From the Road: Distinctly Durango

Photo by Nick Kogos, Visit Durango

We’ve all heard the phrase “there’s something for everyone.” There is no better illustration than the city of Durango, Colo.

Durango respects its “cowboy culture” roots and is best described as a laid-back, never-met-a-stranger, dog-and family-friendly place to visit.

You can either drive from the Valley, which takes approximately 7.5 hours, or fly direct from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport to the Durango-La Plata County Airport. Once there, finding the best place to stay near the activities you choose during your getaway is a good idea. While the City of Durango comprises only 5.6 square miles, its region is much larger. So, you will want to minimize travel time while maximizing your time in this mountain town.

There are familiar hotels, such as Marriott and Holiday Inn Express, as well as Vrbo options. The locally owned StraterHotel is a landmark property in downtown Durango with 88 uniquely decoratedand furnished rooms. The inside of the iconic red brick building is adorned with handcrafted woodwork and an extensive collection of American Victorian walnut antiques.

Narrowing down what to do in Durango —whether indoors or outdoors —might be a challenge. Its great outdoors offers everything from snowmobiling, snow tubing and snowshoeing to sleigh rides, ice climbing and ice fishing. Colorado has adopted and practices an outdoor ethics model, with a “leave no trace” focus on being mindful of your natural surroundings and leaving the wilderness wild.

Within a 30-minute drive of downtown Durango is Purgatory Resort. “Purg,” as locals refer to it, was carved by glaciers thousands of years ago. It offers perfect conditions for pure alpine nirvana with 260 inches of snow annually. Kiddos 10 and under ski free at Purgatory with the Power Kids Pass, offering a free season pass with no parent purchase required.

Stay bundled up for more outdoor fun while exploring the heart of Durango, its historic downtown. As you walk the district, you will see firsthand why this eclectic shopper’s paradise has versatile appeal. Be sure to check out Urban Market for housewares; the Tippy Canoe for cabin-chic furnishings; Lively, a boutique for women’s fashion and accessories; and The Sparrow Mercantile, a curated collection of men’s and women’s clothing. And prepare yourself for a pawsitively warm welcome by the various shop dogs that have free reign of stores and take their management responsibilities seriously!

Photo by Cole Davis

After the outdoor fun and shopping, the Durango Hot Springs Resort & Spa is an ideal place to carve out some relaxation time. Newly renovated and located 8 miles north of Durango, it features soaking tubs for individuals and couples, geothermal mineral pools of varying temperatures, a saltwater swimming pool and a full-service day spa. A designated family area allows everyone to experience the waters that are said to have life-changing properties. Reservations are required to lavish yourself with downtime while soaking in the stunning mountain views.

Photo by Nick Kogos, Visit Durango

Of course, you must replenish the inordinate calories you will have burned while taking in Durango’s sights! Grab breakfast at Oscar’s Café, a local 50’s style diner, where the food is well worth the short wait and the homemade cinnamon rolls don’t lack in size or weight. Durango Doughworks is an excellent option for breakfast and lunch with the sweet bonus of an assortment of freshly made donuts. Durango Bagel offers a quick, on-the-go option of coffee, bagels and schmears before you board the year-round Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad train adventure.

Restaurants throughout Durango are both casual and family-friendly. The city offers a wide selection of ethnic food, including sushi, noodles and Tibetan dishes. If you are craving a hearty meal, visit the Ore House for delicious steaks and seafood. James Ranch Market & Grill is a table-on-the-farm organic restaurant overlooking the 400-acre ranch with stunning views of the surrounding peaks and a prime location to watch the sunset.

When it comes time to give in to your sweet tooth, stop by Cream Bean Berry Artisan Ice Cream, featuring organic flavors such as honey lavender, mixed berry crisp and balsamic strawberry. Chocolate lovers must visit Animas Chocolate & Coffee Co. in downtown Durango, where they can sip hot chocolate while watching chocolatiers make artisan chocolate.

If you’d rather forgo dessert and instead have a post-meal or, heck, a mid-day drink, Ska Brewing Company and Animas Brewing Company are ideal places to wet your whistle with craftbeer. The San Juan Mountains serve as the backdrop for The Nugget Mountain Bar, just a half mile south of Purgatory Ski Resort. Sip on your drink of choice while listening to live music around a fire pit with new friends.

Kids of all ages are sure to enjoy two signature winter experiences. Travel back in time aboard The Polar Express™, Nov. 18, 2022–Jan. 1, 2023, for a magical recreation of the classic holiday story aboard a vintage steam train as it departs Durango for a round-trip excursion to the North Pole to pick up Santa Claus. All ticketed passengers receive hot chocolate, sweet treats and the gift of Christmas: a silver bell. After arriving at the North Pole, you’ll enjoy an incredible light show set to holiday music.

The 44th Annual Snowdown, Feb. 1–5, 2023, will bring the entire Durango community together for some revelry the distinctly Durango way, including a light parade, canine fashion show, chili cook-off, balloon rally, bed races and much more. With a Shakespearean theme, this city’s celebration will not disappoint!

Travel Notes

Visit Durango:


Snowdown 2023:

About Julie Coleman

Julie Coleman is a contributing writer for Frontdoors Media. She is Principal of Julie Coleman Consulting, providing strategic philanthropy consulting services for individuals, families, businesses, foundations and nonprofit organizations.
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