For those of us with large families, planning a vacation that will please everyone can turn into an exercise in frustration. While you may be able to please the adventure junkies with an adventure excursion, you probably will not have pleased the rest-and-relaxation crowd. And while certain members of your clan may love sleeping under the stars in a tent, others may be much more inclined to camp out in the comforts of a luxury hotel.
Sound like a challenge? I know. I’ve planned that very vacation. And it just may have been the most enjoyable vacation our family will ever go on.
Where did this mythical vacation occur? Colorado.
In Central Colorado along the Arkansas River Valley, a series of towns–bordered to the North by Buena Vista and to the South by Salida–host some of the best combinations of adventure and luxury you’ll ever find.
As the Arkansas River moves through this valley, it changes from roaring rapids to a placid float suitable for kids and back again. This variety helps please almost any age level and adrenaline fix needs.
For those with kids above eight years old, the stretch of river that runs through what is known as Brown’s Canyon provides a great introduction to white water rafting. After running a rapid known as the Zoom Flume, my eight-year-old (at the time) nephew exclaimed to us all, “This is better than video games!” What better stamp of approval do you need?
For those with younger kids, many of the outfitters offer trips on the easy-going section of the Arkansas just to the south of Buena Vista. This stretch of water is just fast enough to make it interesting while keeping the fear level to a minimum.
And if you have absolutely no desire to get on water, you’ve still got plenty of options. Unbelievable hiking and mountain biking trails abound throughout the mountainsides that surround the valley. For a taste of the past, true ghost towns are scattered around the valley as well. It’s an adventurer’s dream.
For the luxury/relaxation group, we went with a vacation home rented through Colorado Mountain Vacations. Anywhere from single bedroom cabins up to huge five-bedroom log homes are available in some of the most gorgeous locations you can imagine.
My family–all 14 of us–stayed amazingly comfortable for five nights in a house known as the Ponderosa at Chalk Creek, one of the available properties for rent. I have never seen a home, cabin, lodge – however you want to put it – that made coming together as a family any easier. The floor plan was wide open across three levels which made keeping track of the little ones easy while still giving every one plenty of room to spread out in comfort. Pam Guttenberg, the owner of Colorado Mountain Vacations, was incredibly accommodating to any help we needed. (To make our stay even more interesting, they actually were displaying the house to a group of filmmakers who were interested in using it for a horror film. Turns out, it was too open and inviting to use for that type of film. We could have told them that!)
As for the relaxation part, the house’s three decks overlooking the ripples on Chalk Creek made that wonderfully easy. The soft roar of the water below the house calmed every nerve while we sat barbecuing in the evening or drinking a cup of coffee in the morning.
It was luxury at its finest. What made it even better is if we had stayed in Vail or Aspen, we would have paid twice as much as we did for our stay. And once we added in all the money we saved cooking our meals in the kitchen, we spent even less than we would have if we had stayed in a hotel.
No one – not our thrill-seeking teenage boys, not my relaxation-seeking mom, nor the rambunctious five kids under the age of nine, not even the three sets of parents watching the eight total children wanted to leave on the sixth day.
And if that’s not the sign of a great vacation, I don’t know what is.