Summer in Vail, Colorado is “Like No Place on Earth”

Vail’s moniker “like no place on Earth” is fitting for this Colorado town.  Although it’s better known as a top rated ski resort, the summer experience, in my book, beats winter by a landslide.  For that reason, we head to Vail one week or more every summer for a little piece of Rocky Mountain heaven.

Editor’s note:  This article has been updated with current information (September 19, 2022).

Good to Know

Vail, CO is in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, 97 miles from Denver. Summer unofficially starts Memorial Day and ends Labor Day.  Temperatures are cool, with average summer highs at 77 degrees.  Precipitation is lowest during the summer months; however, short rain showers are common. is a great planning tool. 

Vail's Million Dollar View in Vail Village

Vail is made up of four areas:  Vail Village, Golden Peak, Lionshead, and Cascades.  Vail Village was developed first and is center of the summer action.  Golden Peak is immediately to the East and Lionshead to the West.  Cascades clocks 2 miles from Vail Village.  Paved trails between the four areas are stunning along the Gore Creek. 

Gore Creek Vail

Moose sightings are rare in Vail but do happen.  Dogs, by the way, anger them.  Warnings signs scattered along the trail inform visitors, if charged by a moose, to “run as fast as you can and get behind a large object.”  As reported by the Vail Daily, a young Vail moose was relocated July 2021 after becoming a regular in the Lionshead Parking Garage.    

Moose in Lionshead

Little Known Facts

Migrating hummingbirds like summer in Vail too.  They arrive mid-to-late April and depart between July and early September.  Watch for them buzzing around bright colored flowers.  The flying celebrities may be seen solo or in calvaries.


Another celebrity, President Gerald Ford (1913-2006), was one of Vail’s first skiers.  Ford family visits while he was President from 1974-77 were so frequent that Vail was called the “Western White House”.  In 1981, President Ford was one of the founding members of the Vail Valley Foundation, whose primary purpose is to foster and showcase arts, athletics, and education programs in the area.  The Vail Daily article, Jerry and Betty Focused the World on Vail is a great read.

Pres & Mrs. Ford in Beaver Creek home

Vail’s History

Vail opened for business in 1962, and is modeled after Austrian Ski Villages including the world famous San Anton resort in the Arlberg region of Austria.  Vail’s architecture oozes Bavarian charm.  You will see it at stores, lodging, and restaurants.

Gorsuch in Vail Village

Soldiers from the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division were instrumental in Vail’s development and remain a major part of Vail’s heritage and culture.  The 10th Mountain Division was an elite unit, formed during WWII, that trained at nearby Camp Hale, 14 miles from Vail.

Camp Hale WWII Training

The job for the 10th was to defend the Allies against the Germans in Italy. They succeeded, and the Germans surrendered in Italy on May 2, 1945.  The war ended six days later when the Germans surrendered to the western Allies on all fronts.  Camp Hale is a National Historic site.  Today it is an open field with scattered historical remnants.  

Camp Hale with Historic Sign

Camp Hale Remnant Building

When WWII ended, many soldiers had grown attached to mountain life and established new roots in Colorado and other mountain states.  Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division pioneered 62 ski resorts, including Vail.  The statue on Bridge Street pays tribute to Vail’s legendary 10th Mountain veterans.

10th Mountain Monument Vail Covered Bridge

Just past the monument is the Covered Bridge.  Cross the bridge and watch for the 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Co. also named for the group.  The space sells whiskey, has a cool tasting room, and has nice apparel and gifts too. 

10th Moutain Whiskey Outside

10th Mountain Whiskey Inside

The Battle at Riva Ridge was a famous battle won by the 10th Mountain Division and resulted in the German’s surrender in Italy.  Riva Ridge is one of the original ski trails in Vail, for expert skiers.  Riva Ridge, below, was also a famous racehorse that won the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes in 1972.  He was named by John Tweedy, a 10th Mountain Division veteran and Vail founder.  John’s first wife owned Riva Ridge, and another famous horse, Secretariat.  

