"This legendary ski town holds a special place in my heart. It’s my home-away-from-home, where I’ve made my favorite memories, and even where I met and married my husband. I’ve seen it change a lot over the years, and while the evolution is often debated, I still adore it all the same. As the saying goes, "come for the winter, stay for the summer." Vail is wonderful year-round and won't disappoint. Here are my favorite places to play, stay, shop and dine." - Mary Andrews
Getting There + Getting Around
Most people fly into Denver and drive to the mountains, which takes 1.5-2 hours without traffic. If you're traveling at peak times - Friday night, Sunday afternoon - it can take much longer. Alternatively, Eagle Vail Airport is a much closer drive at just 30-45 mins. There are shuttles from DIA that are super convenient. Once you're in Vail, you don't really need a car as there is a free bus that runs the length of the valley. Easy-peasy.
Where to Stay
I’m a bit old-school and absolutely favor Vail Village over Lionshead. It's more authentic "Vail," and is loaded with bavarian architecture and charm. I prefer the shopping, dining, lodging, and mountain access. With that said, there's a free bus that can effortlessly take you from the Village to Lionshead, back, and beyond.
It should come as no surprise that the Four Seasons in Vail is as lovely as it is anywhere. It’s in a wonderful location, boasts ski valet services, a pool and delicious dining. I highly recommend it.
However, if you’re looking for an option with charm and local authenticity, the Sonnenalp is where it’s at. It’s decked to the nines every season - whether it’s the overflowing flower boxes or Christmas sparkle. The location is prime. Every room is a suite (some larger than others), most with a balcony and fireplace. Admittedly, the spa / fitness center needs an overhaul, but the pool deck, right along the Gore River and surrounded by lush planting, is sublime. Plus, it’s family-owned and the staff is fantastic.
Where to Eat
Sweet Basil's (long-time fine dining standby) sister restaurant, Mountain Standard is one I never miss. It has a perfect “rustic modern” vibe, a bit relaxed yet still chic, and is right on Gore Creek. I make a meal of their salads and vegetable side dishes, not to be missed whether you’re vegetarian or not. La Bottega is my other fave, with delectable Italian fare in a cozy atmosphere. Their truffle gnocchi is so worth the calories. For dessert, head to Pepi's for my hubby's favorite apple strudel.
Where to Shop
Gorsuch has occupied the most primo retail location in the Village for as long as I can remember. It’s a must-stop-shop, if for no other reason than to see what is en vogue for the upper set. Don’t miss their home goods on the lower level - such a unique and special array. The Golden Bear occupies an equaly-special place in Vail's history, offering an extensive array of signature jewelry pieces, many which I covet and few which I have.
There are also a number of women’s boutiques scattered throughout the Village that I frequent and adore, including Cashmere and Perch, to name a few. (Lululemon, too, of course!) And if you’re in search of snow gear, they don’t miss Tommy Bowers for the brands you won’t find elsewhere. Patagonia and Marmot each have a storefront, too.
In The Winter
It’s one of the largest ski resorts in North America, boasting 5,289 acres of terrain. Over the years, I’ve skied nearly every run. My favorites on the front of the mountain include: Whistle Pig for bumps on a gentle pitch, Blue Ox for steep, and Avanti for an almost-always-groomed warm up. And, of course, don't miss Vail's "Legendary Back Bowls," as they are, indeed, legendary. When the snow is fresh, it's worth the trek (and Poma lift!) to Mongolia Bowl. Blue Sky Basin offers something for everyone, all funneling in the same direction; you can each choose your own adventure and meet up on the lift.
On the mountain, the best casual food can be found at Wildwood’s, a barbecue joint with an amazing salad (and, of course, bbq). The Tenth, an upscale, reservations-encouraged option is a delightful treat and reprieve from cold days. Two Elk Lodge is comparatively massive, always packed and a cafeteria-style experience, but it does boast many surprisingly delicious options if you find yourself in the Back Bowls.
In the winter, my favorite non-skiing activity is, admittedly, apres skiing. But if you’re looking for an alternative active activity, snow shoeing tops my list, and will get your heart pumping.
In The Summer
In the summer, you can hike or bike just about anywhere. I love picking up the bike path in town and riding into East Vail along the golf course and Gore Creek. The views (and homes!) along the way are stunning. You can rent bikes in the Village at a number of places. As for hiking, take Gondola One from Vail Village to MidVail and try the Kinnikinnik Trail to Parker Deck. It's only a few hours up and back; well worth the views. The Ski Museum is kitschy, fun and totally worth a visit. Cinebistro offers movies and dinner, a welcome option when it rains.
If that’s not enough, you can find golf, tennis, fly fishing, kayaking and even skeet shooting within a 30-minute drive. There are festivals and events nearly every weekend throughout the summer (here's the calendar). In particular, the Fourth of July parade boasts as much small-town-charm as possible and is not to be missed.