20 Things To Do In Vail, CO

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A popular skiing and snowboarding destination, Vail is one of the most picturesque settings in the entire United States and a little slice of Europe in the heart of Colorado. Vail has a year-round population of just under 4,800 people, however, come wintertime, the town’s population swells tenfold as travellers from across the United States and beyond flock to the Vail Valley’s world-class ski resorts and themed villages.

What started as a humble Rocky Mountain town has quickly developed into a ritzy vacation destination that today boasts a mouthwatering culinary scene, a burgeoning arts scene and year-round outdoor activities to keep visitors of all ages and interests royally entertained.

Vail, Colorado

Top Tours

vail fairy in the snow
Winter is the season when you won’t be short on things to do in Vail.

20 Things To Do In Vail

1- Hit The Slopes At The Vail Ski Resort

Mountain Top
Skiing or snowboarding are popular things to do in Vail, Colorado in winter.

The Vail Ski Resort is a world-class skiing and snowboarding destination perched along the slopes of the Rocky Mountains that’s without a doubt the city of Vail’s biggest and most popular attraction.

First opened in time for the 1962 ski season, the resort covers a total skiable area of over 5,317 acres (2,152 ha), making it the third-largest single-mountain ski resort in the United States.

Visitors to Vail are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to hitting the powder with the Vail Ski Resort boasting 195 different runs to try out, catering to skiers and snowboarders of all experience levels.

Skiing isn’t the only thing that the resort is known for, as evidenced by the resort’s great accommodation options and enchanting village, which houses several of Vail’s top restaurants, shops and attractions.

2- Explore The Vail Village

Vail City Center And Surrounding Mountains
Exploring the city centre on foot is one of the things to do in Vail, Colorado.

Despite forming part of the Vail Ski Resort, the Vail Village truly is a fascinating attraction in its own right and serves as the setting for countless Vail retailers, eateries and cafes.

The village is famous throughout the state of Colorado thanks to its distinctly European feel, no doubt derived from the village’s captivating architecture and compact design.

While the Village is always a great spot to explore in Vail, the venue comes to life during the festive season, when light displays and holiday decorations turn Vail Village into a magical destination that’s simply divine to soak up.

3- Spend An Afternoon At Ford Park

Situated to the east of Vail Village is the scenic Ford Park, an all-encompassing recreational space that boasts several of Vail’s most notable outdoor attractions and landmarks.
The popular park was named in honour of President Gerald R.

Ford and spans an area of about 28 acres (11 ha) giving visitors plenty of space to roam about without the park feeling overcrowded.

Some of Ford Park’s must-visit attractions include the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, the Gerald R.

Ford Amphitheater and the park’s sculpture garden, including easy access to the nearby Vail Nature Center.

4- Ski Or Snowboard At The Beaver Creek Resort

Beaver Creek Ski Resort
Skiing at Beaver Creek Ski Resort is one of the things to do in Vail in the winter.

Often overlooked in favour of the more famous Vail Ski Resort, the Beaver Creek Resort is an equally stunning and world-class skiing and snowboarding destination where slopes can be a little quieter than some of Colorado’s more popular skiing resorts.

The resort spans an area of roughly 2,082 acres (843 ha) and was opened in time for the 1980 skiing season, hosting the World Ski Championships on three occasions in 1989, 1999 and 2015.

While Vail Ski Resort is more suited for experienced skiers and snowboarders, Beaver Creek caters more towards beginners, with more than half of Beaver Creek Resort’s 167 runs rated green or blue.

5- Tour The Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame

The Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame was established in 1976 to pay homage to Colorado’s rich winter sports legacy and the people who’ve helped shape it.

The free-to-visit museum inducted its first class of athletes in 1977 and has since inducted over 200 skiers and snowboarders, coaches and winter sports pioneers.

The Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame is at 231 S Frontage Rd E, Vail, CO 81657.

6- Explore The Scenic Betty Ford Alpine Gardens

Blooming Violets And Other Flowers
Visiting the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is one of the things to do in Vail, Colorado in summer.

Situated in Ford Park, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens are, at 8,250 feet (2,515 m) above sea level, the highest botanical garden in the United States in terms of elevation.

The gardens were named in honour of former US President Gerald R.

Ford’s wife and former First Lady Elizabeth Anne “Betty” Ford, officially opening to the Vail public in 1985.

Complete with rotating botanical exhibits, workshops, garden tours and yoga classes, the gardens are among Vail’s top outdoor attractions not related to skiing or snowboarding and a great place to enjoy the valley’s crisp alpine air and stunning mountain views.