Riva Ridge the Racehorse

In addition to the Riva Ridge ski run, there are eight other Vail runs that pay tribute to the 10th Mountain Division.  If you are skiing Vail in the winter, make the guided Vail Historical Tours  to discover the others,  

The 10th Mountain Division Today

Today the 10th Mountain Division is headquartered in Ft. Drum, New York, 85 miles north of Syracuse.  The 10th has been the most deployed US Military unit since 2001.  Operations triggered by 9/11 events include Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.  The 10th secured the Kabul Airport, and were the last ones to leave Afghanistan on August 31, 2021.  If you see this patch on a soldier’s uniform, he or she is part of the 10th Mountain Division. 

10th Mountain Patch

Vail Transportation

Airline Travel

Eagle Country Regional Airport (EGE) is 36 miles from Vail, with nonstop service from 13 destinations.  If you can get a nonstop to EGE that is the way to go.  This data is from, a favorite website covered in Strategy Workshops for the Expert Traveler.  Check it out. 

Eagle Vail Regional Airport

The Denver International Airport (DEN) is 119 miles from Vail, and has nonstop service from 200 plus destinations,.  This was North security on the day we left Val, and is the norm for DEN.  Plan accordingly and allow triple time getting to your gate.

Denver Airport Security

Car Rental

You do NOT need a car in Vail, but you may want one for hiking outside of Vail, or to visit nearby Minturn or Beaver Creek.  I check my rental car rate a day or so before departure.  Check rental car rates before booking flights to be sure cars are available and book cars ASAP.   Strategy Workshops for the Expert Traveler cover topics guaranteed to ramp up your travel experience.  Note the tips above, and register for the workshops.  

Alamo Car Rental Denver Airport

Airport Transfers

If you skip a rental car, Epic Mountain Express provides transfer to Vail from EGE and DEN.  Book in advance.

Epic Mountain Express

Vail Bus System

The free Vail Bus System provides transportation throughout Vail’s four primary areas, as well as to stops beyond in East and West Vail.  These buses are the good kind.  They run on time and often.

Vail Bus


Convenient covered parking structures are plentiful in Vail. is the go-to spot to get parking information.  Check summer rates, which were free in 2021 at certain locations.  

Tours, Festivals & Events

Walking Tours

Art Walk

The free one hour Art Walk is offered once weekly in the summer and showcases public art installations throughout Vail.  There are a bunch, and new ones are added every year. Register in advance.  If you can’t make the tour, reach out to the group and try for a private tour.  The private one won’t be free but the donation is for a worthwhile cause. 

Art Walk wit Guide Vail

History Tour

The free Historic Vail Village Walking Tour is offered several times weekly by the Colorado Snowsports Museum. Register in advance.  The museum is the starting/ending point and is located at the Vail Transportation Center.  Try for a private if times are not a fit.  A 45-minute film, “Climb to Glory”, chronicles the history of the 10th Mountain Division and plays on a constant reel at the museum.  Allow 3 hours for tour, museum visit (also free), and film.  You can rent or purchase “Climb to Glory” here.  The museum is a jewel.

Colorado Snowsports Musem


There’s a bunch going on in Vail over the summer.  The calendar at is good for planning.  The Vail Daily is the daily newspaper that you can pick up in town or online.  See the Vail Daily calendar for daily happenings, like Yoga On the Lawn, and other summer events. 

Yoga on the Lawn

Gourmet on Gore was going on over my Labor Day week in Vail and offered up a foodie’s paradise with street vendors and ticketed events.

Gourmet on Gore in Vail 2021

The Vail Jazz Festival was going on, too, in Lionshead.  Performances are in outside tents and bump up to some outdoor restaurant patios.  If you don’t get an advance ticket, consider dining outdoors, close enough to hear the music.

Banner Vail for Jazz Festival

Weekly Events

Hot Summer Nights

Hot Summer Nights are free concerts on Tuesdays throughout the summer at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater.  See the amphitheater website for other performances, outside of the free one.  Check time and policies before you go.  There are strict rules for the venue. 

Hot Summer Nights in Vail

Minturn Market

Minturn is a charming town 7 miles away that was originally established as a railroad and mining town.  It hosts the Minturn Market weekly on Saturdays.  Honey, jam, baskets, and music are plentiful.  Check times and policies before you go.  This visit is one of my all-stars.

Minturn Market

Grab a coffee.  Poke around fishing and antique stores before or after the Market.  Soak up this small town vibe that is off the charts great.

