9 Fun Things To Do in Vail Even If You Don’t Ski

The quintessential town of Vail in Colorado is best known for its award-winning slopes and luxurious ski resorts. Located at an elevation of 8,150 feet, at the base of Vail Mountain, Vail is set within the beautiful surroundings of the White River National Forest. Home to the expansive Vail Ski Resort, Vail is one of the world’s favorite spots for winter sports such as skiing, snowshoeing and snowboarding. But there are plenty of things to do in Vail year-round. In the summer, you can golfing, hiking and attend cultural festivals. In the Fall, watch the vibrant yellow and orange leaves change colors on the Aspen trees. And in the Spring, enjoy rafting, fishing, horseback riding and the great outdoors. Whether you are looking to hit the trails or to simply enjoy the charm of the German-style village, there are plenty of fun things to do for non skiers.

fun ski history in Vail

1. Learn The History of Snow Sports in Vail

If you have an hour or two to spare, take a self guided history tour of Vail. Fun fact: The city was incorporated only in 1966. Start at the Colorado Snowsports Museum at Vail Village, where you can learn about ski fashion and snowboarding history. They also offer one-hour guided tours that point you to important sites around the village.

Vail’s public art collection includes over 60 works ranging from sculptures, murals, playground components to site-integrated art. You can take an organized art walk by printing a map of the Town of Vail’s public art collection online. Or pick one up at the Vail Village and Lionshead Welcome Centers. The map will guide you through 36 works of art in Vail Village and Lionshead, as well as beyond the town center.

another thing to do is Betty Ford garden in Vail

2. Stroll Through The Highest Alpine Gardens in Colorado

If you are a nature lover, take a stroll through Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, the highest elevation botanical garden in the U.S. It is also the only dog friendly botanical garden in Colorado. Based entirely for the conservation of alpine plants, you can see themed displays about fragile mountain environments from all over the world. The gardens are open from dawn to dusk, and don’t require an entry fee (donations are suggested). As most of Vail is pedestrian friendly, you can easily walk (with your dog) or bike from Lionshead or Vail Village to the garden.

3. Shop at an Eclectic Market

One of the best things to do in Vail is visit Vail Farmers’ Market & Art Show. It is one of Colorado’s largest farmers’ markets held on Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. along Meadow Drive in Vail Village. Filled with over 125 artists selling handmade crafts, soaps, salts and candles, farmers with their fresh fruits, vegetables, honey and oils, you will have plenty to see and shop for. Also, make sure to try a warm apple strudel, salmon roll, and plenty of German and Mexican food!

4. Hike with a Llama Near Vail

Picture real life llamas on the back of a pick up truck, waiting for you in front of your hotel lobby! Vail-based tour operator, Paragon Guides, offers half day personalized hikes where you walk with a llama through the mountains and forests outside the city. No, you will not ride a llama, but they do carry your backpacks and lunch. They are pack animals after all!

The guide will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about llamas. They are curious, gentle and intelligent, yet like cats, they act on their own terms. There may be some pulling and feeding the llama, as well as walking and hiking through the slopes. And halfway through your hike, there is a picnic lunch served overlooking some of the most spectacular scenery in Colorado.

Llama treks can be tailored for families with kids, or a multi-day backcountry adventure with stay at mountain huts.

don't ski? do a bonfire at the ranch in Vail

5. Spend the Day at a Ranch

If you are looking for an authentic ranch experience, head to 4 Eagle Ranch in Wolcott, about a 25 minute drive from Vail. With a scenic backdrop of mountains and horses, all ages can enjoy a number of activities at the ranch. You can go zip lining, horseback riding, take a 4×4 jeep or ATV tour. You can also learn to use a Cowboy lasso or just enjoy the vast expanse on a wagon ride.

On the first Thursday, the ranch offers a Western dance with DJ, food, and line dance instructions. And in the winter, there are traditional sleigh rides pulled by a team of Percheron Draft Horses. At the end of your action packed day in Vail, grab dinner, sit by a bonfire, roast marshmallows and star gaze.

ski and bike from the top of Vail mountain

6. Get a View From The Top

If you don’t ski but are curious to know what the view is like from the top, take a scenic gondola ride to the top of Vail Mountain. The Eagle Bahn Gondola runs out of Lionshead and Vail Village. Once on top at Gondola One, you can explore a myriad of activities, casual dining and great views, of course! Vail Mountain’s Epic Discovery includes fun family-friendly attractions such as the Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster, Eagle’s Nest Tubing Hill, Marmot Mini Kid’s Tubing Hill, kids zipline, bungee trampoline, Paramount Peak Climbing Wall, Gore Creek Mini Golf and more. You can take the gondola ride both ways or come back down using one of the hiking and biking trails.

