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 (long overdue) post features all my favorite ways to spend time in the Vail Valley of Colorado.
Vail Valley Colorado Travel Guide
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. 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.
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.
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 $200 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.
Snowshoe: There are loads of trails for snowshoeing if you’re up for a less traditional workout while in the Valley.
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!
Where to Eat & Drink:
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 ocassion 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.
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 apres 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:
As I’ve been fortunate enough to have a family home in the Valley for the 30+ years I’ve been visiting, I’m afraid I don’t have first-hand recommendations for accommodations but can direct you to this page for Vail and this page for Beaver Creek. During peak season in the Winter, hotels can be extremely pricey so you may want to explore renting condos via a site like VRBO.
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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 guide for a ski weekend in Vail Valley here.