Blake Walsh

30 Best Things to Do in Vail, CO

  • Published 2023/02/16

Vail, Colorado, is more than a jumping point for skiers heading to Vail Mountain.

This small town turns into a winter wonderland during the cold months.

Moreover, the entire town is a fascinating travel destination likened to an idyllic Bavarian mountain village.

Vail is nestled within the vast White River National Forest, making it an excellent vacation destination for family or friends.

During winter, this town becomes a top-notch skiing and snowboarding destination.

During summer, it also holds a colorful festival and adventurous outdoor activities.

Experience exciting year-round activities, whether traveling with friends or family.

If you’re not entirely familiar with this vibrant town, here are the 30 best things to do in Vail, CO:

Start an Outdoor Adventure at the Vail Ski Resort

Downhill skiers at Vail Ski Resort

Steve Boice /

One of the main reasons people love coming back to Vail is the snow.

Don’t skip the Vail Ski Resort, an excellent place to engage in various winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, etc.

It features more than 5,000 acres of snowy skiable area and resort.

Snowboard and ski ready for use at Vail Ski Resort


Besides top-notch skiing and snowboarding, the Vail Ski Resort also treats visitors with picturesque vistas and sceneries featuring the snow-capped mountain ranges and the valley below.

This ski resort also has dozens of fun-filled activities for everyone, especially those not keen on snowboarding and skiing.

After a tiring day of activities, head to Game Creek, the resort’s official restaurant, for a hearty meal.

A skier at Vail Ski Resort

Doubletree Studio /

Explore the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum

Drop by the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum to learn why Vail became Colorado’s top winter sports destination.

It’s also proper to check out the fascinating history of the town, considered one of the country’s premier winter sports towns.

This museum is loaded with fascinating information through its nine featured exhibits.

It provides visitors with more than 140 years of Colorado skiing history since it opened in 1976.

The Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum offers a historical experience for history buffs.

At the same time, casual visitors add meaning to their travel experience in Vail by visiting this museum.

One of the fascinating exhibits in the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum is the 10th Mountain Division World War II ski troopers.

In addition, you can also visit the US Ski Team exhibit, Vail Valley local history, and the inaugural Winter Olympics exhibit.

After browsing its exhibits, you can grab some unique souvenirs at the gift shop.

Spend Quality Leisure Time at Lionshead Village

Welcome sign of Lionshead Village

Kristi Blokhin /

Lionshead Village is Vail’s premier dining and shopping destination, offering dozens of options.

In addition, Lionshead Village is a mini winter wonderland that features numerous skating rinks and parks, making it a must-visit place in Vail.

If you want to add leisure activities such as dining and shopping to your Vail travel adventure, then go to Lionshead Village.

Its restaurants offer many American, European, Asian, and Mexican cuisines.

Landscape of Lionshead Village

Andriy Blokhin /

Restaurants such as Vail Chophouse, Tavern on the Square, Montauk Seafood Grill, El Sabor, and Garfinkel’s are all a must-try.

On the other hand, if you’re yearning for retail therapy in Vail, Lionshead Village features brands like Smartwool, Burton, Arc’teryx, and more.

It has dozens of mainstream brands and local shops to choose from.

Lionshead Village is also one of the main venues in Vail for community-related events, so it’s genuinely a fun-filled place to visit year-round.

Daytime view of Lionshead Village

Kristi Blokhin /

Discover the Vail Nature Center

The Vail Nature Center, under the management of the Walking Mountains Science Center, is another outdoor attraction you shouldn’t miss.

Situated along Vail Valley Drive, this outdoor attraction features a peaceful seven-acre lot featuring a wide array of outdoor activities with nature.

If you’re keen to learn about Vail’s flora and fauna, this place hosts numerous informative tours through guided hikes, focusing on informing visitors.

During the hike, you’ll discover numerous local wildlife, wildflowers, and natural areas.

In addition, Vail Nature Center offers numerous workshops featuring fly-fishing, arts, nature, and stargazing.

Discover the Story of Colorado Skiing at the Colorado Snowsports Museum

Do you want to know the journey of snowsports in Colorado?

Find out the story of its birth, rise, and explosion at the Colorado Snowsports Museum.

Founded in 1976, this museum tells the story of the snowsports in Colorado.

It also houses the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame, featuring films, artifacts, and narrative displays.

Explore its various galleries, including the Legacy of the 10th Mountain Division, Vail Dream Realized, and Howard Head Hunter, among others.