Minturn Anglers Store

Minturn Main Street

The Sunrise Minturn offers up a great breakfast and lunch.  

Vail Market

The Vail Farmers Market and Art Show happens weekly during summer on Sundays, and continues past Labor Day.  Food and merchandise vendors are abundant.  Large breed dogs are too, like this Newfoundland, named Maple.  Check times and policies before you go.  

Vail Farmers Market


The Willows is the Golden Egg for summer lodging in Vail, and provides the trifecta for location, luxury, and value in its 2 and 3 bedroom units.  Art and furnishings are the same for all units.  Willows units are on third party rental sites including VRBO and AirBnB.  I use VRBO to find properties, and for unbiased reviews, but I book directly with the property manager.  Strategy Workshops for the Expert Traveler discuss third-party lodging, and how to save up to 20% or more by booking direct.  

The Willows Entrance Vail

I go for The Willows walk out units and have rented Units 101 and 102.  Unit 101 is on the left of the The Willows covered entrance, and unit 102 is on the right.   The living spaces are lovely with table seating for eight, plus barstools.

The Willows Living Room

The Willows Dining Room Vail

Linens and bathrooms are the good kind, along with every other item on the lodging punch list. 

King Bedroom at Vail Willows

Bedding at Willows Vail

Willows Bathroom

The pool is heated.  There are ample cushioned chairs at the pool, plus a fancy grill.  Unit 101 allows immediate around-the-corner access to the heated swimming pool and grill from its side patio.  Unit 102 is a little larger, but requires a walk through the lobby to access the pool and grill.  Bikes are available for Willows guests too.  

Willows Pool

Shopping & Groceries


Vail shopping is the upscale kind.  National brands are here such as The North Face, and Luluemon


Boutiques are abundant, and are primarily concentrated in Vail Village.  Perch is a favorite for upscale women’s apparel that is contemporary and on-point for a broad range of styles and ages.  Think 5th Avenue in the mountains with an extra shot of cool.  Inventory moves fast.  It’s that good.  The location is just across from the Solaris ice rink which converts to a green space in the summer.

Perch Store front Vail Colarodo

Another shop that arrived in 2021, Res Ipsa, has globally-designed one-of-a-kind products made from vintage and repurposed materials.  Its original storefront was in Nantucket (one of my other favorite USA spots).  I grabbed a Vail baseball cap for a collector when checking out the new store.

Res Ipsa Vail Store

Res Ipsa Baseball Caps


City Market and Safeway are 3 miles away from Vail Village, off Highway 70. Both stores deliver.  City Market sells beer, wine, and spirits.  West Vail Liquor Mart is next door to Safeway.  My favorite Vail grocery store is the smaller size Market at Vail.  It’s in  Lionshead, accessible by foot or bus, plus a parking garage is nearby.  Hit Deli Zioso to grab a few basic items in Vail Village.  They also have gelato, soups, and sandwiches.  Grappa is next door and provides beer, wine, and spirits.  This is the petite Deli Zioso.

Deli Zioso in Vail Village

Dining in Vail Village

Vail Village is where most of the summer action happens and is where I prefer to dine.  Consider these spots. I go for outdoor dining every time.

Very Casual

Big Bear Bistro

Big Bear Bistro serves up a fantastic American breakfast and lunch fare.  A kid’s menu is offered.  Its outdoor patio is generous and oozes charm.  

Big bear Bistro

Blu Cow

Blu Cow, next door to Big Bear Bistro, is known for its Swiss hot dogs, but the charming outdoor patio gets my attention along with $5 beer and wine on happy hour.  It’s open late too. 

Blu Cow in Vail Village

Joe’s Deli

The no-frills below ground level Joe’s Deli is popular for sandwiches, soups, and salads.  It also serves up ice cream in lots of flavors.  This is a great grab-n-go spot for hiking or a picnic.  It’s open late too.

Joe's Deli Vail Village

La Cantina

La Cantina is inside the Vail Transportation Center. This is another great option for a grab-n-go or a fast bite.  


Los Amigos

Los Amigos will satisfy your margarita and Mexican food fixe.  They take reservations.  A kid’s menu is offered.  The patio faces Vail Mountain and Gondola One, and is a good place to watch the summer mountain bikers ending their runs. 