7. Eat and Drink Your Way Through Vail

Though Vail is a small resort town with only 4,700 people, it attracts some of the best culinary talents from across the world. You will find a large selection of restaurants ranging from casual to mountain fine dining (no white tablecloths here), and cuisines such as German, Thai, Italian, and new American.

At Lionshead, have breakfast or lunch at the Tavern on the Square at The Arrabelle Hotel for great views overlooking the chair lifts. Or for something more casual and hearty, order German pancakes at a tucked away spot called The Little Diner. At Alpenrose in Vail Village, try the giant portions of beer, pretzels, pies, cakes and really good German food in an authentic setting. Also, you cannot miss Sweet Basil, one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the city, known for their locally-sourced fare and global flavors. Maria Busato, sous chef at Sweet Basil, received the 2020 Colorado Chef of the Year award from the Colorado Restaurant Association. Chef Person Shields at the Grand Hyatt Vail also creates innovative dishes using farm fresh produce.

8. Get a Shoulder Tune Up

You probably would never think of (or want to) visit a hospital during your vacation, but The Steadmad Philippon Research Institute in Vail is a popular medical tourism destination on its own. The nonprofit is globally renowned for research into the causes, prevention and treatment of orthopedic disorders. They have treated celebrities, sports champions and armed service professionals. The relaxing spa-like environment and top surgical care makes Vail an ideal location to restore and heal muscles and joints after injuries.

If you want to amp up your golf game, enroll for an hour or more in the Golf Sports Medicine Program. Here you can use the new Biomotion Lab to test your swing. Using a golf simulator and golf instruction with world-class data collection, your trainer will show you body motion analysis and injury rehabilitation techniques. Similarly, you can also learn how to better run, play baseball and ice hockey to avoid future injuries.

9. Attend a Yappy Hour

Traveling with pets? From June through Labor Day, take your four-legged best friend to the Gore Creek Terrace of Grand Hyatt Vail. Grab a beer for yourself, while they (the friendly dogs) enjoy live music, browser dog beer, dog treats and toys. 20% of the drink proceeds are donated to a local shelter, Eagle Valley Humane Society. Sometimes, the shelter bris adoptable dogs to the Happy Hour.

After a fun social afternoon, head for a walk to the Gore Creek Recreational path located directly behind the hotel. There are also two dog parks near the hotel – Stephens Park and Big Horn Park. And in case, you plan to stay overnight at the Grand Hyatt Vail, they provide dog beds, treats and an in-room dining doggy menu.

Four Boutique Hotels in Colorado For All Seasons

If you are looking forward to seeing spectacular Fall colors, engaging in winter sports, or planning a family summer vacation, Colorado is an all seasons destination. This beautiful state is filled with mountains, valleys, rivers and plain fields that will do good for your body and soul. And after a great day of hiking, biking, rafting, skiing or snowshoeing, return to a funky, yet sustainable boutique hotel. Full of character, art and history, these charming stays will keep your interest, without sacrificing comfort and quality.

Maven hotel Denver Colorado
Create and collaborate at the Maven Hotel lobby.

Maven Hotel, Denver

The Maven is not just a cool hotel in downtown Denver, it’s a place to connect with entrepreneurs and creatives. The vibrant micro district called the Dairy Block, has flower shops, coffee roasters, independent boutiques, a food court and wine bars. It’s an easy walk to nearby Denver attractions, including Coors Field, Union Station and popular neighborhoods LoDo, LoHi, and RiNo Art Districts.

Dairy Block Denver
Explore the vibrant Dairy Block in downtown Denver.

When you step inside the hotel lobby, you can see why this place attracts art lovers and trend setters. Standing in the location of what use to be Windsor Dairy (thus the name of “Dairy Block”), is now a modern, industrious and expansive lobby where people gather for business and pleasure. The rooms have a contemporary loft-style feel with high floor to ceiling glass windows, large comfortable couches and retro accessories. The Maven is a modern and fun place to stay during your visit to Denver. It also makes a good starting point for your adventures around the state of Colorado.

