Vail Valley Colorado Travel Guide

January 18, 2024

A Guide to the best of the Vail Valley I wit & whimsy

Vail Valley Travel Guide

I was lucky enough to grow up going to the Vail Valley. My family had a condo in Beaver Creek my entire childhood and we would spend weeks in the summer there and usually a few days after Christmas skiing the mountain. It is a place that’s extremely special to me as a result. I continue to frequent the valley every year for Christmas with my family and some summers as well when I can squeeze it in.

So today’s post features all my favorite ways to spend time in the Vail Valley of Colorado. All freshly updated for 2024! It covers places in Vail, Beaver Creek, Edwards, Bachelor’s Gulch and Avon within the Valley. 

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Vail Valley Colorado Travel Guide

A Guide to the best of the Vail Valley I wit & whimsy

How to Get to Vail:

My preferred way to get to Vail is by flying into the Eagle County Regional Airport – typically through Dallas or Chicago from NYC. During peak seasons in Winter you can sometimes get direct flights to Vail from cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. 

You can also fly into Denver International Airport and do the two hour drive up to the Valley or hire Epic Mountain Express which runs shuttles from DIA to the Valley.

A Guide to the best of the Vail Valley I wit & whimsy

What to do in Vail in Summer:

Summer in the Valley is utterly charming. There is loads to do outdoors, less crowds and often beautiful temperatures.

Visit the Farmers’ Markets: You’ll find weekend markets at Vail, Minturn and Edwards. They are fun to peruse and have some good food vendors if you want to get a bite while there in addition to shopping.

Horseback Riding: This was a favorite summer activity of mine in Beaver Creek. You can book here.

Hiking: The Valley is brimming with loads of hiking options. Also fun to do is to take the Beaver Creek chairlift up the mountain and hike down. Here is a hiking guide with a lot of options.

Pure Barre: If you want to swap in an indoor workout amidst all your time outdoors, head to the Pure Barre franchise in Edwards.

Mountain Bike: See the mountains via two wheels. Get details on reserving bikes in Beaver Creek here.

White Water Rafting: Always such a fun time, you can raft or kayak the Colorado River. More info is available here.

What to do in Vail in Winter:

Wintertime in the Valley is nothing short of magical. A winter wonderland with coziness sprinkled throughout, you can get the best of the outdoors on the mountains in the Valley. It never gets old to experience the beauty of the Valley covered in snow.

A Guide to the best of the Vail Valley I wit & whimsy

A Guide to the best of the Vail Valley I wit & whimsy

A Guide to the best of the Vail Valley I wit & whimsy

A Guide to the best of the Vail Valley I wit & whimsy

A Guide to the best of the Vail Valley I wit & whimsy

Ski: This goes without saying but when you visit Vail in Winter you should take advantage of the world class, top notch skiing at both Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek Mountains. I prefer Vail to Beaver Creek due to the vast variety of runs but Beaver Creek is a great ski area for beginners, for families and for less crowds. In Beaver Creek don’t miss the free chocolate chip cookies given out at the end of the ski day. Moreover, it’s important to know that Vail Resorts now do dynamic pricing on day passes so you could pay as much as $300 per day for lift tickets if you don’t buy your pass in advance. It pays to plan for taking advantage of ski season when it comes to Vail, Colorado.

Beaver Creek Guide

And on days you ski Beaver Creek be sure not to miss their free, daily cookie hour at 3PM at the base of the ski mountain every day! 

If you need to do rentals, you can make your life easier by booking this on Expedia and having your rentals delivered to you!

Snowshoe: There are loads of trails for snowshoeing if you’re up for a less traditional workout while in the Valley.

Beaver Creek Ice Skating

Ice Skating: Both Beaver Creek Village and Vail Village boast ice skating rinks you can rent skates at and try your hand at spinning around the ice with your best moves.

Snowmobile Rides: Get an adrenaline rush with snowmobile tours. My family has done this and had an absolute blast. Bring hand warmers though!

Apres Ski: Of course one of the best things about a ski town is the apres ski scene. I love how all the bars and hotels serve up delicious hot drinks and everyone is relieved to be out of their ski boots and just chilling taking in the village. 

Where to Eat & Drink

A Guide to the best of the Vail Valley I wit & whimsy

A Guide to the best of the Vail Valley I wit & whimsy

A Guide to the best of the Vail Valley I wit & whimsy

Splendido: I’ve had several wonderful meals here over the years and love that most evenings have a piano man playing tunes in the background.

Maya: Solid Mexican food in a pretty setting at the Beaver Creek Westin Hotel (which is often the top rated hotel in the valley).

Mirabelle: A Donovan family favorite for a special occasion meal. Delicious, well-done French food in an upscale dining room.

Beaver Creek Chophouse: Our favorite to eat at on a Beaver Creek ski day. Good chilis, chicken sandwiches, burgers and other hearty options. Good for Apres ski and also has a Vail location.

The 10th: Some of the best on-mountain dining at Vail. Have lunch here while skiing or take the gondola up in your snow boots. They encourage you take your boots off and slip into some complimentary slippers which feels utterly divine after a morning of skiing. Reservations highly encouraged.

Northside Kitchen: A great spot for a breakfast date and don’t miss the wide variety of doughnuts served on weekends!

The Book Worm: A family favorite of ours, this bookstore has a charming cafe serving up delicious crepes alongside smoothies, salads and other light bites in a cozy setting in Edwards.

Blue Moose Pizza: Delicious pies in a casual setting. In addition, their slice + soda lunch special is one of the best deals on the mountain. So plan to take advantage during a day on the slopes.

Toscanini: Reliable Italian food overlooking Beaver Creek’s ice skating rink.

