We have the pleasure of spending quite a bit of time in the Vail Valley and have experienced most of the area's attractions but never all in a week. Here I have complied all that we have done into what I think would be a great family vacation.
Life is better in the mountians!
To do this, you can base yourself anywhere in the area but you will need a car. We stay in Edwards, which is 14 miles from Vail. We have been doing these things since our youngest was 5 and she has been able to do them all. Most of these activities can be mixed and matched, except for the few nightly things that are specific to a particular evening (marked with ***). Add in a hike or take a run (up a mountain if you really want a workout) everyday as your morning exercise if tthe hat is something you like to do on vacation. Lastly, it is encouraged to do hikes in the morning so you are down before afternoon storms come in. We have been doing these hikes for the past 5 years and often get a later start and have never been met with bad weather, but you can judge that based on weather forecasts.
Saturday- Today is your get acquainted with the area and the altitude. Check the events for Vail and Beaver Creek to see if any festivals are going on. We love them all!
Rent bikes and either bike along the Gore Creek or mountain bike on the mountain trails at Vail or Beaver Creek. The second option is more geared toward the adventure junkies in the group. The bike goes up the mountain on the chair lift and you bike down. Other people bike up as well and I am amazed each time I see someone doing it. You know your crew so plan accordingly and split up if you have to.
If the weather is hot, spend the afternoon at Nottingham lake in Avon where you can rent paddle boards, swim in the mountain-fed reservoir or play in the sand. Save this for the hottest day of the week if the weather isn’t in your favor. Grab dinner in Avon as prices are more reasonable than Vail or BC. Our crew loves Montana’s for burgers or Gondola’s for pizza.
Rent a paddle board and cool off in Nottingham Lake
Sunday- Start your day at the Vail farmer’s market in Vail village (open 10 am - 3:30). Meander the 135 stands, try some samples, get some free lip balm and sunscreen, and get food from one of the many vendors. You can’t go wrong with any of them. Buy fruits and veggies here as well so you have snacks for the rest of your trip. Palisade peaches are to die for so do not leave without them if they are in season. Walk from Vail village to Lionshead village to check out the art fair if it is going on. The Vail Ski museum is worth 30 minutes of your time while you are here. There is no need to spend time in the village today because it is more crowded than it will be the rest of the week.
The Farmer's Market is a great way to start your Sunday!
Book a horse back excursion for the afternoon. There are multiple choices and people seem to like all of them.
Head back into Vail Village for dinner and shopping tonight.
Monday- If rafting is in your plans, head out today to do it. West on I-70 is Glenwood Springs where they have many tour companies. We have used Groupon for these and had great experiences. The first time we went, we picked our trip by the photos on the website. The one where everyone had distressed faces as they battled rapids did not get my vote. I went for the smiling people thinking that was more my speed. It was a great plan because we met people at the pool in the afternoon that had been thrown out of their boat on a more advanced trip. Base it on your personality and age of your kids. Our teens like more rapids, less floating! There are some seasons where the rafting is really tame due to dryness. If that’s the case, go in with the mindset that you are going to see some amazing sites and you can still have an enjoyable time. When your trip is done, head to the Glenwood hot springs to relax.
Rafting with the Older Kids and Their Friends!
For dinner, either eat in Glenwood Springs or head back into Vail to try another restaurant.
Tuesday- Now that the long weekenders have left you will have the place to yourself. Go to Beaver Creek Village for an amazing hike. Take the Gondola up (if you have a ski pass it is free, if not you can buy them in the village). At the top of the gondola head away from the building and take Royal Elk trail to Bear Lake trail. There are a few inclines but nothing too terrible and the end goal is an amazing mountain lake that is peaceful and breathtaking. We love setting up hammocks and relaxing when we arrive. Once you are finished you can walk down the mountain back to the base (this is an easier hike than hiking back to the gondola). If you would rather not buy a pass, you can get to the lake by hiking from the base. If you and your kids are fit it is a great hike.
Beaver Creek Lake is an amazing end goal
Hang out in the village until they serve fresh baked cookies at 3:00. The Hyatt hotel has awesome chairs and a fire pit and the village has cozy seating all around. There is a Children’s museum and mini golf to fill in the time if you have extra.
If your lucky you can get free s'mores at the Hyatt!
