Colorado’s mountain resorts often come to mind when planning winter vacations. Vail conjures up images of high mountain peaks covered with white powdery snow along with swanky lodges. From world-class skiing to luxurious accommodations, Vail has it all. Yet Colorado has some of the best summer activities for families anywhere and should definitely be on your radar when planning your next vacation.
We should know! Our family just returned from a summer vacation in Vail and we can’t wait to tell you what we loved best about it! Many thanks to Vail for partnering with us. Here are the top reasons why you should take your family to Vail, Colorado in the summer.
One of the first things we loved about visiting Vail was how easily accessible it was. California is our home and so a quick two hour flight along with ground transportation was all it took and we were there. With Colorado situated right in the middle of the country, it’s not a long flight for anyone in the US and that is a great thing when traveling with kids. Earlier this summer we enjoyed a vacation to the Alps in Switzerland and our 11 year old was quick to point out how much faster it was for us to get to Vail than it was to get to Switzerland. Yes, he is so right! And with the grandiose mountain peaks, alpine pastures, abundant wild flowers, not to mention mountain coasters and gondolas, you’d have a hard time convincing us that Switzerland was any better.
Ride a Gondola
There’s nothing like beginning your mountain adventure like riding a gondola strung by cables up to the crest of a mountain. Our first morning there we began by taking the Eagle Bahn Gondola up to Vail Mountain to fully take in the breathtaking scenery. The gondola station is conveniently located right in Lionshead Village with the ticket office, bike paths, Hiking Center and restaurants nestled nearby.
These fully enclosed gondolas are spacious and family-friendly. You’ll ride alongside hikers setting out for the day, mountain bikers riding to the top for their downhill adventure, and other families like yours. We loved riding higher and higher above Vail and watching the village get smaller and smaller. Kids ride free with a paying adult during summer months.
Once at the top of Vail Mountain it was time to let the fun begin at Epic Discovery. This is a mountain-top playground with numerous activities that are fun for the whole family.
When we stepped out of the gondola station, the first thing that caught our younger son’s attention were the high ropes courses. So that’s where we headed first. Gore Range Adventure Course was his favorite although there were three to choose from including one called Pine Cone, perfect for little guys. Like a kid in a candy shop, it was hard to know which direction to head next.
We loved the adrenaline rush of the Eagle’s Nest, a long tube run. My personal favorite was the Forest Flyer, a downhill alpine coaster where I watched marmots gather in small groups as I zoomed down the hill.
A zip line, rock climbing wall and bungee trampoline are also among the choices at Epic Discovery. When it’s time to rest a little from the all the activity, head indoors to the hands-on Discovery Center where children can learn through play. With animal puppets, interactive displays and helpful staff, young children are sure to learn more about the area they are enjoying. Be sure and visit the observation deck with an incredible view of the Sawatch Mountain Range.
There are three dining options on Vail Mountain so don’t worry about going hungry or needing to pack your own food. We loved the outdoor barbeque with options like hamburgers, pulled pork sandwiches, Colorado nachos and homemade brownies. Epic Discovery can be enjoyed a-la-carte or you can take advantage of the Adventure Pass that allows unlimited access to all the activities.
Imagine trekking through forests of aspen trees and trails covered with wild flowers. On our second morning in Vail we set out with Heather, a Vail Mountain guide. We met her at the Vail Hiking Center located near the Eagle Bahn Gondola and planned a route together that suited the interest and skill level of our family.
Heather was both knowledgeable about what we would see during the hike, but also had a fun and kind demeanor, perfect for interacting with our kids. She took an interest in what interested them and was able to provide fascinating information and answer all our questions.
Taking a hike with a guide allowed us to learn more about the specific wild flowers on the trail, the animals that call this beautiful place home and even the history of when and how this area was first came to be. To book a private or group hike, visit the Vail Hiking Center located across from the Eagle Bahn Gondola.
Both Lionshead Village and Vail Village have numerous bike shops ready to outfit your family for a full day of riding or even just an hour or two. We chose Wheel Bicycle Shop because of their welcoming St. Bernard who hangs around the shop.
We were pleased with their friendly staff and outstanding inventory. Whether your family requires tandem bikes, bikes with trailers or small profile bikes, they will be able to meet your needs.
There is a charming tree-lined bike trail that runs along the river between the two villages called Gore Creek Trail that’s perfect for younger kids. It is mainly flat, completely paved and designated for bikes and pedestrians making it a safe and fun thing to do for the whole family. If you have adventurous kids or teens, consider renting a suspension hybrid bike and purchasing the Vail Pass for a downhill adventure.
Explore the Villages
Whether on foot or bike, don’t miss the chance to explore the two villages; Lionshead and Vail Village. We loved the playgrounds, ice cream and crepe eateries, fountains and shops. Lionshead also has a miniature golf course located near the Eagle Bahn Gondola.
Where to Stay
The Arrabelle at Vail Square is a luxurious family-friendly retreat located right in the heart of Lionshead, perfect for enjoying all that Vail has to offer.
This was our home-base during our stay in Vail and we loved being just steps away from the Eagle Bahn Gondola, restaurants and shops.
The well-appointed hotel reminded us of the resorts we’ve stayed at in the Swiss Alps with its quaint alpine architecture. It features 62 luxurious guestrooms that are spacious and elegantly furnished. Several 5-bedroom residences are also available.
The RockResorts Spa and fitness center is perfect for Dad and Mom to unwind a bit. And don’t miss the roof top pools with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. This was a fun spot for our family at the end of each day to reminisce about our day’s adventures while soaking in the hot tubs.
Where to Eat
Our favorite place to eat in Lionshead village was Tavern on the Square nestled right within The Arrabelle at Vail Square. Inside the style is rustic charm with oversized comfy booths and outside they have a beautiful patio facing Vail Mountain. A vast selection of menu items will please every palette in your family from toasty grilled cheese sandwiches and s’more inspired deserts to a porterhouse steak and a bacon-infused vodka Bloody Mary. The tavern also boasts a large selection of regional brews. We loved it so much, we ate there twice so we could sample more of the menu.
How to Get There
Denver International Airport has the most options for flight times and airlines from any part of the country. Once in Denver, the drive to Vail is approximately two hours. Eagle County Regional Airport is closer offering a more limited but very convenient starting point for enjoying Vail. Colorado Mountain Express is the most convenient way to get to Vail from either airport. Providing comfortable transportation with well-qualified drivers, they have several options to choose from including group shuttles or private transfers. If you plan to venture out beyond the Vail area, you may also want to consider renting your own car.
Light afternoon showers are not out of the ordinary in Colorado’s mountains. Pack an umbrella or quick-dry clothing for unexpected summer showers.
Vail is located at high elevation and that means everyone in your family needs to plan accordingly, especially if you’re traveling from a lower elevation. Take it easy the first day or two. Save your most active activities for when you are fully acclimated to the elevation. Drink lots of water and get plenty of rest.
The sun is intense so make sure to use plenty of sunscreen and wear hats that provide protection.
So now you can see why we loved our Vail summer vacation. Our family loves a balance of adventure, relaxation, being in nature and luxury. Vail provided all that and more. If you’re looking for a mountain setting for your next summer vacation, look no further than Vail, Colorado.
Many thanks to Vail for partnering with Top Flight Family. Author and her family received complimentary accommodations and meals. All opinions are her own.
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About Dianne Sivulka
Dianne Sivulka is a former teacher who became a stay-at-home mom and homeschooler. Today she and her husband are traveling near and far with their boys every chance they get. She writes about educational travel tips at ourEDventures. Follow her on Instagram and Pinterest.
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