The annual Ice Festival is Ouray's biggest winter event, bringing thousands of people to town every year for this unique (and free!) event. It's fun for everyone, even if you don't ice climb, and the ice park itself is one of the biggest and best in the world.
In between checking out competitive ice climbing and chugging hot chocolate, you can try ice climbing yourself. For free. With no experience. Or gear. Believe, us it's a bucket-list-worthy experience. Even if you don't visit Ouray during the ice festival, you can check out the ice park anytime between December and March to climb or simply visit.
What to do
Ouray has a ton of outdoor activities all winter long. If you want to try ice climbing and aren't in town for the festival, you can sign up with a local guide group like Chicks With Picks or San Juan Mountain Guides.
The ice festival itself also offers clinics for under $100 for any skill level (you can borrow gear from the festival sponsors).
>> Members of the ice park receive 20% off their stay (call to book or redeem at checkout). Book here <<
Beyond the ice park, the Ouray Hot Springs is another must-do. Go at night for some excellent stargazing. If you're really lucky, you can go while it snows. It's like sitting in a hot tub snow globe!
The hot springs are really well laid out, so even if it's busy, you won't feel crowded. If you forget your swimsuit, it's only $2 to rent one. The Walmart in Montrose (the closest one, about 30 minutes away) won't have swimsuits in the winter, so if you want to avoid renting, just remember to pack yours! We have towels for you, so don't worry about packing them.
Ouray also has a great trail system that leaves right from town. The Perimeter Trail can be picked up from Oak Street, by the Ouray Visitor Center, or by Cascade Falls (among other spots). It's initially steep, but otherwise a pretty easy hike, and you definitely don't have to go the entire 4.2 miles around Ouray. This trail is so popular that even in the winter, the snow stays packed down and it stays hikeable.
Vinegar Hill, named for the "vinegar" made there during Prohibition, is a family-friendly option for guests with small children. For more than 100 years, the city has shut down a block of 5th Street for sledding, making this a can't-miss Ouray tradition! Just down the street is Lee's Ski Hill, another kid-friendly winter option.
If you're looking for an indoor activity, look no further than the guided tour at the Ouray Alchemist. It's a historical Wild West tour (think actual snake oil dealers) that has rave reviews on TripAdvisor. Just make sure to call ahead to schedule your tour.
Where to eat
Obviously, have breakfast with us at AlpLily!
Brick House is really popular for a dinner date. It's a little pricey, but completely worth it. They also have great desserts and cocktails if you want to have a nightcap!
Mouse's Coffee and Chocolates is full of hand-made chocolates of every shape, size, and flavors. If you can't decide on chocolates, get a scrap cookie instead. It's all the chocolate scraps mixed into a family cookie dough recipe. They are addicting!
Ouray Brewery - Good beer with great burgers and BBQ in a really cool setting (if you can, sit in the swings at the bar on the main floor!). Red Mountain Brewery is also in town. If you want to do a brewery crawl, end at Red Mountain since it's closer to AlpLily.
Thai Chili - Yes, good Thai food in the mountains! It may seem random, but the pad thai is excellent. It's kid-friendly, too!
Maggie's Kitchen - The best greasy burger and fries you'll ever have. Trust us.
We can't wait to see you! Ouray is a winter wonderland, and there's plenty of fun to be had, particularly with that lovely Colorado sun keeping you warm. Book your stay >>
A version of this post originally appeared on OutdoorBeginner.com, a website managed by our marketing contractor. Laura wrote the blog prior to working for us and received no compensation for it.