Los Amigos


Vendettas is a no frills spot, famous for its pizza and Italian dishes.  A kid’s menu is offered.  They take reservations, but usually you don’t need one in the summer. 

Mid & Upscale

La Nonna 

Hit La Nonna for upscale Italian, exceptional service, and a jaw-dropping view of Vail Mountain.  If you dine on the patio for an early reservation be sure to wear your sunglasses. 

La Nonna Vail

Sweet Basil

Sweet Basil takes reservations and serves up American fare..  There is a stunning back patio that overlooks the Gore Creek.  Request one of those tables.

Sweet Basil Vail Village

Bully Ranch

Bully Ranch serves up American fare and takes reservations.  Go for the outdoor space.  The indoor space is unattractive.  Its patio faces the Vail Interfaith Chapel, which is idyllic in every way.  

Bully Ranch Vail Village

Vail Interfaith Chapel

La Bottega

La Bottega serves Italian fare and takes reservations.  It is a longstanding member of the Vail dining scene for a good reason.  It’s good!  

La Bottega Vail Village


Pepi’s Bar, Deck & Covered Patio serves up Austrian fare, takes reservations, and is located inside Hotel Gramshammer.  The deck is my preference, but the covered patio offers a great back-up if rain is a thing. 

Hotel Gramshammer Vail Village

Consider hitting the bar before or after dinner for a drink, and to enjoy the live music.  The bar space offers a time capsule for Vail’s cool history.  Next is more on Vail’s most loved resident, Pepi Gramshammer.

Pepi's Music

Pepi Gramshammer (1932-2019) was on the Austrian national ski team.  In 1962, Vail founders convinced Pepi to relocate to Vail to give legitimacy to their new resort.  The plan worked.  Vail’s status was elevated to black diamond status pronto.  Pepi, who passed in 2019, and his wife Sheika have operated prized dining, hotel, and retail institutions in Vail Village starting in 1964, two years after Vail opened.  Pepi and Sheika are considered Vail royalty with a neighborly twist.  The photo walls and trophy cabinet in Pepi’s bar tell it all.

Pepi's Photo Wall Vail Village


Matsuhisa will satisfy your sushi and Japanese fixe and takes reservations.  This spot is very upscale and is located in the Solaris development in Vail Village, also the location for the winter outdoor ice skating rink.    

Dining in Lionshead

Lionshead is more on the quiet side during the summer. If you are there, perhaps using the Eagle Bahn gondola, conisder these favorites.

Moe’s BBQ

Moe’s BBQ is a favorite spot for take out or casual dining.  Be prepared for a modest tab, a rarity in Vail.  If meat isn’t how you roll, Moe’s has ample sides too.

Moes BarBQ Lionshead Vail

El Sabor

El Sabor is a great spot that offers up cheap Mexian dishes and big servings.  There’s a kids menu and a bar, just inside the door, populated with visitors and locals alike.

El Sabor Lionshead


Garfinkel’s is a no-frills spot that serves up pub fare. It’s very popular, and has TVs throughout the space.  Remember Garfinkel’s if you need to catch a game during your Vail stay.  



Hiking is the best kind in Vail.  There’s lots of options.  Here’s my top three.

Vail Mountain

Hiking on Vail Mountain requires a ticket on the Vail gondolas, Eagle Bahn in Lionshead and/or Gondola One in Vail Village.  A daily rate is charged unless you are a season pass holder.  Once at the top of Eagle Bahn, consider the Fireweed Hike, which is mostly a short flat hike between Eagle Bahn Gondola and Gondola One.  This hike can be reversed.  For a longer hike, use the Eagle Bahn Gondola and catch the Ptarmigan Loop for a 1.2 mile hike.  Add on the Ridge Route when you get to Wildwood, which makes this hike 4 miles, and takes, 2.5 to 3 hours.  Berry Picker is the 3 mile hike that takes you from Vail Mountain to the bottom.  Avoid Berry Picker.  It is steep and not scenic.  This is the Fireweed Hike.

Fireweed Hike

Booth Falls

The Booth Falls trail head is 3.5 miles from Vail Village.  It is a popular 4.2 mile out and back trail that is rated moderate and is heavy on spectacular views. We stop and eat before the end and turn around.

