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13 Fun Things to Do in Vail, Colorado

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If you’re familiar with any of America’s top ski resorts, Vail would likely be one of them. Tucked between valleys in Eagle Valley, just two hours from Denver, Vail is one of the country’s biggest and most popular ski resorts.

Vail

I was lucky enough to spend four months living and working in Vail for the ski season over a recent winter. Unsurprisingly, the town is most popular during winter, when the mountains are coated in powdery snow sought out by skiers and snowboarders from across the globe (me included).

But besides skiing Vail’s iconic back bowls, the town buzzes with activity, from cozy alpine dining to sledding and ice skating. Summer in Vail is said to be as charming as winter. Ski runs turn into hiking and biking trails, and the town comes alive with farmers markets and outdoor concerts.

While my experience and tips might be biased toward winter, this list will give you a good idea of the best things to do year-round in Vail, Colorado.

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Ski the Back Bowls

Back Bowls

It might not be the most ‘unique’ Vail activity, but there is no doubt it’s one of the best. You can experience the famous back bowls with over five thousand acres of diverse terrain—seriously, it’s a skier’s paradise.

It’s not cheap, with tickets starting at $230 for a single weekday pass. Like all ski passes, they get more affordable the more days you purchase. For example, a week-long ski pass costs $1274, the equivalent of $182 per day. I was blessed with an unlimited season pass, which even allowed me to bring some friends and family up onto the mountain with me.

Pro Tip: If you plan to ski for more than six days at Vail or any other Vail-affiliated ski resort during one season, it might be in your interest to buy an Epic Pass, which works for all Vail Ski Resorts worldwide.

I also recommend giving the week of Christmas and New Year’s a miss. This was no doubt the busiest week on the mountain and there were times where I waited up to an hour to get on a ski lift.

Mountain Bike Through the Aspen Trees

Mountain Bike

When the snow melts and spring flowers start to bloom, Vail’s slopes turn into world-class mountain biking tracks. If you don’t come prepared with your own bike and protective gear, you can rent everything you need in Vail Village or Lionshead.

Mountain biking season typically runs from May through to November, but is weather dependent. There are countless trails, but the main two are The North Trail and Meadow Mountain.

Pro Tip: Unless you’re familiar with the area, opt for a guided mountain bike tour. Now only will you be shown the ins and outs of the area, but it’s also a good way to stay safe.

Take a Day Trip to Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek

Only a 20-minute drive along the i70 West from Vail is another famous ski resort known as Beaver Creek. If you’re interested in rubbing shoulders with your favorite actors and superstars on a chair lift, this is the place to do so.

What makes this village unique is that it is literally located up in the mountains. You actually need to drive up a mountain pass to get here. Lift tickets are surprisingly cheaper than at Vail (there is significantly less terrain, to be fair), and there are plenty of great restaurants and boutique shops worth checking out. WYLD is my favorite restaurant, serving top-shelf new american food in a traditional cabin setting.

If you don’t have a car, you can catch a bus and travel between the two towns in around 30 minutes.

Pro Tip: Make sure you hang around until 3 pm when freshly baked cookies are handed out at the base of the slopes in the village. Get them while they’re hot!

Take the Eagle Bahn Gondola to the Summit of Eagles Nest

Eagle Bahn Gondola

Even if you aren’t a skier, you can still enjoy the same beautiful views from the top of the mountain by traveling up the Eagle Bahn Gondola. You’ll be charged a reduced ticket rate of $50 for a single return ticket – worth it for the views and experience, I say.

This scenic gondola ride Travels from Lionshead Village and makes its way to the top of Eagles Nest, where you can grab a bite at the Marketplace Eagles Nest, go for a hike in summer, or watch the skiers and snowboarders whiz by in winter.

Kids under 12 can ride the gondola for free as long as they are Traveling with an adult who has a valid ticket.

Go Ice-Skating in Lionshead Village

Lionshead Village

Few things are more festive than ice skating under a string of starry lights. In true winter ski resort style, you can rest assured Vail has some exceptional ice rinks.

Glide through the Vail Square Ice Rink in Lionshead Village for just $20 – a price that includes skate rentals. I would walk past this rink on my way to and from work, and the vibes were always high. Remember to bring thick socks, and try to plan your visit for the evening to experience the rink lit up with magical lights.

