Growing up in Colorado I went to Vail almost every summer with my best friend and her family. Each year we would explore a new part of town, try a new outdoor activity and as we’ve gotten older we found the best places to eat and drink too! I’m so excited to finally be getting this guide out there because Vail is truly magical and I want everyone to experience it!
A lot of people might be thinking that Vail is only for ski and snowboarders and is best to go in the winter, but I’m here to tell you that Vail is just, if not more, amazing in the summer! From gorgeous hikes, delicious food, live music and more, there is so much to do during summer in Vail, Colorado!
Getting to Vail
The 2 hour drive from Denver to Vail is truly breathtaking! Giant mountains tower over you as you pass lakes and plush greenery dotted with wildflowers and red rock. You can get to Vail in a few different ways.
Airports – Denver International Airport is the largest and most accessible airport to Vail and only a quick 2 hour drive. I suggest renting a car for your stay as it will be much easier to get around the Denver and Vail area, plus you can stop along the way and enjoy even more of Colorado.
There is also Eagle County Regional Airport where you can take a quick flight from Denver or other places like NYC, LA and Dallas. Flights are quite limited and prices are much higher, so I suggest taking the drive from Denver.
Bus – If renting a car isn’t your thing, you can take a private or shared bus from Denver International Airport to Vail with Epic Mountain Express. Prices vary based on number of passengers, private vs shared, etc, but most rates start at $70 per person.
Top Tip: Allow extra time on your way back to Denver before your flight as traffic can get really bad, especially on weekends and in the winter.
Vail in the Summer Vs Winter
Most people know Vail as a big destination for ski and snowboarders, which is true. But, Vail can be just as amazing in the summer time and they have more and more activities to enjoy each year! If visiting in the winter, be aware that road conditions can be very dangerous.
Things to note
Altitude Sickness – If you are coming from sea level you are very likely to feel the effects of altitude sickness. Denver is at 5,280 ft and Vail is at 8,150. You can find cans of oxygen in many stores in Vail or even oxygen bars! If you drink enough water, rest and limit your alcohol intake on your first few days, you should be ok! Altitude sickness can really ruin a trip, so take it seriously!
Wildlife – Colorado has some amazing wildlife, especially in Vail. You are very likely to see deer, elk and possibly even moose or bears. Be sure not to approach any wild animal as they are dangerous and can seriously injure you!
WHERE TO STAY IN VAIL
Vail isn’t cheap, let’s start there. Most accommodations start at $100 a night if you want to stay in the heart of Vail. So, most of your budget will be going towards your stay. Thankfully many places offer such incredible views that it’s worth it. Here are some options:
AirBnb – AirBnb will most likely be the least expensive option in Vail, especially if you go during the shoulder seasons. Many places offer just a private room rather than an entire place, you can opt for this to save a few bucks!
The Ritz Carlton Vail – This is where we stay when we go to Vail and it is the most stunning hotel! It’s painted a gorgeous yellow color which stands out against the green mountains. They have a beautiful pool, amazing mountain views, live music on select nights and so much more!
Gravity Haus Vail – The rooms here are simple, but offer everything you need for your stay. There is an on-site restaurant and coffee house, plus they are pup friendly for an extra $50/ night! If you are traveling with a larger group they also offer up to 3 bedroom condos.
Four Seasons Vail – I personally can’t afford the Four Seasons, but if you can then this location is so so gorgeous. Amazing mountain views, beautiful pool and all the amenities you could ever want!
Vail Marriott Mountain Resort – I haven’t stayed here, but the location is prime in the heart of Lionshead Village, just a short walk into Vail Village. Rooms average $200/ night.
The Sebastian – Located in the heart of Vail Village, The Sebastian offers stunning rooms, great customer service and a really cool bar downstairs called Frost!
Getting around vail
Between the Villages – There are a few areas to be aware of when coming to Vail. Vail Village, East Vail, West Vail and Lionshead Village. You can easily walk, bike or segway between the villages if you’d like. There is also a free shuttle bus that runs all day, stopping in each area. It’s easy to find the shuttle as this is the only vehicle allowed to drive in the villages!
