Vail, Colorado is magical in summer. It’s a two hour car ride from Denver to Vail, but it’s an easy drive with some spectacular scenery. Upon arrival in Vail, you will quickly realize this is a destination like no other. It’s clean, family friendly, and perfectly beautiful, and I don’t say that about many places. I visited in June with my two younger boys and they loved it just as much as I did. It’s one of those places you want to return to again and again, even the teenagers agree. Here’s what we loved about Vail in summer.
*We were guests of Vail for the purposes of this review. As always, opinions are 100% our own. Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that we have recommended. Please check out our disclosure policy for more details. Thank you for your support!
Vail Ski Resort is an extremely popular winter destination, but summer in Vail is just as fun. The main gathering area is known as Vail Village, a collection of European Alpine style buildings surrounded by towering mountain peaks with a peaceful creek running through town. The streets are pedestrian only, providing a comfortable atmosphere for families exploring the local shops and restaurants. There are two other villages nearby, Lionshead, which has the best access for the Vail gondola, and Golden Peak, which has accommodations and easy access to Ford Park and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. The Town of Vail has an easy to use shuttle that regularly runs a loop through town and you can find the Vail bus schedule on their website.
What Teens will Love About Summer in Vail
There are so many things to do in Vail, it’s hard to know where to begin. We recommend heading for Vail Village, where you can walk along the pedestrian mall or hike along the Vail Recreation Path next to Gore Creek. The villages are completely contained and free from traffic, so kids of all ages can freely roam around. It’s a place where you feel comfortable letting teens explore on their own, and have a bit of freedom.
Fun Things to Do in Vail with Teens
In Vail Village, there are several options for teens. If your teens love shopping, there are an endless number of shops, from clothing to art galleries. There’s an ice cream shop called Sundae, and a candy shop too (Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory next to the children’s fountain). CinéBistro has the latest movies, and even a bowling alley, bol, which offers food and bowling. Solaris Plaza (where bol is located), has a large grass area for games of corn hole (rent equipment next to bol, and hosts concerts during the week. Hanging out in the village is only the beginning of Vail summer fun.
Head up the mountain to Epic Discovery
Epic Discovery in Vail is a dream for teens who love adventure. This is where you will find the zip line, ropes course, and mountain roller coaster. Tickets are available in Lionshead Village at the base of Vail Mountain. An all day Adventure Pass gives unlimited access to eleven different activities at the top of the mountain.
The adventure begins with a scenic ride on the Vail gondola to the top of Vail Mountain. At the top is where the fun begins, the hard part will be knowing where to start. My kids headed straight for the alpine coaster, Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster. It was a ton of fun, and I loved that you can control the speed with your hand brakes. I’m sure my kids didn’t use their brakes, and they couldn’t resist going a second time.
There are several zip lines, Game Creek, Golden Eagle, and Little Eagle (for young children), but unfortunately they weren’t open for the season in early June. We did see some of the employees trying out the line and it looked amazing. Highly recommend if you’re a zip line enthusiast.
My boys also tried the adventure courses. There are three of them: Holy Cross and Gore Range, and a smaller ones for little kids. I watched from below as it looked quite difficult. They loved it, but said it was not easy.
There’s also tubing, a climbing wall, and a mini golf course (at the bottom of the mountain), so everyone is sure to work up an appetite. There are several restaurants and quick dining options on Vail Mountain. Plan on spending at least a half day enjoying everything Epic Discovery has to offer.
Take a bike ride on the Gore Valley Trail
Vail has fifteen miles of paved bike paths, and teens would love having the freedom to explore on bicycles. There are several stores in Vail Village and Lionshead that rent bikes and hotels will often have bikes available for use as well. The trail runs through open meadows, along Gore Creek at some points, and through residential and community areas. Don’t miss Ford Park with its awesome playground (yes, teens still like playgrounds even if they won’t admit it), the giant Stickwork installation, and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. It’s the perfect way to see Vail on two wheels.
Go llama trekking with Paragon Guides
This is honestly one of my favorite things to do in Vail with teens. Paragon Guides has several different options for hiking with llamas, from day trips to five day treks through the Colorado mountains. We did the “Take a Llama to Lunch” hike, which included walking for a couple of hours through the Cross Creek Valley and along the Eagle River. The hiking was never strenuous, and we learned quite a few facts about llamas in general. Llamas make great hiking companions as they can carry between 70-90 pounds, so we didn’t have to carry anything while we hiked. It was an experience we will always remember, and I know it was the highlight of our Vail summer vacation.
Other outdoor adventures in Vail
If you are looking for other ideas for what to do in Vail with teens, there are several companies that offer white water rafting trips, ATV rides, Segway tours, horseback riding, and fly fishing. There’s also multiple trails for hiking in Vail. We didn’t have time for all of these, but we would definitely return to try them all!
Check out the fabulous Vail Restaurants
There are so many delicious restaurants in Vail, it’s hard to pick a bad one. We enjoyed our meal at bōl (flatbreads, salads, and burgers), but we also enjoyed exploring some of the other restaurants. Mountain Standard is a popular choice for Vail dining, with a beautiful location overlooking Gore Creek, and delicious dinner options like Piri Piri chicken and Crispy Pork Belly. Don’t miss the Southern Pimiento Cheese starter, it is divine! Another favorite dinner spot is Alpenrose (or its sister restaurant, Almresi), an authentic Bavarian restaurant. Try the Trüffel ricotta ravioli, the Bavarian pretzel, and Weisswurst (white sausage, my favorite). Be sure to make reservations in advance for these places.
Other great restaurants in Vail include:
- Bully Ranch at the Sonnenalp Hotel. Casual dining (think burgers, salads, tacos) on a great patio.
- Vail Chophouse or The Tavern at Lionshead. Both restaurants have outdoor seating with beautiful views of Vail Mountain.
- White Bison. Casual Colorado cuisine with a patio overlooking Gore Creek.
Vail Lodging for Families
There are a variety of accommodation options for families in Vail. We stayed at Manor Vail Lodge which offers awesome condos with enough space for families to spread out. We had a two bedroom, three bath condo which was more than enough room for three of us. The property has a spa, swimming pools, and fitness center, and a hot breakfast buffet is included with your stay. The kids made the most of our stay by spending all of their free time in the pool.
We loved how Manor Vail Lodge was centrally located to Ford Park, Ford Amphitheater (with a weekly summer concert series), and the Vail walking path. There is a bus stop right across the street from Manor Vail Lodge which will take you anywhere you need to go within the town of Vail. It is the perfect place for families who want their own space. If you are looking for other Vail Colorado hotels, consider the Sonnenalp, Four Seasons Vail, or Arabelle.
I have realized Colorado in the summer is perfect for families. Last summer, we visited Tumbling River Ranch and loved it. This year our travels took us to Vail, and we all agreed we can’t wait to go back. There’s just something to be said about a Colorado summer vacation with its mountains, meadows, and outdoor adventures. It’s the perfect destination for families with teens.
Looking for other Colorado getaways? Don’t miss Heidi’s review of Tumbling River Ranch
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