Vail, Colorado, might first come to mind as a fantastic luxury ski locale (indeed, it is!). But don’t be fooled by this seasonal reputation: It’s also an incredible destination for families in the summer and early fall months. In fact, visitors are often surprised to find they love it even more at this time of year.
It’s easy to spend a full week in Vail with children of any age, as there is a nice balance of beautiful scenery for leisurely downtime and high-energy activities that the kids will be talking about well into the school year. We’ve outlined five favorite ways to spend time in Vail in the summer, as well as our insider tips.
Our review of Vail’s Epic Discovery mountaintop experience is detailed here. This is an absolute must, and worth both the time and financial commitment to experience with kids. Plan to spend at least one full day immersed in all there is to see and do. Epic Discovery is accessed by the Eagle Bahn Gondola (included in the Epic Discovery pass); kids ride the gondola free with an accompanying adult. There’s also a 36-foot rock climbing wall.
TIP: Book your Epic Discovery pass for the beginning of your trip so that if weather doesn’t cooperate, you can make adjustments. It also gives you time to book a second day if one day isn’t enough!
What goes up must come down, and in Vail, all that snow leads to the gorgeous Gore Creek that runs right through the village. On summer evenings, it is common to see families spread out on blankets on the grass areas that line the creek bed, with kids splashing around in the gentle rapids. You can also arrange for fly fishing lessons and river rafting experiences in the area.
TIP: As long as the kids are wet from the creek, make a stop at the Children’s Fountain in Vail Village for more water fun. Don’t forget a change of clothes!
My favorite discovery of my summer trip to Vail was the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. This is an absolute gem for families with kids of all ages and interests, but especially those with children a bit too young for some of the action on the mountaintop. It is completely free — wander in from your village accommodations or drive in if you’re staying elsewhere in the region. Here you’ll find botanical gardens, natural play areas, sports fields, nature centers, concert venues, treasure hunts, easy hiking paths and more. Pack a picnic and a soccer ball, and plan to spend a day here enjoying it all.
TIP: Yoga in the Park takes place here throughout the summer, if you’re looking for a unique exercise experience.
Families come to Colorado in summer for the mountain air and outdoor adventure, but spending time exploring Lionshead Village and Vail Village makes for a nice change of pace. It’s easy to get between the two by hotel shuttle, public bus or a short walk. In Lionshead, don’t miss Rimini Gelato for a sweet treat. In Vail, be sure to devote at least one afternoon/evening to playing on the field turf in the center of the village, following by a nice dinner (I loved Matsuhisa and Mountain Standard). There is also a pirate-themed playground for really young kids. In poor weather, try the upscale cinema and bowling alley right in the village.
TIP: The Vail Public Library in Lionshead Village allows anyone to get a library card, even non-residents. It’s a perfect place to stock up on books or DVDs to enjoy during your stay.
Round out all these wonderful adventures with some amazing hikes — you’ll find great trails at the tops of the mountains and many throughout the valley region. The wildflowers are really impressive throughout the summer, and most of the region is protected national forest. Mountain biking is becoming increasingly popular here in the summer as well, and you can easily rent bikes to fit all sizes. If you’re worried about steep uphill climbs, know that the gondolas can accommodate bikes (you need a special pass); just ride down the mountain afterward. There are also more than 15 miles of paved recreational paths in the area, should you want a more leisurely biking experience.
TIP: If your kids hate the effort of long hikes, consider booking a llama-riding experience. Such a unique and memorable way to see the beautiful mountain scenery without all the complaining about tired legs!
Colorado residents have a saying: Come for the winter, stay for the summer. Visiting families will find they feel the same after a summer trip to Vail.
Editor’s Note: Nicole was hosted by Vail Mountain. As always, opinions are our own at Ciao Bambino. Photos by Nicole Wiltrout and Vail Mountain.
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