11 Top Things to Do in Vail, Colorado

Skiing in Vail, Colorado

Getty Images / Connor Walberg

A well-known hub of winter activity, Vail, Colorado, was once named by Forbes as “The king of American ski resorts," But this popular alpine town has so much more to offer visitors than just skiing. From high-altitude golfing and hiking in nature to glamping and gourmet restaurants, here's our go-to list of the best things to do while you're in Vail, whether you're visiting in cold weather or during the warmer months.

01 of 11

Take a Scenic Gondola Ride

Vail Scenic Gondola

Adventure_Photo / Getty Images

699 I-70 Frontage Rd, Vail, CO 81657, USA

For a real treat during the summer months, take a ride on the Vail Mountain Gondola, generally open daily from mid-June to early September, then weekends until early October. Pick up your tickets and board from either Vail Village for a ride on Gondola One or Lionshead for a ride on the Eagle Bahn Gondola. From the top, take in the view or go for a hike or bike ride along the many scenic trails. Best of all, children 12 and under can ride free with a paying adult.

02 of 11

Feast at the Vail Farmers' Market and Art Show

Vail Farmers' Market and Art Show

Vail Farmers' Market and Art Show

E Meadow Dr, Vail, CO 81657, USA

Open for 16 Sundays each summer from mid-June to early October, the Vail Farmers' Market and Art Show features more than 40 food vendors and over 148 tents to browse and shop from. You'll find everything from fresh Colorado honey, fruits, veggies, meats, and cheeses to pottery, photography, and fine art. Stock up on picnic-making materials or shop for handmade soaps, jewelry, and other crafts to remember your trip by.

03 of 11

Go Skiing on One of the World's Best Mountains

Vail Resorts

Getty Images / Jack Affleck

Vail, CO 81657, USA

Skiing is obviously most travelers’ top reason for visiting Vail. The mountain is huge, with 31 lifts and more than 5,000 acres of skiing. While the resort is known for its super tough tracks, it really caters to all levels.

One reason why so many people enjoy skiing at Vail is it sprawls across a single mountain rather than a range, earning it the honor of being the largest single-mountain resort in the United States.

04 of 11

Visit the Highest Botanical Garden in North America

Betty Ford Alpine Gardens

Bureau of Land Management / Flickr

522 S Frontage Rd E, Vail, CO 81657, USA
Phone +1 970-476-0103

When the snow melts, the flowers pop out at Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, which was named after former President Ford’s wife. This gorgeous high-altitude garden, located at more than 8,200 feet above sea level, is an explosion of colorful flowers, wild roses, and other interesting plants.

While the garden is open all year long — and free to the public — the best time to visit is during the summer. You can also request a guided tour to learn more about the flowers and other plants found within the region.

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05 of 11

Go High-Altitude Golfing

Sonnenalp Club

TripSavvy / Aimee Heckel

1265 Berry Creek Rd, Edwards, CO 81632, USA
Phone +1 970-477-5370

Golfing is different up here and avid golfers say the thinner air really affects how far your ball flies. Try it out for yourself at one of the region’s many golf courses.

The Sonnenalp Club is perched on a mountainside in Edwards, offering dramatic views of Vail Valley and beyond. This semi-private country club sports 18 holes in a championship links style course, and best of all, the season is extra long here, lasting from April through late October. While you're here, grab a bite to eat at Harvest, where Executive Chef Rosa Provoste uses fresh ingredients in her internationally influenced cooking.

06 of 11

Go Glamping

Collective Retreats Vail
Collective Retreats
4098 CO-131, Wolcott, CO 81655, USA
Phone +1 970-445-2033

While there are plenty of amazing places to stay in Vail and there's no shortage of outdoor adventures, Vail Collective Retreats is where the two come together. Located about 20 minutes west of Vail on 4 Eagle Ranch in Wolcott, it's one of our favorite destinations in Colorado.

Guests stay in safari-style, large canvas pop-up tents, with open-air doors offering views of the mountains and nature around you. It’s sort of like camping—you’re isolated, off the grid, and surrounded by nature—but without any of the inconveniences. These tents offer extreme luxury, high-end amenities, and top-notch service, as well as running water and a separate restroom with plumbing in a tipi behind your tent.  

