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Credit: Grand Hyatt Vail
Credit: Grand Hyatt Vail

Your Guide to a Summer Vacation in Vail, Colorado

From Hiking and Horseback Riding to Headliner Concerts, This Rocky Mountain Town Is a Gateway to Outdoor Adventure

Founded as a ski resort in the 1960s, the biggest draw to Vail, Colorado, has always been its mountains. Don’t sleep on Vail in summertime, however, when hiking through alpine wildflower meadows, bombing down bike trails, saddling up at the ranch and rafting Eagle River should top experience lists. Located less than two hours from Denver in northwest Colorado, a free in-town shuttle and walkable streets link the Bavarian-inspired Lionshead Village with neighboring Vail Villageboth have great restaurants, coffee shops, bars and boutiques. There’s also a vibrant music scene here with big names headlining the summer concert series at local theater The Amp. Should travel plans take you to the Rockies, here’s how to spend a perfect weekend in Vail. Weekend Itinerary Vail Colorado

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DAY 1

4 p.m.

Check-in at Grand Hyatt Vail

Weekend Itinerary in Vail Colorado
Credit: Grand Hyatt Vail

Forest bathing is the travel trend we’ve all been craving, and at the Grand Hyatt Vail, you can do just that from its heated creek-side infinity pool at the base of Vail Mountain. With welcoming public spaces and well-appointed guest rooms and suites that enhance the surrounding mountain vistasmany of which enjoy creek and mountainside viewsthe 285-key resort feels more like a secluded boutique hotel. All rooms are pet-friendly, and well-behaved dogs are in good company here, especially during the seasonal summer Yappy Hour. Unwinding at the spa after a Peloton ride in the fitness center is a definite must while dining options range from signature spot Gessner Bar & Lounge, which serves breakfast and dinner, to Gore Creek Market for casual fare. Gessner is the spot for all-day dishes and drinks, but for in-room nightcaps, there’s a Möet vending machine in the lobby. Located along the scenic Gore Valley Trail, Vail Village is within walking distance, or you can hop on the complimentary shuttle, which loops in the village, Lionshead and the hotel.

 

6 p.m.

Dinner at Gessner Restaurant and Bar

Weekend Itinerary in Vail Colorado
Credit: Grand Hyatt Vail

Make a beeline for one of the booths and enjoy a celebratory first-night dinner at the resort’s signature restaurant, Gessner. Local ingredient-driven cuisine from the Colorado Rockies is featured across the menu at this contemporary mountain grill with the bison burger and locally sourced Colorado striped bass being standouts. Select a nice bottle from the award-winning wine list but save room for dessertperhaps a scoop of homemade roasted pistachio ice cream or the frozen limoncello gelato. 

Weekend Itinerary Vail Colorado

DAY 2

9a.m.

Coffee + Breakfast at Two Arrows Coffee + Bar

Credit: Fahmi Fakhrudin / Unsplash

It’s a 40-minute stroll along Gore Valley Trail to this community-space-meets-made-for-the-’Gram coffee shop in Vail Village (or you can hop on the shuttle). Take your pick from flawless cortados and lavender lattes, and pair it with an everything bagel and smoked salmon lox or some chilled maple oats with shaved coconut to get fueled up for your first full day out and about around Vail.

8/19

 

10 a.m.

Head to the Farmers Market

Every Sunday, Vail Farmers Market and Art Show vendors set up their stalls along Meadow Drive, selling artisan items like candles, CBD tinctures, floral bouquets and locally grown food, produce and pantry items, including honey and hot sauce. On Saturday mornings, you can check out the Minturn Market (eight miles outside of Vail towards Beaver Creek in downtown Minturn) or the Edwards Farmers Market west of town just past Avon. 

 

11:30 a.m.

Horseback Riding With Vail Stables

Credit: Victor Grabarczyk / Unsplash

Dust off those cowboy boots and head over to Vail Stables for a relaxing ride among the Aspen trees and lodgepole pines. For wildflowers and views all the way to Beaver Creek, try the beginner and kid-friendly Dark Timber trail; experienced riders would enjoy the more technical half-day Elk Springs adventure. If horses aren’t your jam, sign up for goat yoga with the herd of Nigerian dwarf goats instead.

8/27

 

1 p.m.

Wander Vail Village and Splurge on an Iconic Kemo Sabe Hat

Credit: Stephanie Weinreis

Dotted with boutiques from brands like Aviator Nation and Patagonia, Vail Village is home to local stores and galleries like Grey Salt and Artful Sol too. But with “westerncore” fashion trending, stop by Kemo Sabe for a taste of the cowboy way. If the bolo ties, vintage turquoise and fringe leather jackets don’t sway you, one of their Stetsons or fedoras should do the trickperhaps the legendary Open Road.

 

3 p.m.

Ride the Scenic Gondola and Enjoy Drinks at Bistro Fourteen

Credit: Jack Affleck / Discover Vail

Next, jump on the Eagle Bahn Gondola for a scenic ride up the mountain and a drink at Bistro Fourteen. Named for the 14,000-foot summit of Mount of the Holy Cross in the nearby northern Sawatch Range, the casual eatery is located atop Vail Mountain at 10,350 feet, so definitely come for the views and stay for a beverage. There’s a solid wine list and craft beer selection at the full bar.

8/30

 

5 p.m.