Ascend the Booth Falls Trail

Nature hiking trail at Booth Falls Trail

Rosemary Woller /

Booth Falls Trail is not your typical outdoor trail.

This trail in Vail takes you through ten miles of ascending trail, which has an elevation gain of 3,000 feet from its trailhead to the summit.

If you’re looking for a worthwhile outdoor adventure in Vail, this trail is a great destination to start it off.

Beautiful waterfall at Booth Falls Trail

Kyle Swinicki /

You can choose the more accessible trail for a more relaxing hike, which takes about two miles leading to a scenic 60-foot waterfall.

If you conquer the trail’s challenge, you’ll see a panoramic view of the summit featuring the Gore Mountain Range.

This famous trail in Vail is along South Frontage Road.

Scenic view of Booth Falls Trail

Rosemary Woller /

Have Extreme Fun at the Epic Discovery Center

Epic Discovery Center is truly an epic place in Vail you need to visit.

This newly-opened outdoor recreation center in Vail features the town’s specialty activities.

Adults and kids will surely have extreme fun at the Epic Discovery Center.

Don’t miss out on experiencing its adventure course, tubing course, trampoline course, adventure ridge, climbing wall, ziplines, etc.

Epic Discovery Center is your spot if you want to have quality time with your family through outdoor activities without traveling far.

Feel the Thrill at the Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster

Vail Epic Discovery has the Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster to give you spine-tingling excitement.

This epic ride stands over 8,000 feet above sea level, attracting thousands of adventure seekers and outdoor enthusiasts.

ItsRocky Mountains location lets you feast your eyes on the stunning surroundings characterized by peaks and forests.

Check Out the Breathtaking Views aboard the Eagle Bahn Gondola

Two gondolas of Eagle Bahn Gondola

Jonas Tufvesson /

If you love the scenic surroundings of Vail, then you’ll love its beauty even more from above the clouds.

Ride the Eagle Bahn Gondola in Vail, which takes visitors from the Vail Mountain’s base up to 10,000 feet.

The journey to the top treats you to amazing views, but they don’t compare to the pictures you’ll take at the top.

The ride starts either from Vail Village or Lionshead Village.

Mountain views from Eagle Bahn Gondola

Dawn Brito /

You’ll have an experience like no other, which even your young children will enjoy.

The fun doesn’t end when the gondola ride ends but continues with the many recreational activities awaiting you at the top.

Conquer one or two hiking trails, bike with the kids, or enjoy a picnic lunch in one of the areas.

It’s a different world up there.

Daytime view of an Eagle Bahn Gondola

User: (WT-shared) WineCountryInn at wts wikivoyage, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Admire the Art at the Vail International Gallery

The Vail International Gallery features quality creations from the 20th-century masters and budding artists in the country and Europe.

Watch out for the solo exhibitions of contemporary art occurring two or three times a year at their standalone gallery.

Likewise, the Vail International Gallery is known for its pioneering representation of art from the former Soviet Union.

This effort has led to the sale of famous works of art by Tatiana Yablonskaya, Ilya Repin, Tair Salakhov, and Yuri Pimenov.

Since the gallery is in the Rocky Mountains, it focuses on art about the natural world.

Feed Your Kids’ Imagination at the Pirate Ship Playground

Wooden ship on the grounds of Pirate Ship Playground

User: (WT-shared) WineCountryInn at wts wikivoyage, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The magnificent Pirate Ship Playground will surely tickle your kids’ imagination.

Imagine a life-size pirate ship in the middle of the playground, complete with swings, planks to walk on, and climbing nets.

You’ll surely enjoy watching them have fun with other kids.

You can then sit on the Los Amigos deck while sipping a delicious margarita.

Tie the Knot at the Piney River Ranch

Empty boats docked at Piney River Ranch

Nina B /

The Piney River Ranch is the most popular destination in Colorado for special events such as weddings.

The good news is that you don’t have to get married or attend a wedding to experience its fantastic beauty.

Piney River Ranch, on the edge of the majestic Gore Range, focuses on the area’s backcountry scene, complete with the comforts of a luxurious venue.

A river at Piney River Ranch

Katherine Paige /

Numerous activities await you, including hiking, canoeing, fly fishing, waterfalls, and stand-up paddle boarding.

Enjoy your stay at the ranch, with an onsite restaurant and a communal fire pit.

Standing 9,500 feet above sea level, the ranch offers you high-altitude fun.

A pretty flower along Piney River Ranch's trail

Katherine Paige /

Discover Sunbird Park

Sunbird Park has been named one of the World’s Coolest Playgrounds thanks to its artful blend of function and form.

