A sleepy mountain village Vail is not. In fact, it is the beating heart of a year-round calendar of high-altitude cultural events. Each spring, Vail hosts both the Taste of Vail food festival and the Vail Film Festival . Summertime sees the annual six-week Vail Jazz Festival , which culminates with the bang-up Labor Day Weekend Jazz Party . The Vail Oktoberfest is well attended by a well-lubricated bunch year after year. Come winter, the two-week ski-season kick-off party known as Snow Daze starts things really rolling. Once kicked off, the season gets into high gear with other events such as The Session , an action-packed snowboarding extravaganza. If you're tired of watching the action and you want to get in on it, stop by Gravity Jones or Double Diamond for everything you'll need. Summer activities in Vail are no less extreme — let Colorado River Runs take you on a downhill journey of a different sort. For less adventurous travelers, Vail's got a lot to offer as well, from galleries showcasing local art (such as Cogswell Gallery ) to museums celebrating local pastimes (like the Colorado Ski Museum ). Additionally, Vail is a famous home-away-from-home for a certain U.S. President and his family; honor this part of Vail's heritage by attending a concert at Gerald Ford Amphitheater , or stopping to smell the roses at Betty Ford Alpine Gardens . Beloved (and internationally renowned) local businesses thrive thanks to repeat business from locals and travelers alike. Stop into Verbatim Booksellers , located inside Sonnenalp Resort , for a peerless book-buying experience. Vail is renowned around the world for its fine dining as well. Cutting-edge culinary meccas like Kelly Liken , Larkspur , and The Left Bank line seemingly every boulevard in the supposedly "quiet" mountain town. After so much action and adventure, relax in one of Vail's many spas (like Heaven Massage & Spa ), and then hit the hay at one of Vail's many luxurious hotels (perhaps the Austria Haus ).
Lionshead is a bustling, pedestrian-friendly district in central Vail. It is home to a great glass gondola that ferries thrill seekers to the peak of Vail Mountain all day. Accordingly, this district is packed with ski shops, action sports outlets and outdoor gear outfitters, all offering deals on the finest in equipment and fashion. Vail Ski Tech is one of them, conveniently located right next to the gondola. If you're in town at the start of the ski season, take part in the annual Ski Swap , a semi-official kickoff to the season (and a great place to hunt for bargains). Being that it is so centrally located, Lionshead is also home to quite a number of souvenir shops (including Charlie's Shirts, Inc ) and an endless selection of luxurious accommodations (such as the Antlers at Vail condominiums). From Lionshead, you can also reach Adventure Ridge , a kid-friendly mountain-themed fun park. Visitors of all ages can revel in the action-packed fun of snow mobiling, bungee jumping, ice-skating, ski biking, dancing, drinking and playing laser tag. Obviously, with so much to do, Lionshead visitors need some sustenance. Cuisine here ranges from on-the-go quick bites at Flying Burrito Co. , to the family-friendly southern-style soul food of Moe's Original , and the decidedly more upscale seafood specialties of Montauk Seafood Grill .
Just eight miles west of Vail, along the scenic Eagle River, is the Rocky Mountain town of Avon. A relatively small town, the population of Avon increases rapidly during the ski season. Located at the base of Beaver Creek Ski Area, Avon is a great destination for those looking to see the surrounding areas of Vail.
Avon gives its visitors the opportunity to fill their days with numerous outdoor activities. You'll no doubt need all the energy you can get, so start you day off right with som e caffeine at Loaded Joe's , and put back a cup of coffee that will ensure a bright start to your morning. Let Lakota River Guides help you put all that energy to good use, with an outdoor adventure down one of the Vail Valley rivers.
There are a number of eateries in Avon, from fine dining to a quick bite at a cafe. After a day on the slopes warm up and fill up at Bivans , where the food and the atmosphere are always right. If your looking for a dining experience that comes with a view, make your way to Grouse Mountain Grill , whose rustically elegant decore match the surrounding mountain views.
If you plan on staying in Avon, there are a number of accommodations that range from the ultra posh to quaint condominiums. The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch is a beautiful resort that provides its guest with top-notch service with one of the best ski-in ski-out experiences in the US. For a more personal, homelike stay, the Falcon Point Resort offers two or three bedroom condos right on the shores of Lake Nottingham, making it an appropriate choice for both winter and summer visits.
The historic town of Leadville has a past not nearly as long as the list of activities accompanied with its destination. Wilderness beauty abounds in this mountainous town, with pristine alpine lakes, snow covered peaks, rippling streams and rivers, and skies of astounding blues.
If you happen to find yourself in Leadville during the holiday season, it would be in your best interest not to miss the Old Fashioned Christmas . The Victorian style homes and buildings that remain from the mining days make the atmosphere for this event just right with the perfect touch of yuletide feelings. Continue on with the winter festivities as Leadville plays host to the Off-Track Off-Beat Snowshoe Run .