The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is at 522 S Frontage Rd E, Vail, CO 81657.

7- Pick Up Homemade Treats At The Vail Farmers’ Market And Art Show

The Farmer Sells Fruits And Vegetables
Shopping in the Farmers’ Market is one of the things to do in Vail, Colorado.

The Vail Farmers’ Market And Art Show is, as the name suggests, an open-air community market and art exhibition rolled into one attraction that treats visitors to one of the most unique shopping experiences in Colorado.

First held back in 2001, the market has grown into one of the most visited farmers markets in the state and attracts more than 135 vendors from across the Centennial State.

Organised along central Vail’s Meadow Lane, the market takes place every summer Sunday from 9.30 am to 3.30 pm and is the best place in town to pick up the freshest produce or tastiest homemade delicacies.

The Vail Farmers’ Market And Art Show can be found along E Meadow Dr, Vail, CO 81657.

8- Catch An Open-Air Concert At The Gerald R Ford Amphitheater

The Gerald R Ford Amphitheater is a state-of-the-art 2,560-capacity open-air performance venue where travellers to Vail can catch internationally renowned acts and entertainers right in the heart of Colorado’s ski country.

Situated within the 28-acre (11 km) Ford Park, the amphitheatre was named after former US President Gerald R.

Ford and held its first-ever live performance back in 1987.

Extensively expanded and renovated throughout the decades, the amphitheatre plays host to several festivals and events throughout the year, including the popular Hot Summer Nights series, which brings free weekly concerts to the people of Vail.

The Gerald R Ford Amphitheater is at 530 S Frontage Rd E, Vail, CO 81657.

9- Hop Aboard The Eagle Bahn

Gondola Ski Lift Going Up Mountain
Riding the Eagle Bahn is one of the best things to do in Vail to enjoy the views.

Running between the Lionshead Village and the ski slopes of Vail Ski Resort, the Eagle Bahn is an enclosed 12-person gondola ride which treats passengers to stunning views of the Vail Valley from more than 10,000 feet (3,048 m) above sea level.

The gondola service runs throughout the winter and summer seasons and usually takes about 8 minutes to complete the scenic 2,200-foot (671 m) climb up Vail Mountain.

Open day and night, the service is free for passengers under 12 years of age and is perfect for accessing Vail Ski Resort’s restaurants, snowmobile tracks and nighttime tubing slopes.

The Eagle Bahn is at 699 I-70 Frontage Rd, Vail, CO 81657.

10- Trek The Booth Falls Trail

The Booth Falls Trail is a 6-mile-long (10 km) looped hiking path which whisks outdoor enthusiasts past the idyllic meadows, aspen groves and verdant valleys of the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness.

This popular trailhead can be found about 3 miles (5 km) east of downtown Vail and is renowned for its great vantage spots of the thundering Booth Creek Falls, an eye-catching 90-foot (27 M) waterfall and the trail’s namesake.

The Booth Falls Trail is at 3035 Booth Falls Rd, Vail, CO 81657.

11- Stop By The Vail Nature Center

Housed inside a former homestead dating back to the 1940s that’s situated along Gore Creek, the Vail Nature Center is a free-to-visit educational and recreational space where visitors can learn more about the Vail Valley’s rich biodiversity.

The centre spans an area of about 7 acres (3 ha) and prides itself on providing outdoor enthusiasts with a tranquil space to hike, tour and explore, far removed from the bustling ski slopes that the Vail Valley has become so synonymous with.

The Vail Nature Center is at 601 Vail Valley Dr, Vail, CO 81657.

12- Go Horseback Riding At The Vail Stables

Travellers seeking to explore and enjoy the fresh Vail valley outdoors on horseback should look no further than the Vail Stables, a popular equestrian attraction that’s less than a mile (1.6 km) outside downtown Vail.

The stables were established more than two decades ago and take visitors out on horseback tours of the several nature trails dotted throughout Vail’s White River National Forest.

If horses aren’t exactly your thing, the Vail Stables also offer other unique activities for visitors to partake in, including goat yoga, wildlife watching, pony petting and plenty more things to do not found anywhere else in the Vail Valley.

The Vail Stables are at 915 Spraddle Creek Rd, Vail, CO 81657.

13- Plan An Afternoon Trip To The Walking Mountains Science Center

The Walking Mountains Science Center is a non-profit educative environment where visitors of all ages are encouraged to learn and discover the wonderful world of science and nature in a fun and interactive manner.