The designers drew the park’s concept from the surrounding bird habitats, forming the three large nest structures.

The nests are then connected using ropes and bridges, including a climbing wall for kids to challenge themselves.

The best part about the place is its design that accommodates kids of various ages, ensuring that every kid will enjoy their trip.

It also accommodates children with disabilities.

Talk about an all-inclusive playground for kids!

Marvel at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens

A pretty flower at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens

PhotoTrippingAmerica /

The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail is a charming natural attraction.

Visiting this garden is an excellent way to fire off your travel adventure.

This charming garden got its name from the former first lady, Betty Ford, whom the locals called the “First Lady of the Vail Valley.”

The Vail Alpine Garden Foundation established this charming botanical garden to pay homage to Betty Ford.

Vibrant flowers at Betty Ford Alpine Gardens

PhotoTrippingAmerica /

Whether you’re an avid plant enthusiast or a tourist who wants a unique travel experience, visiting this garden is genuinely worthwhile.

You’ll be amazed by the picturesque views of the flowerbeds, waterfalls, streams, and the Rocky Mountains during your visit.

The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens has different sections to peruse: the Schoolhouse Garden, Children’s Garden, Meditation Garden, Mountain Perennial Garden, and the Alpine Rock Garden.

Moreover, this place has a lovely theater, a gift shop, an education center, and a museum.

Buckwheat plants at Betty Ford Alpine Gardens

PhotoTrippingAmerica /

Hike the Scenic Gore Valley Trail

The Gore Valley Trail takes you through more than 30 kilometers of the out-and-back trail meandering through Gore Creek, featuring the natural beauty of Vail.

The hike takes roughly seven hours to complete.

However, you can pick the easier route if all you want is to enjoy its scenery.

Besides hiking, you can enjoy walking, road biking, and nature viewing when you visit this trail.

The best way to enjoy the Gore Valley Trail is to appreciate its solitude, featuring nature’s beauty and calmness.

You can access the Gore Valley Trail at Bridge Road and Big Horn Road in Vail.

Celebrate the Vail Dance Festival

The Vail Dance Festival runs from July to August every year, featuring hundreds of artists, dancers, and musicians from around the region.

This summer festival in Vail is a one-of-a-kind experience, offering top-notch entertainment for everyone.

Numerous groups perform during the festival, including the New York City Ballet Moves, Limón Dance Company, City Ballet Moves, DanceAspen, and Ephrat Asherie Dance.

You’ll experience various events during the Vail Dance Festival.

Events like the New York City Ballet Moves, Dancing at the Park, International Evenings of Dance, Ephrat Esherie Dance: “Odeon,” and Dance Aspen are the highlights of this festival.

Most of the events are held at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail.

Meet the Locals at the Vail Farmers’ Market and Art Show

Signpost of Vail Farmers Market and Art Show

Andriy Blokhin /

Farmers’ markets are always fun and fascinating.

The farmers’ market in Vail is no different from other busy and charming markets in other towns, making it an excellent place to meet the locals.

Vail Farmer’s Market and Art Show offers more than just a place to buy fresh produce.

It also features artworks from local artists and more than a hundred vendors who feature their best products, from food to handicrafts.

In addition, its live entertainment keeps everyone upbeat while browsing the market’s selections.

Overall, the Vail Farmer’s Market and Art Show is a must-visit place and activity in Vail.

Shop until You Drop in Vail

Vail is a low-key premier shopping destination in Eagle County.

Aside from Lionshead Village, Vail’s streets are filled with high-end brands to local specialties.

These stores provide the perfect opportunity for shopaholics to buy unique finds they can take home from their travel adventure.

Around a hundred stores are scattered throughout the town, which you’ll discover while wandering through its cobblestone streets.

From mainstream brands, skiing, snowboarding gear, artworks, and handicrafts, there’s something for you to shop in Vail.

Learn Fly-Fishing at Gold Medal Waters

Besides winter sports, Vail is also known for other outdoor activities such as fly fishing.

If you’re keen to learn this exciting outdoor activity, you can head to Gold Medal Waters for some fly fishing.

Gold Medal Waters is a top-notch fishing area designated by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

It’s a cold-water habitat teeming with Colorado’s best-quality trout and other fish species.

Gold Medal runs from Red Sandstone Creek to Eagle River.

Numerous groups offer fly-fishing lessons in the area to help you learn this activity with ease.

They also guide you through numerous fishing spots which impose multiple fishing rules.

