just a short 20 minute drive out of town. It’s one of the smaller resorts in Colorado, but still packs a punch, with some great ski runs, several gorgeous snowshoeing trails, and heaps of hospitality that make this a superb Christmas travel destination. Lift tickets here are still well under $100/day, which is saying something, given the prices you’ll find elsewhere. And with the sunny days that Durango gets, the views are beyond picturesque – just remember to dress in warm layers and wear sunscreen; it can get quite warm in the sun, and then turn bitterly cold in a snow squall.
You can stay either in town or here at Purgatory; staying here means ski-in/ski-out, whereas in town you’ll have more choice for shopping/food/drink. TIP: After a day of skiing, stop by Trimble Hot Springs, a natural hot spring spa located halfway between Purgatory and Durango. Nothing like a hot outdoor bath to sooth those aching legs.
Durango Christmas Events
Durango’s got so much going on year-round, but in winter the activities hit a feverish pitch, but you can choose to do it all or just have a relaxed pace. Here’s a round-up of some of the best experiences, though a little serendipity can go a long way in Durango.
- Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Train: This historic train has often been called one of America’s best train rides. The winter trip takes you up into the San Juan Mountains, and the views are nothing short of breathtaking. This is a must; winter departures also include some special trains, such as The Polar Express, so check in advance and book ahead.
- Shopping: Downtown Durango has a number of fun and quirky shops, selling everything from vintage Christmas ornaments to coffee mugs, t-shirts and winter gear. The local day spa, the Spaaah Shop, has not only treatments but a great selection of products that make great gifts.
- Night Snowshoe: Purgatory has some fantastic winter events, especially those of you traveling with children, who may want to meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus! Also check out their night snowshoe, which includes not only snowshoeing under the moonlight, but wine and cheese. (Reservations recommended.)
- Sleigh Ride: In downtown Durango, you can get an evening sleigh ride, complete with a guided tour of the historic town. This tour highlights some homes and buildings you might not stumble upon on your own, so it’s highlight recommended; many companies offer them, including San Juan Sky Outfitters, with daily tours starting at the Strater Hotel.
Where to Eat in Durango for Christmas
With a high number of restaurants per capita, as well as some world-class local chefs, you aren’t going to go hungry in Durango. Here’s where to get started:
- Breakfast: The quirky themes at Oscar’s Cafe (pictured) will draw you in, but their tasty pancakes and bacon will give you fuel for all-day adventuring.
- Lunch: Bread not only has yummy pastries that you’ll want to take back to your hotel room, but their fantastic sandwiches are perfect to sit down and eat or to grab and go for the train or just to have handy when hunger pangs strike. The Strater Hotel’s Diamond Belle Saloon also servers lunch and is very atmospheric.
- Evening Cocktail/Snack: Eno a fabulous little local spot that servers as a cafe, cocktail bar, snack bar. It’s almost like a lounge, but without the pretentious atmosphere. Love the food and drink.
- Dinner: So. Many. Choices. Ken & Sue’s is very popular with the locals; Francisco’s for Mexican; Cyprus Cafe for Mediterranean. Kennebec Cafe (a short drive out of town) for European.
And don’t forget, if you’re a beer drinker, Durango has 4 local breweries; Carver’s and Steamworks both have nice restaurants in downtown if you’d like to sit down and sample a few. There’s also a wine shop near the train station if you’d prefer a wine tasting.
Where to Stay in Durango for Christmas
Durango has plenty of very reasonably-priced accommodation available, even during the ski season. A few choice recommendations:
- Purgatory Lodge: If you’re going to do a lot of skiing, then why not opt to say at Purgatory itself? The new Purgatory Lodge is an incredible facility and beautiful – perfect for couples, families (multi-generational trips especially). And the drive into town for more restaurants and bar options is quick. There are also some condos at Purgatory available for rental.
- Strater Hotel: This is one of Durango’s famed historic hotels; the interiors are lavish, featuring one of the world’s largest collections of walnut furniture! Don’t let all that fancy old stuff scare you off; the Strater is very comfortable, and your stay includes free breakfast (cold buffet with 1 hot item), as well as a smiling staff that have lots of great tips and advice for local sightseeing.
- Doubletree Durango: Part of the Hilton family, the Durango Doubletree offers travelers great value: free internet, free airport transfers, free internet, as well as a swimming pool/hot tub and fitness room. It has a great location and a couple of on-site dining options.
If you want a great ski vacation as well as lots of other fun things to do, a Durango Colorado Christmas is just the ticket.
Santa photo courtesy of Durango Mountain Resort.