If you’re planning a trip to Colorado, don’t sleep on adding all the best things to do in Vail to your itinerary. Set within the White River National Forest between Denver and Glenwood Springs, the mountain town of Vail is one of Colorado’s gems, full of exciting activities year-round.
A sense of adventure runs through the entire town like a pulse. Vail offers its own fair share of outdoor activities via world-class ski hills, cute resort villages, and scenic hiking trails. But the city is well-rounded with the addition of thought-provoking museums and numerous cool places to grab a drink.
Need some ideas for what to do? Plan your trip with this complete guide to the best places to visit in Vail, Colorado!
Must-see places to visit in Vail, CO
Vail Ski Resort
Kick off your trip with a trip to Vail Ski Resort, the third biggest ski resort on a single mountain in the United States. Its 5,289 acres offer seven bowls, a racecourse, and two terrain parks with jumps, boxes, and rails.
Sign up for lessons or head straight for the hills to practice on Vail Ski Resort’s well-known intermediate terrain. Expert skiers can take advantage of the fresh morning powder and tree-skiing in the Game Creek Bowl or some of the steepest slopes in Vail in the China Bowl.
Test out iconic backbowl trails like Forever, Seldom, and Never, or feel the rush on groomers and moguls suitable for both beginners and pros.
Come to Vail Ski Resort when the weather heats up for summer activities like golf, fishing, and a tubing hill. Whip down the alpine coaster or bounce on the bungee trampoline. Soothe aches and pains any time of year in the onsite spa.
Betty Ford Alpine Gardens
Discover unique alpine flora and fauna in the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, one of the highest botanical gardens on Earth. Sitting 8,200 feet up in the Rocky Mountains, the gardens are open to the public from dawn until dusk all year long.
Take a guided tour, a self-led journey, or a winter snowshoe tour around the gardens. Living collections cover alpine regions around the world or the local Rocky Mountain ecosystems.
Visit the rotating displays in the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens Education Center or the outdoor exhibits in Ford Park to learn more about the fragile alpine plants and their environments. Be sure to ask the knowledgeable guides about the gardens’ conservation efforts.
To spend more time in the gardens, take part in yoga classes among the flowers or the daily children’s scavenger hunts.
Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame
Colorado is certainly known for its obsession with winter sports, and the Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame has memorialized that love. Head to this top-rated Vail attraction to learn about the history of snowsports.
At the Colorado Snowsports Museum, you can delve into exhibits on the history of snowboarding, 100 years of ski fashion, skiing through time, and the 10th Mountain Division. Get an in-depth look at the stats of Colorado’s 26 active ski areas and 30 “Lost Resorts.” Bond fans can gawk at the Tom Sims snowboard ridden in the movie A View to a Kill.
Make sure to check out the Colorado Snowsports Museum’s Hall of Fame, recognizing over 200 athletes and contributors to the world of snow sports.
For some retail therapy or a delicious dinner out, pop into the quaint Vail Village. The pedestrian village still maintains much of its original look, referencing the typical architecture of European alpine locales.
Wander Vail Village for a small-town feel with big-city features. Take advantage of quality shopping, top-notch restaurants, and entertainment. Stroll the heated streets or take the free bus lines around town.
Take a scenic gondola ride on Gondola One, or bring your ride to the adventure courses of the Bike Haul for an adrenaline rush.
Stay at a boutique hotel nearby, such as the Sonnenalp Hotel, for easy access to the bustle of village life and all the Vail resorts.
Piney River Ranch
Retreat to Piney River Ranch for some real peace and quiet just 12 miles from Vail Village. Frolic on the 40 private acres in the majestic Rocky Mountains in the summer months.
Try your hand at outdoor adventures like horseback riding with stunning views of the Gore Range. Hike past waterfalls and through the White River National Forest. For more water-inclined travelers, canoeing, fly-fishing, or stand-up paddleboarding on Piney Lake should suffice.
Warm up around the fire pit after a long day of activity. Then dine on authentic smoked BBQ in the ranch’s onsite restaurant. For some real relaxation, you can stay overnight here.
Walking Mountains Science Center
For some educational family fun on your trip to Vail, visit the Walking Mountains Science Center. The exhibits and experts here are dedicated to sharing their knowledge about natural history and science. Teach kids about their local environment and the world around them through the center’s hands-on science activities and sustainability programming.
