Home base for family-friendly Colorado vacations, Vail Valley is a year-round destination that appeals equally to kids and adults. Close to nature and brimming with activities, regroup, explore and make memories together in a setting that nurtures your most important relationships.
Some of the best days in life are those we spend on vacation with our families. Planning the perfect getaway can be daunting, however, especially when trying to please children of varying ages, as well as your significant other. From tots to teens and grown-ups too, every member of your crew will be beaming when your vacation destination is Colorado’s Vail Valley.
High Altitude Orientation
If arriving in Vail Valley by plane, take advantage of the bird’s-eye view to get a feel for the rugged beauty of the region. The descent into Eagle County Airport (EGE) in Gypsum is breathtaking. Soon those snowcapped peaks and alpine vistas as seen from above will serve as a close-up backdrop for your unforgettable family adventures.
- Local’s Tip: The Vail Valley rests at an average elevation of 7,500 feet above sea level, and ski area peaks top out at over 11,500 feet! If arriving from a lower elevation, give your peeps time to acclimate with gentle, low-key activities.
HIT THE GROUND EXPLORING
Having an answer for “What are we going to do first?” is a winning strategy for a happy family vacation. Try these easy-to-execute outings that don’t require much advance planning to stretch legs and ease into a mountain vacation mindset.
Blow off steam at local parks. Going to the park is an option that’s easy for parents and fun for youngsters. Let kids climb, crawl, swing and run around until they’re tuckered out. Child-approved places to play include Pirate Ship Park in Vail Village and Sunbird Park in Lionshead. Rolling along, tweens and teens can show off their skateboarding tricks at Zeke M. Pierce Skatepark in Vail, Freedom Skatepark in Edwards and Gypsum Skatepark. For a splash-happy good time, let the kids loose at the Children’s Fountain in Vail Village. With an indoor park atmosphere, Imagination Station is a hands-on children’s museum in Vail that is ideal for ages 2 – 12.
Take a family bike ride. Another good way to get everybody moving in the same direction is by cycling the area’s paved, multi-use trails. Eagle Valley Trail spans several towns including EagleVail, Avon, Edwards, Eagle and Gypsum; and Gore Valley Trail connects East and West Vail. Bike rentals are available throughout the valley, and hotels may even have options for borrowing gear.
Walk this way. They’ll fall in line when you guide your tribe to family-friendly hiking trails that are beautiful, but not overly challenging. In Vail, skip the uphill trek by purchasing a ticket to ride the Eagle Bahn gondola which gives quick access to Eagle’s Loop and Fireweed Trail. For a no-ticket-required meander, choose Strawberry Lane at the base of the mountain. In Beaver Creek, there’s no backtracking on loop trails such as Creekside, Discovery and Five Senses. For an easy outing, stroll Nottingham Lake in Avon or opt for a woodsy forest walk at Sylvan Lake Park south of Eagle. To keep Cross Creek Trail near Minturn family-friendly, turn around at the bridge near the one-mile mark.
- Local’s Tip: Always be prepared when out in nature. Bring plenty of hydration, sunscreen and snacks. If planning an excursion lasting more than a few hours consider picking up a packable lunch-to-go from area restaurants.
Chill out on the ice. Glide effortlessly into a winter vacation by taking a spin on the ice at skating rinks in Avon, Beaver Creek, Eagle, Edwards, Lionshead and Vail Village. The activity will get your blood pumping and prime your legs for the slopes at the same time! Kids can show off their figure skating or hockey moves, while parents either join in or sip adult beverages as they cheer on their budding champions. Rinks located near the slopes and hotels feature comfy outdoor furniture and fire pits for warming up and roasting s’mores — a Vail Valley vacation highlight.
At ease, parents. When it comes to vacation mealtimes, breathe a sigh of relief and relax, Vail Valley restaurants are at your service.
Vail Valley restaurants offer exactly what families want: a welcoming atmosphere, delicious food, quick service and waitstaff who are not fazed when a glass of water topples over or a fork falls to the floor. Kids can dig into all their favorites from pizza and burgers to brownies and ice cream. Grown-ups craving more gourmet choices will find satisfying selections at many of the same restaurants.
SCHEDULE PLAY DATES
Just as you wouldn’t plan your ski vacation without pre-arranging your lift tickets, don’t wing it when it comes to activities. Make reservations and purchase tickets online for popular Vail Valley activities you don’t want to miss out on.
Adventure Ridge/Epic Discovery. Adding even more excitement to Vail Mountain, Adventure Ridge at Eagle’s Nest is a launchpad for winter family fun. Ride the Forest Flyer Coaster (open year-round), go tubing and even try snow biking. In summer, switch gears at Epic Discovery with rides for adults and kids including ziplines, ropes courses, a climbing wall, summer tubing and a bungee trampoline. There are also opportunities to learn about nature and take guided tours with a naturalist at Nature Discovery Center, part of the Avon-based Walking Mountains Science Center.
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Glenwood Springs is home to America’s only mountain-top theme park; in addition to over-the-edge thrill rides, the adventure park features family-friendly rides and attractions, as well as two cave tours.
Horseback riding. A trail ride is one of the most memorable activities you’ll do together as a family. Feel right at home on horseback in the Colorado mountains whether you’re new to the saddle or a seasoned rider. 4 Eagle Ranch, Bearcat Stables, Beaver Creek Stables, Piney River Ranch and Sage Outdoor Adventures all offer guided trips led by expert wranglers.
Snowmobiling tours. A winter alternative to skiing, well-groomed trails make for easy riding in the Vail Valley backcountry. Sage Outdoor Adventures operates on a 6,000-acre private mountain ranch situated near Castle Peak and just minutes from Vail. Based out of Red Cliff, Nova Guides runs snowmobiling trips from historic Camp Hale, the WWII-era training grounds of the 10th Mountain Division ski troopers. Their “Tour of the Rockies” takes riders to elevations that reach 12,500 feet with 360˚ views. Ages vary by outfitter, but older teens can drive their own sleds, while younger children ride tandem with adults.
River and lake sports. Cool off Colorado-style. Rafting trips are a thrilling way to spend a summer day. Guides know how to hit rapids at just the right angle to make a boat-soaking splash. Sage Outdoor Adventures offers family-friendly trips focused on adventure and safety. For a more mellow experience, float the river with Turtle Tubing. A family of four can pile into a single tube for a 2-hour trip that culminates with a wood-fired pizza party! For lake lovers, try stand-up paddle boarding at Piney River Ranch or Nottingham Lake in Avon; both rent equipment.
Zipline tours. For the adventurers in your crew, experience the adrenaline-pumping thrill of ziplining from cliff to cliff over Alkali Creek Canyon with Zip Adventures based out of 4-Eagle Ranch in Wolcott. The course features six zip lines; the longest is 1,000 feet and the highest is 200 feet above the ground, but there’s also a bunny zipline for the littlest ones!
Your family vacation is precious time. Fill it with moments that become the memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime. Make your Vail Valley family vacation the best one yet. Visit Vail Valley has all the resources for lodging, dining and activities you need to start planning today.