7 Great Things to Do in Vail, Colorado
This Bavarian-inspired mountain resort boasts 5,317 acres of ski terrain, world-class dining and summer hiking trails. Here's our curated list of things to do in Vail
The charm of some Rocky Mountain ski spots might lie in their history as gold and silver mining towns. Vail, on the other hand, was entirely purpose built as a ski resort in the 1960s – but don't let that put you off. We promise this ski town has character: since its architecture was designed with small-town Bavaria in mind, Vail feels like a homely Alpine getaway in the middle of Colorado. Its Bavarian feel extends to the culture, too: you won’t have to look far for cosy dining rooms serving bubbling fondues, washed down with schnapps, and Oktoberfest each year brings yodelers, oompah-bands and performers in traditional Bavarian clothes out in force (yes, that means lederhosen). Not to mention Vail’s natural beauty, with mountain panoramas everywhere you look: skiing aside, there are summer mountain walks, bike trails and a botanical garden to explore. Throw in some fine dining, and you have Plum Guide's expert-curated list of things to do in Vail.
With an average snowfall of 360 inches per year, it's really little wonder they decided to put a ski resort here. And there are 5,317 acres of terrain prime for skiing, too (so you definitely won’t get bored). Had enough of the numbers? Us too. All you need to know is skiing is one of the best things to do in Vail. The resort's ski runs glide the gamut from easy to expert, with helpful names to let you know which one will suit your skill level. Gopher Hill is for absolute beginners (with lessons also available through the Vail Ski and Snowboard School), while Ghengis Khan and Ouzo are for more experienced skiers. There’s also bowl skiing. Take a look at this comprehensive list of all the slopes Vail has to offer.
If you're looking for a more upscale skiing experience, why not check out our list of the best things to do in Aspen? The high-end restaurants and upscale boutiques at this popular resort town won't disappoint.
Colorado Snowsports Museum
The Colorado Snowsports Museum takes a look at how Vail came to be a skiing hotspot (it all began with the 10th Mountain Division mountain troopers who trained here in the Second World War). It also looks into skiing history and at-times amusing ski fashion from the past century.
Eat at Matsuhisa
Hopefully you made reservations well before arriving in Vail for Matsuhisa, the upscale sushi restaurant with gentle Peruvian-influence from world-famous chef Nobu Matsuhisa (yes, that Nobu). This upscale location in the heart of town – with views of Veil Mountain – is just as haute as the other Nobu outposts, as the menu's top-quality wagyu, yellowtail sashimi, scallop tiradito and fine wines will attest.
Betty Ford Alpine Gardens
In spring and summer this garden fills with colourful blooms, collected from far-flung and challenging mountain environments in South Africa, the Himalayas and Central Asia (as well as the Colorado mountains). Horticulturalists will love learning about how these alpine flowers and plants have adapted to survive harsh mountain conditions. Even for those who don't care about the how, the highest botanical garden in the US makes a pretty tranquil spot to see some greenery and enjoy the fresh mountain air.
Booth Falls Trail
This half-day hike on a rocky trail that begins with a steady climb isn’t an easy one – but that makes it all the more rewarding when you reach the gushing 18-metre-high Booth Falls. And it isn’t as if the scenery en route is all that bad either: the trail takes you along Booth Creek, through aspen trees and past pretty meadows. This is definitely one for summer, when there’s zero likelihood of snow.
Glenwood Hot Springs
Soak aching, skied-out muscles at Glenwood Springs, where you’ll find the world's largest hot springs pool, an entirely worthwhile hour’s drive west of Vail. Famous people such as President Theodore Roosevelt, Titanic survivor Molly Brown and gangster Al Capone, have all taken a dip here (though not all three of them at once). Enjoy the soothing powers of the mineral-rich water while watching the sky change colour at sunset, before heading for a well-deserved treatment in the spa (it'd be rude not to).
Hire a bike
There are few better ways to explore the mountains in summer than on two wheels – especially since the gondola will do all the hard uphill work for you. Take the cycle-friendly Eagle Bahn Gondola up to access nearly 350 miles of mountain-biking trails. Explore the mountaintop paths and eye-popping scenery, then wend your way down the mountain via green (easy) or blue (moderate) trails. Or get there a lot quicker on pulse-racing black diamond and double black diamond routes (not for the faint of heart).
If horse riding is more up your street than cycling (and who can blame you?), hop on a shuttle to nearby Breckenridge. We've rounded up the best things to do in this Colorado town so you can galavant across the mountains however you choose.
So, after this guide to things to do in Vail next up is choosing your accommodation. Plum Guide's holiday rental homes are vetted by professionals who make sure only the top 3% make it into our listings. They've tested everything from the beds to the water pressure – they've even measured the noise levels by the decibel. So you know you’re in for a luxurious and stress-free stay in a Plum Guide home. Our selection of homes in Vail are truly unique, whether you're after a hot tub with a view or would rather admire the sleek interiors at Silver Chain.