Enjoy free daily nature walks around the 10 acres of Walking Mountains Science Center’s Avon Campus or their seven acres in central Vail. Wander by streams, wetlands, and ponds past aspen forest.
Explore further afield with access to the National Forest or Gore Creek Trail. Join a birding tour or beaver pond tour, wildflower walk, or stargazing session. Sign up for a half-day or full-day backcountry hike for a more in-depth learning experience.
Beaver Creek Resort
Discover over 2,000 acres of mountain runs at Beaver Creek Resort, one of the most popular day trips from Vail. Hit the learning slopes for beginner skiers or the rougher terrain and tree skiing areas for those more advanced. Lessons and rentals make life simple for a day of skiing and exploring the 167 trails.
For the ultimate in convenience, reserve a spot in Beaver Creek Resort’s Slopeside Lounge for access to boot dryers, hot cocoa, daily cookie hour, and an on-snow ski and snowboard valet. Book a ski-in-and-out condo for the full experience.
For some entertainment, nightlife, and a killer apres-ski scene, make your way to Beaver Creek Village resort town. Attend a concert at the Vilar Performing Arts Center or take a date ice skating in the moonlight. Look for the massive Beaver Creek Wonder sculptures around the village that were practically made for an Instagram photo. The giant snow globe is a case in point.
Bachelor Gulch and Arrowhead are also a stone’s throw away.
For a sightseeing tour that’s unconventional yet totally local, saddle up and take a horseback ride through the mountains with Vail Stables. Explore the backcountry of the Rocky Mountains with 1.5-hour, 2-hour, or half-day trail tours. See Vail like never before in the wide-open fields and never-ending skies.
Plenty of calm and kid-safe ponies make Vail Stables a great activity for a family trip. Tack on a goat yoga class (yes, you heard that right!) to spend some time in downward dog with 20 baby goats up in your grill.
For an adult activity that’s also family-friendly, attend G.O.A.T. Happy Hour. This hybrid hangout features hammocks, cold beer, and beautiful mountain views, as well as the occasional live concert. Kids can run around the fenced play area, chill in the sandbox, or feed the baby goats while parents sit back and relax.
Vail Farmers’ Market
Part market, part cultural hot spot, the Vail Farmers’ Market is a fun activity for families and couples alike. Head here on Sundays from June to October to browse among the 148 tents. From ripe fruits to handmade crafts, you’re sure to find something that catches your eye.
Most vendors at the Vail Farmers’ Market specialize in Colorado-made goods, making this the perfect place to pick up local produce or an artisanal souvenir.
Listen to live music while you shop and peek at the works set up for the art show. Don’t leave without stopping for a light lunch from one of the 40 food vendors.
Vail Brewing Company
For a taste of the local craft beer scene, grab a pint at Vail Brewing Company. This independent brewery is known for authenticity and innovation, combining the old and the new.
Ingrained with the local mountain spirit, the craft beer at Vail Brewing Company is literally made for sitting by a campfire or kicking back after reaching a backcountry hiking summit. Pick up a growler to take with you on your own next outdoor activity.
For those sitting in, pick from the list of jokey names like Hot Mess and Thug Life, or try a flight of tasters. Any choice is bound to land you a new favorite. Our suggestion? The Dark Necessities porter that landed them a bronze at this year’s World Beer Cup.
For those not as into beer, the kombucha is a tasty replacement.
Nature Discovery Center
For a uniquely Vail experience, learn something new at the mountaintop Nature Discovery Center. Board the Eagle Bahn gondola and travel up to the yurt on top of Vail Mountain to brush up on your natural history.
Get informed at the Nature Discovery Center about local subalpine animals and their habitat with beautiful mountain views in the background. Then take a family-friendly nature hike or snowshoe tour with trained naturalists to discover those very habitats. A nighttime version lets you in on the habits of nocturnal animals. Admission is free and the guides are happy to answer all your questions—so ask away!
Vail ski school students can take part in the Vail Nature Center’s SKE-Cology sessions to be taught about mountain safety and mountain ecology.
Booth Falls Trail
For treetop vistas and epic views of the mountains, tackle the out-and-back Booth Falls Trail, one of the most beautiful hiking trails in Vail.
Hike along Booth Creek through aspen forests, wildflowers, and the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. Some sections are steep or slightly rocky, so make sure to pack your hiking shoes. You’ll be rewarded at the end with a stunning close-up of the towering 60-foot waterfall.