**At 6:00 go to the Ford Amphitheater in Vail for their free summer concert series. You can either bring your own food (no outside alcohol allowed) or buy dinner at the concessions. There are chairs or awesome places to spread out on the lawn. Another option for a nighttime activity is the movie under the stars at Beaver Creek. You could pick based on the band and the movie playing.
Pack a picnic and enjoy a concert at the Ford Amphitheater
Wednesday- It’s hump day so plan a more leisurely day. We love the Betty Ford Alpine garden. They have yoga in the morning as well as kid activities at various times. Either try one of them, or grab the kid scavenger hunt from the information center and explore the beautiful gardens. Allow time for your kids to play on the playground and to splash around in the creek. If you have younger kids, the garden has a special children’s area that is hands-on and super cute. If your kids are teens, just tell them that it is selfie paradise.
There is plenty of place to run around and play at the alpine gardens
Head for a late lunch in Eagle Vail at the Rocky Mountain taco truck. Order a few tacos, head into the Vail Brewery next door and grab a couple brews and enjoy the flow of locals coming in and out.
You can't go wrong with any of the food at the taco truck or the beers at the brewery
At night, head into Beaver Creek village for dinner and ice skating. You read that right, they have outdoor ice skating in the summer so you kind of have to do it. Skate rental is available near Blue Moose Pizza (this is where my kids would tell you to eat but there are better places if you want a nicer dinner).
Thursday- Today is the day your kids will probably like the most. Go to Lionshead Village in Vail and buy all-day passes to Epic Discovery. This includes adventure courses, zip lines, a mountain coaster, climbing wall, bungee tramps and more. Our kids can spend the entire day up here and we encourage them to do just that to justify the prices. This is the perfect time to send Mom into West Vail or Avon to go get a massage at Simply Massage. The prices are great and the masseuses work on locals with tight muscles every day, so they are amazing. (Dads can go earlier in the week during the Alpine garden activity.)
***The Beaver Creek Rodeo is the place to be on Thursday nights. Purchase VIP tickets on line and either head to BC village for the pre-rodeo events at 4:30, or go straight to the gates at 5:30. The VIP stands are situated with the sun to your back and have upgraded bathrooms. Kids under 12 are free and the upgrade is worth it. There are booths set up with food as well as a few kid things. If your kids are outgoing, there are 4 events they can sign up for in advance.
Embrace the Westernness of Colorado at the Rodeo
Friday- Enjoy one more day of hiking and spectacular views. I think that Piney Lake at the Piney River Ranch, 12 miles north of Vail Village is the most beautiful place in the area (driving directions on their website). The drive itself is part of the adventure. The road to the ranch takes about 40 minutes and can vary in bumpiness depending on the year. Once you park at the ranch, the lake is right in front of you. If you have a non-hiker with you, you can leave them in chairs overlooking the lake and start exploring. There are winding paths past the lake and through meadows and forest that are enjoyable and easy to do. At about mile 3 you are rewarded with a waterfall. This is a great turn around point with kids. We have never ventured past, but have heard it gets harder as you climb to upper Piney Lake and Knee Knocker pass and onto Mt. Powell (13,580’ elevation). The trail is 7 miles to the end.
Spectacular views and a fun hike are waiting at Piney Lake
Head to Edwards for the evening. There are concerts by the creek at the Riverwalk, guitar players at Hovie and Harrison restaurant (June-September) and lots of great places to eat (Gore Creek Brewery is our favorite). Drop in the Alpine Art Center to paint a canvas or work on the pottery wheel, or go to a movie at the darling movie theatre if you need an activity after dinner. Side note: Edwards also has Village Bagel if you are in need of a quick breakfast another day. It's like a New York City bagel shop dropped right into the Vail Valley.
Here are a few other options to sub in or add depending on your interests. There are numerous golf course options and all are surrounded by natural beauty. There are kayaking and fly fishing tours as well. We have done neither of these so I do not have much information on them. If you are a yogi, there are numerous options around town, both in fitness centers and in various mountain locations, including Friday and Saturday mornings at the top of Vail Mountain.
Aspen is only a couple hours away if you want to do a longer day trip. In Aspen the Maroon Bells hike is stunning and the downtown area is cute. Hickory House Ribs is well worth a stop if you do this trip.
Maroon Bells is absolutely spectacular
Steamboat Springs is 90 minutes away and also has an adorable western town and an amazing hot springs, as well as many hikes.
***items marked only occur on the day specified and do not always run so check the schedule while you are there.