Booth Falls Vail

Bighorn Creek Trail

The Bighorn Creek Trail is 5 miles from Vail Village.  It’s a 6.9 out and back trail that is rated hard and is heavy on aspen trees.  We ate lunch at 1.7 miles and turned around. 

Big Horn Creek Trail

Upper Piney Rivers Falls Trail  

The Upper Piney Rivers Falls Trail is 13 miles from Vail Village.  It’s a moderate 5.9 mile out and back trail that gets notable mention.  It’s pinch yourself gorgeous, but the drive to the trailhead is a nail biter.  A vehicle with all wheel drive (AWD) is strongly encouraged.


Vail mountain biking is the serious kind, and the mountain is full of experienced bikers on expert biking trails.  Hikers stay off those trails.  Vail Village and the Gore Creek offers a cruiser’s paradise.  More experienced road bikers will find their nirvana here too.  I’ve rented from Vail Bike Hub in the Village.  Bike rentals are plentiful, and many stores offer ebikes.  The Willows, my lodging trifecta, has limited cruiser bikes for guests. 

Vail Biking


The Golden Peak Pickleball Center has 6 dedicated courts.  Reserve courts in advance of arrival.  I scheduled a private instructor for every day our group of four was in Vail. Drop in play is also offered.  Vail pickleball is the black diamond kind, made up of experts.  For that reason our beginner foursome stuck together for drop in play.

Pickleball in Vail


The Bill Wright Tennis Center has eight courts and is located about one mile from the Village and just north of Golden Peak.


The Vail Golf Club is an 18 hole golf course that offers a driving range, an onsite restaurant, and much much more.  It is located in Golden Peak.

Betty Ford Garden

The Betty Ford Garden is free to the public and is another gem, between Vail Village and Golden Peak.  Make time to visit. 

Betty Ford Garden

Playgrounds at the Betty Ford Gardens are the best of the best.  There are plenty of tables and benches for picnics too.  Food is not sold there.  Pack it before you go. 

Betty Ford Garden Playground

Gondola Ride & Vail Mountain Adventures

Vail Mountain is on fire in the summer with hiking, biking, bungee jumping, zipline, trampoline, climbing wall, and mini golf. 

Vail Top of Mountain

The Nature Discovery Center, located at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola, offers periodic one hour hikes with a Naturalist.  Registration is required.  Plan on riding the gondola to the bottom.  Be alert and know the time for the last ride down.  

Vail Gondola One

Horseback Riding

Vail Stables is located just one mile from Vail Village, and offers a variety of options for all types of riders.  Don’t walk because the road to get there is not safe for pedestrians.  Peek in on the friendly goats before or after your ride.  Sage Outdoor Adventures, 6 miles away, is popular and offers horseback riding and other activities.  

Vail Stables

Tips on Vail

Plan in advance for dinner reservations, and for all activities.  You will likely be using the Denver International Airport, which requires triple your normal time allocation especially for departures.  The good news is that a Centurion Lounge showed up at DEN at the top of the escalator by Southwest gates.  

Centurion Lounge Denver Aiport

Lounge access, and how you get it, is covered in Strategy Workshops for the Expert Traveler. Reset your expectations when traveling now, to include your stay in Vail.  Service staff is in short supply everywhere.  Be patient and forgiving.  I hope your Vail summer experience is “like no place on Earth”.

Strategy Workshops for the Expert Traveler

Travel is complex.  Strategy Workshops are guaranteed to ramp up the travel experience.  Move to Expert Traveler status with one or more 50 minute sessions. Workshops are curated based on needs and goals.  They are offered live in Austin, Tx, and by Zoom for all locations.  Participants range from students, preparing for a summer abroad, to office staff, responsible for travel arrangements.  Group size ranges from 1-300.  Return is guaranteed for those who book on their own or through a professional.  Let’s chat and get you, your group, or office staff on the road to Expert Travel. The payoff is great.  Email

Related Posts

Amazon Prime Packing System Prevents Travel Nightmares offers a start to finish guide for carry-on packing.  Essential travel supplies are covered for all travelers, including those who check luggage.


If you like this, hit Subscribe for updates and other travel inspiration.  Emails are infrequent, and will not wear out their inbox welcome.  Follow TravelToolsTips on social media too.  Visit the Blog for other great intel.