We absolutely love the Vail valley in Colorado and have been traveling to the Vail area several times a year for the last 18 years. Everyone knows that it is great in the winter for skiing and snowboarding, but one of things you might not have considered is how awesome it is in the summer for kids and families.
When talking about the Vail valley, there are several towns very close together that are full of things to do. There is Arrowhead, Bachelor Gulch, Beaver Creek and Vail all with skiing and all with fun summer activities for families.
Vail & Beaver Creek Colorado Summer Activities
Vail and Beaver Creek takes a little under 2 hours to drive from Denver. There is the Eagle-Vail airport in the Vail Valley that is pretty small, but works great if you can find a flight in that is a good fit. There are tons of places to stay from hotels, airB2B and other rentals. Summer doesn’t see the traffic that winter does so prices are lower.
One of the reasons why you need to come is that there is so much to see and do…
Ride a Gondola or Chair Lift
In the summer, both Vail and Beaver Creek have their gondolas moving hikers, bikers and sight seers from the base of the mountain up to the top. You can buy a day pass and go explore higher ground. Vail has large gondolas and Beaver Creek has the choice between a gondola car or a chair.
If you go up the Vail gondola, you can hike on several trails for about 20 minutes in a very easy hike to get to top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola and take that down to Lionshead Village and walk back or take the free public bus system back to Vail Village.
There is things to do, see and eat at the top of both mountain resorts.
Top of Vail Mountain Activities
One of our very favorite things in the entire world to do is take the Scenic Gondola up to the top of Vail Mountain and buy an adventure day pass. That gives you a whole day to play on the mountain top with so many options:
- Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster – this is a single car roller coaster that is built on the side of the mountain that you control with a brake. It is really fun and just the right amount of speed and scare. Everyone in my family loves this ride.
- Ziplines – Currently they have the Little Eagle Kids Zipline open. In the past there was a large adult version that was quite an adventure.
- Bungee Trampoline
- Climbing Walls
- Tubing – Marmot Mini Kids Tubing Hill & Eagle’s Nest Tubing Hill
- Rope Courses – these are not on their schedule this summer, but I hope they can open them back up again soon because there are two massive ropes courses that are 3 stories high and one of our favorite activities every summer.
Betty Ford Alpine Gardens
The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens are absolutely gorgeous and something that can’t be missed. While alpine gardens might not sound exciting to the younger members of the family, never fear! There is a huge playground, a children’s learning center, a children’s garden and a trail along the river that is full of treasures.
My kids tease me that a visit to the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is for them to “watch mom take pictures of flowers”. I can’t help it. It is so pretty in every single direction!
Pirate Park in Vail Village
The Pirate Playground in the heart of Vail sits next to the base of the gondola and ski mountain. The setting couldn’t be more picturesque…oh, did I mention that the shallow rocky stream is within steps? This playground has been my kids favorite for their entire playground-loving life. A huge pirate ship is the centerpiece with smaller play sets all around. There are spiral stairs and rope ladders to climb aboard the ship. Climb carefully all the way up to the crow’s nest.
We spent many summers when the kids were little just touring all the Vail Valley parks…there are so many and each are different and fun to explore if your kids are into that.
Whitewater Raft the Colorado River
There are lots of family-friendly rafting options that everyone can enjoy. Our favorite is a 1/2 day rafting tour of the Shoshone area of the river that includes Class I, II and III rapids followed by a catered lunch on the banks of the river. There is plenty to see and learning to paddle as a team is always an adventure. Everyone will get a little wet, but it feels good in the Colorado sunshine. We have taken the Timberline Tours trip twice now and recommend it.
Downhill Mountain Biking
If you want to get super serious and take downhill mountain biking lessons and sharpen your skills, I recommend Trestle Bike Park which is several hours drive in Winter Park, CO. They run the summer biking program similar to their winter ski and snowboard lessons and it is great for those who really want to dive into mountain biking. If you are looking more for a kinder, gentler way to get introduced to mountain biking, then Beaver Creek is the place. You can rent mountain bikes and get a bike haul ticket for the chair lift & gondola to take your bike to the top of the mountain. To ride down, you have several options:
- Beginners and those who just want a scenic ride can take the service roads down to the bottom of the mountain.
- Those more adventurous can take the Blue and Black trails to the bottom of the mountain. There are just a handful of biking trails on the mountain, but if you are biking just a day or two that is enough.
Biking Vail Pass
If you would rather stick to downhill biking on paved paths, then the bike ride from the top of Vail pass to Vail village is a great and refreshing ride (meaning it is almost always very chilly at the top of that mountain even in the summer). I recommend going on a tour for the first time if you are not an experienced biker and there are several available in Vail that will rent bikes, take you up there and guide you back down. You will only pedal for a bit at the bottom so no super high level of physical fitness needed!
No matter where you are staying in the Vail Valley, there will likely be a whole bunch of great hiking trails nearby. This is a really fun thing to do with the family. Even small kids can hike for awhile, but everyone will be distracted by the amazing surroundings and occasional wildlife.
Just Hike Up
One of our favorite hiking activities is to simply hike up the ski mountain and ski trails that we know so well in the winter. It is crazy how different everything looks in the summer.
Vail Farmers Market
Every Saturday in the summer the streets of Vail Village become a huge farmer’s market with all sorts of fresh produce, arts, crafts and local restaurants serving food. It is fun to explore and a memory that you will want to repeat!
Go Bowling or Hang Out on the Lawn
Bowling? Yes! Bol in Vail CO is a really fun bowling alley that is not your grandfather’s scene. The contemporary interiors, trendy food and drinks and overall fun atmosphere is great for the entire family.
Outside, you can play on the big green lawn in front of Solaris (which is the skating rink in the winter) and participate in outdoor games like corn hole and connect four. This is often where concerts, festivals, contests and exhibition events are hosted in Vail. There is almost always SOMETHING new to see.
Visit Beaver Creek Village
Beaver Creek Village was created with families in mind. There is always something going on in the center (winter ice rink) in the summer. This summer they had very short slack lining practice areas which is so much harder than I thought it would be! They also have a bunch of family games from connect 4 to shuffleboard. Throughout any given week there will be concerts, free food, yoga classes and so much more. If you go to the base of the mountain just up the stairs/escalator from the Beaver Creek Village center, you will find mini-golf, bungee trampoline, climbing walls and more.
Older Kids? eBike Tours in the Vail Valley
This is a new activity that starts in Edwards. You can take an eBike tour with eBike rental & helmets included. We did this yesterday and opted for the dirt road route which was very challenging. What Colorado thinks of dirt roads are different than your average Texas dirt road. It was much more mountain biking than barely pedaling on flat surfaces. It was a really fun experience. Next time, we would opt for something easier and more paved! But any level or type of eBike tour is available, but kids need to be 15 to participate because the bikes are extremely heavy and they need to be able to fit an adult size eBike.
Alrighty, that was way more than 10, but you get the picture that summer in Vail Colorado and the surrounding area is great for families. And I didn’t even mention the food.
Oh the food!
Most of the amazing restaurants will have outdoor patios which are just lovely this time of year.
Get to Vail and have some fun!