Here, the mountains truly come alive. Lodgings manage to blend resort-style comfort with rustic, woodsy atmospheres. Try the Beaver Creek Lodge or Creekside . For a woodsy dinner, take advantage of Beaver Creek's mountaintop dining options. Allie's and Beano's are frontier cabins in which adventurous foodies can experience fine dining right on the slopes. Back in town, get really rustic with a steak and a pitcher at The Dusty Boot , or a distinctive pie at Blue Moose Pizza . Proper connoisseurs might want to schedule their visit to coincide with the Beaver Creek International Culinary Classic , an annual cooking competition. Obviously, so much activity might require a measure of respite. If so, make an appointment at one of Beaver Creek's renowned spas, such as Allegria
Eagle is the site of a number of exciting entertainment choices. Many of them involve heart-pounding, calorie-burning adventures, so be sure to load up on some hearty Italian cuisine at La Scala beforehand. Afterward, hit up Beaver Divers , a curiously high-elevation dive shop that will outfit you with everything you need for a serene diving experience. They even do tours. Prefer to keep your head above water? Camelot Balloons will take you way above water, and thrill you with dazzling views of the Vail Valley from on high. In search of thrills closer to Earth? Enroll in a class at Eagle Dance Academy , whether your interest be in classical or contemporary styles. The whole family can get in on the act at The Back Bowl . More than just an average bowling alley, this place bills itself as a "Family Entertainment Center" complete with video arcades, live entertainment and even gourmet dining.
Fifteen miles west of Vail lies the thriving residential town of Edwards. Its local culture and strong sense of community are never more evident than at the annual Cinco de Mayo celebration.
That is not to say Edwards is not accommodating to travelers. Plenty of attractions keep people pouring in from far and wide. Balloon America is the oldest ballooning firm in the valley, and they'll take you soaring high above everything. Back on the ground, cast away your troubles with the help of Gorsuch Outfitters Fly Fishing . Children in tow? Meet the Wilderness is an organization dedicated to introducing young people to the joys of the unexplored. Enroll your little ones in a program, or volunteer to contribute your own time or expertise.
When so much adventure gets tiresome, one can always fall back on Edwards' superb selection of shopping destinations. For that special occasion, try Kimberley's Fine Jewelry . Pamper yourself even more with a stay at The Lodge & Spa at Cordillera , where amenities include all the comforts of resort living, alongside in-house restaurants such as Chaparral (for steaks and chops) and Grouse on the Green (for Irish-style pub grub). Speaking of pubs and pub grub, to focus your attentions more exclusively on Colorado's contributions to the world of beer, hoist a pint at Gore Range Brewery , a local favorite.
Photograph provided by Jack Affleck
Vail's outdoor offerings span its seasons and geography, from chilly mountains to snow-covered peaks and cool valley springs. Take confidence that in the middle of your adventures, whether you're mountain biking in June or downhill skiing in January, you'll never be too far from a quick bite, an elegant dinner, or a simple drink.
If you've tried too many fusion or "modern" restaurants and are longing for some traditional American cuisine, you will find a few juicy morsels here in Vail. Cucina Rustica at The Lodge at Vail and Kelly Liken are top-notch restaurants that pride themselves in using fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients to create some of the most spectacular appetizers, entrees and desserts. Another sure bet is Bully Ranch , or if you're in the mood for a picnic make sure you stop at Crossroads Market before you head off on your adventure.
Eager for a romantic night after a long day? You'll find the French food and atmosphere of La Tour quite pleasing. Campo de Fiori is a great place for gourmet Italian cuisine with a warm and inviting environment. Larkspur Restaurant , which is only open during the winter season, will offer you wonderful dishes with great wine and an enchanting view.
For a family-friendly lunch or dinner Chap's Grill & Chophouse is a fun, lighthearted spot with food for everyone. Chili Willy's , is a bit different with its Tex-Mex menu, but nevertheless it makes for a satisfied stomach. If you are looking for something warm during the day then Covered Bridge Coffee will have it for you, along with mid-day pastries, hot chocolate, and of course, coffee.
Despite being totally landlocked, you can still reel in a fresh meal at Montauk Seafood Grill . The menu changes daily to ensure that the best and freshest seafood products are at your disposal. If hearty soul food is more your style, mosey on down to Moe's Original BBQ . With all your favorites like pulled pork sandwiches and ribs, Moe's serves up some of the great down home cooking. The Flying Burrito takes you farther down – south of the border, that is. Here, wrap your hands around these massive meals, filled with all your Mexican favorites.