Visit Vail’s Ice-Skating Rinks

People ice skating at Vail

Margaret.Wiktor /

Vail is a miniature winter wonderland filled with winter sports facilities, such as ice skating rinks.

Most of these ice rinks are in the middle of the town, with restaurants, shops, cafes, and galleries all a stone’s throw away.

When you’re in Vail, don’t miss out on visiting the Alderhof Ice Rink in Lionshead Village.

In addition, check out Solaris Ice Rink in Vail Village and the indoor ice rink, Dobson Ice Arena.

These ice rinks offer a unique ice-skating experience that you and your loved ones should enjoy.

Enjoy Ice Activities at the Dobson Ice Arena

The Dobson Ice Arena hosts ice hockey, broom ball, and ice skating year-round and the Vail Invitational Skating Championships.

Join the Bob Johnson Hockey Camp or watch concerts.

It’s a great place to mingle with the locals in Vail.

Grab a Pint at the Vail Brewing Company

Do you want to treat yourself after a whole day of touring Vail?

A famous watering hole in-town called Vail Brewing Company at Grand Army of the Republic Highway offers excellent craft beer choices.

Head to this brewery, order a pint of craft beer, and join skiers and snowboarders from Vail Ski Resort unwinding.

Vail Brewing Company is also a fun place because of its regular musical performances, featuring local artists in the area.

Now you know where to get an excellent beer while enjoying your tour in Vail.

Head to Vail Brewing Company.

Attend the Moe’s Original Bbq Hot Summer Nights

All Tuesdays throughout the summer, Moe’s Original Bbq Hot Summer Nights happens at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater (The Amp).

You can bring your own lawn chair and blanket to sit on while watching the live performances at the amphitheater.

This is a free show in the summer, which means you can enjoy each show every Tuesday when you’re in town.

Bring a picnic with you to share with your loved ones and enjoy the show!

The Moe’s Original Bbq Hot Summer Nights is a free outdoor concert series by the Vail Valley Foundation featuring regional and local performers.

Try the Drinks at the 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits

The award-winning distillery 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits crafts whiskey, bourbon, vodka, and more in small batches.

It features a homey tasting room for you to try its top-notch creations.

These are all inspired by the mountain lifestyle and the warriors in the military at the 10th Mountain Division in the U.S. Army.

There will be lots of craft spirits and cocktails at the 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits’ tasting room that you can try while enjoying the view of Gore Creek.

And don’t forget to bring home some of your favorite bottles!

Enjoy Horseback Riding at Vail Stables

Horseback riding, anyone?

Colorado Mountains offer promising views and trails, where you can go horseback riding, and Vail Stables is here to help you out.

Discover the magical sceneries in Vail and its surroundings while enjoying the ride at one of the trails.

Choose from Rocky Point Trail, Dark Timber Trail, Bear Hollow Trail, and Elk Springs Trail.

Your ride will be guided by experienced staff—cowboys, for that matter.

Also, its Happy Hour, GOGA Vail, and Pony Time for the little ones are not to be missed!

Vail Stables opens seasonally from May to September, so if you’re here during these warmer months, enjoy the ride!

Dine at Mountain Standard

Get your delicious comfort food in a relaxed atmosphere and woody space at Mountain Standard.

Serving mouthwatering American eats, the restaurant is popular for its rotisserie chicken, pork shank, ahi tuna crudo, bone marrow, and more.

All these are inspired by its award-winning chef, Maria Busato who uses her knowledge and passion for wood-burning grills and rotisserie cooking style.

Get stuffed with its delectable treats and enjoy the stylish, rustic vibe that the restaurant brings with lovely views of Gore Creek.

Mountain Standard uses fresh ingredients sourced from the Rocky Mountain region.

Go Snowmobiling at Sage Outdoor Adventures

Offering trails specially designed for snowmobiling, Sage Outdoor Adventures is a great addition to your outdoor excursions in Vail.

Take advantage of the town’s beautiful terrains, which become more gorgeous in winter.

It has a private riding area with bermed corners and sleek single-track routes for more challenging rides.

Enjoy the fast sections, play bowls, and slow technical sections and stay stoked with Vail winter vibe!

Sage Outdoor Adventures has experienced and skilled guides to make your ride more enjoyable and safe.

It’s located off Highway 6.

Final Thoughts

To sum it up, Vail is an excellent destination regardless of the season.

Whether it’s winter or summer, Vail offers visitors something exciting and unique through its outdoor attractions and incredible surroundings.

Consider Vail as your next outdoor destination and bookmark this post as your handy itinerary.

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