Where to eat and drink
Purgy’s, at the Purgatory Village base area, is the most popular drinking and eating spot on the hill. Cafeteria food is accompanied by both indoor and outdoor bars and a ‘beach’ style outdoor sitting area with great views of the mountain. A great après-ski spot, Purgy’s is generally bumping throughout the afternoon and features live music on weekends and holidays. Many employees hang out here for after-work drinks as well.
Dante’s is a great spot to stop in for a drink on the backside. The building offers a cafeteria downstairs and sit-down dining upstairs. The long bar offers some of the best mountain views in La Plata County and is usually full of a mix of locals and tourists.
Paradise Pizzeria and Ice Creamery sits in the heart of the Purgatory Village base. They are less crowded than Purgy’s, which makes it easier to get a seat at the bar. They crank out overpriced, mediocre ski resort food as well as anybody in the country- I like to head in there when I’m looking for something other than chicken fingers or cardboard box crust pizza slices.
- Steamworks Brewing Company, 801 E. 2 nd Ave, has great Cajun and American food and pizza with house-made brews and entertainment in the evenings. People often criticize their beer but to be honest, I never thought it was too bad. I lived right up the street for a few years and spent many Thursday nights in there for $ 1-pint night.
- Zia Taqueria, 3101 Main Ave, is a great place to stop for quick-service Mexican food on the way back from the mountain. They put Chipotle to shame- I love the Yucatan chicken tacos.
- Serious Texas BBQ, 3535 Main Ave, is a legend among locals. It is also the only place in town to get a Lone Star beer if that is your thing. I have never found better barbecue in the state of Colorado, and the sauce- oh my god. There is a reason why they have a jug on every table.
Where to stay
Hotel options abound in Durango, and it is possible to stay on the mountain if you’re willing to shell out $100+ per night. Most of the standard US hotel chains have locations in town (including 3 Best Westerns) and there are some cute local hotels such as the Siesta Motel and the Durango Lodge. There is now a hostel in town up near the college- check out Durango Hometown Hostel.
Where to party
As the home of a small liberal arts college, this town does have a strong party scene. Live music from jam bands to electronica to ska and rock can be found at the Balcony Backstage. Their outdoor counterpart, the Balcony Bar and Grill, offers music as well.
Durango has an odd obsession with ska music, which drew me in immediately. It is the home of Ska Brewing, which along with the Animas City Theatre brings a handful of the genre’s best bands to town every year.
The college scene is more into electronica and what’s current in youth culture. On most nights, the Animas City Theatre is either playing a show relevant to this culture or showing an indie movie. Main Avenue is the bar strip with popular spots. This includes El Rancho Tavern on the divey side and Derailed Pour House on the traditional side.
A good way to get a feel for the town is to wander around Main Ave and the connecting streets, stopping in for a drink at different bars. The town is big enough (just shy of 20,000 residents) that it is possible to find just about anything you are looking for.
One of the coolest things about partying in Durango is that if you get too sauced. The Buzz Bus will come to pick you up and take you back to your hotel or home. Call 970-259- 5438 on weekends. I had some interesting experiences on this bus, including watching a couple just shy of full-on intercourse in the back seat. For late-night eats, stop by the Durango Dawg House right on the corner of College Drive and Main Ave.
- If you ask locals where the Hermosa Park Express lift is, there is a good chance they won’t know. Locals call the lifts by their numbers, say Lift 3 and they will point you right at it.
- Local breweries are exceptionally popular in Durango and at the resort. Order a Pinstripe Red or Durango Wheat for starters. Then, move on to a Euphoria (Ska Brewing’s high-alcohol winter seasonal) and you’ll feel nice and toasty.
- Many tourists in the area come from Texas, and locals love to poke fun at Texans. Maybe leave that cowboy hat at home, and always remember: Cheney skis in jeans. Don’t be that guy.
Culture Guide: On-mountain and in town
Durango is a laid back place. There is no need to dress fancy- that flannel shirt or Patagonia pullover will do just fine. I made it through seven years. Usually dressed as a clueless punk rocker but still managed to have a girlfriend now and then.
The town has a hippie vibe because of both the college and the outdoors culture. Residents are incredibly friendly and are more than willing to share drinks with people they meet. You’ll surely have fun here. If you aren’t a fan of outdoor activities, you will be by the time you leave.