What are the best things to see and do in Vail and Beaver Creek?

Those who appreciate the more fabulous things in life tend to vacation in the northwestern region of Colorado. They come to ski and socialize in posh resort towns like Avon and Beaver Creek. It doesn't matter which season you choose to visit these resort towns — there's plenty of action on and off the slopes all year round. Here are five things you don't want to miss:

1. Skiing and snowboarding at Vail Resort. This Colorado hot spot has a gondola, 14 high-speed quads, seven fixed-grip quads, three triple and five double chairlifts, 10 surface lifts, a patrol, a school, rentals, snowmaking, cafeterias, restaurants, bars and a nursery. The longest run is four miles with a vertical drop of 3,450 feet.

2. The Colorado Ski Museum & Ski Hall of Fame. The museum, located in the Vail Transport Center, traces the history of skiing in Colorado back more than 120 years. It was established in 1976 to preserve the legacy of skiing and snowboarding in Colorado, and will tell you just about everything there is to know about the winter sports.

3. The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Enjoy top-notch entertainment under Vail's crystal-clear starlit skies at this open-air theater by the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, a public botanical garden with more than 500 varieties of wildflowers and alpine plants. Performances throughout the summer normally include classical music, rock 'n' roll, jazz, ballet, contemporary dance and children's theater. The amphitheater has also been known to host the Vail International Dance Festival, the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival and free weekly concerts from the Bud Light Hot Summer Nights Series.

4. White-water rafting. Colorado is known for having some of the best white-water rafting in the country, from Class II to Class V rapids. Choose from a variety of white-water rafting companies like Lakota Guides, which is the only company in the United States to offer night rafting sessions; or choose Timberline Tours, which is the largest and most experienced outfitter in the region with 40 years of experience. Timerline Tours is known for its customer service and white-water U.S. team racing heritage. Plus, it organizes Jeep tours on trails around Vail Village and historic Eagle River Valley.

5. Teva Mountain Games. Held in both the summer and winter, this is the country's largest celebration of adventure sports, music and the mountain lifestyle. Created in 2002, the human-powered, environmentally-friendly games has quickly grown to the point of hosting more than 2,500 adventure athletes and 40,000 spectators over the course of the bi-annual four-day event. Competitions for the summer games include kayaking, bouldering, mountain biking, a half-marathon up Vail Pass and stand-up paddling. You'll also find parties, a photo competition, a film festival, the dock dog diving contest, tents full of samples and a parade of nations, with competitors hailing from all over such as France, New Zealand and the Czech Republic.

  • On January 22, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What is Vail’s dining scene like?

    Unlike most western ski towns which evolved from mining or Old West towns, Vail was purpose-built for skiing, and so was neighboring sibling Beaver Creek. Vail was created by returning World War II vets and patterned after the resorts they saw in the Alps, especially Switzerland’s charming Zermatt. The original part of the town has a strong Alpine flair still represented in the cosine, with German, Swiss and Austrian eateries offering huge steins of beer, along with every kind of wurst and schnitzel. Vail has always been international in feel but this has ranged farther and farther from the Alps, and today it has excellent global cuisine, from Asian fusion at Matsuhisa to Italian at La Bottega to fine French at La Tour and the Left Bank and even traditional southern slow smoked barbecue at Moe’s. More recently, Vail has been swept up in high-end dry aged steaks, at Flame and Elway’s steak houses, and by Rocky Mountain cuisine such as elk and buffalo, found all over town. It is a mountain resort town, so even the fanciest restaurants tend to have a casual air, and jackets and ties are rare while snow boots and jeans are not, but Vail does have some of the more sophisticated eateries in skiing, complete with deep wine list and elaborate cocktail menus – they just don’t always act that way.
  • On January 22, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best hotels in Vail?

