We love the Vail Valley, Colorado and have been traveling to the Vail area several times a year for the past 18 years. Everyone knows that winter is great for skiing and snowboarding, but you may not have thought how great it is for kids and families in summer.
When talking about the Vail Valley, there are several cities in close proximity that are full of activity. There’s Arrowhead, Bachelor Gulch, Beaver Creek, and Vail, all with skiing and all with fun summer family activities.
Vail & Beaver Creek Colorado Summer Activities
Vail and Beaver Creek is a little under 2 hours by car from Denver. There’s Eagle-Vail Airport in the Vail Valley, which is pretty small but works fine if you can find a flight that suits you. There are tons of accommodations from hotels, AirB2B, and other rentals. Summer doesn’t see as much traffic as winter, so prices are lower.
One of the reasons you have to come is because there is so much to see and do …
Ride a gondola or chairlift
In the summer, both Vail and Beaver Creek have their gondolas that take hikers, bikers and tourists from the base of the mountain to the summit. You can buy a day pass and explore higher ground. Vail has large gondolas and Beaver Creek has a choice of a gondola or a chair.
Going up the Vail gondola, you can hike multiple trails for about 20 minutes in a very easy hike to get to the top of the Eagle Bahn gondola and take that down to Lionshead Village and walk back, or the free public one Take bus system back to Vail village.
There are things to do, see and eat at the top of both mountain resorts.
Top of Vail Mountain Activities
One of our favorite things to do around the world is to take the Scenic Gondola to the top of Vail Mountain and buy an Adventure Day Pass. That gives you a full day to play on the mountaintop with so many options:
- Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster – This is a single car roller coaster built on the side of the mountain that you control with a brake. It’s really fun and just the right amount of speed and horror. Everyone in my family loves this ride.
- Zip lines – They currently have the Little Eagle Kids Zipline open. There has been a large adult version in the past which has been quite an adventure.
- Bungee trampoline
- Climbing walls
- Hoses – Marmot Mini Kids Tubing Hill & Eagle’s Nest Tubing Hill
- Mini golf
- Rope courses – these are not on your program this summer, but I hope that you can open them again soon because there are two huge rope courses that are 3 stories high and one of our favorite activities every summer.
Betty Ford Alpine Gardens
The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens are absolutely beautiful and something not to be missed. Even if alpine gardens may not sound exciting to the younger family members, but don’t worry! There is a huge playground, a children’s learning center, a kindergarten and a path along the river full of treasures.
My children tease me that a visit to the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is for them to “watch mother taking flower photos”. I can’t help it. It’s so beautiful in every direction!
Pirate Park in the village of Vail
The pirate playground in the heart of Vail is located next to the valley station of the gondola and the ski mountain. The surroundings couldn’t be more picturesque … oh, did I mention that the shallow rocky stream is just a few steps away? This playground has been my children’s favorite for their entire playground loving life. A huge pirate ship is the centerpiece with smaller play sets all around. There are spiral stairs and rope ladders to climb aboard the ship. Carefully climb up to the crow’s nest.
We spent many summers when the kids were little touring all of Vail Valley’s parks … there are so many and each one is different and fun if your kids are into it.
Whitewater raft on the Colorado River
There are plenty of family-friendly rafting options that everyone can enjoy. Our favorite is a 1/2 day rafting tour of the Shoshone area of the river, which includes Class I, II and III rapids, followed by lunch on the banks of the river. There is a lot to see and learning to paddle as a team is always an adventure. Everyone gets a little wet, but it feels good in the Colorado sun. We have done the Timberline Tours trip twice now and can recommend it.
Downhill mountain biking
If you are getting really serious and want to take downhill mountain biking lessons and improve your skills, I recommend Trestle Bike Park, which is several hours’ drive away in Winter Park, CO. They run the summer bike program similar to their winter ski and snowboard lessons which is great for those who really want to immerse themselves in mountain biking. If you’re looking for a friendlier, gentler way to get acquainted with mountain biking, Beaver Creek is the place. You can rent mountain bikes and buy a bike ticket for the chairlift & gondola to take your bike to the top of the mountain. To go down, you have several options:
- Beginners and those who just want a scenic drive can take the service roads down to the base of the mountain.
- The more adventurous can take the blue and black trails to the base of the mountain. There are only a handful of bike trails on the mountain, but if you only bike a day or two that’s enough.
Bicycle Vail Pass
If you’d rather go downhill on paved trails then the bike ride from the top of Vail Pass to the village of Vail is a great and refreshing ride (meaning it’s almost always very chilly at the top of the mountain, even in summer). . I recommend taking a tour for the first time if you are not a seasoned biker and there are several in Vail that will rent bikes, take you there and take you back down. You will only be pedaling a little below so it doesn’t require a very high level of physical fitness!
No matter where you stay in the Vail Valley, there are a number of great hiking trails nearby. It’s really fun with the family. Even young children can hike for a while, but everyone will be distracted by the amazing surroundings and the occasional wildlife.
Just step up
One of our favorite hiking activities in winter is simply to hike up the ski mountain and slopes that we know so well. It’s crazy how different everything looks in summer.
Vail Farmers Market
Every Saturday in summer, the streets of Vail Village are transformed into a huge farmers market with all sorts of fresh produce, handicrafts and local restaurants serving food. Fun to explore and a memory to repeat!
Go bowling or hang out on the lawn
Bowling? Yes! Bol in Vail CO is a really fun bowling alley that isn’t your grandfather’s scene. The modern interior, trendy food and drink, and the overall fun atmosphere are great for the whole family.
Outside, you can play on the large green lawn in front of Solaris (which is the ice rink in winter) and take part in outdoor games like Corn Hole and Connect Four. This is where concerts, festivals, competitions, and exhibition events often take place in Vail. There is almost always SOMETHING new to see.
Visit Beaver Creek Village
Beaver Creek Village was created with families in mind. In summer there is always something going on in the center (winter ice rink). This summer they had very short slacklining practice areas which is so much harder than I thought! They also have a range of family games from Connect 4 to Shuffleboard. During each week there are concerts, free food, yoga classes and much more. If you walk to the base of the mountain from Beaver Creek Village Center, you’ll find mini golf, bungee trampoline, rock climbing walls, and more.
Older kids? eBike tours in the Vail Valley
This is a new activity that starts in Edwards. You can take an eBike tour with eBike rental & helmets. We did that yesterday and opted for the gravel road which was very demanding. What Colorado thinks of dirt roads is different from your average Texas dirt road. It was a lot more mountain biking than barely pedaling on level ground. It was a really fun experience. Next time around, we’d go for something simpler and more paved! There are all kinds of eBike tours, however, but children must be 15 years old to participate as the bikes are extremely heavy and an adult-sized eBike must fit.
Okay, that was way over 10, but you get the picture that summer in Vail Colorado and the surrounding area is great for families. And I didn’t even mention the food.
Oh the food!
Most of the fantastic restaurants have outdoor terraces which are lovely this time of year.
Come to Vail and have some fun!