The Ultimate Guide to Vail
Destination: Vail, Colorado
About: Located in the Eagle Valley surrounded by The White River National Forrest and Gore Range
Route: I-70 West
Distance: 98 Miles
Time: 1h 30 mins
Trip Length: Overnight or Day Trip
Sleeping: Airbnb or Hotel
The heart and soul of Vail! The village was founded when the ski lifts opened in 1962. Modeled to resemble the European village of the Swiss Alps, Vail Village is adorable! The village is pedestrian-only with cobblestone streets, little shops, and bars everywhere. And with covid, it’s all open container too!
Lyons’ head is the next village over from Vail Village (heading west). I always make a stop in Lyons’ head when skiing for lunch at Moes BBQ. I have never stayed in Lyons Head but I think the nightlife is a little tamer than Vail Village.
West Vail is where you will find the grocery and liquor stores and any other conveniences you may need. Plus, some pretty tasty restaurants. Most residence and Airbnbs at a lower price point will be in this part of town.
Where to Stay in Vail
Like most mountain towns, public transportation makes it super easy to get around. Is your goal to be next to the slopes/village or are you okay a little further from the action?
If you can ($$$), I would stay in Vail Village as you will only need your car to go to the grocery store. So if you plan to shuttle to the mountain, staying in the village is a great choice. Staying almost anywhere in Vail Village or Lionshead will give you easy access to the mountain as well.
Vail Village is mostly hotels and condos so if you’re looking for a large house, those will be outside of the villages but still super close to everything.
Another thing to consider when staying a ride away from the slopes: you don’t have to lug your stuff around. There are plenty of ski valets and lockers to store your gear!
The Sebastian is the only privately owned boutique hotel in the village. This hotel hits everything on your list – ski valet, hot tubs, a killer bar for apres-ski, and a delicious dining option that is actually pretty reasonably priced. Steps away from the center of Vail Village it’s a perfect spot for ski season or summer.
Where to Eat & Drink in Vail
Northside Kitchen – Further west of Vail in Edwards, this spot is great for grabbing something to go but you’re gonna want to sit down and dig in. Everything on the menu is delicious and once you see all those pastries you’re going to have a hard time deciding what to get.
Northside Grab & Go – when you want something quick, or before driving home swing into the Northside Grab & Go – right next to Westside Cafe
Westside Cafe – Claiming to have the world’s best benedict, this is a hot spot for breakfast in Vail.
The Little Diner – All-day breakfast. Yes, please! Super casual and right in Lionshead
Loaded Joe’s – Once you are in Vail Village and need something to eat, this is the spot!
Moe’s Original BBQ – If you just gotta get out of those boots, then head to this southern BBQ joint straight from Alabama. I have a full-on obsession with their pork nachos, the cheese is WHITE, so is freaking incredible! And they have sweet tea.
Grill Out – Pack a bag and head to Blue Sky Basin to grill out on the mountain.
Dinner in Vail
Apres Ski in Vail
Los Amigos – Head to Los Amigos for margs, chips and salsa on the balcony open up to the mountain. Such a great spot for lunch and then you can head back up the hill. Or if you’re done skiing for the day, kick back, relax and watch the skiers come down the mountain.
The Red Lion – This Vail staple has been the apres skier’s watering hole of choice for years. Count yourself lucky to snag a spot at this Vail favorite.
Vendetta’s – Grab a slice and a cold one or a pitcher at Vendettas. This is my go-to spot for aprés ski and dinner. Upstairs is a little more bar casual and downstairs a little more dressed up. Great for group dinners.
Pepi’s Looking for that quintessential European feel – Pepi’s is your spot. Great happy hour and great food too!
The George – Located furthest from the mountain, this underground spot is great for watching a game, shooting pool or lounging on big couches. Food and drinks are cheap! But the service and food is great!
Garfunkle’s – Great for groups with its huge patio with lots of sunlight! Typically bar food that is all really great
El Sabor – This spot is kind of hidden in Lionhead but actually had a great patio. Killer margs and they have white queso! I highly recommend the nachos too!
Vail has a great nightlife scene. With a large international tourist population, you will find all flavors of nightlife here. From lounges to live music and “clubs”, Vail has a spot for everyone.
Shakedown Bar – This downstairs live music venue features a great band almost every night of the week. The dance floor will be hopping!
Bridge Street Bar (or whatever new name this bar might have when you visit) – Just past The Red Lion, this underground spot offers a little stage for a one-man band on one side of the bar and a “bumping club” with a DJ on the other.
Bol – This swanky bowling alley is like a Vegas nightclub but in the middle of Colorado. Great for groups and the food is on point too.
Parking & Getting Around
Bus: The buses can take you almost anywhere you want to go and every resort in the valley will be running their own shuttle as well.
Parking: Vail is set up like a little European village and mostly accessible by walking so you will mostly park and walk. In the winter, covered parking over 1.5 hours is paid. The lots are nice and heated and if you’re with a group it’s totally worth it. You can also try and find free parking on the road (either side of 70 and walk). Read more about parking here.
Taxi’s/Uber: You will find a few taxies and Uber/Lyft around Vail! So go have a few drinks and enjoy your night with no driving!
Vail is the largest ski resort in Colorado so there is a run for all ski levels here. Vail is best known for its back bowls. Bowls are wide open, often steep runs. Some areas may be groomed and others may be free for all to make your own lines.
The Front Side
On the front side of the mountain, I like doing laps around Northwoods and if it’s not too crowded, Avanti. Game Creek Bowl is also great for the blue/black skier.
I would avoid skiing all the way down to the bottom as gondola lines can be very long. I try to avoid Mid Vail if possible on busy days as well.
Start off with the blues on China Bowl to get your legs under you then go, go, go! The runs can be steep but oh so fun once you get that first turn in! I recently skied Sun Down Bowl for the first time and can’t wait to go back!
Blue Sky Basin
If you gotta go all the way down and kick off your boots – Moe’s BBQ, Vendetta’s, Los Amigos. On the mountain, all the restaurants will serve something warm to fill you up. On the backside, you will find Dawg Haus… serving up hot dogs, sausages beers, and snacks. At the top of Blue Sky Basin are grills and fantastic views. Some of my favorite days are grilling out here with friends.
Eating on the Mountain
If you gotta go all the way down and kick off your boots – Moe’s BBQ, Vendettas, Los Amigos. On the Mountain – all the restaurants will serve something warm to fill you up. on the Back Side, you will find Dawg Haus serving up hot dogs, sausages beers, and snacks. At the top of the Blue Sky Basin are grills and fantastic views. Some of my favorite days are grilling out here with friends.
Summer in Vail
While Vail may be the premier ski resort it’s plenty of fun in the summer too. Hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, white water rafting, fly fishing, you name it Vail has it.
Shrine Ridge Trail outside Vail is a moderate hike that leads to the most incredible 360 views. Read all about it here.
I fell in love with Vail after visiting in college and it’s still my number one place to ski in Colorado. I haven’t spent much time in the area during the summer but plan this year and will update with details! DM me on Instagram or comment with any questions!
Check out more of my Colorado travel guides here