The Best Things to Do in Vail With Kids
Taking on Vail with your kids: an expert's guide.
Vail is packed full of fun family activities, from the horse stables and skatepark to the ice rink and skiing museum. And that’s not to mention the Pirate Ship Park – it’s actually called that, the kids are going to freak out. It’s also a pretty marvellous place for parents to be too, with its exclusive restaurants and resorts, and countless snowy slopes for top-notch skiing. The town is the base for exploring the Rocky Mountain National Park as well as the White River National Forest and the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest. So, you know the drill: lakes, valleys, mountains and everything nature has to throw at you; it’s all here.
Amble through the town centre to show your little ones the colourful building façades and lovely restaurants that they almost certainly won’t be able to afford to frequent when they’re adults. No, that’s negative thinking – they will own those restaurants. Take them for ski lessons on the slopes, which come in varying difficulties for both beginners and experienced skiers (those cocky so-and-sos). And if the kids do get bored (they better not), you could always pop over to Denver. So, now it’s time to un-Vail (we’ve already done that joke…) our Plum Guide look at things to do in Vail with kids.
Do kids like hiking? We’re going to say yes, but do let us know if your kids complain the whole time. We can’t do much about it, but it’ll be good for you to get it off your chest. Anyway, a bit of walking is good for them, isn’t it? And we’ll be darned if we’re going to let them spend the holiday on their Gameboys and Tamagotchis or whatever it is kids play with nowadays. If you're looking for healthy things to do in Vail with kids, get them in their walking boots.
At the western end of Vail, take up the Davos Trail and reflect on the tranquillity in this peaceful side of the town. Reach the trickling Gore Creek and try not to think too much about where it may have gotten its horror-genre name from. It’s pretty quiet and picturesque, so there’s probably not much horror stuff going on around here… although that’s exactly what they want you to think.
On the eastern side of the town, bring the kids along on the Booth Falls Trail to find its eponymous (now there’s a word) cascades. A little south, you’ll find The Fang, another creepy-sounding trail that is actually a picturesque marvel of nature. Take on the Pitkin Trail and enjoy a picnic with the whole family by the Bighorn Creek. Snap photos of the impressive East Vail Falls in the woods.
Kids love parks (probably) and they’ll definitely (probably) enjoy the play area in the Ellefson Park, which is encircled by green-looking mountains that go white with fear (or snow) in winter. That’s when you can grab a sled and zoom down the hill in this central part of Vail. Put some food together on the grass in the Bighorn Park and take up some tennis at the Vail Racquet Club. Walk to the Vail Eagle Colorado viewpoint at the eastern end of Vail, allowing you to look back at this scenic town and the surrounding vales of Eagle County.
Well, we’ve already covered sledding. But one of the most popular activities to do in Vail – and certainly one of the best things to do in Vail with kids – is skiing. Try not to be jealous of the local kids… you know, the ones who ski better than they walk; the skis seem to be an extension of their feet… while your kids fluster and flounder. Said to be the largest of its kind in the state of Colorado (and we have no reason not to believe them, even if we’ve not exactly measured ourselves), the Vail Ski Resort is enormous. Its countless slopes meander down its areas of the Front-Side, the Blue Sky Basin and the Back Bowls. Climb aboard the Eagle Bahn Gondola for amazing views of the snowy topography and look down on all those skiing ants down there.
Back in the town centre, take the children (yours… not just any kids) to the Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame to find out about winter sports and the success and traditions in Colorado. While on this winter sports theme, check in at the John A. Dobson Ice Arena to catch an ice hockey game or just enjoy skating around the rink.
Vail has many fine-dining establishments, but you’ve gone and brought your kids, which has ruined everything. There is a McDonald’s in the centre of the town, but if you want something a little fancier (while still child-friendly), consider a meal at the Little Diner. It has an excellent breakfast menu that’ll get you all energised for the big hikes and skiing adventures later in the day.
The town centre is one of the best places to stay in Vail for its restaurant scene alone. Westside Café & Market is another popular family hangout, with its kids' menu and crayons that’ll at least stop them from complaining for a few minutes. Annapurna, Pazzo’s Pizzeria and the Bully Ranch Restaurant also make for great places to eat with kids.