The blog for inspired travel with children

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Durango, Colorado

After a few days in Santa Fe, we drove to Durango, in southern Colorado to visit family. This meant that we had an enthusiastic six year old (my niece) ready to show us around this pretty little mountain town - perfect!  And Durango really is quite good for the traveler-with-child - it's small and easy to navigate, there's lots to do, and the mountain setting is beautiful.

Our first stop the morning after our arrival was the wonderful new-ish Durango Discovery Museum, which occupies a rehabilitated power plant right downtown (and right on the Animus River).  The staff here (with substantial help from the community) have done a great job of creating original exhibits geared for kids of all ages.  In the near future, the Museum plans to begin working with an established exhibit company, but I was impressed with the museum as we found it - it doesn't lack for stimulating activities.  

The airy interior of the Durango Discovery Museum

A rube goldberg machine

The treehouse, for climbing up, and up, and up...

The enclosed toddler play area

After a few hours here we headed to Zia Taqueria for lunch. I hear this place is always crowded, and it was pretty bustling when we showed up, but the line moved quickly and we were soon happily eating some excellent mexican food (they have a children's menu). May I recommend the fish tacos? My sister told me she'd been addicted to these for a good long while, and I could see why. Yum.  On the subject of food, be sure not to skip Bread, a superb bakery.  It's slightly out of the way but worth it (they make sandwiches too).

The next day we drove down to Ignacio to visit the Ute Cultural Center and Museum.  It was a last-minute sort of decision, and I'm glad we went.  The Southern Ute Nation has made a lot of money through casinos, and from what I hear they have put the money to pretty good use.  Certainly the Cultural Center is housed in a beautiful modern building with inviting landscaping. The Center also houses a library and archive as well as meeting space.

The entrance to the Ute Cultural Center and Museum

The Ute Language reminded me a little of the Finnish language - a world away...

The permanent exhibition was so interesting - it covers the history of the Ute people in a very engaging way. There is an introductory video (not so exciting for the kids, but not too long), and there explanatory texts throughout, but there is also a great deal of more interactive material that kids can explore  A real tee-pee grazes the ceiling of one room; a "campsite" with an improvised shelter made from branches is nearby. You can walk through a small cabin modeled after those built for resettled Indians, sit at a child's desk in an Indian School. The material culture on view is fantastic as well. The craftsmanship and exquisite beading on the many costumes on view was stunning and very inspiring. 

On our last morning we had pancakes (well, some of us had pancakes; I fortified myself for our drive to Santa Fe with eggs and hashbrowns) at Oscar's Cafe, a cozy little diner with a miniature train tootling around the perimeter of the room. Not a bad place to get breakfast - your basic diner.

There is so much to see in this area that we couldn't do it all - at the top of my list for next time is a trip to Mesa Verde National Park. It's less than an hour from Durango and includes 600 cliff dwellings and thousands of archaeological sites.  On a previous visit, we checked out the fish hatchery at the Wildlife Division - it's on the Animus River and right in the center of town.  You can buy fish food and watch the fish whip the water into a mini tempest as you drop of a few pellets.  An indoor natural history exhibit features taxidermied animals of the Rocky Mountains.

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