Outside of the Villages – If you plan to venture to other towns like Beaver Creek or Edwards then I recommend having a car as it is the easiest way to get around, but there are Uber, Lyft and taxi options available as well.
Things to do in vail Colorado in the summer
Here are some of my absolute favorite things to do in Vail during the summer!
Explore Vail Village & Lionshead – We often spend one day just walking through Vail Village and Lionshead Village shopping, grabbing a drink, listening to live music and so much more! There is a fun pirate ship park that is great for kids, you can sit by the creek and enjoy the views or simply window shop through the renaissance style buildings!
Scenic Gondola Rides
There are a few gondola options in Vail, one from Vail Village and the other in Lionshead Village. Each offer totally different experiences at the top so here is a breakdown of what you can expect!
Gondola One has its base in the heart of Vail Village. Scenic ticket rides are $44/ per person. (Children under 12 ride free with the purchase of an adult ticket.) I personally think $44 for a gondola ride is pretty expensive so if you agree then I suggest you hike up the mountain and take the gondola down for a discounted rate.
At the top of Gondola One there are hiking trails, Sarge’s deck which is a restaurant offering grab and go style BBQ where you can relax and take in the sights.
Eagle Bahn Gondola
Eagle Bahn Gondola starts in Lionshead Village. They offer scenic rides or again, you can hike up and ride down. At the top you’ll find Epic Discovery which has a ton of different activities from adventure courses, zip lining, the mountain coaster, tubing hills, a climbing wall, bungee trampoline, and much more! Epic Discovery isn’t just for kids either! As an adult I did the ziplining and mountain coaster and loved both!
You can also grab a meal at Bistro 14 which offers American Fare with amazing views! Personally, I love to grab a bottle of wine from the grocery store and watch the sunset on top of the mountain! There are great places to sit and relax while just hanging out! (Not sure alcohol is technically allowed so be discreet! haha)
Top Tip – If I were to choose between Gondola One or Eagle Bahn, I would choose the latter. I find there is more to do at the top!
Other things to do in Vail during the summer
Rent Bikes – Vail is a bikers paradise! You can rent street bikes / e-bikes to explore the town or take mountain bikes up the gondola and ride down. (or up I guess?) There are many trails only for bikers or only hikers, so be sure to double check before you head out!
Rent Segways – Segways are another great way to get out and see the town! We rented Segways when I was like 14 and had so much fun! Many companies also offer tours where they will show you all around Vail! It’s a fun and different activity to try in Vail.
Go Hiking – There are tons of hikes starting in both Vail Village and Lionshead. Check the hiking trail map to find some in all different areas of the mountain. As I mentioned before you can hike up and take one of the gondolas down or visa versa! There are trails at the top of the gondola as well which is a great way to see more of the mountain. My personal favorite hike is the Berry Picker trail from Lionshead!
Betty Ford Alpine Garden –This stunning botanical garden is free to visit and offers some incredible scenery. Pack a picnic and enjoy it in the grass before exploring the garden.
Jeep Tours – Take a guided off road jeep tour through the mountains of Vail with Timberline tours. You’re likely to see wildlife (we saw a ton, but the most exciting was a moose!) and you will definitely see gorgeous scenery. What I like about this company is that they ask your group what your preferences are and then choose a route based on that. Be sure to bring warm clothing and your camera!
Nottingham Lake in Avon – Just a short drive from Vail Village you’ll find the town of Avon and Nottingham Lake. At the lake you can rent paddle boards, paddle boats, kayaks, go fishing and so much more!
Go bowling at BOL – If you’re in need of a rainy day activity then check out BOL. This is probably the most boujee bowling alley there is, their website even says they aim to be the most exquisite bowling alley in the world! You can expect to feel like you’re in a trendy bar in New York City that also happens to have bowling. The food options come in small portions so you can try many different things and the cocktail menu is extensive!
day trips near vail
Of course you could stay within the villages, but here are some really awesome day trips from Vail!
One of my absolute favorite summer activities is to go tubing on the Colorado River. The company we have used in the past is called Turtle Tubing and I highly recommend them. Here are a few things to know:
- The floating start point is about a 45 minute drive from Vail.
- Most floats start around 10am and last 3-4 hours.
