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Family travel: Where to stay, play and eat in Vail, Colorado

Family travel: Where to stay, play and eat in Vail, Colorado

I’m assuredly the last person in Colorado to stay and play in Vail so my family’s quick 24-hour trip for the Kids Adventure Games was only a drop in a bucket flooding with possibilities in this resort town located  in the central Rocky Mountains just 100 miles west of Denver. Vail may be a world-class winter wonderland  but in the summer, the pedestrian villages in the three lively base areas are a labyrinth of cobblestone streets with charming plazas that are teaming with playgrounds, fountains, charming shops, a susurrus of conversation, jubilant kids on bikes and an avalanche of flowers spilling out of hanging baskets. 

PLAY

Vail Nature Center

Vail Nature Center

I tapped into my Vail-dwelling mom friend Kelly Leathers for her summer recommendations for families. Some of her favorites include riding up the Eagle Bahn Gondola to Adventure Ridge for zip lines, ropes challenge courses, a climbing wall, and a rebound trampoline. Imagination Station (for kids ages 2-12) encourages experimental play, the Betty Ford Gardens is the U.S.’s highest botanic gardens and the Vail Nature Center on the banks of Gore Creek hosts informative bird, wildflower and beaver pond hikes.  Cool off in Vail Fountain, followed by a trip to Fuzziwigs candy shop or head over to Beaver Creek where free cookies are served daily at 3 p.m. at the base.  

Sign your child up for Nature Tykes at the Walking Mountains Science Center or they’ll enjoy Little Listeners at the Library–free, fun, and informative performances by musicians from resident orchestras. Free concerts abound, including Hot Summer Nights concert series in Vail, Beaver Creek Music Experience Wednesday nights or Minturn’s Summer Concert Series. For hikes, take Gondola One and create your own (or walk down Berry Picker) or Kelly’s favorite thing to do is to take a picnic lunch to Piney Lake followed by a hike away from the touristy madness.  Nottingham Lake in Avon has a new kiddo beach and it’s a great place to learn how to SUP. Vail’s recreation path system includes over 15 miles of paved, multi-use recreation paths and my family loved our casual stroll along the Gore Valley Trail.

EAT

tatortots

Bully Ranch Tator Tots

 The restaurant choices overwhelm in Vail and less is not definitely more.  Bol is a groovy eatery and bar that also offers 10 boutique lanes for bowling with retractable bumpers and metal chutes for little bowlers. Vendetta’s Italian Restaurant and pizza bar in the heart of Vail Village serves up excellent slice and unique offerings like prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe with arugula, chopped macadamia nuts and gouda drizzled with a pomegranate balsamic reduction. Everyone will find something to love at Pazzo’s pizzeria’s three Vail-area locations. The Mountain Standard is a stylish, upmarket gastropub and is one of Kelly’s favorite places in Vail that also offers a great kid menu.

We ultimately went  with her Bully Ranch recommendation. Located in the Sonnenalp, this Western-styled casual dining room serves up delicious Southwestern and American food. Famous for their burgers, my husband’s Bully Bourbon Burger did not disappoint while I loved my house-smoked beef brisket with homemade maple habanero biscuit, blackberry chutney, braised kale. But the real show-stoppers were their tater tots tossed in truffle oil, red chili flakes, fresh herbs and Parmesan cheese. School cafeterias serving crappy, greasy tater tots: please take note.

 STAY

Vail has lodging to fit every budget.  Earlier this year I connected with RockResorts, a member of the Vail Resorts family that has a collection of luxurious mountain and ocean getaways.arrabelleroom They invited us to spend one night in either of their two luxury Vail properties–the Arrabelle at Vail Square and the Lodge at Vail. I jumped leaped at the chance to stay in the Arrabelle, a luxurious 60-room resort that captures the old-world charm of Europe’s grand resorts and whose dominating presence a stone’s throw away from the Eagle Bahn Gondola literally stops you in your tracks.

I’ve stayed in a number of beautiful resorts and the Arrabelle is one of my top three favorites. Our double-queen room was spacious and beautifully appointed.  There are children’s activities, local transportation, babysitting services, homemade ice cream (try the Velvet Elvis), a gift shop and complimentary GoPro cameras for the day.  A cool new addition to their lineup for winter 2015-16 is a “spa on demand” service where guests have a choice of three spa offerings — including one for kids — and can call down or order on in-room iPads.

Following our dinner at Bully Ranch, we headed to the Arrabelle’s rooftop pool where we joined the legions of kids splashing and playing while the adults leisurely soaked in the adjacent hot tubs.  At dusk, we were delighted to be alone so the kids hoarded  the pool noodles as we watched the crimson sunset dip behind the Gore Range. That, my friends, is called using your noodle and that’s what a Vail visit in the summer is all about.

 DEAL

RockResorts is offering a Friends & Family discount at their two Vail properties––where you’ll save 20% off already discounted offers! 

Amber Johnson
Author: Amber Johnson

Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas, travel writer and former columnist for The Denver Post. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.

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Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas, travel writer and former columnist for The Denver Post. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.

3 Comments

  1. Good tips. What I love about Vail is they have playgrounds everywhere.Cool playgrounds. Our favorite is the Pirate Ship Playground.

  2. Arrabelle looks amazing. I’ve always wanted to go inside. We also enjoy the 4 Eagle Ranch. The base area Lionshead Plaza has Lionsheadh hosts the Vail Free Family Fun Fest every Saturday in August.

  3. Thanks for the discount! Just booked a weekend at the Lodge and can’t wait to get out of town for a couple of days 🙂

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