While there are increasingly more glamping options around Colorado, this remains one of the very best. From the incredible views to the comfortable beds, Collective Retreats has perfected glamping to such a degree that few can compete. 

07 of 11

Take a Hike


Jack Affleck / Getty Images

3035 Booth Falls Rd, Vail, CO 81657-5819, USA

Year-round, one of the best ways to experience Vail is by hiking. Even in the winter, many of the wilderness areas remain open for snowshoers or back-country skiers. Popular trails include the nearby Booth Falls Trail, Shrine Mountain Trail, Missouri Lake Trail, and Piney River Trail.

You can also take a free, guided hike with the Nature Discovery Center, perched at the top of the Eagle Bahn gondola. Choose from a variety of hikes ranging from easy family-friendly excursions to more intense wildflower hunts.

08 of 11

Go on a Massive Zipline and Conquer an Obstacle Course

Vail Epic Discovery park

TripSavvy / Aimee Heckel

520 E Lionshead Cir, Vail, CO 81657, USA

When the ski slopes shut down, Vail Mountain transforms into an adventure park. Epic Discovery at Adventure Ridge, located at the top of the mountain, features an alpine roller coaster, ropes courses, kid-friendly rides, warm-weather tubing, and zip lines.

A major highlight here is the four-hour zip-line tour that brings you through the mountains to see the region from a bird’s eye view. If you're on a time crunch, a ride on the scenic gondola is equally impressive. 

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09 of 11

Eat at Some of Vail's Best Restaurants

Sweet Basil in Vail

TripSavvy / Aimee Heckel

Some of our favorite restaurants in Colorado are located in Vail. It’s hard to even narrow down the best, but three that rise to the top of our list are Flame, Mountain Standard, and Sweet Basil.

Flame, located inside the Four Seasons Resorts and Residences Vail, is a high-end steakhouse. After your dinner—Wagyu steak, anyone?—hop over to the Remedy Bar, also located within the property. Grab a seat on the outdoor balcony by the fire pit and enjoy some creative cocktails, and the best hot chocolate we’ve ever had.

Mountain Standard, stationed in downtown Vail Village alongside the creek, is a relaxed, hip, foodie heaven with a raw oyster bar, as well as innovative twists on all your fave comfort foods. Our top menu pick there continues to be the pork shank.  

Sweet Basil, located upstairs from Mountain Standard, has been a staple in town since 1977. It’s a little more upscale than Mountain Standard and the menu items are exquisite—we’ve never had a bad meal here, or even an average one. For a real treat, grab a table on the balcony overlooking the creek during warm weather. 

10 of 11

Party in the Mountains

Vail whiskey

TripSavvy / Aimee Heckel

227 Bridge St, Vail, CO 81657, USA
Phone +1 970-470-4215

First of all, you need to be aware of the high altitude, which can affect how your body processes alcohol. With that warning in place, make sure to stay hydrated, eat plenty, drink slowly, and hit up some of our favorite mountain bars, breweries, and distilleries—for a casual drink with the locals, hit up Vail’s 10th Mountain Whiskey and Spirit Company, a micro-distillery that offers tours right in downtown Vail.

11 of 11

Attend a Festival

Vail Film Fest

David Bergman / Getty Images

Vail, CO 81657, USA
Phone +1 970-306-6843

Vail holds a variety of fantastic festivals throughout the year. In summer, the streets are hopping with music, dance, and plenty of food.

Don’t miss the popular Vail Film Festival, held each spring with movie premieres, panels, parties, and the chance to meet celebrities. Another thing that makes it so exciting: the festival coincides with spring break in Vail and bookends the ski season for spring.

Also worth checking out is the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, an outdoor performance venue that brings in big-name performers and is the site of some of Vail’s most exciting events, such as the International Dance Festival. In the summertime, the free weekly concerts of the Hot Summer Nights series are quite popular as well.

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11 Top Things to Do in Vail, Colorado