The best things to do in Vail

The best things to do in Vail

Although Vail is rightly loved for its ski and snowboard terrain, there is much more to this mountain town in Colorado than just snow sports.

Whether you crave a big, brave adventure in the Rockies or prefer an afternoon of classy pampering, Vail Valley vacationers offer a wealth of things to see and do. From llama walks to trying tasty craft beers, here’s what to do during your next trip to Vail.

Drive bumper cars on ice

Do you remember that you playfully hit your friends and siblings in bumper cars at the local carnival or amusement park as a child? You can relive this fun piece of your childhood in a slightly cooler setting at Vail’s John A. Dobson Ice Arena. The arena has 12 colorful ice-bumper cars that kids and adults can rent for $ 10.

A woman in a vest and hat, seen from behind, fishing in a river
Anglers can enjoy excellent fly fishing near Vail, including at Gore Creek, Eagle River and Colorado River © skibreck / Getty Images

Tap on a guide and go fly fishing

Whether you are a fly fishing language or have just started (ahem) dipping your toes into the water, the Vail Valley rivers and streams are ideal for pursuing this relaxing activity. Go out on your own, or tap a guide to show you the best spots on the gold medal waters of Gore Creek, Eagle River or Colorado River. Gore Creek Fly Fisherman, Vail Valley Anglers, Minturn Anglers, Colorado Angling Company and other operators offer stress-free guided tours throughout the valley and beyond.

Enjoy a flying craft beer

Craft beer is huge in Colorado, including in the Vail Valley. Head to one of Vail Brewing Co.’s two locations – EagleVail or Vail Village – and book a flight to try a selection of their rotating brews. The veteran-owned brewery was founded in 2014 and makes beers designed around the valley’s active lifestyle, each perfect for sipping after a day of hiking or skiing. Aside from drinks, you can really get a feel for Vail’s local taste by going up to the bar at one of the restaurants in the valley and chatting with the bartender and other patrons.

Zoom over the snow on a snowmobile

Slide around on skates

Get on the ice and strive for the grace of an Olympic skater or the strength of an NHL hockey player. Ice skating is a fun, family-friendly activity for kids and adults, and Vail Valley is home to several indoor and outdoor ice rinks that are perfect for spending an afternoon gliding around on the ice (and getting hot chocolate after). Check out the John A. Dobson Ice Arena, Alderhof Ice Rink and Solaris Ice Rink in Vail, as well as the ice rink at Beaver Creek Village.

Husky dogs pull a sled through a snow-covered landscape
Several Vail companies offer sledding excursions before you can meet the husky dogs that will drag you through the snow © RomeoLu / Shutterstock

Zoom across the snow on a dog sled

Watch the snow-covered winter landscape fly by while excited puppies pull your sled through the snow. Mountain Musher, Alpine Adventures, Winterhawk Dogsled Adventures and other operators offer guided dog sledding excursions and tours that typically include meeting the dogs and learning about their unique dog job before the cozy, snow-covered excursion.

Learn about the environment at the Vail Nature Center

Vail Nature Center is run by the non-profit organization Walking Mountains Science Center and is a quiet place to learn about sustainability, the environment, plants, animals, birds and other nature-focused topics. Situated on the seven-acre plot that was once occupied by a farm from the 1940s, the free center has interactive hiking trails, exhibits and walks on everything from birds to beaver ponds. If you have time, also check out the Walking Mountains’ other locations: the Avon Tang Campus and the Nature Discovery Center, located on top of the Eagle Bahn gondola at the ski resort.

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Go cross-country skiing at Vail Nordic Center

Vail is famous for its downhill runs – but the valley is also a great place to sweat while cross-country skiing. Vail Nordic Center offers more than 10 miles of groomed trails reserved for classic or skate skiing, plus six miles for snowshoeing and 8 miles for fat biking (a winter-friendly bike ride with large, shock-absorbing tires). The center, run by the Vail Recreation District, also offers daily lessons, on-site rentals and a cafe for warming up after a day on the snow. EagleVail also has five miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, plus terrain designed specifically for children.

Hold a fancy picnic

Instead of just packing trail mix to eat during your hike, why not eat in style among the aspen and evergreen? Vail area companies like Picnic Vail and The Grazing Fox specialize in planning picturesque picnics, ranging from simple meat and cheese plates to detailed toppings set up by a “picnic concierge.” This is a great opportunity for a special occasion or just to celebrate the fact that you are on vacation in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

A woman leads a llama with camping gear across a stream in Silverton, Rocky Mountains, Colorado
Enjoy hiking through the Rocky Mountains more by outsourcing transportation to a furry porter: a llama © wanderluster / Getty Images

Go trekking with llamas

Backpacking on your own requires a lot of planning and heavy equipment that you have to carry on your back, all alone. Join the team of llamas at Paragon Guides in Vail Valley, who can carry the burden of multi-day trekking trips between Colorado cabins abroad. If you are excited about time, the llamas are also available for shorter “take a llama for lunch” walks.

Hurry through the snow in a horse-drawn sleigh

Even if you do not visit during high season, there is no better way to enjoy Vail Valley’s serene, snow-covered landscape than from the comfort of a horse-drawn sleigh. Located 32 miles west of Vail, 4 Eagle Ranch offers sleigh rides that start with a hot drink and a bowl of chili, then end with a full ranch-style dinner and s’mores around the campfire. Sleigh rides are also available at Bearcat’s Cabin and Beano’s Cabin.

Get out on the water on a stand-up paddle board

Vail’s weather is absolutely glorious in summer – mild 70 degree temperatures, lots of sun and some light breezes. Although not a beach holiday destination, Vail Valley offers plenty of ways to get out on the water, including a stand-up paddle board (SUP). If you are new to the sport, head out on the shallow waters of Nottingham Lake (where you can also rent paddleboards and pedal boats) or book a stay at Piney River Ranch, which offers its guests access to Piney Lake. You can also take a guided SUP tour of Sylvan Lake State Park with operators like Timberline Tours.

Treat yourself to a spa treatment

Enjoy outdoor concerts and performances at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater

On a hot summer evening, there is nothing so relaxing as unfolding a rug on the lawn of the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, sitting back and listening to an orchestra or watching a ballet performance. With intriguing architecture and magnificent mountain scenery, the outdoor amphitheater – named after the country’s 38th president, who regularly visited Vail during and after his presidency (he had a house near Beaver Creek) – is one of the most scenic venues in existence. “The Amp”, as it is affectionately called, hosts great musicians, live theater, dance performances and numerous festivals.

Click on the links on one of Vail’s golf courses

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