- The Tubes are very large and can fit 3 adults and your cooler of White Claws comfortably!
- You can pack lunch and enjoy it in your tube or stop off and have it next to the river.
- You will go through Glenwood Canyon which is absolutely stunning. The tall canyons tower over you as your float.
- If you need multiple tubes I suggest bringing your own rope. (They said they would provide one for us but then didn’t and it was a bummer to not float with our whole group.)
- You will meet at the designated float location and then they will bring you back to your car on their turtle bus.
- We were offered pizza at the end and beverages on the bus!
A great day trip from Vail is to 4 Eagle Ranch. They offer horse back riding, ATV tours, zip lining, casual dining, an on-site winery and more! I’ve personally only done the horse back riding, but I always felt safe during my rides as the guides are very knowledgeable and the horses are well trained!
Year round they also host western dances with live bands, line dancing instruction and dinner. This can be a great nighttime activity to enjoy near Vail in the summer!
Piney River Ranch is a gorgeous oasis deep in the mountains about an hour from Vail Village. You can choose to stay the night here in one of their glamping tents or log cabins or just take a day trip up to the ranch. You’ll be able to hike, horseback ride, fish, canoe and more!
We opted to do the piney falls trail which is about 6 miles round trip. The hike includes amazing views of Piney Lake as you pass by wildflowers, towering aspens and occasionally seeing an animal or two. You’ll end the hike at a gorgeous waterfall, which is great for photos and to break for a snack! After our hike we stopped for lunch in the restaurant which had many sandwich, salad and burger options.
Top Tip: The drive to the ranch is half paved and the other half is gravel road. Because of this, I don’t suggest taking small all wheel drive cars.
A 20 minute drive from Vail is the town of Beaver Creek. Beaver Creek is similar to Vail in that it has a village feel with great shopping, restaurants and activities. They often host concerts and festivals in the summer as well!
Where to eat in vail
Sweet Basil – If you’re looking for a more upscale restaurant for a nice lunch or dinner then Sweet Basil might be your spot! Located in Vail Village you’ll find amazing dishes like Ahi tuna, Slow Cooked Salmon or Wagyu Beef.
Bully Ranch – This is a great spot for a casual meal in Vail where you can lounge on the patio or at a table surrounded by the rustic interior. We love to come for either brunch or their happy hour mudslides! (be careful, they’re strong!)
Root and Flower – This is a cute wine bar that also offers craft cocktails and small plates. If you know me then you know I can’t resist wine and cheese.
Frost – This cocktail bar is located in The Sebastian hotel. Though they do offer food, I suggest coming for a yummy drink and eating elsewhere!
Rimini Gelato – We always hit this spot when in Vail for dessert or an afternoon pick me up. Their gelato is to die for and the have a ton of different flavor options to choose from!
The Blue Moose – Located right across from Rimini Gelato is The Blue Moose. If you are going to get pizza anywhere, let it be here! The spring pizza is my personal favorite, but they have a ton of options, each incredible!
Garfinkels – This is where you’ll find your classic sports bar vibes, but with incredible views of the Eagle Bahn Gondola. If you want a quick, easy meal then this is your place!
Mountain Standard – Situated next to the river that flows through Vail Village is Mountain Standard. This gastro pub offers high quality burgers, seafood and more!
The Little Diner – The best spot for breakfast in Vail, in my opinion! They have all of your classic breakfast options and then some. Try the Pannkeoken, a baked to order German pancake that resembles a soufflé. It was hugeee but so yummy!!
Montauk Seafood Grill – As the name suggests, this is where you’ll want to go for delicious seafood! From shrimp, lobster, crab and more, each plate is thoroughly thought out to bring the best flavors to each dish.
Ti Amo – A short 15 minute drive from Vail Village is Ti Amo, a small and cozy restaurant offering the best Italian in the Vail Valley! This spot is perfect for an intimate date night.
What to pack for summer in Vail
You’ll be spending quite a bit of time outdoors so here are a few things you should definitely pack!
- Running / hiking shoes
- Cute outfits for dinner/ hanging in the villages
- Workout clothes for hiking, biking, etc…
- Bathing suit
- Sunscreen / Bus spray
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