Conquering this intermediate trail should take you around 3 hours and 4 miles there and back. Keep going to Booth Lake to add on an extra 2.4 miles.
Save yourself the hassle of parking at Booth Falls Trail and take the free shuttle to and from the trailhead.
10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits
When searching for a cozy spot to grab a drink, look no further than 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits. Head to this Vail distillery specializing in small-batch mountain-made spirits, including bourbon, rye, vodka, and moonshine.
Named after the 10th Mountain Division soldiers on skis who trained at nearby Camp Hale, 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits is dedicated to building relationships and putting the mountain lifestyle that Colorado is known for into a glass.
And they’re clearly very good at it. Try the bourbon that won them 2021 Craft Distillery of the Year (Rackhouse Whiskey Club). 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits is also known for philanthropy, focusing heavily on giving back.
Take a tour behind the scenes at the distillery 6,312 feet up in the Rocky Mountains. Then hop into a seat in the tasting room with views overlooking Gore Creek. Order a flight to practically taste the mountains themselves.
Hit the 11.2 miles of North Trail for an outdoor activity to get your heart pumping. This sunny mountain trail north of Vail is easy to access with multiple entry points, some under five minutes from the I-70.
Take the intermediate North Trail path up and through the aspens of the lush White River National Forest. Mountain biking, hiking, and horseback riding are all encouraged here.
The full walk should take you about four hours, though you can also connect to Buffehr Creek. Pups are allowed, so feel free to bring your furry friend along.
Stop at one of the lookout points for sweeping views of the city and Vail Valley, all the way to Gore Range. Keep your eye peeled for hawks in the summer season.
Vail Village Arts
Pop into the family-run Vail Village Arts on East Meadow Drive to view contemporary works by American artists. Ponder paintings, sculptures, and other truly unique pieces in this indoor and outdoor art gallery from the likes of Paul Rousso, Atossa, and C. Dutch.
The black and white interior of Vail Village Arts acts as a backdrop and lets the rotating collection of art speak for itself. Browse through the mix of styles, materials, and colors for a real treat for the eye.
Since Vail Village Arts is a commercial gallery, you can even pick out something you like as an original souvenir!
Reserve a table at Mountain Standard for a dinner as delicious as it is cozy. This chic gastropub offers a New American menu and a woodsy farmhouse feel.
The cuisine at this upscale casual joint run by the 2020 Colorado Chef of the Year (deemed by the Colorado Restaurant Association) is all about pure flavors and ingredients. Taste the smoke right off the grill; all their fare is cooked over a live open fire. (And they’re the only restaurant in the Vail area to do this.)
You won’t want to miss Mountain Standard’s seasonally crafted cocktails, mixing and matching quality spirits with rotisserie-roasted fruits. For those who prefer something more casual, choose from the wide range of local craft beers or the wine list curated by the in-house sommelier.
For a truly stellar morning coffee, beeline to Yeti’s Grind. This neighborhood coffee shop serves caffeine and snacks to in-the-know locals. Step inside for a friendly vibe and decor that’s simultaneously rustic and classy.
No matter how you take your java, Yeti’s Grind makes coffee that packs some serious punch. We’re partial to the signature lattes, but you can take your pick from all the usual suspects. Try their brews to understand how coffee should taste. (Plus, is their logo not the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?)
In a rush? Order online and pick up your coffee to go to fuel your other tourist adventures.
Where to stay in Vail for sightseeing
For most travelers, the top choices for where to stay in Vail lie within Vail Village, Lionshead Village, and Cascade Village. These areas and neighborhoods are home to many of the town’s most popular hotels and lodgings and close to many of its top points of interest.
Get the classic luxury ski chalet experience at this cozy mountain lodge. Guests will enjoy exclusive slope access with a ski valley. End your day of skiing by getting cozy in front of your in-room fireplace or staring at the Rocky Mountains from the hot tub.\
Infuse your Colorado ski getaway with Euro alpine vibes with a night at this grand mountain resort. Soak your weary legs in the rooftop hot tubs or take a twirl on the outdoor skating rink to sink further into the winter spirit. If your holiday falls in the summer, rent a mountain bike to skirt around the resort’s beautiful surroundings like a local.
As its name implies, Sonnenalp delivers a Swiss-like experience with rustic wood accents, alpine decor, and luxurious plaid linens. Gather the entire family in the cozy common areas for a board game, take a dip in the steamy outdoor pool, or treat yourself to a relaxing spa experience—fireside, of course!