BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. (AP) — Some mountain towns are touted for their luxury accommodations, fine dining or arts scene. Some are known as the place to go for spas, hiking or biking. Others, golf or world-class fishing.
Breckenridge may have the best combination of all those attributes.
Known for its massive ski resort, Breckenridge also has plenty to offer this time of year, with a wide range of summer and fall activities, reasonable prices and a low-key vibe, all set in the picturesque Colorado Rockies.
"The weather is great, it's clean and it's well-kept, the prices are not exorbitant and you can find anything that you want to do," said Monroe Buford, who's from Gulf Shores, Ala., but has spent summers in Breckenridge with his wife, Sue, since 1994. "It's just an ideal place for people who like to get out of the heat in the summertime."
Located about 90 minutes from Denver, Breckenridge was originally founded as a mining town during the mid-19th century gold rush. It became a resort town in the 1960s with the opening of the ski area, which attracts more than 1 million skiers every year.
Over the years, the town locals call Breck became a summer and fall destination as well, drawing visitors from around the world.
It's easy to see why.
Breckenridge sits along the Blue River, just above where it feeds into Dillon Reservoir, and below the towering 14,000-foot (4,300-meter) peaks of the Ten-Mile Range, so panoramic views are visible from pretty much anywhere in town.
The weather during the summer is nearly perfect during the day and with just-the-right coolness at night, though watch out for the afternoon thunderstorms that often crop up. In the fall, before the first snows arrive in late October, the temperatures are still warm enough for outdoor activities and the nighttime lows above the unbearable range.
Within the town are dozens of shops, a wide variety of restaurants — from a crepe stand to steaks and seafood — that offer non-peak season deals and an art district that has the expected high-end galleries along with places that teach classes and have hands-on, take-it-with-you workshops.
Many of the shops and restaurants feature local products, including beer from the Breckenridge Brewery and bourbon from the Breckenridge Distillery, which offers daily tours.
And the locals don't act like locals. Friendly and laid-back, they give off a "You're-one-of-us" vibe to visitors instead of treating them like trespassers.
"It's a very, local, homey feel," said Jessie Unruh of GoBreck, also known as the Breckenridge Resort Chamber, which helps promote tourism. "We treat everybody, the locals, visitors, like family and go out of our way to help people out. There's nothing better than coming to a town and doing what the locals do instead of just wandering around and hoping you'll find something interesting to do."
What makes Breckenridge so much fun is the multitude of activities.
Hiking and biking trails crisscross the mountains and families often ride cruiser bikes to get around town.
The Blue River is a great place to fish and the waters below Dillon Dam are some of the best in the state for trout and kokanee salmon during their annual run. The lake is great for sailing or riding in pontoon boats, and there are numerous golf courses to choose from, including the Jack Nicklaus-designed Breckenridge Golf Club on the north side of town.
There's also the Breckenridge Summer Fun Park at the top of the gondola, featuring a mountain roller coaster, slides and a chair lift ride to above 11,000 feet (3,350 meters) for scenic views.
For the adventurous types, there's rock climbing and rafting, and, to recover, numerous spa options around town that offer deals during the summer.
And for something a little different, Snow Cap Sled Dogs — http://www.snowcapssleddogs.com/ — offers summer dog sled rides that include a tour of the compound, meet and greet with their huskies and a tow through the woods with one of their teams.
"We mainly go hiking these days, but there are so many things that you can do around town and most them you can do them all in one day," said Buford. "It's a great place to go for the summertime."
If You Go...
BRECKENRIDGE, COLO.: http://www.gobreck.com
LODGING: The town offers a wide range of lodging options starting around $100 a night during the summer, but home rentals are a popular alternative. Seasons Dreams has rental homes starting at $300 per night during the summer and the massive Four Peaks Home is perfect for reunions or large gatherings, http://www.yourbreckrental.com
ALTITUDE TIPS: Breckenridge is 9,600 feet (2,900 meters) above sea level, so most people will need time to adjust to the altitude. It helps to drink extra water and avoid alcohol and heavy exercise. Some people experience shortness of breath, headaches or fatigue, but symptoms typically resolve within a day or two. Higher altitudes also increase the risk of sunburn.
SOMETHING DIFFERENT: One way to get the real flavor of Breckenridge is to hire a personal chef. Chef Ian Buchanan has cooked around the world during a 16-year career and can create personalized meals made with local products. Depending on the level of service, the price per person is often the same as a high-end restaurant, with a more personalized approach, http://open2theworld.com .