Yes, Vail, Colorado, is known for its champagne powder and stellar slopes in the winter months, but I think it’s just divine in the summer — when the blue-sky, temperate climate is ideal for outdoor fun. I’ve actually spent more time in Vail this summer than Aspen, which is three times closer to my mountain home (go figure), and I’ve enjoyed getting to know the resort and its pedestrian-friendly villages. Truly, there are some outstanding opportunities when it comes to hiking and biking, dining and people-watching in Vail in the summer.
Plus, the town is running a Vail All the Love promotion, with more than 50 lodges and 50 local merchants offering discounts on restaurants, lodging and activities. Click on the website for current offers.
Here are my top ten picks for things to do in Vail this summer — and beyond. Take note that a couple options are available all year round; some are ideal for families and some are meant for grown-ups only. Click on the links to get all the details on pricing, dates and times.
Vail Farmer’s Market: More than 100 vendors sell their wares at Colorado’s largest summer market. Truly, it’s the place to be on Sunday mornings — families, couples, visitors, locals and plenty of dogs are out browsing the stalls, which offer everything from produce to fresh-cut flowers, body lotions to jewelry to gourmet chocolate and bratwurst.
Vail International Dance Festival: There are only two more weeks left of this annual event, which brings top-notch dance to the Ford Amphitheatre. Remaining performers include the Miami City Ballet and “Ballroom’s Best” dance champions.
Vail Mountain Eagle Bahn Gondola: The gondola ride itself provides stunning views of the Gore Range (look down the mountain as you go up), and once you’re at the top, bring the kids to Adventure Ridge, with a climbing wall, bouncy trampoline and “Dino Dig”; hike the marked trails; or ride a mountain bike back down the hill. No kids in tow? Hang out at Talon’s Deck from 5 p.m. on Friday evenings with live music and drink specials.
Spa treatments: There’s no dearth of hotel spas in the Vail environs, but I give props to the locals’ favorite Aria spa at the Vail Cascade, where I had a wonderfully relaxing facial earlier this summer, and the beautifully designed RockResorts Spa at the Arrabelle, with a large Roman soaking tub, sauna and steam room in the women’s locker area. At both locations, allow for plenty of time to chill out in the soothing relaxation rooms after your services.
Cocktails at Kelly Liken: Again, restaurants in Vail abound, and it’s hard to choose where to eat on a weekend getaway (so many restaurants, so little time). While you’re making dining decisions, sit at the bar at Restaurant Kelly Liken for her signature cocktails, whose recipes vary depending on seasonal ingredients. In June, friends and I chose from the Fresh Blueberry Sparkler, Strawberry Basil Mojito and Raspberry Refresher (at left). Don’t want to venture from the restaurant? Great choice. Stick around for “Seasonal American Cuisine” that draws heavily from local produce. In fact, on Sunday nights, the prix fixe Harvest Menu changes weekly, depending on what Kelly picked up from the Vail Farmer’s Market that day. Delish!
Browse the shops on Bridge Street: Yes, there’s a large concentration of T-shirt shops in Vail Village, but other highlights include Kemo Sabe cowboy boots and hats (bring your pocketbook for this one) and The Golden Bear, where you can pick up the quintessential symbol of Vail — a traditional bear — in yellow gold or pave-set diamond pendants.
Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum: Exhibits here detail the evolution of skiing since early mining days, and a fabulous display of clothing that U.S. Olympians wore in the opening ceremonies of the winter games, dating back to the 1920s. Exhibits on the history of Vail, as well as the 10th Mountain Division, are thorough and engaging. The gift shop is great place to pick up souvenirs.
Betty Ford Alpine Gardens: This is a lovely spot to stroll and learn more about the plants that make their home in the high-elevation Rocky Mountains. Check the schedule for youth programs and docent-led tours.
Gelato at Rimini: Next to the Arrabelle in Lionshead, this eatery offers wine, chocolate, espresso and some of the best gelato I’ve ever had. The two-dozen flavors are beautifully presented with fresh fruit and chocolate accents. Totally tasty.
Gore Valley Trail: For folks who prefer road biking over mountain biking, it’s easy to rent a bike and cruise along the paved Gore Valley Trail, which runs along Gore Creek and links each of town’s villages (Cascade Village, Lionshead and Vail Village), and also extends east and west out of town for a longer ride.