    If money is no object, the top two choices are the Four Seasons, which is likely the best in terms of service, dining, rooms and amenities, and the Arrabelle, which gets its edge by virtue of being essentially the only ski-in/ski-out hotel in the center of town. The Arrabelle also has residences for rent, many of which are huge and extravagant, and is the beating heart of the Lionshead base area, with a promenade of shops and restaurants, a gelateria and an ice rink. Close seconds to these two would be the charming Sonnenalp and the relatively new Sebastian. The Sonnenalp is Vail’s oldest luxury hotel, bringing a touch of European Alpine flair to town and has the most distinct atmosphere of any hotel. All of the off slope hotels, including the Four Seasons, Sonnenalp and Sebastian offer slopeside concierge and ski storage services. At the farthest end of the ski town and a bit isolated, the large Vail Cascade is the most self-contained resort, with a wide variety of rooms and apartments, Vail’s finest athletic club, excellent food and spa, in-house ski rentals and its own lift, making it is also ski-in/ski-out (when there is ample snow). The nearby Beaver Creek ski resort, which is positioned as even more luxurious and exclusive than sister resort Vail, is home to two of North America’s top luxury ski-in/ski-out hotels, the Park Hyatt in the center of its base village and the remote and self-contained Ritz Carlton, which exudes rustic elegance.
  • On January 22, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best restaurants in Vail?

    Miso Black Cod, Photo: Nobu Group Vail likely has the best assortment of great eateries of any ski town in North America, but even here several stand out. For anniversaries or special occasions, the number one choice is Kelly Liken. This is the eponymous flagship of the former Top Chef finalist, whose modern American cuisine focuses heavily on ultra-fresh, ultra-local ingredients in specialties like elk carpaccio. Larkspur is a local favorite – don’t miss the salad with signature croutons made of pan-fried mashed potato cubes. The Game Creek Club is a private on-mountain lunch club atop the gondola that opens to the public for dinner. You need to take a custom sno-cat to get there but it is worth it, for a fine dining take on game and Colorado cuisine.  One of the few hidden gems in Vail Village proper is La Bottega, an Italian enoteca serving lots of wines by the glass and delicious small and large plates, good for dinner or just an après ski snack. Flame in the Four Seasons hotel may be the best high-end steakhouse at any ski resort, with exquisite dry aged meats and house-made salumi. Last winter Vail embraced Peruvian-Japanese fusion when famed chef Nobu Matsuhisa opened an outpost of his LA Matsuhisa here, featuring his trademark signature dishes such as rock shrimp tempura and miso black cod.
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  • On November 13, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    Where is the best Vail nightlife?

    Après-ski is the highlight of many ski vacations. After you get off the slopes, head to the Tap Room located at the top of Bridge Street in Vail Village. This spot has been offering diners and après skiers cold beer, great food and martinis for more than eight years. The setting is perfect, featuring Bavarian woodwork, flat-screen TVs, a cozy fireplace inside, and a deck overlooking the quaint town and slopes on the outside. Try one of the many martinis on the menu, such as the Lemon Drop with Absolut Citron, citronage, fresh-squeezed lemon and a sugar-rimmed glass, or the French Cosmopolitan with Grey Goose L'Orange vodka, citronage and cranberry juice.

    Or join the boisterous crowd at the Red Lion, where you can sing along with your favorite bar tunes. Make time to see and hear performer and co-owner Phil Long. Voted "Best Performer" in Vail many times over, Phil has been entertaining the crowds for more than 20 years. He plays two shows nightly in the winter: Wednesday to Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m. and 9 to 11 p.m., as well as one show a night in the summer from 7:30 to 11 p.m. Sip on one of the Colorado microbrews like Colorado Native, 90 Shilling Ale or Breckenridge Avalanche Ale, or one of the signature drinks like the Lion's Bull with Stoli raspberry vodka, Red Bull and a splash of cranberry juice. Other quality options include the Colorado Mountain Breezer with Bacardi Limon rum and refreshing blends of cranberry and pineapple juice, or the Dreamsicle with Stoli Vanilla vodka, a blend of orange and cranberry juices, and a splash of Go Fast.

    The Club Vail, located on the top of Bridge Street, has been a favorite watering hole for locals and tourists alike since its inception in 1987. This comes as no surprise, seeing as it features live music seven nights a week, the best drink specials in town, and a staff that appreciates a good party.
  • On November 12, 2011
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    Where is the best Vail nightlife?