Dine alfresco in the summer or by candlelight in the winter with Bivans a great place for the whole family or an intimate night for two. Grouse Mountain Grill offers rustic meals with traditional Colorado surroundings, fresh fish and meat are masterfully grilled and can be served with your choice of wine, providing a great end to a long day in the mountains.
Foods of Vail Home Catering gives you the choice of where you want to eat with its variety of take out options. Or if you're in the mood for high-class, stop in at the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch and choose from its restaurant, deli or lounge for a lunch break, dinner date or evening cocktail.
Atmosphere and food can only be exceeded by the view. Choose Allie's Cabin for stunning views of the mountains and trees while dining with loved ones. Or for a restaurant accessible by sleigh try Beano's Cabin where you'll find spectacular wine, food and decor. The Blue Moose is the perfect place for quick bite, where pies, pizza and a range of Italian favorites make this stop a local favorite. For all those hearty eaters, The Golden Eagle Inn definitely hits the spot. Large portions of steak, seafood, and even some wild game are served, quick, hot, and without the fuss. Eagle
For some of the best burgers around, check out the Broadway Bar & Grill where big-mouthed Angus creations are standard. Eagle's Grand Avenue Grill is a longstanding favorite offering a variety of comforting creations. For a more sophisticated option, La Scala , presents authentic Italian cuisine, hinted with English favorites in a decadent atmosphere. However, The Wolcott Yacht Club , despite its name, isn't just for the well to do. Here, sample some of the finest breakfast options in the area, but be sure to check out the hearty fish tacos as well.
4 Eagle Ranch dominates lunchtime for those coming off the slopes. Located in an authentic 19th century cabin, visitors have the choice of taking in the excellent view on the front porch after their hearty meal. Edwards
Edwards is the place to be for all your Mexican cravings. Fiesta's Cafe & Cantina reserves only the freshest and finest ingredients, creating an array of enchiladas, tacos, and various vegetarian options as well. For a taste of pop culture, visit Moe's Southwest Grill . Despite the gigantic bowls of guacamole and sizzling fajitas, all of the wall decorations are references to movie cult classics. Maybe you're just in the area for a drink and a snack. If so, Gore Range Brewery and its famous microbrewery have a huge list of pub-style fair with not much flair.
The wine list at Charrapal is sure to please even the most selective of consumers. Located in the Cordillera Lodge & Spa , its full of a vast array of regional menu options cradled by natural architecture.
Photograph provided by Jack Affleck
The winter months see the most excitement in this bustling ski town. Many visitors head directly to the slopes as soon as they reach Vail, as its resorts boast some of the best runs in the country. But before hitting the powder covered trails, stop and spend a bit of time wandering some of the city's districts.
Colorado Ski Museum In downtown Vail , visit the Cogswell Gallery and the Colorado Ski Museum . Nearby is the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens . Dine at the contemporary French restaurant Left Bank .
Nottingham Lake Have breakfast at Loaded Joe's , then get close to nature at the Gore Range Nature Discovery Center and Nottingham Lake . Finish the day with a divine meal at Allie's Cabin .
Vail Recreation District Also in Vail is the Vail Symposium , which focuses on community education. Grab lunch at Cucina Rustica . The Vail Recreation District contains the Vail Golf Club , the Vail Nature Center and the Vail Tennis Center , if you're looking to relax.
Vail Nordic Center A trip to Adventure Ridge is popular among families with children. Browse the collection at the Claggett/Rey Gallery or Pismo Gallery , then grab a bite to eat at the Wildflower . Ski afficionados will love the Vail Nordic Center .
Imagination Station Browse the displays at the J. Cotter Gallery , then go to the Imagination Station , which offers hands-on learning experiences. Do some skating at the Dobson Ice Arena , then dine at the Bully Ranch or the Larkspur Restaurant .
There are many ways to see Vail, from riding in a balloon to white water rafting.
Balloon Tours Balloon America ( +1 970 468 2473/ http://www.balloonridesusa.com/ ) Camelot Balloons ( +1 800 785 4743/ http://www.camelotballoons.com/ )
Adventure Tours Arkansas Valley Adventure ( +1 800 370 0581/ http://www.coloradorafting.net/ ) Beaver Divers ( +1 970 949 1012/ http://www.beaverdivers.com/ )
Rafting Tours Colorado River Guides, Inc. ( +1 800 938 7238/ http://www.raftcolorado.com/ ) Lakota River Guides ( +1 970 845 7238/ http://www.lakotariver.com/ ) Piney River Adventures ( +1 970 477 1171/ http://www.pineyriverranch.com/ )
Fishing Tours Gorsuch Outfitters Fly Fishing ( +1 970 926 0900/ http://www.gorsuch-outfitters.com/ )
Cemetary Tours Evergreen Cemetery Tour ( +1 970 486 3900 )