There are nearly seven more weeks until Labor Day and the unofficial end of summer -- plenty of time for a Rocky Mountain getaway. While mountain resort destinations aren’t exactly known for being inexpensive, the neighboring historical towns of Breckenridge and Frisco, Colorado, feature several free and cheap ways to enjoy the outdoors. Tip: The weather changes quickly at these high altitudes, so don’t leave the house without sunscreen and a couple of layers.1. Live Music in Frisco (free)
Frisco’s Historic Park on Main Street hosts live music every Thursday from 5:30 p.m to 7:30 p.m. through August 20. Traveling bands like Hot Buttered Rum and the New Orleans Suspects play under a covered gazebo while locals and visitors spread out on the grass. Bring a blanket or a low-rise camping chair, and pack your own snacks to enjoy while you listen to the tunes. Beer and wine can be purchased, with bar proceeds going to the non-profit organization chosen for each show.
2. Lake Dillon Water Taxi ($10 one-way)
Approximately every hour starting at 10 a.m., an oversized pontoon boat shuttles passengers from Frisco Bay Marina across beautiful Lake Dillon (a.k.a. Dillon Reservoir) to Dillon Marina and vice versa. If you don’t want to rent your own boat, the water taxi is a great alternative, giving you about 30 to 40 minutes on the water to enjoy the mountain scenery. When you get to Dillon, have lunch or cocktails at the Tiki Bar at the marina, then boat back to Frisco when you’re ready. Bikes are welcome on the boat for an extra $1. Pay cash onboard.
3. Breckenridge-to-Frisco Bike Ride ($26 for comfort bike)
This popular one-way route from Breckenridge takes you along a dedicated paved bike path, the Blue River Bikeway, which boasts scenic waterside photo opps. The nine-mile ride is slightly downhill most of the way -- you’ll go from Breck’s 9,600 feet of elevation to Frisco’s 9,075 feet -- meaning a fairly leisurely way to get some exercise. Most bike rental companies will tell you where to lock up and leave your bike in Frisco, so you can just hop on the free Summit Stage bus to return to downtown Breckenridge, perhaps after refueling with a beer or two at Backcountry Brewery in Frisco. Try the Mountain Wave shop in Breckenridge for bike rentals through September 30.
4. Tours or Tastings at Breckenridge Distillery (free)
Find out what effects high altitude and snowmelt have on the liquor-making process at Breckenridge Distillery, a relatively new operation just north of the town center. This innovative mountain start-up produces whiskey, vodka, and spiced rum, as well as interesting creations like pear brandy and its own bitters. Go to the distillery for a free tour, or enjoy complimentary tastings at its downtown tasting room on Main Street.
5. Breckenridge festivals and museums (free to $27)
If you’re into ceramics, jewelry, photography, painting, or other art forms, check out Breckenridge’s Main Street Art Festival (July 24-26) or the Gathering at the Great Divide Art Festival (September 5-7), both with free admission. If hops and barley are more your speed, the Breckenridge Summer Beer Festival on August 29 showcases more than 40 breweries, plus live music and food vendors. Tickets with tastings start at $27.50, and it's highly recommended that you buy in advance. For history buffs, the Barney Ford House Museum tells the story of an escaped slave who became a businessmen and civil rights leader in Colorado in the mid-1800s (donation suggested).