Vail, Colorado Travel Guide
- Well-run public transit system -- buses link the entire town, so a rental car may not be needed
- A terrific mountain (over 11,500 feet) with some of the greatest intermediate and expert trails around
- Smack-dab in the middle of one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world -- the Rocky Mountains
- Active nightlife, from low-key taverns to pulsating dance clubs
- Feet of fresh, white powder on the slopes
- Heated sidewalks in Vail Village -- a minute detail, but very convenient (and cool!) perk
- A large, open area of land, covering more than 5,500 acres of forested terrain
- Fairly compact downtown area with lots of cute boutiques and top-notch restaurants
- Expensive food and lodging
- Pretentious town and visitors, some say
- Crowds during winter and spring breaks
What It's Like
Although it’s not quite as pretentious as Aspen, Vail is one of the Rocky Mountains' most luxurious resort towns. Vail is the country’s largest single-mountain ski resort, and is continually ranked as one of the most popular ski resorts in the country. Even celebrities come to weave down its snowy slopes.
In the winter, the main draws here are obviously skiing and snowboarding. Vail Mountain is one of the largest in North America, and has three distinct sections: The popular Front Side, with options for all levels of skiiers (including plenty of trails for beginners); Blue Sky Basin, with gladed terrain; and the seven Back Bowls, for more experienced skiiers. Vail also offers excellent restaurants (though most are expensive), and nightlife and entertainment options abound, especially on Bridge Street.
Once the snow melts, the slopes are open again for a whole different type of fun. If you’re visiting in summer, be sure to remember your hiking boots, because the trails offer spectacular views and wildlife. Trout prosper in the streams and lakes in the area, making Vail a hot spot for regional fishing. When the sun sets, live bands awaken Vail’s downtown restaurant patios.
Where To Stay
Vail extends over quite a bit of land, but the famous Vail would be Vail Village. This iconic hamlet offers a number of ski-in, ski-out resorts, as well as upscale clothing and dining, art galleries, and things for the little ones to enjoy, like a bowling alley and movie theater. And no need to worry about ice in the winter -- the sidewalks are heated.
Other areas around the mountain include Golden Peak, Lionshead, and Cascade Village. Each of these offers a little bit of a different vibe. Cascade is the smallest base area, and is a bit more low-key. Lionshead might be a good option for families, as it has a decent number of restaurants and a popular ice rink during the winter. Meanwhile, Golden Peak is a great place to stay if you want to have convenient access to the mountain, but without the large crowds that Vail Village attracts. During the summertime, Golden Peak’s Gerald Ford Amphitheater is the live music hub for Vail.