7 Ways to Enjoy the Vail Film Festival

Rub elbows with celebs this spring break

Vail Film Festival
••• See the film "Pronouns" at the Vail Film Festival this year. Courtesy photo

When it comes to hosting film festivals, Vail gets five-stars. Or two thumbs up. Or a “must-go,” depending on the rating system you prefer.

For the uninitiated, the Vail Film Festival, which runs in late March or early April for three days every year, takes place in one of Colorado’s favorite mountain towns. The weekend is packed with movie premieres, question-and-answer panels and parties. Oh, the parties.


There’s more. The festival also typically coincides with spring break in Vail, which celebrates the end of ski season — though on lucky years, Vail Resort has received enough powder to extend its season and stay open longer. Cross your fingers (but not your skis) for an extended season this year. 

First things first, though, you will need to buy your tickets to the Vail Film Festival. You can get by pretty inexpensively (around $50) or go all out and spend closer to $250, depending on the level of access and amount of entertainment you crave.

The more expensive Patron Pass gets you great perks, including all-access to film screenings, admission into all kinds of parties, including the opening and closing night parties, as well as admission to the Friday night concert and awards ceremonies.

Then there are Silver, Gold, Platinum and Benefactor Patron Passes. These may include reserved seating and are tax deductible.


The Vail Film Festival films typically screen at the Vail Cascade in Cascade Village and Cinebistro in Vail Village. (That's Vail's high-end, beautiful movie theater, which also serves food and has a full bar.) Opening and closing night parties take place at a hotel in town, such as the Lodge at Vail in the past.

Dress code for the film festival is casual, but dressier for opening and closing night parties. After all, this is Colorado. But this is also Vail. 

The festival also includes special workshops, like a free, public storytelling class. 

Tip: Look for special deals at the festival's partner hotels

So you're headed to the fest. From movie watching to celebrity spotting, here are seven ways to enjoy the weekend in Vail.

Seven Ways to Enjoy the Vail Film Fest

1. Catch a world premiere.

More than five dozen films from around the world are showcased at the annual Vail Film Festival. You can often find a notable list of world premieres in that list. 

In the past, among those films that debuted in Vail, was “Finding Her,” which follows Christian Baker, a New York City journalist, who gets assigned to a story about a 12-year-old African-American girl who has gone missing from Brooklyn. Meanwhile, police aren’t looking for any leads and go after the family. The movie’s director Vlad Feier, along with producer Ana Paula Rivera and actors Maurice McRae, Jeremy Holm (“House of Cards,” “Mr. Robot”), and Jared Kemp were even in attendance.

2. See well-known celeb's latest work. 

This film fest often includes big actor names.

For example, in 2016,  Orange is the New Black” actress Taryn Manning starred in the film, “A Light Beneath Their Feet,” which made its Colorado debut in Vail. The dramedy follows a high school senior, Madison Davenport (also a film fest attendee and honoree), who must choose between escaping to the college of her dreams or staying close to home to take care of her bipolar mother (Manning).

3. Sit in on a Q&A.

Get the full film festival experience by sitting in on a question-and-answer session after movies are screened, hearing firsthand from the cast and crew members of films. You’ll have plenty of opportunities, with the sessions scheduled after many of the festival’s film screenings. 

4. Spot celebrities.

Sure, it’s a guilty pleasure. But, you might just be rubbing shoulders with A-listers.

Second only perhaps to Aspen, Vail is a popular mountain town for celebs. Jay-Z, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz have all been spotted in Vail.

Madison Davenport, who recently starred in “Sisters” with funny duo Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, was in attendance in 2016 and received the Vail Film Festival Rising Star award. Past honorees have also included Jesse Eisenberg, Olivia Wilde, Krysten Ritter and Sophia Bush.

5. Catch a concert.

“Music and film go hand in hand,” says festival co-director Scott Cross. Launch into the weekend with the annual Friday Night Concert. Pass holders get in for free. Otherwise, tickets are not too pricey at the door. The concert always features acclaimed musicians.

6. Indulge in the culinary scene.

From La Tour, a French restaurant with an extensive wine menu, to Matsuhisa, a hip Japanese restaurant, Vail’s culinary scene is amazingly diverse. Check out more stories on Tripsavvy to choose the best restaurants in Vail. 

7. Give pond skimming a try.

This is not related to the film festival, but you're likely to be able to catch it while you're in town. As part of Spring Back to Vail, the World Pond Skimming Championships typically take place in town. Unfamiliar with ​pond skimming? Step 1: Outfit yourself in a ridiculous costume. Then, the goal is to make it across a body of water (i.e. a slushy pond) on skis. Top finishers usually will win an Epic Pass from Vail, as well as a pair Liberty Skis.