Trading Europe for Vail, Colorado
Our family had previously planned a 3-week whirlwind trip to Europe in October. Well, ‘Rona wasn’t having it so with our fall wide open, we began looking for an alternative destination for a little getaway. Colorado has always been a favorite, so I searched for an area that we had not explored yet. We settled on Vail, Colorado - a small town at the base of Vail Mountain, home of the massive Vail Ski Resort. Set within White River National Forest, the town is a gateway for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding. However, it is also a fun summertime destination for outdoor sports such as hiking, biking and water pursuits. Gore Creek, popular for fly fishing, runs directly through the town center.
The town of Vail is adorable with its Swiss and Austrian architecture. It is wonderfully walkable with multiple routes from one side of town to another lending itself to peaceful wandering. (After driving in from Denver International Airport, we only used our car once for a quick grocery run.) There are many mountain lodge-esque resorts and condos that all seem to be pieced together tightly like a jigsaw puzzle with meticulously manicured green spaces between the buildings. Even with all the resorts and lack of larger green spaces, the town has a great earthy, natural feel. To add charm to this already delightfully friendly town, the mountains provide a spectacular backdrop. Add the gentle sound of the rushing water of the Gore Creek in the background and it is a mountain lover’s paradise.
Love dogs? Well, they are everywhere! It seems as if the dogs in Vail understand the laid-back way of life because they are also very chill. These well-behaved canine residents hang out by their persons at outdoor cafes, restaurants, and breweries. Many of these establishments allow dogs indoors. It made me wonder if tourist watching is fun for the dogs too!
The Vail Marriott Mountain Resort was home for our short 4-night getaway. We loved the location, just east of the central part of town. With Vail’s compact size, we could easily walk to the other side of town in approximately 20 minutes at a fast pace. Even under COVID-restricted operations, we enjoyed staying at this resort. Our room was spacious, offering a great Nespresso coffee machine, mini-fridge, electric water pot (for tea), a huge verandah with comfy director-style chairs, plenty of charging ports (USB and standard outlet), a large bathroom with both stand-up shower and separate tub, and more. View a short room tour here: https://youtu.be/6OaunHsN7G0. It’s a bit glitchy due to some issues with my GoPro but still provides a nice view of a standard room.
Below are some of the changes to services offered at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort due to COVID that may impact your stay. We felt all of these changes seemed reasonable and did not negatively impact our experience.
Housekeeping services were not provided during our stay, but we could stop at the front desk for more coffee, towels, bottled water, etc. when needed.
The pool required reservations, or you could stop at the front desk for last minute availability. (capacity control)
Masks were required in all common areas. (The entire town of Vail required masks in all indoor spaces or crowded outdoor areas.)
Restaurant offerings were limited to Starbucks (inside resort) in the morning and Avalanche Pub had a nice selection of “grab & go” items available for lunch and dinner.
The Vail Marriott Mountain Resort offers an “Adventure’s Seekers Closet” where guests of the resort can check out sporting equipment such as bikes, helmets, scooters, kick boards, kites, and more. We also noticed gaming system equipment and a guitar available for use. These items are included in the prepaid, daily resort fee (currently $40 per room, per night) so there is no additional charge to use and no limit on the number of items you can check out. With all the available items, we found it easy to get our money’s worth with the resort fee.
The day after arrival, we enjoyed the Vail Pass Tour (self-guided; $59 per person) offered by Charter Sports. The tour begins as you and your rental cruising bike (included in price) are transported to the starting point on Vail Pass - 10,600 ft above sea level. The thrilling, yet easy coast down 3,000 vertical feet on Vail Pass is on a completely paved bike path. The ride distance is approximately 16 miles, with the sun at our backs and featured lush mountain scenery, surrounded by snow-capped peaks, waterfalls and plenty of fresh mountain air. Along the way, we passed by the Vail Golf Course, Vail Village before returning to the Lionshead Place area (east side of Vail) where Charter Sports is located. It is a unique and exhilarating way to experience Vail. The total ride took us about 3 hours with several stops for pictures and a final stop at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. Although we were back to town by mid-day, we could keep the bikes until 5 pm which offered us the flexibility to get lunch and shop around before returning the bikes.
Here are some of the highlights of our bike ride: https://youtu.be/_Rd2PLVRvqk
For a quick look at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, watch this video: https://youtu.be/j-XNaIQaYEw
For lunch, we happened upon bōl, a sleek and modern restaurant plus bowling alley. The food was delicious, but the real showstoppers were the desserts we ordered. The Homemade Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream (so much better than the ho-hum description/name) and the Banana Bread Pudding (rum pound cake, dark chocolate chips, creme anglaise and Nutella swirl ice cream) were scrumptious. Seriously, these desserts are like, fight over the last bite delish!
