Vail: an American mountain town boasting a chic European charm. Walking through this town makes me feel like I’m in the middle of a romantic movie. Especially those moments that snow falls as you pass the Austrian-styled buildings. Its European charm makes Vail a great romantic ski destination for North American skiers, but people from around the world plan their skiing and snowboarding vacations here.
Vail is known for its skiing and snowboarding (with over 5,289 skiiable acres), but use this as a guide as to what you can do off the mountain if you visit this beautiful destination during the wintertime.
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Getting to Vail
Vail is a bustling mountain town located right off of Interstate 70 in Colorado. Driving, it is located roughly 1.5 to 3 hours West of Denver. Its nearest airport, the Eagle-Vail airport, is about a 40 minute drive from the town of Vail.
Consider parking in Vail to be either a nightmare, or expensive (or both!). Luckily, public transportation around the Vail area is amazing. And, the best part about it is if you’re traveling in town, public transportation is free! There is a complimentary in-town bus that travels between Vail and Lionshead Villages. Plus, if you’re staying outside of the Mid-Vail area, there are other in-town buses that make their way to both East and West Vail.
You have plenty of options when you are considering staying in Vail. If you’re looking for hotel accommodations, TripAdvisor lists Vail favorites decided by travelers!
AirBnB is also a popular option for an accommodation. Because lodging in Vail can get expensive during its busiest seasons, you may be able to find a great deal on AirBnB. If you use my link to sign up for AirBnB, you will get $40 in credit towards your first stay!
Scenic Gondola Ride
Your visit to Vail will be a unique experience. For one, architecture is gorgeous. It’s not an exaggeration to say that walking along the cobblestoned streets and brick buildings makes you feel like you’re amidst a romantic movie setting. Especially if you’re accustomed to the concrete jungle that is urban America.
When you visit, make sure you take the gondola up the mountain! The gondolas pull you away from the villages. The entire ten to fifteen minute ride includes a beautiful view of not just the villages and their European charm, but also the very large mountain ranges surrounding this town.
It is a sight you cannot miss. Add this to your bucket list! From the gondolas at both Vail Village and Lionshead Village, you also get a spectacular view of Gore Range (fun fact: this is the mountain range featured on the Colorado license plate!).
There are two cute outdoor facilities where you can go ice skating in Vail during the winter season: the Alderhof Ice Rink, and the Solaris Ice Rink. They typically open for business in the afternoon until the evening, but times vary.
These ice skating rinks are open after the chairlifts are closed, so it’s the perfect family activity for après ski! The Alderhof Ice Rink (open 1pm – 9pm during the winter season) in Lionshead Village is gorgeous! It sits beneath the beautiful Arrabelle Hotel on Vail Square. Plus you have a great view of the mountain from the rink. You will be skating surrounded by 360 degrees of beauty.
Snowmobiling is just like jet-skiing, but instead of gliding around on water you’re treading tracks in the snow. We went snowmobiling with Sage Outdoor Adventures earlier this winter. They have 6,000 acres of private land, so the experience you get while you are out there with them is incredible. You and your group are practically the only ones on their trails.
We were lucky. It snowed the entire night before the morning we went. Somehow, the Aspen trees we drove through balanced inches of snow on their tiny branches. If it weren’t for the single-digit temperatures that day, I would have felt like I was in a dream and we were driving through clouds.
Their property is in Wolcott, a town about thirty minutes away from Vail. After getting to Wolcott, the drive is another fifteen or so minutes away. But a great service Sage Outdoor Adventures offers is a pick-up and drop-off to and from your hotel!
At the top of Vail mountain you can go winter tubing at Adventure Ridge! Take the gondola at Lionshead Village up to Eagle’s Nest. Once settled in, they set you up in a tube and you get to ride down the mountain. This is a fun, exciting family friendly activity. And because it takes place in the afternoon (Tuesday through Saturday from 1:00 pm until 7:00 pm), you can enjoy this activity after a wonderful morning of skiing or snowboarding.
Other activities to try in Vail: Bowling at Bol, snowshoeing, dog-sledding, winter fly-fishing, catching a movie at Cinebistro (a movie theatre that serves beer and food!). Researching for more activities in Vail? TripAdvisor has a great list of traveler favorites!
You really can’t go wrong with dining in Vail. Here are my favorite places to eat and drink in Vail and Lionshead Village:
Almresi opened at the end of 2016. It is an authentic German restaurant owned and managed by a German family. Even their furniture and staff uniforms are from Germany! And their food is delicious. Before I enjoyed Almresi’s breakfast buffet I had no idea German food could be so flavorful. For breakfast, they serve German classics as well as food you will find at a traditional American buffet. There is definitely something for everyone in the family. Plus, their waffles are to die for! Each bite makes you feel like you are at their family home in Germany. I would definitely try their breakfast buffet again, but it makes me curious about their dinner!
Alpenrose is my favorite place to stop by for a cold European draft beer. You can order beer in a boot-sized glass! Mike and I stuck with the 1 litre glass last time we went, and even that was a lot to finish. Alpenrose is a small quaint restaurant known for their delicious desserts. They serve German and Austrian cuisine. Even if you don’t stop by for a meal, I definitely recommend making the time to try out their desserts and enjoying their cute atmosphere.
Bully Ranch made its name for serving the best burgers in Vail! Try Bully Ranch if you are looking for a great all-American and family restaurant with a fun, casual vibe. If you love crab cakes, you should definitely order their crab cake sliders.
Blue Moose Pizza hosts a great après ski every afternoon from 3-5 pm! For $4, you can order either a glass of Colorado draft beer, or a Colorado beer flight (and choose three different Colorado beers to taste). They have a great variety of Colorado beers on draft as well. Or, for $7 you can order a one-topping slice and a Colorado draft beer. I’ve never been disappointed by a pizza I’ve ordered here!
Lancelot serves delicious steak. Taking a bite of their prime rib creates this burst of flavor that delightfully lingers! They are a fantastic family friendly restaurant located in Vail Village. The atmosphere seems very upscale as are the prices on their menu. But if you are looking for a place to go to have a delicious steak, don’t overlook enjoying a nice meal at Lancelot.
Moe’s BBQ, located in Lionshead Village, should be your go-to for casual American dining. If you are unfamiliar with American barbecue, definitely check out Moe’s! Do not skip ordering their banana pudding as a side if you decide to eat here! Trust me, the banana pudding makes for a great dessert after a hearty meal.
Finally, visit The Little Diner for a true quaint restaurant experience in Lionshead Village. The wait for their delicious breakfast can be long, but soo worth it! This restaurant’s setup is tiny. When you take a seat at the bar, you are met with a perfect view of the center of the bar: where all the action happens. Yes, the chefs basically cook your meal in front of you! I tried their corned beef hash with poached eggs with hollandaise on the side. Some corned beef hash tastes an awful lot like potatoes. But, the corned beef hash here was full of flavor! They’ve perfected the balance.
What do you look into when you are planning a vacation? As a traveler, what do you rank as most important?
(P.S. Are you interested in starting your own travel blog? Planning and writing your own blog is so much fun! Check out my guide here!)