Check out the Colorado Snowsports Museum

The snow might have melted, but winter sports enthusiasts will dig this museum down in the village dedicated to Colorado’s ski history, Olympic glory days, slopestyle fashion across the decades and pop culture memorabilia, including the Sims snowboard that was featured in the 1985 James Bond movie “A View to a Kill.”. Admission is free, although the gift shop sells Vail Valley merch and alpine-themed souvenirs.

 

6:30 p.m.

Dinner at Mountain Standard

Credit: Mountain Standard

Stroll back across the village and settle into Mountain Standard, a lauded mod-rustic restaurant beside Gore Creek, for a taste of Executive Chef and partner Paul Anders’ wood-fired cooking. Watch his team work its magic behind the line in the open kitchen, creating dishes from the seasonal menu that includes starters like wood-roasted bone marrow with blood orange Aperol marmalade and a corned pork shank entree with Gruyere potato puree.

Weekend Itinerary Vail Colorado

DAY 3

8 a.m. Creekside Breakfast at Gessner

Weekend Itinerary in Vail Colorado
Credit: Grand Hyatt Vail

Jumpstart your third day with a creekside breakfast at Grand Hyatt Vail’s Gessner! With a hearty breakfast buffet, as well as a la carte options, this is the perfect place to fuel up before your next outdoor adventure. Stop by the buffet’s lox station or made-to-order omelet station for fresh options that’ll satisfy any craving. 

 

9 a.m.

Hike Around and Explore Newly Named National Monument, Camp Hale

It’s said Colorado’s ski history is built on the legacy of the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division, whose recruits trained in winter warfare at Camp Hale during World War II. Today, it’s a great place to hike and enjoy the scenery. There’s a national monument and signage pertaining to its history, a public bathroom, plus the start of several trails, including the 11-mile out-and-back to Kokomo Pass.

 

10:30 a.m.

Dip in the Pool at Grand Hyatt Vail

Weekend Itinerary in Vail Colorado
Credit: Grand Hyatt Vail

Head back to the hotel and spend an hour relaxing beside Grand Hyatt Vail’s heated saline infinity pool, which sits in a prime spot along Gore Creek. Order some light mid-morning bites and drinks from the chef-inspired pool menu at the Creekside Pool Bar, soak in one of the hot tubs or kick back on a lounge chair and post a few pictures to the grid of the trip so far.

 

Noon

Hit the River and Try Whitewater Rafting

Credit: Jack Affleck / Discover Vail

The Grand Hyatt Vail concierge team can help you decide which whitewater rafting trip is best suited for your desired thrill-seeking and adrenaline-pumping levels. Several local outfitters operate guided trips on the nearby Eagle River, Colorado River and Arkansas River during the summer; experiences run the gamut from a Class 1 family-friendly float to a more hardcore and expert level-only Class V (read: you’re going to get wet) adventure.

 

2 p.m.

Lunch at Alpenrose

Reopening June 1st

Credit: Jack Affleck / Discover Vail

Vail’s Alpenrose embodies the lodgey-chic ambiance of the town with its rustic interior and vintage farmhouse vibe. Sit down to lunch at this local eatery and enjoy internationally-inspired home-style cuisine with dishes like hearty goulash, dumplings and Kässpätzle (mac and cheese). The restaurant also serves a mouthwatering selection of traditional Alpine desserts like Marillenknödel, Dampfnudeln, Palatschinken and apple strudel.

 

3 p.m.

Stand-Up Paddleboard Nottingham Lake

Credit: Tower Paddle Boards / Unsplash

A short drive west of Vail in the heart of Avon, the calm waters of Nottingham Lake are ideal for a stand-up paddleboard session. Pick out a nice big inflatable paddleboard and enjoy views of Beaver Creek and Vail while you serenely SUP on a self-guided tour around the lake and spend time “at the beach” in Colorado.

 

5 p.m.

Happy Hour at Root & Flower

A quick change back at the hotel then it’s off to this acclaimed wine bar on Bridge St in the center of Vail Village. Nab a table and peruse the list, which includes a nice selection of wines by the glass of classic and adventurous varietals from California, Austria, Spain and France. There’s an extensive array of spirits and inventive cocktails too. Not drinking? No problem–mocktails are a thing here too.

 

7 p.m.

Dinner at Lancelot Restaurant

A Vail dining institution since 1969, OG prime-rib house Lancelot has the best slow-roasted prime rib in the valley. The casual creekside restaurant and neighborhood gemwhose chalet-style exterior wouldn’t look out of place in the Bavarian Alpsserves up a variety of other dishes, from fresh fish (the sustainably caught Colorado striped bass is a nightly special) and seafood entrees including Alaskan king crab legs to filet mignon and wiener schnitzel.

 

9 p.m.

Groove to Live Tunes at Shakedown Bar

 

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Up for some dancing? This live-music venue is owned and operated by Vail Valley local Scott Rednor and is the perfect place for an after-dinner rendezvous. Vintage album covers and musical instruments line the walls of this energetic venue, and the spacious dance floor and multiple bars make Shakedown Bar ideal for an evening of boozin’ and groovin’. The musical acts span a variety of genres, but check the schedule before you go so you know the vibe ahead of time.

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Keri Bridgwater is a freelance writer covering travel and lifestyle. Her work has been featured in Fodor’s Travel, Marie Claire, Matador Network and InsideHook, among other outlets and publications.

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