Nighttime Family Staycation

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(photo: Jeremy Swanson)

Looking for ways to vacation like you live here? Or play like a tourist in your own backyard? There’s nothing like howling at the moon to make any night an adventure.

Our notion of Nightlife evolves after kids. In the beginning, it’s all about grabbing a few winks between middle-of-the-night feedings. Soon we reach the sticky fingers stage of discovering restaurants where it’s okay for Papa to stroll with toddler and margarita while Mama eats peacefully, trading places in time for a second round.

Before long, we’ve cultivated our babysitter lists and it’s a whole new Winter Nights ballgame – until kids reach the golden age of childhood when they’re able and eager to accompany us on our adventures. Soon enough, they’ll climb that hill faster than we can and race down ahead of us.  This only makes it more fun to get out with them and howl at the moon. Along the way, we collect intel from other parents about best places to go, things to do and can’t-miss fun.  Here’s our after-hours to-do list from one end of the Valley to the other.   


As soon as Jack Frost shows up to help, the Silver Circle Ice Rink will reopen this winter after some back-and-forth with the City about synthetic ice v. the real deal. While you’re there, warm up at CP Burger, which is as family-friendly as it gets, serving Colorado beef, salads and milkshakes (spiked, if you’d like,  for Mom & Dad).

Full Moon Uphill = parents + teens + friends. Skin or snowshoe to the Cliffhouse at the top of Buttermilk Mountain. Free hot chocolate around a cowboy cauldron, giveaway swag, dinner and cash bar followed by a moonlit top-to-bottom. Bring extra layers, headlights, and reflective clothing.

Winterskol Fireworks photo: C2 Photography


On most Fridays from late December through March (+ extra special holidays nights) head to Snowmass Ski Area to honor the Norse God of Snow — Ullr — with Ullr Nights, a night time, winter wonderland party at Elk Camp. Evening gondola ride, tubing, Breathtaker Alpine Coaster, snow biking and dinner followed by s’mores and hot chocolate by the bonfire (above, credit: ASC; and cover photo of snow biking by Jeremy Swanson).

The Snowmass Village Ice Rink is an easy destination with night skating and hot beverages around the fire pit after free s’mores and before dinner at Slice, where kid-friendly meets the aprés crowd until it’s time for a real culinary treat.

Basalt + Willits

Looking for a night out inside with the kids? Book Movieland tickets in advance online as weekend and holiday nights will often sell out, especially for new release films. You’ll always find at least one show for younger audiences.

Before the show, take your pick of family-friendly, quick and easy dining spots. Sure Thing Burger serves local beef and free soft serve cones to every kid. New York Pizza has the same delectable pie that Mom & Dad discovered late-night in Aspen 20+ years ago, only grown-up now in a downvalley location.  El Korita is the Mexican place mentioned on the previous page, known for its authentic menu and kid-cool vibe.


Night Hockey has a near-cult following under the rodeo lights at Gus Darien Arena. The rink is open Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday nights, from 7:30–9:00 PM for big kid/grownup pick-up games. Definitely wear your full body armor. Or, if you’re only into watching, that’s fine. Bring a thermos and gather with other hockey moms and around the fire pit.

Or, for a more sociable time on the ice, go the Carbondale’s 4th Street Rink (above), which is strung with lights and mellow enough for boot-sliders of all ages. Because of nearby store windows, leave hockey pucks at home.


On a clear, bright night try a nighttime cross-country ski up the road from Redstone to Coal Basin. The slight and steady climb is gentle both up and downhill. Dog-friendly, non-groomed and typically good snow coverage. Bring headlights. 

Afterward, head to the Redstone Inn (above) for ski-attire-appropriate dining in the grill. Start with their hot-buttered Grand Marnier and save room for the warm chocolate brownie dessert.

Glenwood Springs

Don’t ski? No problem. You can find plenty of adrenaline thrills this winter at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park where weekend hours extend to 9:00 PM. The Alpine Coaster and other rides are lit with holiday lights.

Anyone who has arrived in the Valley at night in December via I-70 has seen the Hotel Colorado’s grand light display. (Above, credit: Visit Glenwood). Make time to go inside to see the Hotel’s Victorian-era lobby decked out in holly, lights, ribbons and classic holiday scenes and tchotchkes. While you’re there, try the restaurant’s grown-up lobster mac-n-cheese.

By: Kathryn Camp

LOOKING FOR something else to do?

Find more of WHAT’S HAPPENING around the Valley on our online Calendar.

About Kathryn Camp

MOUNTAIN PARENT Editor & Designer • When Kathryn is not at her desk with MP, she cycles, snowboards, skis, writes fiction and keeps bees in downtown Carbondale with her teenage children, husband Rich, and their wayward husky-coyote Zelda.