Visit the Vail Farmers Market

Farmers Market

If you’re in Vail in summer, one of my favorite things is visiting the Vail Farmers’ Market. It runs on Sundays between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., June through October, with vendors selling all sorts of fresh produce, homemade preserves and jams, and even some bespoke crafts. One of my favorite stalls sells hot smoked salmon, and another cooks up one of the most impressive paellas I’ve ever tasted.

In fact, the market has become such a hit that the Vail Farmer’s Market has expanded to include a Meadow Market on Thursday evenings between 4 pm and 7 pm in the heart of Vail Village.

Spend a Night at The Arabelle

Arabelle

Among other opulent hotels and resorts, The Arabelle at Vail Square is one of Vails’ premier hotels. While I didn’t stay here myself, this slopeside lodge offers all the bells and whistles, including mountain views, rooftop pools, and high-end dining.

Prices for a superior king room start at $250 per night and go into the thousands for apartments and suites. There is even a five-bedroom serviced chalet with a kitchen and hot tub overlooking the slopes, ideal for families.

Go Whitewater Rafting on the Gore Creek River

Whitewater Rafting

While there is a small whitewater park in the village itself, a few companies in Vail organize rafting expeditions to the Colorado River, the Eagle River, and even the Arkansas River.

If you’re after an adrenaline rush, you can expect to find rapids ranging from Class I to Class V. If a relaxing float down the river sounds better to you (I’m with you on this one), there are plenty of easy kayaking tours that are kid-friendly, too (and by this, I mean rubber ducky floating tours).

Rafting adventures range in price from $100 to $150. Check out Timberline Tours for all the options.

Watch an Ice Hockey Game

Ice Hockey Game

If you’re lucky enough to be in town when the Vail Yeti Hockey Team is playing, grab yourself tickets to a game at the Dobson Ice Arena in Lionshead. Tickets cost $10 online and $15 at the door.

The arena is home to a bunch of local hockey leagues as well, so chances are there will be something going on while you’re in town. I watched about four Games at the arena during my visit, and even with no understanding of the rules of hockey, I enjoyed every second.

Recreational skaters can take advantage of public skating hours, which can be found on a schedule online. Adults pay $10 for admission and can rent skates for an additional $5.
The Vail Yetis in action

Spend an Afternoon Shopping

Afternoon Shopping

Both Vail Village and Lionshead Village feature pedestrian-only streets lined with boutique shops, galleries, and restaurants. Typically speaking, I find Lionshead Village to have most of the best ski and snowboard shops dedicated to the active adventurer.

On the flip side, Vail Village is home to a variety of high-end fashion stores, jewelry shops, and alpine fashion boutiques selling far more than just your average ski goggles and fleeces.

For a real taste of the high-life Vail style, make your way to Gorsuch in Vail Village for a personalized alpine shopping experience like no other. With coffee and personal stylists on hand, this was one of my most lavish shopping experiences to date.

Join a Mountain Top Yoga Class

Yoga Class

There is no better way to start a day than with a yoga class. While plenty of studios and gyms offer yoga classes in the village (Gravity Haus and Aquarian Uprising are two of my favorites), one of the coolest places to practice yoga is on the mountain.

With Mountain Top Yoga, yogis can start the day right every Sunday at 10:30 am between mid-June and the end of August. A ticket for Epic Pass holders is just $10. Alternatively, you’ll have to buy a scenic gondola ride ticket for $69.

Go Tubing at Adventure Ridge

Go Tubing

If apres-ski and skiing get adults excited about a trip to Vail, kids are drawn in by Adventure Ridge’s tubes and slides.

At the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola in Lionshead, there is a magical kid-friendly haven called Epic Discovery at Adventure Ridge.

The outdoor adventure land includes everything from roller coasters to zip lines, climbing walls, bungee trampolines, and tubing. Tubing down these narrow snow laps was easily one of the highlights of my trip.

The adventure pass costs $150 online and includes three laps on the Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster and unlimited access to all other activities. I recommend buying your pass online and picking it up at the Lionshead Ticket Office at the bottom of the gondola.

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