There is no shortage of above average dining options in Vail. Below are some of our favorites that we enjoyed during our stay.
Vintage, a French brasserie-style restaurant serving a lovely champagne brunch and dinner. After seeing the reviews online, we decided to give Vintage a try for brunch. Indoor and outdoor seating is available, but we opted to sit inside. The patio seating reminded me of the street cafés of Paris and would be my pick for dinner.
The breakfast beverage menu offerings were unique, making the decision a difficult one. The coffee options looked great, but I ordered the Walk of Shame, a fresh-muddled strawberries, lemon, Tru Lemon Vodka, and sparkling wine breakfast cocktail. The breakfast menu includes starters, so we shared an order of Beignets with a side of blueberry jam. For entrees, our party of three ordered Uncle Paul’s Pancakes, the Maryland Crab Benedict (poached eggs, Maryland blue crab cake, signature Smashbrowns, and Old Bay hollandaise; served with a mixed green salad with walnuts and dried figs) and the American Galette (egg in a puff pastry with smoked bacon, Vermont white cheddar, heirloom tomato, sliced avocado with optional steak add; served with a mixed green salad with walnuts and dried figs). We devoured every morsel and our 9 am breakfast held us until dinner that day!
Alpenrose (Rockies & Roses Since 1974) oozes romance with a rustic, mountain lodge flare. The décor in this petite restaurant is adorable and would be perfect for a first date. In fact, they even have a “First Date” table complete with ski lift benches for chairs.
The menu offers traditional recipes to fine classics and specialties, with a touch of international culinary inspiration. (German and Austrian) From hearty goulash, dumpling specialties, Kässpätzle, fondue and a savory snack plate. It was impossible to leave without dessert based on the selection of traditional Alpine desserts like Marillenknödel, Dampfnudeln, Palatschinken or apple strudel.
After our heavy lunch at Alpenrose, a visit to Root & Flower seemed to be the perfect ending to our time in Vail. This modern wine bar offers over 50 by-the-glass pours of wine, an extensive bottle selection, craft classic cocktails, and an ever-changing food list that is designed to complement their extensive drink menu. Or as they put it, “Crafted with the concept of bridging the gap between food and drink, offering an approachable elegance for guests to stop by and enjoy a tasting experience, or to spend an evening with an old favorite.”
Their creative menu with playful categories was a fun peruse. Some custom cocktails fit under the Fast & Fun (A dangerously drinkable party in a glass) listing as opposed to Slow & Serious (A spirit forward, but balanced sipper). Wine categories included headings such as Underappreciated & Misunderstood (Give them a chance and they won't disappoint!) encouraging the guest to try something that they may not consider or Elegance & Grace (Light bodied, balanced earth and fruit, with restrained alcohol and tannin) allowing you to imagine your wine experience prior to enjoying it.
Other Must Do Summer Activities in Vail:
With 166 miles of hiking trails, 343 miles of mountain biking trails, and 86 miles of rolling river, Vail offers unlimited ways to experience the great outdoors. Breathe in the cool mountain air, bask in the beauty of Vail Mountain's vistas, or experience exhilarating on-mountain activities. Whatever your pace, there is something for everyone.
An easy day of hiking starts with a ride on Vail’s Scenic Gondola. The gondola whisks you up above 10,000 ft. to the top of the mountain where you can enjoy a casual lunch before hiking your way back down to the mountain base.
For the more adventurous, the thrill of biking down the mountain is an experience like none other. Add a special bike haul ticket to your Scenic Gondola Access pass and your bike rides to the top of the mountain with you. Bike rentals, helmets, and other gear are available at the Vail Sports locations in Vail Village and Lionshead Square or at many other local shops.
Whether you choose to hike, bike or ride the gondola back down the mountain, you may want to enjoy a ride (or a few) on the Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster before you start your journey back to Vail. This Alpine coaster is driver controlled as it winds its way down a mile-long track with spectacular views of Beaver Creek, Gore Rand and wildlife such as deer, marmots, and chipmunks. After the ride, a lift system returns you to the starting point where you can ride again and again. Even the littles can ride the coaster with an adult making the coaster a perfect activity for families and adrenaline-seekers alike!
Vail is definitely a great destination for travelers seeking an active or laid-back getaway (or both!) filled with scenery, adventure, fresh air and unforgettable food! Let me help you get started on your getaway to Vail or anywhere you want to go. Contact me for a quote at email@example.com or (608) 206-0944.
Holly Poast, CTA is an agent/independent contractor with Magical Moments Vacations specializing in Disney Destinations (land and sea), the Caribbean, select European Markets and Alaska. Ready to plan your next adventure? Contact Holly for inspiration and complimentary concierge-style vacation planning services! Ready to get started? Schedule time to chat here: https://calendly.com/hollypoast/30min