    Après ski is the highlight of many ski vacations. After you get off the slopes, head to the Tap Room located at the top of Bridge Street in Vail Village. This spot has been offering diners and après skiers cold beer, great food and martinis for over eight years. The setting is perfect, featuring Bavarian woodwork, flat-screen TVs, a cozy fireplace inside, and a deck overlooking the quaint town and slopes on the outside. Try one of the many martinis on the menu, such as the Lemon Drop with Absolut citron, citronage, fresh-squeezed lemon and a sugar-rimmed glass, or the French Cosmopolitan with Grey Goose L’Orange vodka, citronage and cranberry juice.

    Or join the boisterous crowd at the Red Lion, where you can sing along with your favorite bar tunes. Make time to see and hear performer and co-owner Phil Long. Voted “Best Performer” in Vail many times over, Phil has been entertaining the crowds for more than 20 years. He plays two shows nightly in the winter: Wednesday to Saturday from 4 p.m. to 6 pm and 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., as well as one show a night in the summer from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sip on one of the Colorado microbrews like Colorado Native, 90 Shilling Ale or Breckenridge Avalanche Ale, or one of the signature drinks like the Lion’s Bull with Stoli raspberry vodka, Red Bull and a splash of cranberry juice. Other quality options include the Colorado Mountain Breezer with Bacardi limon rum and refreshing blends of cranberry and pineapple juice, or the Dreamsicle with Stoli vanilla vodka, a blend of orange and cranberry juices, and a splash of Go Fast.

    The Club Vail, located on the top of Bridge Street, has been a favorite watering hole for locals and tourists alike since its inception in 1987. This comes as no surprise, seeing as it features live music seven nights a week, the best drink specials in town, and a staff that appreciates a good party.
  • On November 12, 2011
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    Where is the best Vail shopping?

    Between Lionshead and Vail Village, Vail had hundreds of shops that range from chic boutiques and ski stores to art galleries - so whether you’re looking for cowboy boots or a cocktail dress, you’ll be able to find it here. Golden Bear is known as “the symbol of Vail Valley,” using the iconic Mama Bear symbol since 1975. Head here if you’re looking for jewelry, such as necklaces, rings and bracelets, or unusual gifts like cigar rings. However, it is pricey, so don’t expect to walk out with a purchase under $100.

    Gorsuch is a high-end designer boutique featuring clothing for men, women and kids, as well as luxury ski gear. If you like to ski in style, check out the store’s collection of Monclear outwear before you hit the slopes. Choose from cashmere sweaters and designer handbags from Chloe, Rebecca Minkoff and Bottega Veneta. There’s also furniture, dinnerware, throws and pillows

    Axel’s sells high-end clothing for men and women made in the United States and Europe. You’ll see that unmistakable Southwest style (think cowboy boots and coats with fur collars) everywhere you turn. The store is also known for its belts and belt buckles - but these are no cheap belts. Don’t expect to find anything under $500 at Axel’s.

    Pismo Fine Art Glass offers an extensive collection of contemporary glass art by world-renowned artists - such as Chihuly, Pohlman-Knowles, Kuhn, Ries, Powell and Marioni - but emerging artists are also represented here. You can also find chandeliers by Ulla Darni, furniture by Moore, Mulggleton and Zabari, and paintings by Chihuly, Frasser, Hughes, Reich and Steinworth.
  • On November 11, 2011
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to stay in Vail?

    Known for having vast and varied terrain for every skier and snowboarder at every level, Vail often tops ski resort lists and gets rave reviews for its legendary powder. Summer has also emerged as a prime recreation season on Vail Mountain, with mountain biking being the sport of choice. If you’re looking to check out the action for yourself, here are our top five places to stay:

