We just recently got back from our second family trip to Vail, and I have to say, it was just as breathtaking as the first time we went. I’m still in awe at the fact that we live just a few hours away. We made one major mistake this time around- we went end of Spring. Obviously, none of the winter activities were available, but what we didn’t realize is that at this time of the year, Summer activities are still closed as well. We were hoping to check out some beautiful lakes and go on scenic hikes, but do to late snowfall, they were either closed or too muddy for 3 little kids. If you go, I highly recommend planning a trip at the end of June or later when things open up for Summer activities.
We stayed at the Doubletree Hilton in West Vail this time around and, like most of Vail, it didn’t disappoint. We had a few hiccups along the way but overall an amazing experience. We originally booked a standard double room but decided to upgrade to a 2 king loft suite and it was well worth the extra cost. The room was huge and had a beautiful view from the balcony. With three kids, the extra space and downstairs sitting area was much needed.
The kids loved the game room and the pool area and whenever we needed a little down time from exploring Vail, we spent it there. The hotel also has a restaurant and bar in the lobby, Pivot 62, which we ordered food from quite often and it was excellent. The only downside was that it didn’t open until 3pm at this time of the year. Westside Cafe & Market was also attached and we absolutely loved it for breakfast. We didn’t try the Mexican restaurant that is right next to Westside, so I can’t speak to it, but it is also an option nearby.
If you are a Hilton Gold level member, you will not receive complimentary breakfast at this location, however, they give you a $20 daily credit that can be used at Pivot 62 or at Made market (which is their small snack/convenience store). You also receive 2 drink vouchers at check in which is a cool little bonus.
Keep in mind, this hotel does have a $40 daily resort fee which includes amenities like valet or self parking and the shuttle that takes you to Vail Village and Lionshead. We didn’t use the shuttle this time, but it seemed relatively simple and convenient, especially if you don’t have access to a car.
Vail has an abundance of restaurants and cute little places to eat and it’s hard to go wrong at any of them. In two trips we have gone to maybe 10 or more, and there is dozens that we still want to try. I won’t go into detail about every single restaurant we have been to, but I want to mention a few favorites that stood out.
Up the Creek:
This one is probably my all time favorite lunch spot and one of the few restaurants we have been to multiple times. The food and drinks are fantastic, but the view is what really stands out. It is in Vail Village and right by the creek. Right above it is White Bison, which also has wonderful views, but I wasn’t all that impressed with my meal so I can’t put it on my highly recommend list.
Mountain Standard & Sweet Basil:
Both are phenomenal but they have a very similar vibe and the same owner so I’ll mention them together. We went to both of these for dinner so I can’t speak to their lunch menus but dinner was amazing and I hear the same about lunch. They are also both right by the creek (Sweet Basil is right above MS) so you get a lovely view with your lunch or dinner.
We came to Vintage for brunch after reading some reviews, and it definitely lived up to them. Both the atmosphere and food was fantastic. Make sure if you go during a busy time of year or Sunday brunch, you make reservations. Especially if you need stroller space. It’s relatively small and space is limited.
Almresi had such a fun vibe and the kids loved the live music. It is a German- Austrian type of restaurant and every detail fits this description, from the menu to the music to the staff. This was definitely one of the most unique restaurants we went to (at least compared to typical US restaurants), but a perfect lunch experience.
Things to do with small kids
There’s really so much to do in Vail, even with small kids, but it all depends on the time of year you come. Since we haven’t been in winter yet, I’ll speak to Spring and Summer activities only.
Vail has so many places to walk and hike, but not a lot that are open in the spring. If you are planning on hiking, make sure you come at the end of June or later in the summer or else you may be looking at muddy trails and closed roads. Since we came early June, our options were limited, but we really loved the Gore Valley Trail this time. It’s a paved trail that goes on for miles and is perfection for a stroller walk/ hike. And of course, strolling around Vail Village and Lionshead Village is also a great, stroller friendly option.
There are so many playgrounds in the area, that you really don’t even have to go to the same one twice if you don’t want to. The biggest and best one we have found is the playground at Ford Park, perfect for kids of all ages. It is right by the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens so it made for a great morning of walking around and playing. Donovan Park is also a great option, it’s smaller than Ford Park (which can be a great thing with small kids) but still a ton of fun. Vail Village and Lionshead both have small playgrounds as well that the kids really loved, especially the pirate ship playground in Vail village. We had to make a pit stop here before every meal in the village.
Epic Discovery Vail:
We actually didn’t have a chance to do Epic Discovery this time because we came too early in the season but it’s on top of my list for our next trip. It’s basically various activities designed for both adults and kids (3 and up) that include things like zip lining, wall climbing, a coaster, mini golf, tubing, etc. We did something similar in Snowmass and both kids loved it so we will definitely do this next time.
A perfect activity for rainy days or just to escape the heat, Imagination station is located above the Lionshead Village Welcome Center. It’s a play space designed for kids 2 and up to be able to explore and learn through play. They also offer scheduled activities for kiddos who may like a little guidance rather than free play.
Betty Ford Alpine Gardens:
This is a favorite every time. It’s so beautiful here, that the photo opps are endless. And the garden isn’t huge so little feet can go through easily and without too much complaining. Like I said above, the Ford Park playground is right by it, as well as these cool stick huts that the kids loved running around in.