Opened back in 1998, the venue is situated about 10 miles (16 km) outside central Vail in the nearby town of Avon and organises guided hiking tours and programs throughout the Vail Valley aimed at getting younger visitors interested in the outdoors.

The Walking Mountains Science Center is at 318 Walking Mountains Ln, Avon, CO 81620.

14- Hike Along The Gore Valley Trail

The 12-mile-long (19 km) Gore Valley Trail, made up of a network of bike lanes, park pathways and cobbled Vail Village streets, is a unique trail system that connects to several other popular trail systems in and around Vail.

Boasting a combination of hard and soft surface pathways, the Gore Valley Trail is accessible to both hikers and cyclists and is generally regarded as a fairly easy-to-navigate trail that’s ideal for beginners or younger hikers.

Free to enjoy, the trail passes by downtown Vail and the thundering Gore Creek as it meanders its way from the Val Pas Trail to the East Valley Trail.

15- Stop By The Vail Film Festival

Hosted annually in downtown Vail since 2004, the Vail Film Festival was founded by brothers Sean and Scott Cross and is the sister festival of the Los Cabos International Film Festival.

The film festival screens the hottest locally and internationally produced indie films every year and has attracted over 3,000 filmmakers and more than 150,000 attendees since the festival’s first edition.

Ranked among the top 10 film festivals in the world by “MovieMaker Magazine”, the film festival is well worth checking out the next time you’re in Vail during early December.

Exhibiting a large collection of classical and contemporary art across a wide array of mediums, the Vail International Gallery is a top-notch venue for enjoying world-class visual art in Vail’s bustling downtown district.

The gallery opened in 2005 and specialises in showcasing works by 20th-century masters and prominent contemporary artists from across Colorado, the wider United States and Europe.

The Vail International Gallery is at 100 E Meadow Dr #17, Vail, CO 81657.

17- Trek The Deluge Lake Trail

Nestled in the scenic Eagle’s Nest Wilderness about 6 miles (10 km) outside downtown Vail is the Deluge Lake Trail, a 9-mile-long (14 km) looped trailhead which passes by thick aspen groves and alpine meadows.

The trail runs from East Vail to the shores of Deluge Lake, treating hikers to enchanting glimpses of the Mount of the Holy Cross and the Sawatch Range.

The trail is renowned for its picturesque surroundings and relative ease to traverse, making it a popular spot for outdoor enthusiasts and avid fishermen looking to swing by Deluge Lake in search of trout.

18- Go Whitewater Rafting

Group Of People Whitewater Rafting
Whitewater rafting is one of the adventurous things to do in Vail.

While skiing and snowboarding are certainly Vail’s most popular outdoor activities during wintertime, whitewater rafting is undoubtedly among the Vail Valley’s most participated in during the warmer summer months.

Rivers, streams and rapids abound throughout the Vail Valley, making it easy to locate a tour guide operating regular whitewater rafting trips along the Eagle, Arkansas and Colorado rivers.

For some of the region’s best whitewater rafting experiences, be sure to swing on by Whitewater Park, Vail Village’s dedicated rafting destination where thrill seekers can book Class I through Class V rafting trips through a selection of reputable tour operators.

19- Sample Locally-Produced Beers At The Vail Brewing Company

Four Glasses Of Craft Beer On Beer Sampler Tray
Tasting craft beer is one of the fun things to do in Vail today.

The Vail Brewing Company is an independent, locally owned and operated beer brewery producing crisp craft brews right in the heart of the Vail Valley.

Established in 2014, the brewery doubles as a live entertainment spot, combining its house-brewed ales, IPAs, porters, lagers and seltzers with a lively nightlife to create an exciting atmosphere and worthwhile Vail attraction.

The Vail Brewing Company is at 41290 US-6 B-2 & B-3, Vail, CO 81657.

20- Shop And Dine At Lionshead Village

Complete with cobblestone streets and quintessential Bavarian-style architecture, Lionshead Village is an exciting dining and retail destination in Vail and part of the Vail Ski Resort’s laundry list of interesting tourist attractions.

The village is one of two along the base of Vail Mountain and is within a mile (1.6 km) from Vail Village, the resort’s second ski village.

Easy to reach thanks to a free hop-on hop-off bus service between central Vail and the Lionshead Village, the village is an excellent destination to just soak up the town’s European feel and explore the local culinary scene.

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Mark Westwood is a Seattle-based writer who writes for various online blogs and travel websites. In 2017, he went on a 12-month road trip across the USA visiting many iconic landmarks and small towns along the way. Having explored over 20 countries, his favourite places to date are along the west coast of the USA but he is happiest anywhere where there are mountains and ocean.