With a new mountaintop adventure park, it's easy to see why Vail is one of the most popular resort towns in Colorado.
Vail is a popular spot in both summer and winter months. It has some of the finest restaurants, most popular festivals, and a new adventure park at the top of the mountain that offers up endless fun for both teens and toddlers.
Photo courtesy: Jack Affleck
Where to stay?
Vail is one of the more expensive resort towns in Colorado, but taking your family here doesn’t have to break the bank. An economical option is Antlers at Vail. Located in Lionshead Village, this family-friendly hotel offers condos, ranging in size from studio to four-bedroom. The best bet, especially if you have smaller kids, is to book the one-bedroom with bunk beds. It’s the same price as a regular one-bedroom condo but with a separate space for kids. Each condo comes with one free parking spot (a rarity in Vail), fireplace, and balcony. The best part, though, is the fully-equipped kitchen. You could easily cook a family meal here; if there’s anything you may want or need, just ask. I promised my toddler waffles, and sure enough, the front desk found a waffle maker for us! The Antlers at Vail is conveniently located next to the Eagle Bahn Gondola and steps from the free village shuttle bus stop. It also has pet-friendly rooms that come with bowls and dog beds; our Goldendoodle was very pleased. Starts at $170/night.
If you’d rather stay in the main Vail Village, there are many options from hotel rooms to condos there, as well. The Lodge at Vail is a good option, starting around $240/night with kids under 13 staying for free. In Vail Village, you’ll be close to all the action without having to take the bus anywhere.
KidTripster Tip: There’s a shuttle that will take you from village to village within Vail for free with several stops along the way.
KidTripster Tip: Or take a fun pedicab back and forth from Lionshead to Vail Village. They are everywhere, and the drivers work for tips only. Each driver typically has a wealth of knowledge about local events; some even have restaurant coupons to hand out.
Photo courtesy: Antlers at Vail
What to do?
Epic Discovery at the top of the mountain is just that, epic! There are endless opportunities for fun: ziplining, adventure courses, tubing, alpine coaster, climbing tower, and bungee trampoline. Unlimited access to all of this for a day will set you back $89/person, but trust me, you’ll get your money’s worth. All the activities are close to each other, so your kids can bounce from one to another easily. You can follow, or should you need a break, there’s a great outdoor BBQ grill in the center. Sit back with loaded waffle fries and watch your kids wear themselves out! If you have little ones, don’t worry; there’s a smaller version of the tubing hill, zipline, and adventure course, designed specifically for little adventurers. My 2-year-old’s favorite was the bungee trampoline. I couldn’t get her off of it!
KidTripster Tip: If your furry kids made the trip with you, be aware that dogs aren’t allowed up the gondola, but they are allowed to ride down. That means they have to earn their ride (or actually you do!) by hiking up the mountain. It’s actually a pretty easy hike; it takes about 1-1/2 hours and is a great way to spend some time outdoors with the entire family. Just be sure to bring enough water for both 2- and 4-legged hikers; you are at altitude!
Vail also offers an endless number of mountain biking and hiking trails from beginner to expert. There’s disc golf, mini golf, and real golf with fun bike “carts.”
Enjoy free live music all weekend long during the summer at the top of Vail Mountain. Every Friday, the Friday Afternoon Club features live music, food, and drinks from 5 to 8 p.m. The Saturday Sundown Series is every Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m. and also has free live music, drinks, and food. Both are fun and offer unparalleled mountain views.
Photo courtesy: Vail Resort
Where to eat?
One of the best breakfast spots in all of Vail is The Little Diner, located in Lionshead Village. The name is more than descriptive; the place consists of only one countertop wrapped around the stove, where you watch your meal being prepared. You sit on stools or in a highchair attached to the countertop for smaller diners. This added to the appeal for my 2-year-old; she loved sitting up high! My favorite dish was the mixed grill. I was actually sad when I couldn’t finish the giant portion. The pancakes were a hit with my toddler and husband.
KidTripster Tip: This tiny diner serves up big portions and even bigger wait times. Don’t go there with hungry toddlers or teens and expect to be seated right away. Your best bet is to send a family member to put your name on the list, while the rest of the family finishes getting ready.
For a quick, hassle-free lunch, head over to Blue Moose Pizza in Lionshead Village. The tables are covered in paper - a blank canvas for antsy kids needing to be entertained. You can order pizza by the slice or a whole pie. Plus, it has sandwiches, soup, wings, and very delicious garlic bread. This place is yummy, quick, and has a full bar for anyone wanting a cocktail.
Other great options for lunch in Lionshead include Tavern on the Square. Conveniently located at the base of the Eagle Bahn Gondola, the Tavern is an excellent choice for a hungry family just coming down from Epic Discovery. I know it sounds strange to eat in the summer, but the grilled cheese and tomato soup was phenomenal! The flatbreads were a huge hit as was the hummus appetizer. The Tavern has an extensive kids’ menu, including grilled shrimp and a triple-decker PB&J. Plus, there’s even a special menu your dog. Our pup inhaled the frozen greek yogurt cup and then stared longingly at the dog next to us, eating the grilled chicken and brown rice. Truly a family-friendly restaurant for all!
In Vail Village, Loaded Joe’s is a great spot for breakfast or lunch. It’s got all your basics from eggs and bagels for breakfast to the usual sandwiches - tuna, veggie, turkey, and BLT - for lunch. It also offers smoothies and espresso drinks; try the Snickers!
Why not make dinner interactive? Head to the Swiss Chalet at the Sonnenalp Hotel. At first glance, it may not seem like an obvious choice for kids, but who doesn’t love piping hot cheese!? Serving up traditional fondue (or fun-do, as my toddler calls it), your entire family can delve into this gooey goodness. Be sure to save room for dessert! The milk chocolate fondue is worth the calories. The sweets served for dipping were amazing, and they’ll even bring you more if you teenagers devour the lot. Step up the family fun by playing fondue games. Stick with the originals, like if you lose your bread in the cheese, you have to kiss the person to your left, or make up your own. It’s sure to be a fun, maybe slightly unconventional, dining experience!
If you're in the car looking for a quick meal on the go, swing by Northside Grab and Go. You’ll find it in West Vail, just off the interstate. Grab a hearty breakfast burrito or egg sandwich, all for under $8. Lunch options consist of chicken wraps and fish tacos (both $8) or the best deal of the day - a meatball sub for just $5. Plus, the coffee is delicious!
Photo courtesy: Swiss Chalet
Vail is easily accessible from Interstate 70. Just head west from Denver, and you’ll be in Vail in less than two hours. Be aware of heavy traffic both heading up on Friday afternoons and returning to Denver on Sunday afternoons. Plan accordingly, especially if you have a flight to catch out of Denver International Airport.
Photo courtesy: Jack Affleck
Amy Sward lives in Denver but visits the mountains as often as she can with her husband, 2-year-old bouncing daughter, and happy-to-hike-anywhere Goldendoodle.
This writer received a complimentary stay and some activities for the purpose of this review. However, all opinions expressed are solely her own.