Surf hotel Buena Vista
Stay at a French-style chateau overlooking the river in Buena Vista.

Surf Hotel, Buena Vista

Travel 88 miles southwest of Denver for a change of scenery. Buena Vista is a charming little town that outdoor enthusiasts, young families, and small businesses call home. More than just good views, Buena Vista offers a perfect family vacation for nature, adventure and art lovers in the Colorado Rockies. From kayaking to hiking, snowshoeing to mountain biking, each season yields a fresh crop of trails and terrain to explore in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.

Directly overlooking the rushing waves of the Buena Vista Whitewater Park, is the Surf Hotel and Surf Chateau. You may feel like you are at a French countryside at The Surf Chateau’s cottages. Hear the sound of the river, smell the lavender flowers, and hang out with your four legged friends in the courtyard. Also, check out the common areas at the main hotel and discover cozy fireplaces, music posters and distinctive art.

Buena Vista main square art
Enjoy your morning coffee at the outdoor living room in Buena Vista.

The Surf Hotel overlooks The LAWN, in the center of South Main Town Square of Buena Vista. This charming green patch is dotted with colorful art, and ideal for concerts, festivals and cocktail parties.

Walk around to explore the coffee shops, bars and many walking trails – all within a couple of minutes from the Surf Hotel. Make sure to dine at the hotel’s restaurant – Wesley and Rose, where they serve a fine selection of wines and the best Basque Burnt Cheesecake!

Palace hotel Salida
Discover 100-year old history at The Palace Hotel in Salida.

The Palace Hotel, Salida

A stay at The Palace Hotel in downtown Salida will transport you to the time of train traveling salespeople passing through Colorado’s continental divide. Established in 1909, this premier historic boutique hotel is filled with stories, art and history. Just ask the receptionist at the original front desk (a converted teller’s cage from a local bank) to show you around. You will be awed by the Tintype black and wine photos, autographed pictures of the “Bloomer Girls” (a midwestern all-women’s baseball team), and an actual bullet lodged within the front desk.

The environmentally sustainable family-owned Palace Hotel looks a lot fancier than it did 100 years ago. Open Victorian style staircases, enclosed with Texas pine balustrades, high ceilings, and antique furniture, dutifully take you to a vintage chic meets modern era. Each room bears its own history based on who stayed there.

Salida wall art
Practice social distancing and wear a face covering when visiting Colorado.

Once you venture out of your suite, Historic Downtown Salida and Arkansas River, are within footsteps. Check out local shops selling outdoor apparel, casual dining establishments, and outfitters offering biking, rafting and fly-fishing tours.

Marble distillery inn Carbondale
Stay at at the world’s first sustainable distillery inn.

Marble Distillery Inn, Carbondale

Ever considered staying at a working whiskey distillery? You can get cocktails delivered right to your room at the family-run Marble Distillery Inn! The 5 ultra modern rooms are outfitted with comfortable beds, gas fireplaces, huge walk-in showers, and a relaxing balcony overlooking downtown Carbondale.

Marble Distilling CO Colorado
Grab a cocktail at the Marble Distilling CO bar in Aspen and Carbondale.

While staying at The Distillery Inn, learn about the distilling process at the Marble Distilling CO, the first zero waste distillery in the world! Spirits are made using 9.5% calcite Yule marble filtered water, locally sourced grains, and American-made equipment. A first-of-its-kind water energy thermal system helps the distillery produce enough energy to heat and cool its building as well as the Inn. Sign up for a tasting of Marble’s handcrafted whiskey and vodka, before settling down with your sustainable signature cocktail on the deck.

The Distillery Inn made a significant investment and installed ultraviolet germicidal irradiation in their air ducts, which is one of the most promising decontamination methods for COVID-19. They also have contactless check-in, where they send you an email with instructions to enter to the property and go straight to your room.

Zen garden Carbondale
The zen garden at True Nature Healing Arts is an urban oasis in Carbondale

The city of Carbondale is named one of USA’s best towns, by National Geographic and Outside Magazine, and a Colorado Creative District – one of only 21 in the state. Grab authentic tacos, sushi or burgers at one of the restaurants within walking distance. Take a stroll through the zen gardens and get a massage treatment at True Nature Healing Arts, located couple of blocks from the Inn.