Family Vacations to Vail, Colorado

Vail Gondola Vail, Colorado
Vail Gondola (courtesy, Colorado Ski Country)

Vail Highlights

  • Sign the kids up for classes with Gore Range Natural Science School.
  • Check out awesome hiking and biking trails on Vail Mountain and through the Village.
  • Take in a performance of Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival.
  • Play hard and have fun on Adventure Ridge, winter or summer.
  • Learn and explore in the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.

Vail sits 100 miles west of Denver at just over 8,000 feet. Golf, theater, nature, and world-class restaurants are as much a part of the fabric of Vail as the steeps and deeps of the famed back bowls.

In summer, families play together and separately. Just for kids is Camp Vail (ages three to 12), a day camp offering art, drama, orienteering, fishing, and climbing, among other activities. Gore Range Natural Science School, named for the area's majestic mountain range, is where kids in first to fourth grades discover nature on day trips, and older kids (fifth to ninth grades) get a taste of the wilderness on overnights. A menu of programs feature hands-on exploration of mountain streams, wetlands, and trails to learn about the area's flora and fauna. Adventure Ridge on Vail Mountain has activities for all ages—disc golf, laser tag, mini golf, a BMX course, recreated "dino dig," and more.

Whether you want to hike an easy one-mile loop (Eagle's Nest) or take on a rigorous challenge (Bad Simba), there's a trail for every level, as well as guided nature walks if you'd rather follow an expert. More than a dozen mountain-biking trails crisscross the mountain, but one of the most popular routes is the paved Vail Recreation Path. It winds through the Village (and beyond) by Gore Creek, so stop to eat, shop, or fish as you go. On summer Sundays, stop by the Village's Farmer's Market, where you can pick up tasty goodies and eclectic artwork and products made by local artisans. Or relax and see the sights from a Rocky Mountain Carriage Company horse-drawn carriage.

Although Vail is distinctly Bavarian, the Wild West is evident just eight miles away at sister resort Beaver Creek during the weekly summer Beaver Creek Rodeo. Rather ride than watch? Saddle up at Beaver Creek Stables, which also offers sleigh rides on Vail's golf course in winter.

In Vail, the "real" West also means stellar performing arts. Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival opens in June for its annual five-week run of classical performances in one of the West's most beautiful venues, the Gerald Ford Amphitheater. The former president—and Vail resident—isn't the only Ford to lend his name here. The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens has guided programs for ages five to ten, and is planning to launch special summer afternoons for ages 11 to 17 focusing on gardening and the environment with hands-on activities and projects.

Generations of kids have learned to ski and ride at Vail's Ski School (ages three to 15), and there's a nursery for ages two months to six years. Come winter, Adventure Ridge has snow bikes, kids' snowmobile track, ice-skating, and rip-roaring tubing for the whole family.

There are condos galore here and Vail Resorts can find one that's right for any family. Vail Cascade Resort and Spa is a family- and pet-friendly hotel with oversized rooms; in winter it has its own, almost line-less ski lift (intermediate trails only). Nearby Park Hyatt Beaver Creek has its own summer kids program.

Tips: During summer, the Gondola to the top of Vail Mountain is free Thursday to Saturday, 4 P.M. to 9 P.M.

Recommended Side Trips: Denver, Steamboat Springs, Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction's resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 8 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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