21 Hours in Vail, Colorado: Summer Fun with Tweens and Teens

Who says you need a week for vacation? Last Friday night a freelance-writing assignment brought me, my husband, 11-year-old daughter and 14-year-old niece to Vail for the quickest getaway ever.

We were in one of my favorite Colorado mountain resorts — for a total of 21 hours. But to me, a little bit of Vail, is better than no Vail at all!

Here’s what we packed into our short stay:

Shopping in Lionshead Village: We spent the night at the Vail Marriott, conveniently located in the middle of Lionshead base area, with its bevy of retail outlets — from sports shops and clothing stores to jewelry boutiques and art galleries.

After we checked into our hotel, we walked around the compact pedestrian area, not only peeking into the different stores, but people watching (it was pleasantly packed with tourists) and snapping photos of the green mountains that loomed overhead. Meanwhile, my husband went…

Things to Do in Vail in the Summer

Mountain biking trails on top of Vail Mountain.

Mountain Biking on Vail Mountain: With a money all-day gondola and bike-haul pass, mountain-biking enthusiasts can ride the Eagle Bahn gondola (also in Lionshead) with their bikes in tow, then bike down the myriad intermediate and expert trails on Vail Mountain.

My husband only had time to do two laps, but when we met up with him later, we found him grinning from ear to ear.

FAC at Eagle’s Nest: For dinner, all four of us rode the gondola up to the top of the mountain for FAC (Friday Afternoon Club), with its live music and food and drink specials.

Eagle’s Nest was definitely the place to be Friday late afternoon and early evening — it was filled with folks of all ages, enjoying the gorgeous views, the fun string band and the kids’ activities.

At Adventure Ridge, kids can pay to ascend the climbing wall, ride a pony or jump on the bungee trampoline; free activities include a slackline course, Dino Dig sandbox and bean bag toss.

We opted to eat inside at Bistro Fourteen (order the sweet potato fries!), but most folks were outside on Talons Deck  with burgers and barbecue and pitchers of beer.

No doubt, taking the Eagle Bahn Gondola (#19) to the top of the mountain is a must-do when you’re in Vail, if only for the glorious views. (Though eating up there, playing at Adventure Ridge and hiking or biking are definitely awesome options, too!)

We found one cache in a plastic Nestle Quik container!

Geocaching: Oh, how I adore my Magellan eXplorist GC, a GPS device we use for geocaching on our travels.

For those not in the know, geocaching involves downloading GPS coordinates of hidden caches — sometimes just little log books, and sometimes they’re Tupperware containers with small trinkets.

Through the geocaching.com website, I download the locations of caches that others have hidden, and with the Magellan eXplorist GC leading the way (and clues that the hiders might give us) we find the treasures!

In Vail, we successfully searched for four caches: one at the top of the gondola and two in Vail Village (a two-minute free bus ride from Lionshead Village), and one while we were…

Biking the Gore Valley Trail: This paved recreation path follows Gore Creek and passes right behind the Vail Marriott.

It was so easy for us to store our bikes overnight at the Charter Sports storage in the hotel building, then retrieve them in the morning for a ride east on the trail.

This rolling, moderate bike ride passes through residential areas (gorgeous homes!), alongside a golf course and amid aspen groves.

We did an out-and-back ride (totaling 11 miles, thank you very much), stopping quite a few times at the tops of hills to catch our breath and admire the mountain views.

Swimming and steaming at the Vail Marriott: My daughter and her teenage cousin were breathless when they returned to our hotel room after scouting out the pool situation: “It’s right next to a locker room with a steam room, and really good-smelling shampoo, and a shower with all of these jets, and cold towels for your face!” Ah… the joys of a spa locker room.

I was thrilled to learn that you don’t have to book a spa treatment to take a steam, so the girls found time to go swimming three different times within our 21-hour stay, enjoying the amenities of the locker room that serves the Vail Marriott’s Golden Leaf Spa.

It’s just steps from the indoor pool (with two whirlpools); the hotel also has an outdoor pool, with lots of chaise lounges and umbrella tables that invite relaxation.

Lionshead base area lit up at night.

Eating breakfast at the First Chair Cafe: Another delight we found at the Vail Marriott was the reasonably priced breakfast buffet.

It’s only cost the money for adults, children, and the spread includes made-to-order omelets, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, yummy breakfast potatoes (with peppers and onions), yogurt, fruit and a variety of cereals and pastries.

The a la carte menu is vast, but if you’re looking to fuel up for the day — and enjoy good value — go for the hearty buffet.

Of course, in 21 hours, we barely scratched the surface of all there is to do in Vail in the summertime.

I also recommend stopping in the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum in Vail Village, playing mini golf at the brand-new course at the base of the Eagle Bahn Gondola and bowling at bōl at the new Solaris mixed-use building (look for the giant sculpture that resembles a lit-up martini glass at night).

Special events include the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, the Vail International Dance Festival… and the FREE Family Saturday Afternoon Club, with games, crafts and activities for kids in the middle of Lionshead.

Then there’s river rafting, golfing, fly fishing and horseback riding in the area. Excellent restaurants abound; for grown-up nights out, I adore Kelly Liken, Up The Creek, La Tour and Centre V (Blue Moose Pizza is super for kids).

No matter how you spend your summer vacation in Vail — whether it’s a day or a week or a month — just take some time to admire the glorious mountain scenery, soak in the sunshine and smell the abundant wildflowers!

Pin for later!

Who says you need a week for vacation? Last Friday night a freelance-writing assignment brought me, my husband, 11-year-old daughter and 14-year-old niece to Vail for the quickest getaway ever. We were in one of my favorite Colorado mountain resorts -- for a total of 21 hours. But to me, a little bit of Vail, is better than no Vail at all!

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4 Comments on "21 Hours in Vail, Colorado: Summer Fun with Tweens and Teens"

  1. Amy @livinontheroad | July 26, 2011 at 2:19 am |

    Sounds like you had a great time. Will you go back in the ski season?

    • ColoradoGal | July 26, 2011 at 4:24 pm |

      Oh, yes. Vail is great in winter, too. (Though, I must say, I prefer outdoor activities in the summer.)

  2. What a terrific, activity-filled 21 hours in Vail! But whatever to do with the remaining 3 hours in the day? …Even the ColoradoGal family needs to sleep, I suppose. 😉

  3. Wow, that was a lot in 21 hours… did you sleep?? 🙂

    We’ve been spoiled with a great ski resort area for winter and summer having Whistler only 2 hours away from us for years but you’ve now got Vail on our “radar” for a future trip…

    …thanks for sharing!!

    Nancy & Shawn

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