    The Lodge at Vail. This spot perfectly marries the charm of an alpine inn with the amenities of a world-class resort. The individually decorated rooms are the ideal blend of Western style and European elegance. Located at the base of Vail Mountain, the lift - as well as the boutiques and shops of Vail Village - are just steps away. Plus, Mickey’s Piano Bar is a great spot for a drink.
    Marriott Vail Mountain Resort. You can’t ask for a better location than this one - right at the base of Vail Mountain, close to the lift and a slew of boutiques and restaurants. The Marriott’s rustic guestrooms contain wood furnishings and marble and granite baths, and privately owned condos are available as well. There’s also a spa and a retail shop where you can rent ski gear.
    Sonnenalp Resort of Vail. The charming family-owned-and-operated resort recalls the Bavarian countryside. Located in Vail Village, within walking distance of the ski lift, it’s a natural choice for winter sport lovers, while the 18-hole championship golf course and European style makes it a treasure any time of the year. A variety of dishes - from contemporary American fare at Ludwig’s to ski favorites such as fondue at the Swiss Chalet - promise to keep your stomach happy. The King’s Club fireside lounge is perfect for live entertainment and après-ski snacks, serving everything from burgers to caviar.
    Vail Cascade Resort & Spa. Located on Gore Creek at the base of Vail Mountain, this European-style alpine village contains a combination of standard guestrooms, condominiums and private residences. This huge property boasts the largest athletic facility in the Vail Valley, a shopping arcade, two movie theaters, a beauty shop, two outdoor pools and five whirlpools. Camp Cascade keeps kids entertained throughout the day.
  • On November 11, 2011
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    When is the best time to visit Vail?

    Like most ski resorts, Vail has two major seasons: peak-season and off-season. (Those are in addition to a shoulder season.) Peak-season takes place November to April, when travelers flock to Vail for breaks during Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Presidents’ Day and Spring Break. Lodging fills up rather quickly during this time, so the sooner you book your reservations, the better. Some properties might even include packages with ski lift tickets. During the peak-season, temperatures tend to average in the low teens early in the morning and late at night, and daytime averages are somewhere in the 20s and 30s.

    The off-season takes place from June to September. Even though the name suggests that people leave the area, there’s plenty to do during the summer months - the Teva Mountain Games, hiking, biking, rafting, fly-fishing and summer concerts at the Gerald Ford Amphitheater. Daytime temperatures average around 75 degrees during this time, with lows averaging around 45 degrees. Plus, the air is dry with little-to-no humidity.
  • On November 11, 2011
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best things to see and do in Vail and Beaver Creek?

    Those who appreciate the more fabulous things in life tend to vacation in the northwestern region of Colorado. They come to ski and socialize in posh resort towns like Avon and Beaver Creek. It doesn’t matter which season you choose to visit these resort towns - there’s plenty of action on and off the slopes all year round. Here are five things you don’t want to miss:

    Skiing and snowboarding at Vail Ski Resort. This Colorado hotspot has a gondola, 14 high-speed quads, seven fixed-grip quads, three triple and five double chairlifts, 10 surface lifts, a patrol, a school, rentals, snowmaking, cafeterias, restaurants, bars and a nursery. The longest run is four miles with a vertical drop of 3,450 feet.
    The Colorado Ski Museum & Ski Hall of Fame. The museum, located in the Vail Transport Center, traces the history of skiing in Colorado back more than 120 years. It was established in 1976 to preserve the legacy of skiing and snowboarding in Colorado, and will tell you just about everything there is to know about the winter sports.
    The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Enjoy top-notch entertainment under Vail’s crystal-clear starlit skies at this open-air theater by the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, a public botanical garden with more than 500 varieties of wildflowers and alpine plants. Performances throughout the summer normally include classical music, rock ’n’ roll, jazz, ballet, contemporary dance and children’s theater. The amphitheater has also been known to host the Vail International Dance Festival, the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival and free weekly concerts from the Bud Light Hot Summer Nights Series.
    White-water rafting. Colorado is known for having some of the best white-water rafting in the country, from Class II to Class V rapids. Choose from a variety of white-water rafting companies like Lakota Guides, which is the only company in the United States to offer night rafting sessions; or choose Timberline Tours, which is the largest and most experienced outfitter in the region with 40 years of experience. Timerline Tours is known for its customer service and white-water U.S. team racing heritage. Plus, it organizes Jeep tours on trails around Vail Village and historic Eagle River Valley.
    Teva Mountain Games. Held in both the summer and winter, this is the country’s largest celebration of adventure sports, music and the mountain lifestyle. Created in 2002, the human-powered, environmentally-friendly games has quickly grown to the point of hosting more than 2,500 adventure athletes and 40,000 spectators over the course of the bi-annual four-day event. Competitions for the summer games include kayaking, bouldering, mountain biking, a half-marathon up Vail Pass and stand-up padding. You’ll also find parties, a photo competition, a film festival, the dock dog diving contest, tents full of samples and a parade of nations, with competitors hailing from all over such as France, New Zealand and the Czech Republic.