Sweet Basil: A family favorite for many years and somewhat of an institution in the Valley. Due to its popularity reservations are required.

Remedy Bar at the Four Seasons: Great cocktails, great people watching, fire pits outside and hot chocolate that puts on a show.

Elway’s: Don’t miss this spot for an apres ski s’more. Warming up by the fire after a day of skiing is pretty delightful.

8100 Mountainside Grill: This bar inside the Park Hyatt at Beaver Creek is a hopping scene for après ski.

Hygge Life: While not in the most convenient location, this shop and cafe is not to be missed. It’ll transport you to the coziest corners of Scandinavia immediately.

Gorsuch Ski Café: The famed upscale home and clothing store with locations in Beaver Creek and Vail has just opened a darling cafe in Vail serving up coffee and pastries for takeaway.

Two Arrows Coffee: My new favorite coffee spot in Vail. Good coffee, a decent amount of seating and delicious pastries.

Beano’s Cabin: Easily one of the most unique dining experiences in the Valley, you’ll get to dinner via snowcat during the Winter. They provide ponchos to wear on the sleigh but dress warmly regardless! Beano’s is a four course menu in a cozy, upscale cabin on mountain. Reservations must be made months in advance.

Big Bear Bistro:  My brother’s and my favorite spot at Vail to eat during a ski day. This hole in the wall cafe is super casual and offers up amazing breakfast burritos, grilled cheese and loads of other hearty, comfort food options.

Hovey & Harrison: I love this spot for its strong coffee, breakfast burritos and delicious freshly baked breads.

Where to Stay in the Vail Valley

The Sebastian: This resort hotel is minutes from the village of Vail and getting onto the slopes. You can visit the spa to indulge in deep-tissue massages, aromatherapy, or reflexology and there’s also an on-property restaurant as well an outdoor pool and ski storage available. It’s a top rated hotel in the area with customers.

The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa: You’ll need to drive up to Beaver Creek or Vail or take the nearby gondola to Bachelor’s Gulch to get on the slopes from this hotel during the winter but as such it also offers some more competitive per night room rates. Other highlights at this well rated and family friendly resort include three bars and restaurants on property, an outdoor pool, and a poolside bar. Skiers also get easy access to ski storage and rentals. 

Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa: A staple in Beaver Creek village and quite literally mountainside when you stay here you may also spot a celebrity or two. They offer a great après ski scene and have s’mores kits available for guests to roast marshmallows over the property’s fire pits outside. Friendly service and a spa and a well-rated restaurant also make this a popular choice.

Sonnenalp: For a top rated luxurious experience, look no further than the famed Sonnenalp hotel. This hotel is well loved by families for their free kids’ club and there’s also a beloved spa on property. Guests can grab a bite to eat at one of the three restaurants. Other highlights at this luxurious hotel include an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, and a poolside bar. travelers say great things about the helpful staff and overall property condition.

The Arrabelle: One Key Silver, Gold and Platinum members get perks at this property like room upgrades, food and drink extras, free breakfast, or parking credits. The Arrabelle has a well loved restaurant Tavern on the Square and there’s also an outdoor pool. This property is also pet friendly and some rooms have terraces. 

Four Seasons Vail: One of the top luxury hotels in Colorado, this property is particularly exceptional in winter. You’ll be near winter activities like downhill skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing. You can visit the spa to indulge in massages, body wraps, or aromatherapy, and the on-property restaurant Flame serves breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a TikTok famous hot chocolate. Other highlights at this luxurious resort include an outdoor pool with a killer mountainside view, a free kid’s club and a poolside bar. Ski storage and rentals are also available.

Beaver Creek Lodge: This hotel is part of the reliable Autograph Collection and has an excellent location. Guests can take a dip in the outdoor pool or grab a bite to eat at Alpine + Antlers, which serves breakfast. A bar/lounge and a fitness center are offered, and in-room conveniences at this upscale resort include sofa beds and refrigerators. Fellow travelers say good things about the room service.

The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch: Not my favorite location, but a gorgeous and newer hotel in the valley, they offer ski-in/ski-out access to one of the smaller mountains that connects you to Beaver Creek Resort. There’s a wonderful après ski scene in winter often featuring live music as well as three restaurants and two bars. There’s of course an outdoor pool and a fitness center and the hotel can also arrange ski passes, storage, rentals and lessons for guests.

During peak season in the Winter, hotels can be extremely pricey so you may want to explore renting condos via a site like VRBO – especially if traveling with a bigger group.

. . .

And my last piece of advice? Drink tons of fluids. Altitude sickness is very real and if you don’t prepare before and during your trip, you could end up totally sidelined. I’ve experienced altitude sickness on numerous occasions over the years as a kid and it is brutal. So force yourself to stay extremely hydrated the duration of your trip.

Have you been to Vail and Beaver Creek? I’d love to hear your favorites! And be sure to check out my packing guides for time spent in Vail Valley below.

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comments +

  1. Elona says:

    Your photos are beautiful!

  2. Melanie says:

    Loved visiting Vail the last time I was in CO! One of our favorites was a drink at 10th Mountain Whiskey!

  3. Natalie says:

    My f
    Husband, daughter, son-in-law and I will be visiting Vail for the first time this spring. Thank you for this guide! It’s so helpful. We are staying at RC Beaver Gulch, and though you said it’s not your favorite location, hopefully it’ll be fine ?? We are excited for some family time in a beautiful location.

    • Natalie says:

      I have no idea why question marks were added at the end and it formatted oddly. Oops.

    • Meghan says:

      Definitely is a gorgeous property you’ll just need to have a car to get to the village or take a shuttle! Super nice to be able to get right on the mountain though for ski days!

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