I’ve lived in Colorado for 7 years now and Vail is hands down my favorite place in the state. I love the European feeling atmosphere, the shopping, the food, and the stunning landscape. I’ve been to Vail about a dozen times and I’ve even helped family members plan their trip to Vail (for mine and my husband’s wedding weekend) so I’m pretty familiar with the best places to stay, where to eat, and what to do.
If you are flying, the Denver Airport is 1 hour and 45 minutes from Vail. There is also Eagle County Regional Airport, which is about 40 minutes from Vail but only certain airlines from a handful of cities offer flights into the Eagle County Regional Airport. Based on the distance from the nearest airports, you might be tempted to rent a car but I highly recommend avoiding that if you can. Vail Village and Lionshead Village are mostly pedestrian only areas, so there is no need for a car once you arrive (plus parking can cost over $50 a day). The best option is to hire a private transfer which might seem expensive but keep in mind you are saving money by not renting a car and not paying for parking (not all hotels in Vail offer parking). You can also take a bus from Denver to Vail using the CDOT West Bus Line (keep in mind this will take longer than a private transfer but is less expensive).
Where to Stay
When looking for a place to stay in Vail I suggest looking in Vail Village and Lionshead Village so you can walk everywhere you’ll want to go. You can stay on the outskirtsof Vail and take one of Vail’s free shuttle busses into the Village and Lioshead. Vail Village and Lionshead Village are about a mile apart and have a pedestrian path that connects them. Vail Village is a little bit more lively and Lionshead is a bit more quiet. If you are intested in staying in Vail Village I recommend the Austria Haus. The Austria Haus is a boutique hotel that was bought by Hyatt. It still feels like a charming hotel but you also get the benefit of being able to use World of Hyatt points. It’s also on of the few hotels in Vail Village that offers valet parking.
If you want to stay in Lionshead, then I suggest staying at the Arrabelle Hotel. I might be biased because this is the hotel my husband and I held our wedding reception at, but I love this hotel. This a a very expansive hotel and the rooms have great views of the mountain or the village. It also has a rooftop pool with great views of the mountain.
If you are interested in staying in the outskirts of Vail, or if you are traveling with a family and want to rent a condo, I recommend the Vail Racquet Club Resort. Vail’s free shuttle has a stop just outside the resort that can to you to Vail and Lionshead Village.
What to Do
What you do in Vail is totally dependent on the season. In the Winter skiing and snowboarding is the main attraction, but there’s so much more to do than just that. Both Vail Village and Lionshead Village have outdoor ice skating rinks in the Winter. You can also try cross country skiing, sledding, snow tubing, snowmobiling, or just take in the sights and do some shopping during the Winter. Vail is typically thought of as a Winter destination but my favorite time to go to Vail is in the Summer and Autumn. Vail is less crowded in the Summer and Autumn months but still offers a ton of outdoor activities including hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, exploring the Betty Ford Alpine Garden, and there is a great Farmers Market in Vail on Sundays June-October.
Where to Eat
Vail is home to the best restaurants in Colorado. My favorite restaurant in the world has a location in Vail (it’s a small Colorado chain) and that is Matsuhisa. It’s the most phenomenal sushi and wagyu I’ve ever had. It’s owned by the same chef that owns Nobu. If the European vibes of Vail have you craving German and Austrian food, then you should try Alpen Rose. If you are looking for a great steak house in Vail, you can’t go wrong with Russel’s. Although it’s a steak house, my favorite thing on the menu is the king crab.